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The Military Science Technology

Glowing Bacteria Detect Buried Landmines (sciencemag.org) 37

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: More than 100 million landmines lay hidden in the ground around the world, but glowing bacteria may help us find them, according to a new study. The approach relies on small quantities of vapor released from the common explosive TNT. Previously, researchers engineered E. coli to glow green upon detection of DNT, a byproduct of TNT. In a study published in Nature Biotechnology today, the same team reports on a small field test with mines buried in sand and soil, whose triggering mechanisms were removed. The scientists loaded about 100,000 DNT-detecting bacterial cells into a single bead made of polymers derived from seaweed and sprinkled these beads over the landmine site at night. Twenty-four hours later, they used a laser to remotely detect and quantify fluorescing bacteria from 20 meters away, mapping the location of the landmines.
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Glowing Bacteria Detect Buried Landmines

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  • by Jzanu ( 668651 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2017 @03:34AM (#54220131)
    In the regions where land mines are buried, knowing the exact area or field where the mines are is the biggest problem. Because of the unknown area, there is no way to apply this in sprinking the bacteria except with a crop duster, and then it is useless when there is any overgrowth. Then the whole "use a laser" bit limits this to formerly advanced economies e.g. the balkan nations, not the areas where there are major issues Thailand, Myanmar, etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jzanu ( 668651 )

      In the regions where land mines are buried, knowing the exact area or field where the mines are is the biggest problem. Because of the unknown area, there is no way to apply this in sprinking the bacteria except with a crop duster, and then it is useless when there is any overgrowth. Then the whole "use a laser" bit limits this to formerly advanced economies e.g. the balkan nations, not the areas where there are major issues Thailand, Myanmar, etc.

      For background read this [english.cntv.cn] and this [jmu.edu]. Notice the different dates on these articles and that gives some idea of the difficulty in actually finding and removing these immoral weapons.

      • >these immoral weapons.

        Mines around a perimeter to deter intrusion, for instance... there's nothing any more wrong with that than shooting someone trying to rush your position. Mines in a field to stop farming to cut off the enemy's food supply... that's war.

        Morality comes from the person who decided where the mines should be deployed, the person who didn't keep records on that deployment, and from the military (all the way up their chain of command) that didn't remove them after the conflict ended.

    • by Gryle ( 933382 )
      No one is claiming it's a magic-bullet (sort-of pun not intended), but it's one more tool in the tool kit. Isn't that a good thing?
    • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2017 @07:21AM (#54220679) Homepage

      The people who placed the mines were mostly not idiots. Land mines are usually placed on paths and roads, or in fields around turns out villages, because those are the most effective places to either deny access to a place or to channel attackers into kill zones.

      Land mine fields are also usually known to the local population -- someone's uncle, sister, or elephant has often been killed or lost a limb, and people know they should stay clear; they just can't afford to leave that field fallow or to get water somewhere else or whatever. But the locals usually have no better tools to find or remove land mines than probes (e.g. bayonets) and their own ingenuity, while land mines are often equipped with counter-tamper measures.

      So just about any technology is too high-tech or too expensive for the local populace to use. However, governments issue grants to non-government organizations (NGOs) that exist solely to help remove land mines. Those NGOs have equipment and expertise that the locals could not afford for themselves. In the case of this approach, they would probably use a small done to disperse the bacteria, and they could easily afford a laser scanning device.

      (My last job was writing software for ground-penetrating radar for land mine and IED detection. The US Army funded both systems that would mount on military vehicles, and separate systems on vehicles aimed at "humanitarian demining" -- the overall term for reclaiming land mine fields for civilian use. The GPR sensors and detection algorithms were the same as what was used on the military systems -- although usually operating with higher probability of detection and thus higher false alarm rate -- but the requirements for operating environment, advance rate, etc. were looser, so it was practical to use lower cost/COTS components for the rest of the system. The US government funded my employer so that the demining NGOs could use the same tech as the military.)

    • An Afghan Designer and His Life-Saving Creation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • In the regions where land mines are buried, knowing the exact area or field where the mines are is the biggest problem. Because of the unknown area, there is no way to apply this in sprinking the bacteria except with a crop duster, and then it is useless when there is any overgrowth.

      Then the whole "use a laser" bit limits this to formerly advanced economies e.g. the balkan nations, not the areas where there are major issues Thailand, Myanmar, etc.

      What's wrong with crop-testing broad swathes of land with glowing e-coli?

      • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
        There are these things called trees, especially in these places called jungles, which make that process itself impossible.
  • 100 million landmines LIE hidden, dammit!

  • Strange that they need such advanced technology when they could just dig up small sections of soil and read the big numbers that appear in it.
    • that only works if you have a bunch of minions to "start over" with.

      Hey SlashMind could one of y'all invent a device that can scramble a patch of ground 10 feet deep that could be used to rip the mines apart??

      (note im looking for a method that does not involve sticking paws or chunks of material into said ground with say a range of 20 meters)

  • Soon the TSA will want to smear e-coli on our clothes and luggage. Eww!
  • I'm new to this whole landmine detection thing, but perhaps red would have been a better choice of color than green.

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