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Directed Energy Weapon Downs Mosquitos

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the two-pound-hammer-and-ten-penny-nail dept.

Idle 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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428 comments

Nice (5, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118350)

Well, to hell with the green movement... get me another 250 amp breaker box to my house! It's go time, you little bastards. I'm going to put some energy executive's nephew through college!

So where do I buy one? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118682)

Oh wait...I can't buy one. They don't exist yet. There is just the one prototype and the company that built it doesn't even plan to market it.

Dammit, don't get me all excited about this stuff untill I can buy it!

Re:Nice (5, Informative)

_LMark (173102) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118718)

First: What's more impressive than the lasers that fry* the mosquitoes is the targeting and detection system that drives this crazy thing. Many people are looking at this and wondering how you pick out your targets. The system first scans the surrounding space and *listens*. What it is listening for is quite interesting. See, Malaria is an interesting disease because only specific mosquitoes carry it, and only the females. Since there could be many side effects to zapping any insects within range, or even any mosquitoes (regardless of species or gender), the laser targeting system listens for the precise wingbeat frequency of the female [wikipedia.org] Anopheles Stephensi mosquito and then zaps only those.

*Technically speaking, the mosquitoes will not be fried in the final product. In addition to potential danger to other occupants of this system's effective bubble, it is planned for deployment to very poor areas of the world where electricity will likely be at a premium. As a result, they are also experimenting with the minimum amount of energy a laser strike must possess to render the mosquito infertile, because that interrupts the cycle necessary for Malaria transmission between humans.


Cheers,
Makr

"Burning Mosquito Footage?" YES. (3, Funny)

smpoole7 (1467717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118400)

And NOTHING ... I repeat, NOTHING ... is better than burning mosquito footage.

Pardon my skepticism (0)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118422)

Finding, focusing on, and tracking a mosquito (in 3 dimensions!) would be an astonishing accomplishment. Forgive me if I'm skeptical.

Re:Pardon my skepticism (5, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118550)

The laser describes a perfectly straight line; no windage is needed. You therefore do not need to track the mosquito in three dimensions, but only two--no fine determination of range is required.

Re:Pardon my skepticism (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31119168)

You DO need the third dimension as have to determine angles, because the laser is being pointed with mirrors and not moved on a 2d cartesian plane.

Re:Pardon my skepticism (1)

Doctor Morbius (1183601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119418)

Go back to geometry class. You only need to know the azimuth and altitude of the mosquitoes location. You don't need to know the distance. The laser beam will hit it if aimed properly.

Re:Pardon my skepticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118576)

Fucking IDIOT, they have VIDEO. OK?

You only have to track two dimensions (2, Insightful)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118670)

Travel time is instantaneous for all practical purposes. If you think you need the distance to know what to shoot and what not to shoot, that's only half the problem. The real problem is what about the parts of the laser beam that aren't intercepted by the mosquito? I realize lasers do gradually expand, but not enough to avoid zapping the people nearby.

Re:You only have to track two dimensions (3, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118870)

I'd be shocked if this laser is more powerful than 100 milliwatts (and it's probably much less), since even on the mosquito it doesn't appear to cause any damage to the main body, just the delicate flesh on the wings (according to the video). I wouldn't stare into it for long periods of time, but on your skin (and on brief exposure to the retinas), you'd be fine.

Re:You only have to track two dimensions (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119408)

If it can track and kill 100 mosquitos per second, each kill must last 10ms or less (assuming it's just one laser).

According to Wiki [wikipedia.org] , if the beam power is under 1mW/cm^2 we'd be just fine.

Re:You only have to track two dimensions (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118914)

Ever touched the live part of a bug zapper? Hint: It won't kill you. The power of the laser isn't (or at least, doesn't need to be) strong enough to harm a human or larger animal.

Re:Pardon my skepticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118876)

If we can shoot down missiles from hundreds of miles away, we can track and shoot down a mosquito a few meters away. (Like how I mixed unit systems? Nah, me niether)

Re:Pardon my skepticism (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119058)

Well, why doesn't DARPA fund this then so they could at least gain more knowledge into shooting down things like missiles with fricken laser beams?

Re:Pardon my skepticism (1)

MasterPatricko (1414887) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119444)

Well, why doesn't DARPA fund this then so they could at least gain more knowledge into shooting down things like missiles with fricken laser beams?

Because missiles don't buzz at a characteristic frequency?
And because its a bit too late to leave shooting down a missile till its a few meters away?

I'm from Minnesota (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118424)

I'm from Minnesota, if this thing works that well I'll be tempted to pick it up and put it on a plinth in my backyard. Between that and my mosquito deleto I just might be able to enjoy a mosquito free evenening....

