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Engineered Bacteria Glows To Reveal Land Mines

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the lamp-unto-your-feet dept.

Biotech 248

MikeChino writes "Sifting through minefields to remove hidden threats is a dangerous, tedious, and expensive process. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh recently announced that they have engineered a strain of bacteria that glows green in the presence of explosives, making mine detection a snap. The new strain of bacteria can be sprayed onto local affected areas or air-dropped over entire fields of mines. Within a few hours the bacteria strain begins to glow wherever traces of explosive chemicals are present."

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Pitch (4, Informative)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132830)

...making mine detection a snap

I dunno, sounds like a sales pitch to me... you should have either written it in all caps Billy Mays style or said, "Made in Scotland... you know the Scottish make good stuff"

Reguardless, the article has already been /.ed so here are some other sources: Discover [discovermagazine.com] , Treehugger [discovermagazine.com] , and DNA [dnaindia.com]

Re:Pitch (2, Interesting)

Ziwcam (766621) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132876)

Simple countermeasure: After placing mines, spray field with explosive residue. Now what?

Re:Pitch (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132950)

This would likely be used for already existing minefields. Afghanistan is the most mined country in the world, and cleanup efforts are very tedious. I think that is the market for this product.

Re:Pitch (5, Insightful)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133304)

Also useful in Southeast Asian countries, where cleanup is all but ignored by local government, and the practical cost of disposal is roughly 1 human appendage per mine.

Re:Pitch (5, Informative)

Vainglorious Coward (267452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133974)

Afghanistan is the most mined country

Afghanistan comes in 4th according to this source [listverse.com] . I was a little surprised that Egypt tops that list.

Re:Pitch (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133086)

Oh, but for the world to be black and white, like the mind of a simpleton.

Unfortunately, in the reality the rest of the worlds population lives in, there are large areas where mines have previously been laid out 5,10,15 years ago, and longer. To them, the loss of these areas of often fertile soil is a very real problem.

I suggest an even simpler countermeasure, send you to those areas and walk around for a bit. Sure you may only find one mine, but thats one less mine those people trying to find places to grow their food have to worry about.

Re:Pitch (2, Interesting)

Ziwcam (766621) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133276)

Hey now, I was simply pointing out an obvious shortcoming to the potential usefulness of this in an area where insurgents still want to keep it mined. When used to clean up abandoned minefields, I think this product has the potential to save tons of lives (and limbs). No need for you to wish me into the middle of a minefield simply because I pointed out a potential countermeasure to the product.

Re:Pitch (-1, Flamebait)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#30134022)

That is how hardcore touchy feely leftists like the GP think of everything. You must by leftist law publicly state you love and tolerance for all loudly and unreservedly else you will be put to the stocks of unfeeling , no heart, big business loving, anti government help,worthless dog. :)

Re:Pitch (4, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133450)

Or, after one or more mines explode, does the entire field become tainted with explosive residue?

Re:Pitch (4, Informative)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132898)

Your first two links are the same, might have been meant to direct here [treehugger.com] instead.

Re:Pitch (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133146)

I'd like to introduce you to a truly enlightening product!

Re:Pitch (0)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133324)

...making mine detection a snap
I dunno, sounds like a sales pitch to me

From TFA:

...scientists at the University of Edinburgh recently announced that they have engineered a strain of bacteria that glows green in the presence of explosives, making mine detection a snap.

Sounds like a "DOH!!!" to me. Notice the picture in TFA of a guy with a metal detector in a field of GREEN vegetation? Maybe they should have engineered these bacteria to glow some other color?

the article has already been /.ed

OK, maybe you didn't...

too erasy in the daytimes.. (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133542)

They don't turn green, they glow green. So you just have to go mine clearing in the dark.

Re:too erasy in the daytimes.. (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133654)

They don't turn green, they glow green.

Kind of like the goo inside a green chemlight...

In the old days, if you wanted to do the area denial thing, you had to buy these expensive, heavy, hard to install landmines.

Then it was discovered you could scare the other guys away merely by using signs that say "landmine". In fact there is a UN standard / requirement for posting landmine signs around a minefield, scary white triangles, if I recall...

Now, technology marches on, and all you need is a big pack of green chemlights from walmart... crack them, drip the liquid in a field, and instant, cheap, area denial... Its also economic warfare, since mine field clearing is very expensive compared to buying a bunch of chemlights. Its also very demoralizing to the troops to know that glowing stuff might or might not be fake.

Re:too erasy in the daytimes.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30134060)

Or take a picture at night and use that picture to do extractraction during the day?

I know.. that's just silly talk.

Re:Pitch (4, Funny)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133680)

Do they have a bacteria that can help me with FreeCell? I was already pretty good at Minesweeper.

Re:Pitch (5, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133698)

It looks like the University of Edinburgh entered this project in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, so they have a project page [igem.org] with a lot of information. From what I gather, it would appear that the system is based on a system of enzymes that break down soil nitrites which have been linked to Green Fluorescent Protein. Nitrites are a natural byproduct of the breakdown of nitro-based explosives like TNT and PETN. Of course, soil nitrites from non-leaking landmine sources, like chemical fertilizers would also trigger fluorescence, so the team engineered a non-natural gene promoter protein. The genes to produce the fluorescent complex only get transcribed and translated into protein if the promoter is active. The activator for that promoter is a molecule of TNT, so the bacteria will only glow if TNT is present.

I'd also encourage people to take a look at the other iGEM projects [igem.org] . Lots of interesting reading.

This could make things worse... (1, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132844)

Now they'll either lace the entire field with C4, or they'll start using remote detonators when people move in to disarm.

I don't think you comprehend the problem (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133150)

Now they'll either lace the entire field with C4, or they'll start using remote detonators when people move in to disarm.

The largest problem with land mines is that there are so many in areas where there is no longer any kind of combat - kids or other civilians go in the fields and lose life and limb. This helps with that. We're talking WW2 era stuff here.

Modern warfare by insurgents is ALREADY past mines, since they don't have an endless amount of money to spend - they already place explosives and use remote detonators when troops come by.

Re:I don't think you comprehend the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133834)

It would make their jobs a lot easier:

http://www.maginternational.org/ [maginternational.org]

I already make monthly donations to them so I can clean up the mess my government has made. Remember the United States is one of only 13 countries that still produce these weapons:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Campaign_to_Ban_Landmines [wikipedia.org]

Re:I don't think you comprehend the problem (3, Informative)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30134050)

I wouldn't say that they're "past" mines, if anything they lack the resources and facilities to make a proper mine, instead what they make are called Improvised Explosive Devices (IED's) which can perform the job of a mine, but can't withstand the elements for decades like a properly encased munition mine can. Sure, many are triggered manually, but a pressure plate trigger can be made from the ringer out of a typical telephone - a piezo transducer, same thing used to measure earthquakes. Wire that through a relay to a diesel-nitrogen cocktail, and it'll take the treads off a tank no problem, but it couldn't last more than maybe 5 years before the batteries die.

Take a look at the tanks and APV junkyards in Afghanistan and try telling the repair crews there aren't any mines out there. And there are definitely booby traps in buildings where the bacteria could come in handy for sure.

Re:This could make things worse... (3, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133320)

The biggest danger with mines is not that they explode - it's that no one really knows where the mines are, and that they are often right around civilian areas.

Your two scenarios would actually both be a vast improvement over the current situation.

In the first instance, you just have to get one little corner to detonate, and the entire field should go off. At that point, de-mining via artillery-shelling will actually work. If you meant to say that the mine fields are going to be much denser, great as well - you can actually employ large-scale de-mining equipment and have it be more cost-efficient than the hand-demining.

In the second instance, people sitting at a remote trigger actually make the mine safer: it means that there are less mines to go around (detonators are scarce, mines are not), someone knows where the mine is and it won't randomly go off when a kid decides to play catch in the field.

Re:This could make things worse... (1)

Mekkah (1651935) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133500)

How would remote detonators be worse, that would mean someone actually has to be watching..?

at least then you could possibly see your enemy, that would be better than the landmines now where your enemy is drinking a mai tai while Lt. Dan's is looking for his legs.

Re:This could make things worse... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133504)

Now they'll either lace the entire field with C4, or they'll start using remote detonators when people move in to disarm.

The real problem is there is no magic biological way to detect explosives, like the force, or some DnD "reveal invisible" spell.

So, what'll happen, is anywhere the mines have degraded and cracked open and are thus probably inert, will glow green, so people will avoid those "dangerous" areas, and anywhere the mines remain hermetically sealed, will not glow, thus it looks "safe" but is actually very dangerous.

Even worse, its not failsafe. If a spot is not glowing, is that because coverage was not 100% because a vehicle was parked there, or maybe the heat from a fire killed the bacteria, or ...

Safest thing to do, is just ignore the results. No one benefits but the contractors, which was probably the whole point to begin with.

Dangerous, Tedious, Expensive ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30132860)

Why ? Can't we all of a sudden use little underaged childeren to 'detect' the darn things for us anymore ?

Re:Dangerous, Tedious, Expensive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133058)

Why ? Can't we all of a sudden use little underaged childeren to 'detect' the darn things for us anymore ?

Yeah carpet bombing suspected mine fields with Snickers bars has got to be more cost effective.

Re:Dangerous, Tedious, Expensive ? (3, Insightful)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133682)

Why is this parent modded 'funny' ? In Eastern and African countries little kids *are* actually being used to detect mines: by blowing them up, and losing their arms, legs, or lives... I do not see what's so funny about that at all...

Re:Dangerous, Tedious, Expensive ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30134072)

Why is this parent modded 'funny' ? In Eastern and African countries little kids *are* actually being used to detect mines: by blowing them up, and losing their arms, legs, or lives... I do not see what's so funny about that at all...

well since people in those places refuse to use birth control they gotta do something. yeah that's fucked up but it seems almost like it's their plan. i never understood the thought processes of someone who says "hey, i live in a third world shithole full of minefields and starvation and nonpotable water and roving bandits... i know, why don't i have a whole bunch of kids, i mean, isn't this a GREAT place to raise a real big family?" i just don't fucking understand that.

don't they love their kids enough to at least try to move to a better place before knocking anyone up? better to make a dangerous border crossing and not make it than to condemn a bunch of innocent children to poverty and starvation. do they think the stork brings babies so they can deny a connection between their decisions and the outcome of those decisions? it sucks but you can survive without having sex and it makes a lot of sense when you can't or won't use birth control and can barely scrape by without extra mouths to feed. what possesses these people to keep reproducing like rabbits? do we really need those "sponsor a child" commercials that badly?

yeah you might not like the way i phrased some of that, but it's a hard reality. i'd soften it up for you if i thought it would change the living conditions in some of the worst places on earth but it won't, so go on and get offended if that's the best response you got. maybe someone with more guts can tell me why people do things like this and what they hope to accomplish and why they don't think about these things. you know fat americans can afford the luxury of carelessness and of living their lives with very little forethought because it's different when the Top40 chart or a sports team or a bank account is your biggest concern. you'd think people living in 3rd world countries on the edge of subsistence would be forced by necessity to use better planning. so what gives?

This cannot possibly end well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30132886)

nt

Walk around in the dark, in a minefield? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30132902)

So, I have to walk around in the dark in a minefield, looking for the glowing spots?

Re:Walk around in the dark, in a minefield? (1)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133864)

Oops.

Missed a spot.

How long will it live? (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132904)

It would seem if you could get this strain to survive in the soil for some months you could spray road sides even ahead of the implanting of IEDs.

Re:How long will it live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133132)

University of Edinburgh scientists announced today that they’ve bioengineered a bacteria to glow a bright green when it comes in contact with the chemicals that old land mines leak out into the ground.

It seems that this only works for old abandoned mine-fields, not fresh mines. Which in a way is a good thing, that way we aren't looking so hard for a mine-field replacement that will be even more deadly.

Nice idea, but... (4, Informative)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132922)

Exploded mines and artillery shells leave unburnt residue.

Re:Nice idea, but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133098)

This narrows down the places which need to be sweeped for mines. That alone makes this valuable. Minesweeping is hard work. I mean, I get payed to play 'minesweeper' all day long! I mean... err... um...

Re:Nice idea, but... (1)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133112)

This could be a setback, but my guess is that there would be a "glowing bacterial density" that you could look at. If everything's faintly glowing green in an area, then there's a spot where it's bright green, you'd take special care around that spot.

I'm not 100% sure how it would work, but this could save lives.

Re:Nice idea, but... (1)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133264)

I wonder if it works in the dark? It might be confusing when using night vision.

