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Idle Science Technology

Directed Energy Weapon Downs Mosquitos 428

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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  • Re:Evolution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:44PM (#31118514)
    Nah! The smaller of the females (survivors) will simply learn how to make the males larger. "The women are bigger. They beat at a lower frequencies" Evolution in action.
  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:50PM (#31118616)

    ...and that's a cute robot doll [] to shoot the laser at the mosquitos!

  • by LifesABeach ( 234436 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:53PM (#31118706) Homepage
    This lazer device use was banging around in the early 1980's. A couple of grad students from Florida created it. I don't recall how they were able to track the bugs. But they also "tuned" the lazer so that it lasted just long enough to only vaporize the wings. There's just one problem with this device, if the target is between the lazer, and a person's eye.
  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @04:59PM (#31118874) Journal

    I'm from Maine and I live in the woods near some marshland. If this thing works 1/4 as well as advertised I'd happily pay $200 for one if they wanted to use something similar to the "OLPC" model.

    At a manufacturing cost of $50, that's one for me to enjoy my backyard, two for third-world countries fighting malaria, and $50 profit for the manufacturer.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:10PM (#31119150) Journal

    True, but skeeters are usually active at dusk and after. Two possibilities.

    1. If it can recognize shapes, have it shut down whenever a larger animal is within 10-15 degrees of the beam. I mean, this thing is already accurately identifying specific species of mosquito, right? How hard would it be to put a "don't fire if something bigger than a housefly is emitting heat in the range of fire" system in?

    2. Put it on a timer or switch, and only turn it on when everyone is inside, and put it away from windows (this would only work, of course, if you live like me - in the woods with no neighbors).

  • Re:Evolution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:16PM (#31119278)

    Most likely course:

    Female mosquitoes that can sense the lasers at range and randomly avoid them come to dominate the species.
    Unless you have 100% coverage, there will be survivors (for some reason).
    Insects and Bacteria respond really really quickly to selection pressures.

  • by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:29PM (#31119570) Journal

    First, mosquitoes are only one thing at their level of the food chain. Flies, noseeums, and plenty of other non-biting insects live at the same level.

    Second, this is actually better than most current solutions. Mosquito magnets and skeeter deleters and other things attract all manner of insects, not just mosquitoes. Don't get me started on spray permethrin and other insecticides.

    Third, mosquito populations are WAY up in my area because bats are being wiped out by that nose fungus infection. I haven't seen a bat in my area in a couple of years, unfortunately, and they used to be common.

    Fourth, these units would only work in the immediate vicinity of houses. In my area, that means there's still a few hundred acres behind my house that remain prime mosquito real estate. I only want my yard, they can have the marsh.

    And, finally, I don't care. I am, in fact, that self-centered.

  • by danceswithtrees ( 968154 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:42PM (#31119888)

    I tried zapping mosquitos with a camera flash to see whether a strong pulse of light would disorient them. To my surprise, when the flash was held close to the mosquito ( 1"), the wings would actually be singed! They were very alive but could no longer fly with their crumpled wings. I used a rather powerful off camera flash-- one of the older Canon models at full power. Probably wouldn't work with the small flashes built into cameras.

    Flame on about cruelty to animals/insects but I think mosquitos might be one of the few things to garner less sympathy than lawyers.

  • Re:Evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <> on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:54PM (#31120084) Homepage Journal

    Maybe he means some females will hear the scream of their brethren after their wings are fried and they're tumbling to the ground and thus avoid that area.

  • Re:PETA ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:57PM (#31120154)

    Actually, PETA was mad that Obama killed a fly during an interview.

    Bullshit. PETA made no official statement whatsoever in direct response to Obama's fly killing. The media — always on the lookout to sensationalize anything— started contacting PETA in droves to get statements from them. So they made a good-humoured comment and decided to send a fly catcher to Obama. The only people who really took that "incident" seriously are all the rabid anti-PETA folks clamouring for anything to make PETA look like idiots.

  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @06:12PM (#31120438)

    It'd be nice if they could determine the distance and somehow manipulate the cycles of the laser to only burn at that specific distance

    Two slightly lower powered lasers might be able to do this, powered such that two of them need to hit the target to impart enough energy to fry it. Spaced slightly apart on the device they could intersect at the precise point of the mosquito, creating a much smaller 'kill' area instead of a long beam. We're talking about a much more complicated device though.

    (such as my balls)

    Assuming they are in your pants, they are probably quite safe. It's your eyeballs you should be really worried about.

  • Darwin says... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kclittle ( 625128 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @06:22PM (#31120614)

    ... the laser targeting system listens for the precise wingbeat frequency of the female [] Anopheles Stephensi mosquito and then zaps only those.

    Darwin says, in a generation or two, the frequency changes...

  • Re:Nice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shadowfaxcrx ( 1736978 ) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @06:58PM (#31130686)

    A good counter point. I would argue, however, that it may not be desirable to kill all the mosquitos by destroying their reproduction cycle. Annoying as they are, mosquitos are a pretty important part of the food chain for a lot of larger insects, birds, and bats. Driving a species to extinction doesn't seem to be the wisest course of action. And if someone argues that it won't drive them anywhere close to extinction then I would argue that it won't do much good anyway unless it has immediate-kill capabilities.

    However, staking out an area where humans are (a patio, or a campsite, for instance) and staking 4 devices set to kill at each of the corners, set so that the arc that encounters the staked out area is a deadzone for laser activation, would ensure that mosquitos getting too close to the area would be killed, without wide-ranging effects on the species in general. You'd need to be able to have the devices talk to each other, so that they could triangulate each other's position and auto-calculate "inside the box" vs "outside the box," but that shouldn't be too difficult.

    I do agree with you about the firmware upgrade being a necessity. Might also be fun to give it bluetooth so that you can log in to the device via a laptop/smart phone and set it to take out various types of bugs. If, for instance, you live in an area where mosquitos aren't a big problem, but biting flies are, it'd be cool to be able to instruct the device to target those.

  • Re:Darwin says... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @11:42PM (#31140344) Homepage Journal

    So god is a maintenance programmer?

    "Dear Lord, I have a constant that I'd like you to update. And Lord, if it's not too much, can you comment your code and remember to commit the change to CVS?"

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain