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Trained Rats Map Minefields With GPS

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-explosions-great-and-small dept.

The Military 103

An anonymous reader writes "Believe it or not, but the Department of Defense is paying psychologists to train rats to find mines and circle around them. By attaching little GPS backpacks and supplying a laptop with software that looks for the 'circling around' signature, the DOD hopes its project will allow the release of platoons of rats near suspected minefields so that the laptop software creates a detailed map of where all the mines are located automatically. Not sure if they plan on picking up the rats afterward, but they do assure us that the rats are too lightweight to set off the mines!"

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Boom (4, Funny)

Niris (1443675) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251371)

Best minesweeper mod ever.

Re:Boom (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251443)

Ah Neal Boortz. He just said on the radio "if you make minimum wage you SHOULD NOT have children. You can't afford them. Instead, buy a bungie cord and put it around your knees!"

Fucking entitlement society. People now think they have a right to have children and also that making somebody else pay for children they failed to properly plan on is some kind of fundamental human right. It isn't. You know what would keep CPS busy? Taking children away from poor people and putting them in foster homes.

What a shit parent it is who says "wow I can barely afford to feed myself, time to have kids now!" Irresponsible fucks like this do not need children. Why is it "think of the children!" when we're giving a three-letter agency scary surveillance powers, but no one wants to "think of the children" when it comes to putting children in bad situations that statistics prove tend to breed criminals?

Re:Boom (1, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252165)

Hmm, today must be get-under-my-skin day for trolls. Ah well.

Poverty is a slippery thing - if you can barely afford to feed yourself with a minimum wage job it's not because you're poor, in fact you're far wealthier than most people in the world; it's because you prioritize other things above eating. Working 40hours/week at $7/hour you're making $1120k/month, even if you assume you lose half that in taxes and deductions that's still $560 per month. In most places in the US you can find at *least* a tiny studio apartment in a non-shithole neighborhood for under $300, and that probably includes at least water/sewer fees. By forgoing fast food and shopping intelligently one person can feed themselves pretty well on $100/month, $200 can be stretched to feed a family of four, though they'll likely be eating a lot of beans and rice. That leaves $60+/month for things like phone, gas, electricity, clothing, transportation, etc. It's not easy, but it can be done. And that gets you a family of four adequately provided for. A single parent with three kids is going to have a hard time of it, but a couple with two kids can get by alright, and a second adult increases the family's wealth-generating capacity significantly.

And if you're in one of the few places where rent is too high to pull it off, leave. Get some roommates in a similar situation, live simply while you build up some savings, and then get the hell out.

Re:Boom (1)

Fwipp (1473271) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252331)

If you live 10 miles from work and get 20mpg, that's $3-4 dollars each day - or $60-$80 a month, which puts you squarely in the overbudget category. Also, forget about luxuries like car insurance, health insurance, or paying back outstanding debts. Heaven forbid Susie gets sick and you have to choose between getting her to a doctor and food for your other kids.

Re:Boom (2)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252641)

That's what legs, bicycles, and bus-passes are for. Or a scooter if you want more speed, range, and versatility, it's a rare scooter that gets under 70mpg. Or find work closer to home (admittedly difficult in some cities).

  And if you're not getting health insurance you should be taking home a heck of a lot more than half your salary.

Re:Boom (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256883)

scooters are not a valid solution to this argument. are you going to take both your kids to the doctor on the back of your scooter? maybe you think everyone has time to make trips in order to transport their family. if they have a car already and this is for them to commute, now you're talking double registration and insurance costs, plus extra gas.

i think i should point out that public transportation is great at getting people fired. and not everyone has strong legs, or a bicycle, or can feasibly walk/run/cycle the distance to work. at one point i used to ride my skateboard half an hour to the nearest available bus stop, take the bus to a trolley, take the trolley to another bus, and then skate uphill for 20 minutes to get to work. each way took 2 hours; that was 4 hours of my day gone to commuting. thank god i was a beast of a man in my early twenties. and thank god i didn't have a family to worry about at the time. i didn't have the time or the means to pick up kids from school/babysitter/sports let alone take them to the doctor.

i find your expectation of salary to be amusing too. who makes a minimum wage salary? even if you have the lowest tier health insurance, who says it's enough to pay for your needs?

