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Light Barrier Repels Mosquitoes 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the raise-shields dept.
kodiaktau writes "Dr. Szabolcs Marka has received one of five $1M grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue his experiments with using light beams to create mosquito barriers. This is the second grant he has received from the foundation and proves to be a deviation from the previous and more dangerous use of lasers to control mosquitoes. A video of the light barrier in action can be seen here"
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Light Barrier Repels Mosquitoes

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  • Adaptation... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @03:14AM (#37931110) Homepage

    Won't the mosquitoes just adapt to ignore this 'barrier'?

    I figure this will work for a year or so, tops. The evolutionary rewards for getting past it are huge.

    • by jovius (974690)

      It depends how important a resource humans are for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have not learnt to bite through nets either or stand insect repellants.

      • by Narcocide (102829)

        Never seen repellant-resistant mosquitoes have ya? Clearly you've never lived near swamp land. I'll give you the rest of that point though.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Never seen repellant-resistant mosquitoes have ya? Clearly you've never lived near swamp land. I'll give you the rest of that point though.

          I won't. Evolution doesn't do massive steps, only small ones.

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            I won't.

            Just search "repellant-resistant mosquitoes" on Google. That's not very complex. And you will learn a lot, such as how many generations are needed for insects to adapt to a repellent.

            Evolution doesn't do massive steps, only small ones.

            Where did you read that exactly? Are you a creationist trying to discredit evolution? It sure looks like you are. That, and the fact that you make the assumption that adapting to a repellent is a massive step. How did you get there?

            Anyways, your argument is sufficiently discredited by facts to spend times arguing about it.

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              Um, the 'rest of the point' was about nets, not repellents.

              I don't think evolution can do a single step big enough to give mosquitoes ability get through a net.

              • by Pieroxy (222434)

                As far as I can parse English, you were responding to the "Never seen repellant-resistant mosquitoes have ya?"

                Answering "I won't" to "I'll give you the rest of that point though." makes no sense to me.

                • by Coren22 (1625475)

                  jovius:

                  It depends how important a resource humans are for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have not learnt to bite through nets either or stand insect repellants.

                  Narcocide:

                  Never seen repellant-resistant mosquitoes have ya? Clearly you've never lived near swamp land. I'll give you the rest of that point though.

                  So, the rest of the point is about the nets (assumed) which is what he was saying "I won't" to.

          • Macro-evolution has already been observed in the lab and in the wild so I'm afraid you're incorrect there.

            http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/06/21/macro-evolution-observed-in-the-laboratory/ [dbskeptic.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

      You could make evolution work for you by putting death traps behind light barriers at mosquito breeding grounds.

      • by symes (835608)

        I like this idea a lot but would like to have the light barrier as the death trap. We need more lasers in the world. With the advantage that mosquitos might evolve to avoid all forms of light, including romantic candle light.

    • Re:Adaptation... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @03:47AM (#37931280)
      If people were the main source of nourishment for mosquitoes, then yes. But they're not. If you use this to discourage mosquitoes from biting humans, they will happily get blood from other animals, resulting in no evolutionary pressure to pass light barriers.
      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Fruits and nectars are the main source of nourishment for mosquitoes. They only need the blood to make eggs.

        • by adolf (21054)

          Which, if I am not mistaken, is the same as saying "they need blood to survive."

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            Which, if I am not mistaken, is the same as saying "they need blood to survive as a species."

            FTFY.

            • by operagost (62405)
              The ability to reproduce is even more important that the survival of an individual in some species. There are insect species that don't even seek nourishment as an adult.
          • by N0Man74 (1620447)

            You're on Slashdot. You should realize by now that reproductive activities aren't required for survival (for the individual member of a species).

            • by adolf (21054)

              You're on Slashdot. You should realize that I am fully willing to back up my conjecture with a wild array of anecdotes and maybe even some minimal research, and will defend it to death even if that means a dissertation on the philosophical aspects of the discussion.

              But I really don't feel like it just now...

              (Thanks for your reply. You made me laugh a bit.)

      • "If people were the main source of nourishment for mosquitoes, then yes. But they're not."

        That depends on the mosquito species. Anopheles gambiae is the major carrier of the malaria pathogen and has a very strong preference for humans: if given the choice between livestock and humans, they pick humans 90% of the time. Aedes aegypti is the vector for yellow fever, dengue, and chickungunya, and also prefers humans. It appears that humans secrete comparatively elevated levels of L-lactic acid which for
    • by SharpFang (651121)

      There are other methods of adaptation than circumventing another barrier. There are so many species of animals who are not nearly as resilient in defending against mosquitoes as humans, and provide perfectly good blood. Mosquitoes can just adapt by choosing not to bite humans and pick easier victims instead.

