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New Laser System Targets Mosquitoes 354

An anonymous reader writes "In the Cold War the so-called 'Star Wars defense system' proposed using lasers to destroy incoming Soviet missiles. In a 2007 brainstorming session aimed at combating malaria, Dr. Lowell Wood, the architect of that system, proposed modifying his original idea to kill mosquitoes. The cover of today's Wall Street Journal contains an article that highlights this initiative as well as a few others, like using a giant flashlight to disrupt mosquitoes' vision and using the insects to vaccinate, in the war against malaria. The system is intelligent enough to avoid noncombatants like humans and butterflies and can even tell the difference between females, the blood-drinkers, and males. My favorite quote: 'We'd be delighted if we destabilize the human-mosquito balance of power.'"


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New Laser System Targets Mosquitoes

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  • Already exists (Score:2, Informative)

    by Racemaniac ( 1099281 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:52PM (#27214591)
  • Re:Cost/Benefit? (Score:2, Informative)

    by raijinsetsu ( 1148625 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:55PM (#27214629)
    Propane is a limited quantity and produces waste. Electricity for the device could be generated by solar power, thereby lessening the environmental impact.
    The propane and pheromone methods are also limited in that they are harshly affected by weather, and may not be at all available in the areas where their needed most. These methods are prominent in the US only because of our abundance of propane and pheromone production.
  • Re:And then? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:56PM (#27214641)

    Although bats and Purple Martins can be prodigious consumers of insects, many of which are pests, less than 1% of their diet typically consists of mosquitoes. []

    There are no known mosquito predators that eat only mosquitoes.

  • Re:And then? (Score:5, Informative)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:59PM (#27214705) Homepage

    > Am I the only one who thinks that humans need to stop fucking around the with the order
    > of things and deal with it?

    Unfortunately, no.

    > Finding a cure for malaria (in our own bodies, which we're at liberty to fuck with)

    But then we won't be able to transmit it to mosquitos, which are also negatively affected by it. More mosquitos... but then pressure on other prey. Suddenly other species go extinct or apex predators populations explode because that of the oversupply of mosquitos.

    The same argument can be applied to many diseases. Obviously, we must stop trying to control disease and just learn to deal with it.

    Get this through your head: there is no "order of things." God/Gaia/Mother Nature does not exist and never did. Eden never happened.

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @03:01PM (#27214739) Journal
    Raise more dragonflies. Dragonflies eat mosquitoes.

    Of course, if we would drain all the pools at foreclosed homes [], that would have a significant impact as well.

    Granted, if you're in the south where there are thousands of acres of swamp land, you might have a problem breeding enough dragonflies to make a dent in the mosquito population.

    Then again, bats are wonderful eaters of mosquitoes []. For those who have the room, bat boxes [] will provide an invitation for bats to do their work. As most bats don't come out until sundown, there will be no interference with your enjoyment of your yard during the day while at night, you can watch and cheer them on as they devour those annoying mosquitoes.
  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @03:06PM (#27214809)

    I wonder how the performance of this system compares to one of the numerous CO2+odor attractant trapping systems already in use.

    My folks have two- and despite that, they still have tons of mosquitoes and the traps take weeks to fill up.

    They have $$$ odor cartridges that last barely a week or two, the traps are really gross to empty (and usually full of really angry, hungry mosquitoes), you have to go to the hardware store often to fill the tanks, people steal the machines (they're expensive), the traps are ridiculously unreliable (they don't like getting wet...the idiots used exposed circuit boards and freakin' PC COMPUTER FANS). Nevermind they're burning LNG/propane 24x7 and use at least 30W-40W of electricity; not exactly enlightened from a climate/environmental perspective these days.

    If you don't like mosquitoes, build/buy some bird and bat shelters and put 'em up.

  • Re:And then? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Devout_IPUite ( 1284636 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @03:11PM (#27214893)

    Which is why I say we wipe em out.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @04:07PM (#27215705) Homepage

    Most effective is the 30 Watt UV lights with 110V closely spaced screens. the old tyme "BUG ZAPPER" I had 4 for my home in mid michigan and every evening in the summer you would hear them frying nearly non stop. In the morning the huge pile of dead bodies below them were a testament to their effectiveness.

    The cool part, the birds love them. the pile of bugs you see at 6am will be gone by 7am when the birdies come by to feast.

    Couple with that chemicals that also kills the damned things in the grass and you can make it somewhat livable outside.

  • Re:And then? (Score:3, Informative)

    by techess ( 1322623 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @07:25PM (#27218843)

    Wasps unfortunately do have a purpose. They eat/kill the larvae of plant damaging bugs. We had a really bad infestation of Japanese Beetles in the farms around my place a few years ago and the best way to get rid of them was to release a bunch of wasps. It did help get the population down without chemicals or losing a bunch of crops. Unfortunately it sucked to be outside that year. No BBQ's at my place.

  • I'm the Shark (Score:5, Informative)

    by pablos ( 122458 ) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:16PM (#27219441)

    I work at the Intellectual Ventures Lab where this system is being created. Just wanted to respond to a few points in the comments:

    DDT is non-discriminatory. It does kill mosquitoes, but it harms lots of other life forms as well. Because of its abuse, there are bans and economic sanctions that prevent its use. Changing that is a political problem.

    Using lasers, we don't expect to eradicate mosquitoes entirely, but they can be a way to help reduce their populations enough that malaria can't survive. In particular, the laser system can help create a perimeter to keep people safe.

    As far as we know, there aren't any species that rely solely on mosquitoes as a food source.

    Thanks, I will try to respond if there are further questions here.

  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Tuesday March 17, 2009 @12:17AM (#27221397) Homepage
    Something else to remember; refusing to answer simple, innocuous questions from a friendly officer is tantamount to saying you won't talk without your lawyer present. Which, in case you don't watch many crime shows, is code for "it was me but you'll have to prove it".

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"