Re:Nice idea, but... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133712)

If everything's faintly glowing green in an area, then there's a spot where it's bright green, you'd take special care around that spot.

Still no go. That bright spot is either uneven application of the mystery bacteria, or its a piece of shrapnel from the artillery shell/grenade/whatever.

Re:Nice idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30134082)

Quite the contrary. Call it a hunch, but I get the feeling a FULL, COMPLETE MINE just might have a bit more explosive than the ever-so-slight residue that might be left on a shred of shrapnel.

As for bacteria density, they can probably tell the difference between a lot of barely glowing substance, and a bit of extremely glowing substance.

Re:Nice idea, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133122)

My guess is the folks clearing the field would be pretty good at determining if a suspect location has already detonated. :P

Re:Nice idea, but... (1, Flamebait)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133924)

Exploded mines and artillery shells leave unburnt residue.

Wow, you've identified an imperfection. I guess we'd all better quit and not bother then.

Seriously, is this how the world looks from the safety of your basement, where you can't be bothered to go out 'cause everthing isn't perfect?

This is a brilliant and useful addtion to the deminer's toolkit, and any potential issues are tiny compared to the added value it gives. Having poked around the problem of demining (I'm a sensors and image processing guy, not a biochemistry guy) I can say that this idea is clever and useful, despite the whining of armchair critics.

The added information this stuff would give deminers is worth a lot. Obviously other sources of explosive material is going to show up, but tell me, can you see from your basement how the distribution pattern of those other sources will differ from the distribution pattern of intact mines?

Can you see in your imagination how it might be more diffuse, say? Or how the pattern from intact mines might
actually contain some information as to the depth and age and type of the mine?

No, of course you can't, because you stopped thinking at the moment you thought of a plausible deviation from perfection--I can tell because you didn't even bother to complete your comment with the clearly implicity "therefore this is useless". And if you don't think it's useless, why didn't you say so, because anyone reading your comment sure would think that's what you were saying. So you should work on either improving your thinking skills, or your communications skills, or both.

Grey Goo 2.0? (3, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30132936)

So can I add this the list of possible humanity-ending catalysts and/or future Michael Crichton novel plotlines? I vote to call it "glow goo" or perhaps simply "bactoswarm".

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

TornCityVenz (1123185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133068)

You would have to hop into his time travel machine to get him to write it however, as he passed away in November of 2008.

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

Cornelius the Great (555189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133442)

Duh, we can clone him!

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133566)

...or get nanobots to rebuild him.

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133538)

I still hold out hope [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133136)

I vote to call it "really dirty bomb."

"Not only did I get hit with mine shrapnel, it was covered in gross glowing e.coli. I nearly crapped myself from the mine explosion. Later, I -did- crap myself because of the diarrhea it caused."

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

Tarsir (1175373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133160)

So can I add this [to] the list of [...] future Michael Crichton novel plotlines

That list may get longer, but I doubt it will get much shorter any time soon [wikipedia.org]

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133596)

You never know [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Grey Goo 2.0? (1)

mmontour (2208) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133666)

So can I add this the list of possible humanity-ending catalysts and/or future Michael Crichton novel plotlines?

The one I'm waiting for is a genetically-engineered cellulose-to-ethanol bacterium that can survive in the wild. With all of the biofuel companies rushing to come up with a commercially-viable product, there's lots of opportunity for an accident to unleash a critter capable of eating all plant life on earth. It will doom humanity, but at least we'll have lots of cheap booze to drink as the planet withers and dies.

anyone else see the problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133060)

Without RTFA, I have a few questions:
1)what does the bacteria actually consume to grow? The explosive residue or some other easy to acquire material?
2)how easy will this bacteria breed with other bacteria creating strange strains that could do who knows what?
3)how toxic is this bacteria to people, animals and plants?
4)how do you get ride of this bacteria once you have removed the mine without scorching everything?

I fully admit it is a great idea but there are enough concerns about introducing new bacteria or modified bacteria that makes me a bit hesitant to spray anywhere.