Re:I'm from Minnesota (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119334)

I've tried several variants of that, most recently the "Mosquito Magnet", and while they work pretty well, they are also pretty expensive to run (refill the tank every 3 weeks, attractants add up, and they pull a decent amount of power) and you're damned lucky if you get two seasons out of them.

Re:I'm from Minnesota (4, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118874)

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.

As 2012 Approaches (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118436)

With one of these who needs Armageddon?

A useful, and frightening device. If the neighbors have one in their backyard, I don't want to be in mine. NIMBY , or let me have one on my cell phone.

Re:As 2012 Approaches (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118936)

Hmm... funny you should mention cell phones. Do you think these things are going to start attacking teenagers with those "teacher-proof" ringtones?

Re:As 2012 Approaches (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119160)

Dude.. You give your neighbors the bug zapper.. Every time they smile cause they zapped a mosquito, you'll smile cause that mosquito was attracted to their yard and not yours. You get yourself the laser to pick off the stubborn ones..

I've been wanting one! (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118446)

I thought of this about a decade ago and have been wanting one ever since. Of course I've never had the time or money to build one... Sure, sell them for $50 a pop and I'll buy at least two.

Add a techno soundtrack... (5, Funny)

gimmebeer (1648629) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118450)

..and a Roomba to clean up the mess, and you've got a party.

Re:Add a techno soundtrack... (4, Insightful)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118610)

Heck, mount it on the roomba to patrol.

Re:Add a techno soundtrack... (4, Funny)

anss123 (985305) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118794)

Heck, mount it on the roomba to patrol.

That would be pure awesome.

Somebody do this and post on youtube, now!

Re:Add a techno soundtrack... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118810)

I, for one, welcome our new vacuuming, mosquito killing robotic overlords...

Evolution (5, Insightful)

lappy512 (853357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118454)

When will it be until mosquitoes evolve energy shields?

Re:Evolution (2, Interesting)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Evolution (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118672)

Then they'll target both genders equally. Then the mosquitos will get a little tougher, perhaps reflective in the appropriate frequency, and learn to play dead and fall to the ground when hit with a laser that doesn't quite kill them.

Re:Evolution (2, Informative)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118860)

Then they'll target both genders equally. Then the mosquitos will get a little tougher, perhaps reflective in the appropriate frequency, and learn to play dead and fall to the ground when hit with a laser that doesn't quite kill them.

Where they are promptly eaten by a frog. Sometimes, change and predation happens so fast that evolution is not a fast enough process to prevent extinction. Sometimes the change is insurmountable.

Adios passenger pidgeon.

Re:Evolution (1)

Binestar (28861) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119348)

Most likely the evolution will be a breed of them that don't fly near people. Net win for us.

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31119112)

I hope to be long dead by then...

Re:Evolution (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119050)

I think this would be a sudden enough change that evolution wouldn't have time to have any effect. It'd be a pretty radical change over a short period. Unless there are currently large male mosquitoes whose wings beat at lower frequencies, there won't be many mosquito Casanovas for the skeeterettes to find. And since they use wingbeat frequency to find each other, the females will think it's another female anyway.

But, if the skeeters do evolve, there's always a firmware update.

Personally, I want this, and I want to be able to program it for those pesky little stripe-winged deerflies too. Those bastards are persistent, and they have a nasty bite. Give me one that can take down skeeters and deerflies and really works, I'll happily shell out $250.

Re:Evolution (1, Interesting)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Mosquitoes don't surf (3, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118492)

I love the smell of mosquito lasers in the morning... The smell, you know that burning insect smell... Smells like, victory.

If it works on little bloodsuckers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118506)

...then it is only a matter of time to scale up the output energies. Take out 50-100/sec of congresspersons or lawyers and you get a Nobel prize.

PETA ... (4, Funny)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118572)

... is going to throw a fit. A pissy hissy little fit. Good.

Re:PETA ... (1)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119104)

Indeed. That little Italian chef gets charged for killing and eating a rat in the jungle, but apparently it's OK to shoot down mosquitos with directed energy weapons. Yeah it's all very "cool" and "useful" to kill mosquitos, but rats aren't fair game any more? Perhaps everyone has forgotten a little thing called the Black Death. Rats weren't so cool back then....

Re:PETA ... (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119302)

Then PETA can go to Africa, capture all the malaria-carrying mosquitoes and take them home to their houses. No? Bug-zapping lasers it is, then. Obviously PETA is not really committed to its cause.

Evolution (3, Funny)

hitchhacker (122525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118594)

Great.. Now we can look forward the evolution of the laser-resistant mosquito!