Re:Boom (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40259079)

So don't own a car, that's the point. Between purchase, maintenance, insurance, and fuel, cars are pretty substantial money sinks - not as bad as boats or planes, but still far from cheap, a scooter costs a fraction as much on all fronts, provided you go for minimum liability insurance - you can't do *nearly* as much damage as with a car.

No, it's not as convenient/comfortable/safe as a car, but plenty of people who could easily afford a car choose to go that route anyway for lifestyle reasons, it's disingenuous to suggest it somehow stops being an option because you're poor. In fact they're the vehicle of choice (okay, availability) in developing nations, though admittedly in the US you probably couldn't get away with driving around yourself, the wife, 3-4 kids, and the day's shopping all balanced on one (don't try to tell me you haven't seen pictures of such, it's a very common occurrence)

If you're not making minimum wage then you're sort of beyond the scope of the GP's point that "You can't afford kids on minimum wage" aren't you? You're also quite likely an illegal immigrant, and accustomed to a considerably lower standard of living than citizens - most every foreign-national friend I've had from a developing nation has at some point expressed bewilderment at the level of "poor me" in America - they're easily able to pay their way through college, live better than they ever did back home, and still have plenty of money left over to send home to help out, and usually they're doing it all on a minimum wage salary.

And finally, if your health insurance isn't good enough to make it possible to afford medical care then it's pretty stupid to pay for it at all, isn't it? There are non-profit clinics available pretty much everywhere, and it's actually fairly rare for someone to *need* a doctor's attention - broken bones, severe illness, etc. Only self-important twits go to the doctor because little Timmy has the sniffles - modern medicine can't do much about colds, the flu, or any other viral infection anyway, except keep you alive long enough for your body to fight it off on it's own, and that's rarely necessary. And with bacterial infections 90+% of the time all they can actually do is maybe speed up your recovery by a few days (and maybe not, our bodies are actually quite good at fighting off most infections, given a chance).

Re:Boom (5, Insightful)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253479)

"In most places in the US you can find at *least* a tiny studio apartment in a non-shithole neighborhood for under $300", et cetera.

I don't know where you live or what your latest explorations into rentals have shown you. I live in a small (50-55k) city in the Midwest and pay $473 for ~ 145 sq. ft. apartment partitioned from a house built in the 1880s in a decidedly non-genteel block near "downtown" where I have walking access to food. In local terms, I've got a good deal - an "affordable" price (about 2/3 of my Social Security), decent landlord, heat and electric included, nearby "amenities."

Please show me your menu for one for a month on $100. Nothing wrong with beans and rice, and the local mercado has good prices on chicken and veggies. My food stamps allow about $6.50/day, so it's doable, but I'd still like to see your menu based on half that.

Where will I put paying roommates, presuming such can be found? Fuck, my usable living area is comparable to a jail cell. I hope that I can save enough in a year buy the stuff to loft the bed so's to have room for the computer table and a chair and a lamp. How long at what savings per month to move to a cheaper location? Chances are I'll be long dead ere then.

Many things can theoretically be done. If you've got superior info and know-how, I'd be happy to be the recipient. My willingness and ability, medical matters aside, to deal with what level of stinting to get to greener grass whilst still alive, and, one hopes, the ability to enjoy such, is open for consideration. YMMV.

Re:Boom (2, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254009)

On the menu - I've never really had one: go to the store, buy whatever's cheap, and do something creative with it. A good cookbook helps for inspiration - I'd recommend Joy of Cooking, the older the better. It's a rare off-the-wall ingredient that it doesn't have at least a handful of different recipes for, and more common stuff typically includes a "strategic overview" discussion of the common cooking techniques and the pros and cons thereof.