Re:anyone else see the problem... (2, Funny)

CarlDenny (415322) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133340)

Without RTFA:
1 - Rocks and nearby puppies.
2 - Bacteria are asexual. These bacteria will, however, be able to spread an "asexual agenda" among native bacteria, who will begin to glow in the presence of other objects, like discarded cans, to look cool and "green."
3- Except for puppies, the bacteria are harmless. Unless you like eating gunpowder or landmines.
4- More landmines! No, wait, they'll be outbred by normal bacteria soon enough.

Re:anyone else see the problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133348)

Uh, bacteria don't "breed" with other bacteria like mammals. They reproduce asexually via cellular fission.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteria#Growth_and_reproduction

Though mutations in the bacteria may cause unwanted effects, it's highly unlikely. Your other concerns are certainly valid though.

Re:anyone else see the problem... (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133664)

Bacteria do, however, exchange DNA with nearby organisms, not necessarily of the same species. Some DNA has been incorporated into "infected" hosts, or picked up through plant root systems, and bacteria shuffle DNA between themselves, as well.

There's more to knowledge than just mis-quoting some Wikipedia article, since the one you referenced does, in fact, describe gene transfer (BTW, use the URL tags).

On the page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacteria#Growth_and_reproduction [wikipedia.org] , search for the word "conjugation", for example, which will be in the "Genetics" section.

What they don't tell you... (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133076)

The bacteria is a strain of bubonic plague that's more deadly than the mines themselves...

Re:What they don't tell you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133224)

That's the beautiful part - when winter comes, the gorillas simple freeze to death!

Re:What they don't tell you... (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133466)

Sweet, maybe the TSA can spray this on all passengers instead of using metal detectors.

Oh great ! (4, Funny)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133092)

Now we'll all have to be dunked in a vat of this stuff every time I go through TSA security. We get more like sheep every day.

Next level stuff (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133094)

I really like us to come up with better debugging techniques before we go further into these bio-engineering stuff.

Re:Next level stuff (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133282)

We didn't learn from placing the mines themselves? I always worry when someone starts to use engineered biological organisms and processes that we don't fully understand. True, we can only test so much, but as commented in the Software Maintenance article, it's all about time to market and not getting it right. What ever happened to that miraculous bacteria that would eliminate tooth decay from a few years ago?

  Not to mention, I can see this stuff missing unless highly sensitive. It sounds like it, but I did not RTFA. Even still, are some mines sealed? Surely some haven't "leaked' enough to set this off? I am not sure I would walk on the ground and trust it, that's for sure. But I can't fault them for trying. I know that metal detectors don't cut it as there are metal free mines.

Re:Next level stuff (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133706)

That tooth bacteria is probably fighting its way through a very cautious public safety apparatus.

Re:Next level stuff (1)

el3mentary (1349033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133906)

That tooth bacteria is probably fighting against the Dentists unions trying to prevent it's release

Re:Next level stuff (1)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133318)

We didn't learn from placing the mines themselves? I always worry when someone starts to use engineered biological organisms and processes that we don't fully understand. True, we can only test so much, but as commented in the Software Maintenance article, it's all about time to market and not getting it right. What ever happened to that miraculous bacteria that would eliminate tooth decay from a few years ago?

    Not to mention, I can see this stuff missing unless highly sensitive. It sounds like it, but I did not RTFA. Even still, are some mines sealed? Surely some haven't "leaked' enough to set this off? I am not sure I would walk on the ground and trust it, that's for sure. But I can't fault them for trying. I know that metal detectors don't cut it as there are metal free mines.

Glowing Zombie Apocalypse (1)

schlick (73861) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133138)

starting in 3... 2.... 1....

Re:Glowing Zombie Apocalypse (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133448)

Glowing Zombie Apocalypse

Wait, zombies are explosive too? :-P

Cheers

The hills are alive... (1)

shrtcircuit (936357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133140)

Anyone else get a slightly uneasy feeling at the idea of crop-dusting entire areas of land with living bacteria that glow?

What assurances do we have that the bacteria won't mutate, self-replicate, or turn against its master in the form of some horrendous new super-bug that makes the 20,000 land-mine casualties a year seem like a drop in a bucket?

Re:The hills are alive... (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133496)

> The hills are alive...

True. Topsoil is several percent bacteria by weight.

> What assurances do we have that the bacteria won't mutate, self-replicate, or
> turn against its master in the form of some horrendous new super-bug that
> makes the 20,000 land-mine casualties a year seem like a drop in a bucket?