    • what about the Blind mosquito?

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Nope, They have not evolved to adapt to the spraying of Garlic oil for mosquito control over the past 200 years, so It's highly doubtful that they will get together and rapidly evolve to overcome this. They also have not evolved to defeat the highly effective mosquito traps.

      Contrary to your belief, they do not have a science council or war council to work on their war against humanity. and evolution takes a lot more time.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Contrary to your belief, they do not have a science council or war council to work on their war against humanity.

        I suggest you moving to a tropical country. Then you will be quite sure that they do. Probably in conspiracy with all annoying light seeking insects that go out in the summer.

      • Contrary to your belief, they do not have a science council or war council to work on their war against humanity. and evolution takes a lot more time.

        +5 for the mental image. :)

    • Re:Adaptation... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @07:08AM (#37932156)

      Depends. I built fences for farms for a while. One of the things the older folk told me was that you cannot build a perfect anti-deer fence so they settled for a three to five foot fence normally. They had tails of deer jumping these electrified fences. Once they had a deer jump "through" the individuals wires to get inside.

      Why were these easily bypassed fences used? They weren't to stop deer, but discourage them. One farmer builds a fence, the deer go to his neighbor. His neighbor builds a fence, they move to the next least annoying place to go. May sound harsh, but the deer here were reintroduced from a non-native variety from the Mid-west. Only in the last ten-twenty years have the natural predators began making enough of a comeback to control the population beyond hunting season.

      The mosquitos will likely the same. A few might adapt, but since this isn't killing the non-adpators there won't be any genetic favor towards the adapters. A percentage of mosquitoes is better than the current amount.

  • IR = heat (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @03:16AM (#37931124)
    Most insects are very heat sensitive and will die quickly when temperatures are elevated. So I suppose the mozzies see the IR light as a dangerous threat and move away.
    • IR != heat (Score:4, Interesting)

      by subreality (157447) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @06:10AM (#37931906)

      IR is a very broad spectrum. They don't say what the wavelength is, but I'd expect they're using near-IR, which is cheap, widely-available laser technology. Do you feel warm when you cover the front of an infrared remote? Near IR isn't a strong heat carrier unless you're pushing a LOT of photons... In which case this isn't a safe alternative to the high power bug-zapping lasers used in those wonderful videos.

      Far-IR lasers [wikipedia.org] are expensive, inefficient, finicky machines. They're not the sort of thing you'd deploy to fight malaria.

      In between there's a whole lot of spectrum, but really, I think it's most likely they're using near IR, the mosquitoes see it, and for whatever reason they don't want to cross.

    • heat = the energy of a large number of particles & heat = how it feels when the particles are you.
    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Which makes me think, why there are plenty more mosquitoes in warm weather places? and why they pile up near the hot incandescent bulbs?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    These people don't have an outlet to keep away the mosquitoes with a nightlight...
    They do not even have enough clean water to drink.

    Handing out $1,000,000? I'll take some.
    And like the "death laser mosquito killer" is coming to a backyard near you soon. Yea right.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      These people don't have an outlet to keep away the mosquitoes with a nightlight....

      They'll shoot a satellite up into orbit and beam the light down evenly across all of Africa so that nobody has to pay. ...oh, right.

      (I had the same question...)

    • by Issarlk (1429361)
      That's why other people are busy trying to find ways to give these people electicity, like cheap solar installation with batteries for example.
      • by shaitand (626655)

        There's nothing cheap about a solar installation with batteries. Not in initial materials and not in maintenance costs.

    • > These people don't have an outlet

      That is all part of the plan. Those 'potential African customers' have no access to electricity, no PC, so they will not be able to buy Windows anyway. Now, this might speed up the much needed electrification!
  • Gee, $1M could sure buy a lot of these: http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Operated-Tennis-Racket-Shaped/dp/B003U55W6Y [amazon.com]

    And Mr Gates could certainly strong arm a much better price out of the supplier, or just buy the manufacturer.

    The downside is that once in your hand, you cannot remove the racket, and are forced to buy upgrades.

    "A Tennis Racket Bug Zapper For Every Child!"

    • by game kid (805301)

      Gee, $1M could sure buy a lot of these: http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Operated-Tennis-Racket-Shaped/dp/B003U55W6Y [amazon.com]

      And Mr Gates could certainly strong arm a much better price out of the supplier, or just buy the manufacturer.

      Now he just needs to set up this racket racket with Racket [racket-lang.org] before Slashdot posts a Hadoop dupe [slashdot.org].