General thoughts: For non-perishable stuff wait until it's on sale and buy as much as you can afford - you can build up a well-stocked larder for surprisingly little cash, and having at least several weeks worth of food on-hand makes you immune to transient price hikes and income shortages, as well as meaning you always have a wide variety of ingredients on-hand to play with. Buy in bulk. A styrofoam cooler in the freezer will let you store meat and vegetables indefinitely with very little freezer burn - just don't open it more than a few times a week and be sure to pre-freeze food before adding it - it's the temperature fluctuations that do most of the damage. 10lb of whole-wheat flour, a little sugar, and a jar of yeast is a lot cheaper, healthier, and more filling than anything in the bread aisle, you can find a bread machine at most thrift stores for $10 if you keep your eyes open for a while, which will not only save you a lot of work, but also let you put it on a timer and wake up to the smell of fresh-baked bread in the morning, a real treat. Keep sodas, refined sugars, and white flour intake to a minimum (along with other simple carbohydrates) - insulin shock makes you hungry again long before your body actually needs more food. Same goes for frozen dinners, with the added fact that they're terribly unhealthy. Green cabbage is cheap, filling, and goes great in stews, sandwichs, salads, etc. Keep a bottomless soup-pot in the refrigerator - restock it with all the leftover bits and pieces (meat trimmings, vegetable greens, diced stems, you name it) you've save from other meals, there's rarely cause to throw anything edible away. Be sure to save all your bones to temporarily add while simmering as well, lots of good flavor and nutrients in those, especially if the marrow is accessible, just try to avoid shards (especially common on factory-butchered chicken), you can't fish those out with the rest, and they're no fun to encounter when enjoying a delicious bowl of soup and some good coarse bread. Oh, and build up a good stock of spices and learn to use them. They make the difference between edible and delicious, and a huge variety are available in the $1-$2 range for a jar which may well last a year or more.

I was brought up that way and even though I've got plenty of income these days I'm still hard-pressed to spend more than $150 a month to feed myself without really indulging on a regular basis.

Re:Boom (2)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254601)

Ok, thanks, that's some good stuff. That's generally the way I shop, btw.

I no longer have any of them, but the five best food books I've run across are Joy of Cooking, early 30s; Diet for a Small Planet; the Culinary Institute of America 'bible'; The Art of One-Armed Cookery (not The One-Armed Cook, I'm thinking of the one written by a woman in Boston who ran a rooming house and decided there was little worth cooking that couldn't be done with a bottle of beer in hand); and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. (http://www.curiouscook.com/site/on-food-and-cooking.html)

Moving out of the dorms in '67 was a great crash dive into putting something edible let alone appetizing on the table. I'd already had two years experience working mostly in pizza restaurants and four years experience in a resort hotel kitchen during high school. There followed a year cooking ribs and chicken at a BBQ, two years of line cooking, a year of short-order, a year as an "apprentice sous-chef" - not a real station, but our chef had just come from CIA and believed in acting as much as a teacher and coach as anything else - and a few more years of bits and pieces. Plus what I've done on my own, yeasted- and short-breads, gardens, beer- and wine-making, what have you, a bit of hunting and fishing when in the boonies and hungry.

Your suggestions and pointers are spot-on, but carry some presumptions. F'rinstance, I've zilch for freezer in the over-sized dorm refrigerator - it gets "meal packs" in plastic containers. I have two circuits running through the apt.; the bathroom light is off who knows what, maybe the hall lights, the two outlets on the other handle the reefer, a lamp, and the computer. I hesitate to think seriously about getting a full size icebox, could I find one and transport it, even if the landlord approved. (All three thrift stores have been driven to the city outskirts and none of them still deliver.) Add in use of fan, coffee maker and microwave, the amps budget is tight since my one useful circuit is shared by Lord knows who or what, and has a nasty habit of tripping when least wanted.