None. And the sames goes for the millions of other species of bacteria that infest every square meter of the Earth's surface.

Re:The hills are alive... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133688)

not infest, but inhabit.

Re:The hills are alive... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133530)

You do realize that bacteria are everywhere right? Just because we modified this one to glow doesn't give it some unique survival advantage or propensity to mutate. If anything, the bacteria is going to be a monoculture and more susceptible to chemicals and preditors.

Re:The hills are alive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133810)

I seriously doubt any one bacterial strain is sufficiently dominating enough to compete with the hundreds of billions of bacterial strains contained in an acre of land. The sheer diversity of bacterial ecology is mind boggling, and near galactic proportions.

Re:The hills are alive... (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 4 years ago | (#30134054)

To add to everyone else's post about bacteria everywhere. There is bacteria in regular soil that not only is unaffected by our strongest antibiotics, but they can actually metabolize the antibiotics for energy. OMG!!! antibiotic resistant bacteria!! Yeah, trillions(or more) of these live in your backyard.

Great! (5, Funny)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133152)

Yet *another* source of light pollution.

Re:Great! (5, Funny)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133226)

Would you be willing to give an arm and a leg just to be able to go stargazing?

Re:Great! (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133644)

If you get your legs blown off thanks to a previously undiscovered mine, don't come running to me.

More proof that Bio-engineering = Magic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133190)

Let me lay down this scrying dust to detect deadly traps...

This is magic, Dammit!

Bah, this will never work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133278)

My antibiotic mines will cleverly hide themselves from such scrutiny.

V Concerns (1)

schmaustech (766915) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133302)

How will the Visitors respond to it?

Legitimately good idea (5, Interesting)

Draque (1367509) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133322)

Am I the only one here who is aware of how bad of a problem land mines are to civilians in many third world countries? The response here seems generally negative, but if this technology helps to diffuse old land mine fields, it would be wonderful. Just because it was planted in WW2 doesn't guarantee that it's become inactive or that it won't kill you now.

Re:Legitimately good idea (4, Insightful)

KlaymenDK (713149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133540)

No, you're right -- it is a very good idea.

The problem is, all these critics are a teeny bit right when they say it's not going to work. Alas.

Not so very many years ago, there was an initiative to grow flowers whose petals turn red if they hit a mine. A lot more practical than bacteria, and it seemed to work very well, too -- but they got booted out of that African country they were testing in rather rough-handedly. It's a sad tale, but the fact is there are more warmongers than do-gooders and these things are immensely difficult to see to fruition.

I do wish them luck, though.

I'm surprised that this technology is available (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133362)

Seems like this could massively reduce the military usefulness of minefields. Isn't a huge minefield sitting on the border between North and South Korea helping keep the peace there, by deterring North Korean military aggression? What if the North Koreans can spot all the mines?

--PM

Re:I'm surprised that this technology is available (1)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133514)

My first thought as well. I think it's laudable that people are working on the ability to locate and disarm relic mines. Unfortunately, that same technology could likely be used by those wanting access to areas defended by current minefields.

Of course, the solution could be as simple as spraying a field with a substance that is toxic to the bacteria in question. It wouldn't have any impact on manned fields, but would still allow the use in areas that have abandonned mines. Unfortunately, that strikes me as creating yet another problem in a hunk of land currently filled with burried explosives, but it might be the way of it.

Re:I'm surprised that this technology is available (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133746)

Just spray your mine field with explosives residue after you finish laying it down.

Re:I'm surprised that this technology is available (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133650)

It's not like it was impossible to detect and disarm mines before this. It was just more time consuming and expensive. Mines are just one aspect of the Demilitarized Zone, and would be basically useless by themselves. There are troops from both countries patrolling their side of it in case anyone tries to cross over, and massive amounts of guns and artillery. Nevertheless, the North has gone on incursions in to the South's side of the DMZ. And the biggest threat from NK has been the tunnels they dug all the way underneath the DMZ. Who cares about mines on the surface when you're going under it?

So, basically, this will have zero impact on the situation in the Koreas.

