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Idle Science Technology

Directed Energy Weapon Downs Mosquitos 428

Posted by samzenpus
from the two-pound-hammer-and-ten-penny-nail dept.
wisebabo writes "Nathan Myhrvol demonstrated at TED a laser, built from parts scrounged from eBay, capable of shooting down not one but 50 to 100 mosquitos a second. The system is 'so precise that it can specify the species, and even the gender, of the mosquito being targeted.' Currently, for the sake of efficiency, it leaves the males alone because only females are bloodsuckers. Best of all the system could cost as little as $50. Maybe that's too expensive for use in preventing malaria in Africa but I'd buy one in a second!" We ran a story about this last year. It looks like the company has added a bit more polish, and burning mosquito footage to their marketing.

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Directed Energy Weapon Downs Mosquitos

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  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:46PM (#31118550)

    The laser describes a perfectly straight line; no windage is needed. You therefore do not need to track the mosquito in three dimensions, but only two--no fine determination of range is required.

  • Re:Nice (Score:5, Informative)

    by _LMark (173102) <spam@raulthepoolboy.gmail@com> on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:53PM (#31118718) Homepage
    First: What's more impressive than the lasers that fry* the mosquitoes is the targeting and detection system that drives this crazy thing. Many people are looking at this and wondering how you pick out your targets. The system first scans the surrounding space and *listens*. What it is listening for is quite interesting. See, Malaria is an interesting disease because only specific mosquitoes carry it, and only the females. Since there could be many side effects to zapping any insects within range, or even any mosquitoes (regardless of species or gender), the laser targeting system listens for the precise wingbeat frequency of the female [wikipedia.org] Anopheles Stephensi mosquito and then zaps only those.

    *Technically speaking, the mosquitoes will not be fried in the final product. In addition to potential danger to other occupants of this system's effective bubble, it is planned for deployment to very poor areas of the world where electricity will likely be at a premium. As a result, they are also experimenting with the minimum amount of energy a laser strike must possess to render the mosquito infertile, because that interrupts the cycle necessary for Malaria transmission between humans.


    Cheers,
    Makr
  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Informative)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:58PM (#31118860)

    Then they'll target both genders equally. Then the mosquitos will get a little tougher, perhaps reflective in the appropriate frequency, and learn to play dead and fall to the ground when hit with a laser that doesn't quite kill them.

    Where they are promptly eaten by a frog. Sometimes, change and predation happens so fast that evolution is not a fast enough process to prevent extinction. Sometimes the change is insurmountable.

    Adios passenger pidgeon.

  • by Grond (15515) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:00PM (#31118900) Homepage

    This came out of Intellectual Ventures, which Slashdot often derides as a patent troll [slashdot.org] that brainstorms ideas, patents them, then lives off of the licensing revenue without actually contributing real products to the world or even prototyping their vaguely defined ideas.

    This shows that IV is quite capable of producing actual, useful products. Its business model is not limited to patent licensing revenue, which makes it more like, say, IBM, than a typical patent holding company.

    Maybe, just maybe, IV is not the evil parasite that many on Slashdot made it out to be. In fact, it seems to be in the business of shooting evil parasites with lasers, which is pretty cool.

  • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:12PM (#31119188) Journal
    There is no z in laser.
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:25PM (#31119466) Homepage

    An improvement in both safety and efficiency would be to use two lasers, each about 60% as strong as the currently used single one.

    The targeting computer would aim both lasers at the target frying it even faster than now. But, should one of the "canons" miss, or should an unintended target come into one of the beams, the "collateral damage" will be much smaller, because the other laser will not be aimed at the same spot.

    I think, the military lasers should use the similar technique — use multiple weak lasers frying the same target from dispersed locations. An unintended object (such as a civilian airplane) flying into any one of the beams will be safe, and taking out the entire installation will be much harder for the enemy. The set can have a cumulative power twice (or more) than is required to destroy one target, while each individual beam is still (relatively) harmless.

    When "healthy", such a setup will be able to destroy multiple targets at a time, and the enemy will only be able to reduce its capacity gradually, rather than all at once.

  • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Informative)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:38PM (#31119780) Journal

    Female mosquitoes that can sense the lasers at range and randomly avoid them come to dominate the species.

    Who modded this up as interesting?
    Nothing can sense a laser before it has hit.
    Hence the warning "do not look into laser with remaining eye"

  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday February 12, 2010 @06:15PM (#31120484)

    Who modded this 'Troll'???

    Unless the detector is sitting right in line with the laser (or mirror), in which case it would get fried, there is going to be a difference between the angle that the detector determines the target is at and the angle required to shoot at the target from a slightly different starting point. And to determine that angle you need to know how far away it is.

    Mosquito's are really tiny... i'm actually amazed they can hit them at all!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2010 @06:38PM (#31120900)

    RVDS 4.0

    ARM make and sell a lot of tools that go with the IP they licence. This includes not only software tools such as debuggers and compilers, but also FPGA platforms and dev boards to enable prototyping/integration/test of the IP they sell. They also have strong technical support for all of these direct products.

    Check the products section at arm.com.

  • Re:Nice (Score:2, Informative)

    by ciantic (626550) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:07PM (#31121356)

    ...to render the mosquito infertile, because that interrupts the cycle necessary for Malaria transmission between humans.

    You do realize that in order to accomplish this they now have to detect the fertility of flying mosquito, to prevent it from re-shooting the mosquitoes already made infertile. That does sound a bit tougher task than eliminating them all together.

  • by aquila.solo (1231830) on Friday February 12, 2010 @07:58PM (#31122022)
    That's certainly a point, but if you watch the video at the top of the page, the mosquitoes are as good as dead in about 4-5 wing beats. According to this [hypertextbook.com] hastily gathered source, mosquito wings beat anywhere from 250 to 1000 Hz. We're talking single digit milliseconds to cook these bugs. Wiki [wikipedia.org] puts their flight speed at around 1-2 km/hr.

    If we accept an estimate of 10 ms to cook a bug, and a 2 km/hr flight speed, a mosquito could move as much as 5 mm (or one third of its body length) in the time it takes to zap it.

    So yes, tracking could be an issue. But I can't see it being any trouble at all once you've targeted the thing.
  • by ccbailey (859060) on Friday February 12, 2010 @11:15PM (#31123860) Homepage
    A 100mW laser will cheerfully blow holes in your retina before you even get the chance to blink. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety#Class_II [wikipedia.org] for details.
  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Informative)

    by wwahammy (765566) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @06:39PM (#31130570)
    Poison ivy covers such massive areas that I don't think humans, short of a scorched earth campaign, could do much about it. In that case though, I think the collateral damage would far outweigh any benefit.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp

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