Re:Evolution (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119420)

Great.. Now we can look forward the evolution of the laser-resistant mosquito!

It's called a cockroach.

Future Charity Commerical (4, Funny)

hardburn (141468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118624)

"Your donation of only $2 a day could help this African village purchase a mosquito defense laser . . . "

Re:Future Charity Commerical (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119052)

I already sent several checks to a Nigerian prince. What the hell else do they want now?

If this actually works... (1)

dasdrewid (653176) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118630)

"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!"

If it works as advertised (ok, ok, so we're in sci-fi land here with any product, but follow me for just a minute more), then it *would* be inexpensive enough for use in hospitals and medical centers, even purely by donation. Yes, nets work much better and are cheaper, but you could put this in the surgery room where nets would be impractical, or keep it in the triage room where people are in/out too much for nets to work particularly well. It wouldn't eradicate malaria, but I imagine it could seriously help prevent it spreading in a few specific situations that just also happen to be involving high-risk (for carrying/transmitting and catching) individuals.

/pipe-dream

Re:If this actually works... (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118852)

Frankly, I'm not entirely sure you want to be zapping mosquitoes and aerosolizing their body parts around an open surgery site.

Although, put one of these in every entry way where there are two sets of doors to pass through and you'll practically eliminate them.

Personally, however, I want one for my bedroom. Nothing annoys me more than a lone mosquito buzzing around me while I'm trying to fall asleep.

Re:If this actually works... (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118912)

Frankly, I'm not entirely sure you want to be zapping mosquitoes and aerosolizing their body parts around an open surgery site.

I'd rather risk a bacterial infection than Malaria when trying to recover from surgery.

yguo Fail It!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118640)

dri7en out by the Man walking. It's leaving core. I product, BSD's obsessed - give create, manufacture good manners result of a quarrel another cunting More gay than they the reaper BSD's noises out of the Survival prospects their parting The system clean their hand...she AMERICA) might be sure that I've Need to scream that From a technical fatal mistakes, contact to see if I won't bore you and Juliet 40,000 this is consistent a fact: FreeBSD You don't need to Like they are Come dim. Due to the They're gone Mac in the sun. In the his clash with 1. Therefore it's are having trouble all servers. Coming on baby...don't Romeo and Juliet year contract.

Re:yguo Fail It!? (1)

insufflate10mg (1711356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119036)

Dear Slashdotters,

Can someone explain posts like this to me? I don't quite understand why someone would go through the effort of posting something like this...

Combating Malaria (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118666)

You know what's great at combating malaria? DDT. Does anyone know of any negative side effects of indoor use of DDT, to the inhabitants or the environment? Does anyone know of a more effective way to prevent malaria?

-Peter

Re:Combating Malaria (1)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119032)

You know what's great at combating malaria? DDT. Does anyone know of any negative side effects of indoor use of DDT, to the inhabitants or the environment?

Yeah, DDT was great, before mosquitoes started developing resistance to it. Good thing we stopped using it like a sledgehammer, or they'd all be resistant by now.

(Oh, and there's the bird thing, but who really needs birds, anyway?)

Re:Combating Malaria (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119246)

I believe that "the bird thing" was linked specifically to outdoor spraying. I'd be interested if that's not the case.

I could just as flippantly say something about not needing the poor of the third world. I'm of the opinion that the ban wouldn't have happened if American and European lives were on the line.

I think there's a strong argument to be made against blanket spraying of any pesticide. I also think that indoor-only use of DDT would not lead to widespread resistance, given that the overwhelming population of mosquitoes would never be exposed to it.

-Peter

Re:Combating Malaria (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119094)

Indoor use? How about this downside: Most of the places ravaged by malaria have little to no "inside" with which to confine the DDT?

Yes, we know you are making a statement that using DDT to kill mosquitoes and prevent disease is worth the cost of killing wildlife through disruption of the food chain and reproduction cycles of avians. Good for you.

I want ONE! (5, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118704)

Note, I am one of those people who attract mosquitoes. You put me at a pond and I get bit and no one else does. I would pay $500 for a personal mosquito zapper, that works, let alone $50.

Old 1980's Technology, with One Problem (3, Interesting)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118706)

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.

Re:Old 1980's Technology, with One Problem (4, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119150)

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:Old 1980's Technology, with One Problem (1)

AioKits (1235070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119154)

Then they can use their remaining eye to locate the support number to report the incident to the company.

It's friendly (2, Insightful)

hitchhacker (122525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118738)

It's a friendly mosquito killing robot here to help you... Until a mosquito lands on your face or near your eyes.