    • Say what you want of Bill Gates and his business tactics, but his foundation's work on eliminating malaria is truly amazing. Give credit where credit's due, sir, even though you may not like the guy.
      • by osu-neko (2604)

        Say what you want of Bill Gates and his business tactics, but his foundation's work on eliminating malaria is truly amazing. Give credit where credit's due, sir, even though you may not like the guy.

        I don't like the way he made his money. I do like what he's been doing with it. As for liking the guy, I don't even know him...

    • Screw tennis racket bug zappers. I'm sure everyone wouldn't mind Gin and Tonics.

    • Gee, $1M could sure buy a lot of these: http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Operated-Tennis-Racket-Shaped/dp/B003U55W6Y [amazon.com]

      Those things are awesome! I've been using one for years and keep meaning to modify it to be shaped like a lightsaber-- in a room with a few mosquitos in it it's a lot like the "luke learns the lightsaber" scene in Star Wars.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Speaking from experience once you start using those a lot the mosquitoes actually do appear to evolve in response. Subsequent generations were smaller, flew faster, withdrew their probes faster, had quicker reflexes and way too many seemed to be able to figure out the difference between me lying in bed holding the racket, pretending to sleep while waiting to swat them; and me lying in bed actually asleep! This was in contrast to slow mosquitoes in another place which I could even prod with my finger while t
  • The unemployment rate of sharks has been extremely high.

    Thanks to the research above, sharks with frikin' lasers attached to their heads can be first in line for this new job sector. I am sure Sharks everywhere express their gratitude to Bill and Melinda for funding the research which opens new opportunity vistas for unemployed sharks who are at risk of descending into a life of crime through underuse of their talents.

    • by cbope (130292)

      And it opens the door for mosquitos with frikin' lasers!!! I mean come on, everyone knows sharks can't move around too well on land or in the air... but mosquitos with frikin' lasers... EVERYONE PANIC NOW!!!

  • The genetic solution to fighting the malaria mosquitoes?

    If I remember correctly, one focused on making the mosquito deadly to malaria (thus stopping the transmission), the other on simply wiping out the mosquito without harming other insect life.

    The most efficient solution so far has been to blanket ponds and similar with DDT... Killed everything, including the mosquitoes. Tiny side-effect there though...

    • by adolf (21054)

      Yeah. I guess some scientist somewhere determined that some bird eggs had thinner shells in areas treated with DDT, than some other bird eggs in other areas that were not treated with DDT.

      IIRC, no attempt was made beyond simple correlation to explain these presumably-valid observations.

      And then, -poof-, no more DDT.

      But at least we've still got mosquitoes, malaria and bed bugs.

      • by Politburo (640618)
        DDT was never banned for vector control, and is still used today. The reduction in DDT use was mainly because they adapted.
    • The genetic engineering project is still ongoing but that's a solution (or potential solution) that will take a long time to deploy. Insecticides remain the best way of controlling mosquito populations, but insecticide resistance is an ever-growing problem. That's not too surprising when you think about the vast population size, coupled with the fact that in tropical regions some species of mosquito can go through over 20 generations a year. You spray the same chemical several times a year for a couple d
  • Great research.

    But this seems to me like overkill. A mosquito net works and is proven and costs very very little.

    And hey, there actually already are charitable initiatives for this. http://www.nothingbutnets.net/ [nothingbutnets.net]

    1M from the Gates Foundation could probably buy enough mosquito nets to cover the whole of Africa.

    • Great research. But this seems to me like overkill. A mosquito net works and is proven and costs very very little.

      No, you don't understand. The researcher specifically mentions that the laser divides space into two parts, and that the mosquitoes cannot move from one part of the space to the other. Do you really think that a simple net could divide space into two parts?

    • by otie (915090)
      Er, Bill & Melinda Gates are "longtime partners" of Nothing But Nets: http://www.nothingbutnets.net/blogs/a-buzz-worthy-week-at-the-malaria-forum.html [nothingbutnets.net]
    • 1M from the Gates Foundation could probably buy enough mosquito nets to cover the whole of Africa.

      Mosquito nets are well known and have been widely available for 50+ years. If $1M in nets would wipe out malaria in Africa, it would have happened by now.

      I think you're glossing the inefficiencies involved in distributing anything to "the whole of Africa" - the administrative costs alone in distributing something as simple as a "LiveStrong" armband to every person in Africa (or even just those who are at risk of malaria from mosquito bites) would exceed $1M.

      • by radtea (464814)

        I think you're glossing the inefficiencies involved in distributing anything to "the whole of Africa" - the administrative costs alone in distributing something as simple as a "LiveStrong" armband to every person in Africa (or even just those who are at risk of malaria from mosquito bites) would exceed $1M.