Re:I'm surprised that this technology is available (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133758)

Not really. The DMZ (as far as I know) is the only place where a minefield still actually serves a military purpose. Furthermore, without an ability to disarm the mines remotely, it wouldn't be that advantageous to know where they are, since the North Korean forces would be maneuvering to avoid the mines and would be much more vulnerable to counterattack. The US and the South would know they were coming from troop buildups and the spraying of the field with bacteria (it takes a few hours to activate). And even if they were nullified, we still possess massive advantages in both conventional and nuclear forces -- Kim Jong Il may act crazy, but his behavior is actually quite rational. Of course, I'm in no way a military strategist so I could be wrong.

And the advantage of being able to spot mines at low cost is far greater than the potential disadvantages in Korea. WWII era mines are a scourge on third world countries, where adults and children are regularly mutilated and killed by weapons from 60 year old conflicts. Modern warfare has already evolved past the use of fields of landmines -- large forces use targeted strikes, guided weapons, automated observations, and lately tend to fight small guerrilla forces against which a minefield is useless. Small guerrilla forces, meanwhile, cannot afford minefields, and tend to take advantage of the visibility of conventional forces to manually target them.

Re:I'm surprised that this technology is available (2, Funny)

lgftsa (617184) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133764)

I suspect that if that particular area was crop-dusted with the bacteria, the result would resemble a raggedly cut electroluminescent strip and be visible from space.

Already identified....in 2003 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133460)

Already identified in 2003.

http://ww2.jhu.edu/hurj/issue2/08B%20Vadera%20Land%20Mine.pdf

Bacteria + desert (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133482)

Will the bacteria grow in a desert?

huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133494)

I didn't knows bacteria could glows.

Completely Unnecessary (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133502)

God damnit, wasn't detecting mines easy enough already? All this hoo-haa about glowing bacteria and metal detectors and cleanup efforts is a complete waste of time. Really guys, it's simple: The little numbers represent how many mines are in the surrounding eight squares.

Counter-measures (1, Insightful)

tarkas (238632) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133516)

A nifty idea, but there are countermeasures a miner might take that are easy to implement.

a solution of solvent and typical mine explosive, either sprayed over the entire field of installed mines, sprayed over un-mined areas that you'd like to slow them down, or better yet, spray patches randomly over an installed mine field so that there are many false positives, indistinguishable from the tell of a real mine. Do all of these randomly so that a detection will require a thourough seach no matter what. Thats the whole point of a mine field anyway...

Edge a real mine field with 50 meters of false spots. Regions of false spots bordering regions of mines, randomly shaped and sized.

Encapsulate mines with impermeable skin... ziplok?

Saturate the ground with a persistent anti-microbial =)

Saturate only some of the field with anti-microbial =D

Re:Counter-measures (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30134106)

This has a lot more to do with detecting mines in old minefields that aren't combat zones, where civilians are routinely killed or maimed. It isn't about tactical detection of mines.

Minesweeping (5, Funny)

dlaudel (1304717) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133554)

I hope that as the bacteria glows, it arranges itself into numbers indicating how many mines are nearby. It should making identifying the mined locations a simple matter of elimination.

Re:Minesweeping (1)

PirateBlis (1208936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30134066)

I hope that as the bacteria glows, it arranges itself into numbers indicating how many mines are nearby. It should making identifying the mined locations a simple matter of elimination.

Terrific idea! I'll get working on little "goo flags" we can use to mark the locations of "suspected" mines.

False Sense of Security (2, Informative)

roguetrick (1147853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133586)

Detecting mines is great, I'd be pretty damn worried about the ones that arn't detected however.

Bah, they beat me to it... (1)

Wiarumas (919682) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133588)

I was making something similar, but they glowed when orcs were nearby.

tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30133790)

whatcouldpossiblygowrong

At the end of the product disclaimer... (1)

fran6gagne (1467469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133830)

We are not responsible if the bacterias enter your lungs and grow in horribles diseases that eat you from the inside and kills you in horrible and long suffering.

Enders Game (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133894)

Why do I get the feeling, when slashdoters discuss military tactics and strategies, that we're inside some kind of "Enders Game" scenario, and some pentagon general, recently reassigned from SG-1, is high-fiving cmdr taco right now, over our great insights into warfare?

At last (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133940)

This terrible scourge of mimes is finally over!

Oh fudge, I misread the article.

Pfft... (1)

el3mentary (1349033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30133956)

I just coat my mines with Domestos

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