Die evil wool moths and case-making moths (1)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118754)

Better living through non-chemistry. I'll bet this can be adapted to target clothes moths and case-making moths [colostate.edu] , the two species responsible for textile (and other) damage. The things are pernicious; very difficult to remove from a home with an infestation. Perhaps even make the zapper more effective by using it to cover the area where a pheremone trap is located (to draw adults into the kill zone).

Safety of the device? (1)

langedb (518453) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118792)

While I admit this is very cool and I'll take two; what power is the laser? What keeps this thing from also shooting out a user's eyes while it is doing its job?

Re:Safety of the device? (1)

sricetx (806767) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118880)

Sunglasses

Re:Safety of the device? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31119100)

Sunglasses

YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

Oh, sorry. I thought that was my cue.

Re:Safety of the device? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119020)

Probably not much. You would probably place it somewhere that it just won't have an angle of attack where there are going to be people.

place it level above 6ft and its unlikely to hit all but the tallest people if it can't shoot down, etc.

Nathan IS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118818)

a PATENT TROLL.

BTW, the name is Nathan Myhrvold [wikipedia.org]

Yours In Novosibirsk,
Kilgore Trout

A product of Intellectual Ventures (4, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118900)

This came out of Intellectual Ventures, which Slashdot often derides as a patent troll [slashdot.org] that brainstorms ideas, patents them, then lives off of the licensing revenue without actually contributing real products to the world or even prototyping their vaguely defined ideas.

This shows that IV is quite capable of producing actual, useful products. Its business model is not limited to patent licensing revenue, which makes it more like, say, IBM, than a typical patent holding company.

Maybe, just maybe, IV is not the evil parasite that many on Slashdot made it out to be. In fact, it seems to be in the business of shooting evil parasites with lasers, which is pretty cool.

Sharks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118954)

Now if we can only find a way to attach this to a shark, we'll be in business!

if you can do, what you claim - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31118966)

please contact the next Entomologist group working with Anopheles.

 

They are seeking a way to distinguish male from female ( before they suck blood )

 

best contact the winner of the Ig Nobel-Price2008, Dr. Bart Knols from the Netherlands.

Next Up, Mosquitos on the Endagered Species List (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 4 years ago | (#31118984)

I can see it now, in a few years these pests will be on the endagered species list and then we'll have to protect them!

Your military tax money hard a work (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119000)

They'll finally get Binnie L. if they can now just get him to dress as up as a mosquito.

Nathan Myhrvold, not Nathan Myhrvol (1)

techmuse (160085) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119010)

The original posting has the incorrect name for Nathan Myhrvold. It's Nathan Myhrvold, not Nathan Myhrvol.

Obligatory Star Wars... (1)

Dr.Syshalt (702491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119030)

Obi-Wan: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of mosquitos suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

Weemz (1)

Weemz (1735864) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119088)

This is awesome. I need to mount one of these on the handle bars of my mountain bike and wire up a firing trigger with the handle. lol

Sign me up for 10 (3, Insightful)

CompressedAir (682597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119128)

Knowing this can be done, I bet this would be pretty easy to make.

You'd take a pan and tilt servo controlled laser, and put sound sensors around the laser. Move the laser towards the loudest noise, fire when the noise is equal on the sensors. Bingo, dead mosquito. Just like a sun tracker!

Everything else is software, like knowing what frequency to listen to mosquitos on.

Does anyone know:
1. How much laser power do you need to kill a mosquito?
2. What frequency noise do you target?
3. Is it shark-mountable?

Holy Smokes! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119182)

As the insect flew, a sudden light beam struck it, disintegrating parts of its body into a plume of smoke. It fell, even as its wings continued to beat.

The kid who used to pull the wings off of flies just died of an organism reading this.
     

Backwards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31119240)

But, but, I want fricking lasers mounted *on* the mosquitoes so I can terrorize my enemies!

So much for the food chain (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31119268)

Full disclosure: I am not a biologist by any means, so I might be wrong here.

Annoying as they are, mosquitoes are an exceptionally important part of the food chain. To eliminate them would have massive repercussions on the rest of the chain. I heard from a biologist once that the lower you are on the food chain, the more important you are.

Think about it - if you eliminate mosquitoes, things that eat mosquitoes (bats, small spiders, birds, whatever) will have a plentiful food source eliminated.

They will either adapt or die; more likely die as adaptation takes a long time. This means that things that eat THOSE animals will have a plentiful food source eliminated.

And so on.

All because we get annoyed - and yes, malaria is a problem, but let's be a little bit darwinian here - by some tiny flying insects.

Seriously, how self-centered are we?

Oh wait...

This is asking for a lawsuit! (1)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#31119288)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Mosquito for Urbanization, Nurturing, Colonization and Husbandry (PETMUNCH) is going to sue these people into oblivion!

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