        Which is to day, eliminating malaria is not a technical problem at all. Malaria used to be common where I live now, back in the 1800's. But improved sanitation fixed that over a century ago. An engineering student I know recently commented, "We have a design project on clean water for the developing world, but if you look at it for a few minutes you realize it isn't an engineering problem. You don't need any technology the Romans didn't have."

        What the developing world is lacking is not technology or tec

        • by 0111 1110 (518466)

          Which is to day, eliminating malaria is not a technical problem at all. Malaria used to be common where I live now, back in the 1800's. But improved sanitation fixed that over a century ago.

          Not only is it a technical problem but it is a very difficult one. And what kind of 'improved sanitation' can eradicate malaria?

    • Great research.

      But this seems to me like overkill. A mosquito net works and is proven and costs very very little.

      And hey, there actually already are charitable initiatives for this. http://www.nothingbutnets.net/ [nothingbutnets.net]

      1M from the Gates Foundation could probably buy enough mosquito nets to cover the whole of Africa.

      Take a longer view. I'm looking forward to the day when this laser barrier is considered "low tech." Pure research is expensive, and even applied research that beats the odds and has a payoff down the road still requires significant seed funds. Purchasing mosquito nets for people who can't afford them is a worthy charitable endeavor (thank you for making me aware of it; I just donated the cost of ten nets) and allows people of any financial means to participate in helping to deal with the immediate probl

    • by Locutus (9039)
      but a mosquito net does not require the use of Microsoft Windows as I'm sure these lasers would likely require embedded Windows at the very least. Remembering that Gates was recently shown to have terminated the Courier project because it did not lock^H^H^Hintegrate with MS Office nor MS Exchange.

      LoB
    • by plover (150551) *

      Mosquito nets have suffered from a completely unexpected side effect. Many of the recipients of these nets started using them to make minnow seines for fishing. That kind of use would tear the fabric, and they'd be useless for sleeping. Turns out that hungry people would rather eat fish than worry about mosquitoes when they sleep. Who knew?

      Which makes me wonder what people might repurpose these mosquito repelling lasers for? They might pry them apart for the batteries to run lanterns or radios. Or the

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday November 03, 2011 @04:05AM (#37931366)

    Several Winnipeg mosquitoes demonstrated their opinion of the "Light Wall" under a large banner that read, "Prototypes welcome, Einstein. Why do you think megafauna are extinct."

    Some wore sunglasses and lounged on what appeared to be small beach towels. Others sported t-shirts reading "I gotcher emitter right here".

    The dessicated remains of a grizzly bear had been propped up nearby, its dead paws holding a crudely-lettered piece of cardboard that read, "I never shoulda said "Suck This" .

    Further developments are expected next spring with the hatching of a new generation of the worst bloodsucking parasites to be found outside Parliament.

  • The risk is imminent that these methods are as much scam as most previous methods, however well meant they may be.

    For a really nice overview and analysis of electronic mosquito repellents, please see http://eprints.liv.ac.uk/665/1/Enyati_electronic_mosquito_repellents.pdf [liv.ac.uk]

    Here is the summary:

    "Electronic mosquito repellents for preventing mosquito bites and malaria infection
    Malaria is a major health problem that particularly affects people living in sub-Saharan Africa and other tropical parts of the world. It

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      You're trying to compare a repellent method using light, with one using sound. Totally different medium (light vs sound), totally different method (chasing away vs. setting up a barrier).

      And I may assume Bill Gates is smart enough to have some people evaluate these projects for him. Note that TFA mentions that this is the second grant this project receives; and that many other projects did get first grant, but no second. That means they have been evaluating, and have concluded this one has merit.

  • Even if you could make these small, low power, and most importantly cheep enough, and even if the mosquitoes can't adapt. This has the fundamental problem that anything that casts a shadow in the beam is undetectable to humans, yet renders the device worthless.

    • Go to 1:42 in the video. They pair the IR mosquito repellent with a low-powered visible laser to mark the protected area.
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @04:56AM (#37931588)
    I read the title as there being some breed of supra-light mozzies who were being upset by the speed of light limitation. Still, if that CERN work on possible FTL particles pans out, they'll be all happy again.
  • Are they repelled, or just mildly annoyed.
    Also, they should incorporate UV light as a secondary feature so your can be mosquito free while tanning.

    • There's something deliciously cruel about lying there, 95-100% unclothed, and the mozzie can look, but not touch.

      • by bryan1945 (301828)

        I think that would be the insect equivalent of the "peep booth."
        I now feel unsettled I made such a bizarre connection.