There's a couple of places I plan on making shelves as material is found; stocking much is problematic as I've some fairly serious limitations on how much I can carry for any distance - I buy dried goods in one to ten pound bags. The norm is to buy food for one to several days and hope to be well enough to buy more before I run out. Current equipment is... basic. Right now a small stainless pot serves for soups, stews, and my killer spaghetti sauce. Making yoghurt again is in the cards when I can provide regulated temperature range. The gas range is decent and I keep sourdough starter. Don't misunderstand, please, I get by most days, it's just that it can sometimes be a bit more than a challenge. (I also admit a yen for Ben&Jerry's when it's on sale.)

Thanks again for your suggestions. Herbs are your friends. The tip on insulin shock was a good catch as well. (I use two things to help guide what I end up cooking - protein complementarity and the glycemic and insulin indices.)

Cheers.

As for saving enough to get out of Dodge, that's another matter, apart from destination. Meanwhile I've applied to several subsidized-housing places but with a felony conviction that's iffy. (Maybe I'll win that $3K from Walgreen's - which would likely be used for a new build and other necessities.)

Re:Boom (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40260797)

Hmm, I like the sound of that one-armed cookery book, I'll have to look for that. And a 30's Joy of Cooking? What a treat.

Used properly a freezer can be a valuable money-saver, for instance buying a couple party-size meat packs when on clearance and freezing them in more realistic portions - keep an eye out for small freezer-only appliances, they're not that common but can get you the capacity in a more easily transportable form factor that can be tucked out of the way someplace. Top-loading (chest style) freezers also maintain a much more stable temperature (since the cold air doesn't all pour out whenever you open the door) so they don't cause freezer burn nearly as quickly. That's actually what inspired me to try the styrofoam cooler trick in the first place. A couple blocks of Blue Ice can also do wonders for stabalizing the temperature if your power's not reliable

For transporting a full-size 'fridge it can be worth it to cultivate a friendship, or at least quid-pro-quo favor exchange, with someone that has a pickup. Often you can even find another customer at the thrift store who's willing to help you out with transportation for a few bucks, after all a sizable percentage of them know what it's like to be scraping by. Or if you can coordinate with some others that also need to move large stuff, a small U-haul truck only costs $20/day in-town, though keep in mind that their mileage sucks and fuel costs can add up quickly. Be sure to return it with the same amount of fuel it started with, they charge a significant premium to top it off themselves, and no credit for it being fuller than it started (pro-tip from some friends in the moving business).

Oh, and worth mentioning when transporting a 'fridge NEVER lay it on it's back - oil from the compressor will get into the coolant lines and make it far less efficient, if not kill it outright. If you can't keep it upright lay it on its side with the compressor at the lowest point, and if possible prop the top end up as high as you can.

For stocking a larder on foot - if you normally buy 3 days of food, go shopping every two. If you sometimes have difficulty getting to the store a stockpile is even more valuable, and the peace of mind from knowing you don't have to worry about it is valuable in it's own right. I'll often go weeks without shopping just because I'm not in the mood.

For a limited-equipment kitchen a pressure cooker is a valuable, if potentially dangerous, addition. It can turn the toughest meats and vegetables tender, reduces the cooking time on most things considerably, and doubles as a fair sized stew pot if you don't lock the lid. Just be sure to keep the upper rim and rubber gasket scrupulously clean, and never fill it above 2/3 (*especially* if cooking beans, which can clog the pressure valve) or leave it unattended when locked. Worth looking up more detailed do's and don'ts if you're teaching yourself to use it.

Finally, just as a general rule of thumb, maintaining at least a $50-$100 buffer as "opportunity money" can reduce your costs considerably, whether it's stocking up at a grocery store clearance-sale or buying that X that you know you're going to need soon when it shows up on sale. Most everything you need will pass through your life at considerably lower prices when you don't yet need it, the trick is to avoid spending your buffer on stuff you won't eventually be forced to buy anyway.

Best of luck.

Re:Boom (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 2 years ago | (#40264661)

Great tips! I am planning on moving out soon.

Why the 3-2 day rule? I figure that it is best to shop every 3 days for 3 days of food.

Also, do you find it to be less work if you shop for certain kinds of foods on certain days, as opposed to a bit of everything on each shopping trip? I ask that, assuming that the prices are the same either way, even though in reality it isn't.

Re:Boom (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40265531)

No rule - just a thought for someone who can't bring home a lot of food at once. Obviously over the long haul you don't want to keep buying food faster than you eat it. Personally I try to keep my pantry stocked with around a month or two of food, and rarely let it fall below a couple weeks, without worrying about the details on any given trip.

As you say - prices aren't the same every time, if you shop like they are you'll end up spending a lot more over the long term. If ease of shopping is more important to you than the money, go for it. Personally, sometimes I'll go to the store after a week, won't spot any good deals, and will just restock perishables, maybe a day or two worth of food if that were all I was eating. Other times I'll go to the store just to pick up a couple things I forgot, and walk out with three weeks worth of (mostly non-perishable) food because there were a lot of good deals that day. That's one of the beauties of a well-stocked pantry: you can easily save, oh, call it 30%-60% on your grocery bill by only buying things when they're on sale. Another advantage is not having to stress about unexpected events - massive storm makes the trip to the store miserable and dangerous? Dog-sick and don't even want to get out of bed, much less go shopping? No problem, just put it off for a week or two, things will clear up, and you've got plenty of food available to tide you through.

Another great little perk - when you've been sitting around drinking all night with your buddies, it's 2am, and you decide you need to eat something before you go to sleep or you'll all be truly miserable in the morning. So you've whipped up some triple fried egg chili chutney sandwiches and somebody says wistfully "Man, I wish we had some sauerkraut to go with this" Or sliced beets, or...whatever drunken genius the situation calls for. The look on their face when you casually reach into the cupboard and hand them a can is priceless. Nobody keeps a larder these days, which makes those of us who do look like some sort of mind-blowing culinary magician.

Oh, and if you're a young person just setting out on your own, maybe not accustomed to cooking for yourself all the time and resisting the temptation of frozen dinners (Three days worth of sugar, salt, and grease in one easy meal! Warning, may occasionally contain a nutrient) - let me share this effortless corn on the cob technique [youtube.com] with you - literally easier than heating canned corn. If you like "zero dishes eating" leave the husk half-on as a hot pad, and use a tortilla with a pat of butter in your other hand as a combination splash guard and buttering tray.

Re:Boom (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253675)

Hmm, today must be get-under-my-skin day for trolls. Ah well.

Poverty is a slippery thing - if you can barely afford to feed yourself with a minimum wage job it's not because you're poor, in fact you're far wealthier than most people in the world; it's because you prioritize other things above eating.

Internet quote of the year award.

If you can barely afford to feed yourself... it's because you prioritize other things above eating... like dignity, self-respect, life experiences, anything resembling enjoyment, etc, etc.

Now get back to work peon.

Re:Boom (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254113)

If your dignity, self-respect, and enjoyment of life depend on material things then it's not a lack of money that's your problem.

Consider this - the happiest cultures in the world tend to be those that are also quite poor. We could argue about causes, but I would suggest that once you have food in your belly and a roof over your head all else becomes a matter of perspective - in the absence of material wealth they are forced to seek their joy in friendship, revelry, and good works, which psychologists have found provide a far stronger and longer-lasting emotional benefit than material luxuries. The basic fact is that we rapidly acclimate to our situation, studies of happiness have shown that a year or two after their brush with fate both lottery winners and amputees will rate their happiness at about the same level as before their life changed, nothing in the material realm has much lasting impact on our happiness. On the other hand consciously practicing compassion, mindfulness, and other "mind altering" skills has been found to have substantial long-term benefits without carrying any material cost whatsoever.

Say what you like about the religious aspects, but when it comes to practical techniques to improve happiness and general emotional well-being, the Buddhist teachings have proven themselves remarkably effective.

Re:Boom (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40270411)

That leaves $60+/month for things like phone, gas, electricity, clothing, transportation, etc. It's not easy, but it can be done.