  • 1) "proves to be a deviation from" = is different than
    2) how was the former use of lasers to down mosquitos 'dangerous'? I never saw anything about any observed or postulated danger to people unless they happen to vibrate precisely at the frequency of a female mosquito's wings?

  • obligatory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSIWpFPkYrk [youtube.com] the Starwars Musquito Defense System by groenbrothers.

    A great parody on your average American-style commercial infomercial braincast(tm).

  • This is awesome. I'm tired of letters complaining about my sketer killer accidentally targeting planes. I hope some specs come out soon.

  • So, why don't sharks get mosquito bites?

  • The mosquitoes find their prey/victims/hosts through a combination of temperature and humidity trails in the air. These IR beam heat the air and create the signature of a host where there is none. Mosquitoes fly toward these beams due to heat signature, gets confused by the lack of humidity signature, gets scared and stop and go back.

    I always thought it would be a good mosquito trap to heat a small bowl of water at 98.4 degrees and surround it with fly paper or something. May be the next version would use

  • ive a certain type of light here that i use to repel mosquitos. ive done it for a while and it works very well. whenever i turn it on they all got away from the scope of the light.
    it seems that it needs to be a on certain light wave to work. it doenst need to be invisible to humans, but it helps sleeping i guess.
    I'm also guessing mosquitos adapt and eventually wander through the light. Some of them are at my place as ive been using it for a long time. its rare tho, but, i guess eventually more of them will

  • The people this solves the problem for don't even have clean running water. Where the hell are they supposed to plug this in with no electricity? Not to mention the price of the device plus generators and human/crank battery chargers.

    Talk about over-engineering the solution!

    • by gnu-sucks (561404)

      Since the devices would likely be donated anyway (the same folks don't typically carry any sort of currency), I think it's reasonable to assume the final product will include a daytime solar cell and a battery. My guess is the device doesn't use much current so the solar cell and battery need-not be the expensive type we typically associated with these devices in home-power applications.

  • by Mike (1172)

    Anyone who invents a non-carcinogenic method of repelling mosquitoes 100% effectively will be my hero for life.

  • As crass as it sounds, the unintended consequence of this will be a massive population explosion in tropical third-world countries who will all need resources. A nice pandemic will go a long way to reducing humans' impact on the planet.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      I trust you lead the way by not having any vaccinations and refusing any medical treatment invented in the last 3000 years.

  • Oh, I can't wait for the day when mosquito zappers not only really work, but are inexpensive wearable accessories! I hate mosquitoes. I would love to have something in my hat, or belt buckle, or shoes, that is constantly scanning for mosquito-shaped flying objects and zapping them with miniscule lasers. Also, some kind of IR-equipped zapper hanging over the bed would be nice.

    I think we should pour billions of dollars into mosquito extermination research. Sure, it may mess up the food chain a bit, but I f

    • by cpghost (719344)

      think we should pour billions of dollars into mosquito extermination research. Sure, it may mess up the food chain a bit, but I frankly don't care.

      Eliminate mosquitoes, and soon, mother nature will create improved mosquitoes v2.0. At this point, we'll long for the good old times we were "only" haunted by our v1.0 variety.

      • by yog (19073) *

        Oh, really? I don't see any dodo 2.0, T. Rex 2.0, Neanderthal 2.0, or carrier pidgeon 2.0 around. It is possible to extinct-ify a species. Just get rid of all the adults so they stop procreating, and presto! No more annoying itch!

    • Except we don't need to get rid of mosquitoes, just malaria. Does anyone know how we exterminated malaria in the United States? DDT. The scientist who invented it won the Nobel Prize of Medicine for it. But we can't use DDT in Africa because it causes 'undue strain on the environment.' You know what causes undue strain on the environment? 225 Million cases of malaria (in humans alone) every year. We already have extermination methods for mosquitoes and malaria. Environmentalists just don't care about the d
  • Or you could just use mosquito nets. Very cool, but it's a solution in search of a problem.

    • Because mosquito nets have clearly solved the problem, right?

      Also, nets are quite uncomfortable, as they restrict the flow of air, making sleeping in them stuffy.

  • “Wherever I look I see new ideas and possibility for progress,” he says. “Some turn out to be impossible, some are prohibited by the economy, but some do work. These are worth thinking of.”

    I wonder what ideas he's had he felt were prohibited by the economy.

  • How are they producing this light? Incandescently? As far as I could tell from the article, they ARE using lasers- what else can produce high-intensity light at such a focus with that kind of efficiency? Now obviously it's different from aiming and zapping lasers at the bugs, but don't imply lasers are not being used unless they actually aren't.
  • should be a barrier for neutrinos as well!

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