If your dignity, self-respect, and enjoyment of life depend on material things then it's not a lack of money that's your problem.

I had to check the parent post because it was almost unbelievable it was the same person. In the parent post you talk about $60/month as left over income; not for entertainment or other indulgences, but for necessities like gas, electricity, clothing, etc.

Then you turn around and spout about materialism as though these theoretical yachts and European vacations won't bring happiness. You are not even on the same page. Materialism isn't deciding between gas or food; or fast food and fresh vegetables, yet those are the hard choices you MUST make with those slim margins.

Put down the "mind altering" skills before you post on slashdot. It will help you make more coherent arguments rather than jumping around the sliding scale of poverty and materialism.

Re:Boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40256421)

Your unitelligence is on maginificent display here. I like the calculations leading to $1120000 per month. That is if k stands for 1000 and not 1024. In which case it would be $1146880.

Even foregoing fast food, it may be difficult to eat a healthy diet for a family of four for $200 a month. And your estimate of a decent studio for under $300 is way off base. http://www.wtnrradio.com/story.php?story=355 Admittedly these are 2 bedroom, but when the bottom of the list, Fargo, ND has a price of $620 it is hard to imagine that a studio would cost less than $300. And, you are unlikely to be able to place a family in a studio.

Please explain your master plan for covering phone, gas and electricity for less than $60 much less clothing and transportation. If you have a refrigerator, that will run you about $10 a month all by itself, and a $300 studio apartment will probably have a less efficient model.

So, please lay out how this is going to work.

Re:Boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40257849)

That leaves $60+/month for things like phone, gas, electricity, clothing, transportation, etc. It's not easy, but it can be done.

Did you by a house in Miami oh say around 2007 with an interest only adjustable rate mortgage you could afford... and still have a whole $60 left over for expenses... because your ability to accurately plan and budget would suggest you thought this would be a great idea.

Hmm, today must be get-under-my-skin day for trolls. Ah well.

Of course you were being ironic right? I'm assuming there's a website somewhere where you're posting these responses and you and others are laughing at the fact that the rest of us are not in on the joke.

"They just don't get it!? He's trolling just to get a rise out of people."
"Oh I haven't laughed this much since "Borat"!"

Ho... ho... very funny har... har... it is to laugh.

Re:Boom (2)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252933)

People now think they have a right to have children and also that making somebody else pay for children they failed to properly plan on is some kind of fundamental human right. It isn't.

Human beings are living organisms and so have strong survival instincts. Biological imperatives (e.g. reproduce) typically trump social conventions (e.g. property rights). That's not a value judgment on my part; it's a fact. So, if you're waiting for the poor to peaceably fade into oblivion out of respect for the sanctity of the legal rights of those around them, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

As a New Yorker... (3, Funny)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251395)

I'd love to see those fat little fuckers get blown up to pieces.

Maybe the DoD can come take some from the subway?

Re:As a New Yorker... (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#40255781)

Or they could just mine the subway.

Re:As a New Yorker... (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256543)

And kill two birds with one stone! Or something...

Mines aren't the worry (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251401)

Hawks, coyotes, and other predators are, but I guess the theory is that rats are so cheap they don't care if they lose some.

Re:Mines aren't the worry (2)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251413)

actually the GPS on the rat might be more expensive than the rat itself :)

Re:Mines aren't the worry (3, Funny)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251481)

Hawks, coyotes, and other predators are

that's the other part of the program: 'organic mine removal drones'.

Re:Mines aren't the worry (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251661)

If the rats are organic mine detectors, then the hawks are more like "organic organic mine detector removal drones".

Re:Mines aren't the worry (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252597)

not when they go 'boom'.

Re:Mines aren't the worry (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251563)

Well, not every rat can detect mines so you've got to factor in training. Hard to believe the time invested training the rat doesn't exceed a ~$50 GPS beacon.

Re:Mines aren't the worry (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251711)

Rats can be trained very easily. They're bright enough to learn fast and yet dumb enough to walk into a minefield for us.

Re:Mines aren't the worry (2)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251781)

which isn't all that dumb if they won't set off the mines, and get food when they're done.

Re:Mines aren't the worry (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254061)

Depends on how expensive the training is.

Great Idea! But.... (1)

fimion (890504) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251409)

So now all mines will be made with rat bait.....

Unclear on the concept (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251425)

They have trained the rats to cluster around a mine.

Your idea to "defeat" this is to make it more likely rats will find the mine to cluster around.

Genius?

Re:Great Idea! But.... (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254551)

The Anti-personal mines will probably come with some anti-rat measures, like a not-too-fast rat poison (you don't want the rat corpse to mark the mine if you are the one that lays it).

Don't need the DoD, already being done (5, Informative)

OnceWas (187243) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251423)

It's not crazy, and it's already being done, by organization like HeroRATs - http://www.apopo.org/cms.php?cmsid=107 [apopo.org] . They train African giant pouched rats to detect mines. They're also using them to detect tuberculosis, in human spit. Yuck, but way cool.

Re:Don't need the DoD, already being done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253435)

. . . Simpsons did it?

Nothing New (4, Informative)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251473)

Nothing new [google.com] They've been using rats for landmine detection in Africa for quite some time now.

Ancient Joke Alert (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251507)

What goes peck-peck-bang?

A chicken in a minefield!

Sorry, it just seemed appropriate...

Re:Ancient Joke Alert (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252099)

What goes cock-cock-bang?

YOUR MOTHER

odor signatures (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251527)

TFA says they train the rat to recognize the odor of the explosives in the soil. Wouldn't it be easy to enclose the explosive in a hermetically sealed wrapper to keep any such odor in the mine?

Also, wouldn't it be better to train lawyers for this? We have more of them than rats, and they're not as cute and the soldiers will become less attached to them, in case they do set off some of the mines.

Re:odor signatures (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 2 years ago | (#40258313)

TFA says they train the rat to recognize the odor of the explosives in the soil. Wouldn't it be easy to enclose the explosive in a hermetically sealed wrapper to keep any such odor in the mine?

Pot-sniffing dogs regularly detect pot that's been sealed in one bag, that sealed in a second bag, and that in a waterproof plastic container. Small volatile compounds penetrate through solid material, and explosives are chock-full of small volatile compounds. Plus, the factories where these are made have those same compounds all over everything, so all the materials used in construction have trace compounds all over the insides and outsides.

Cheap countermeasure (2)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251559)

A few bags of Reese's Pieces spread around the field could be an effective way to confuse the rats. I haven't heard of rats being trained to ignore food when they are working like dogs. Another option would be if the mine could be triggered by a rat digging coat it with food smells. You loose a mine but you take out an expensive trained rat.

Re:Cheap countermeasure (2)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251943)

The fake baits might work if the rat can't be trained to ignore them, but false positives are not the issue when clearing mines. Neither is relative attrition - in combat, mine clearance already is very costly (including in casualties) and only done when the tactical advantage is worth it; in humanitarian mine clearing, the relative attrition is beside the point anyway, as there is no enemy.

(Also, the reason landmines are not designed to be triggered by small animals is that most places are full of small animals, so you'd be losing mines to wildlife all the time.)

Re:Cheap countermeasure (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256997)

Wouldn't the obvious thing for a mine layer to do be to use the explosive itself as fake bait? Presumablly these rats are sniffing out traces that leak out of the mines so blanketing the whole area with a low concentration of the stuff should prevent the enemy finding where the actual mines are.

Re:Cheap countermeasure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40258127)

Wouldn't the obvious thing for a mine layer to do be to use the explosive itself as fake bait? Presumablly these rats are sniffing out traces that leak out of the mines so blanketing the whole area with a low concentration of the stuff should prevent the enemy finding where the actual mines are.

If rats become commonly used in combat to remove mines, then yes, countermeasures would make sense. However, as the comment you replied to points out, these are being used in humanitarian mine removal, which often happens many years after the war is over. Left over mines are very serious problem. Many people, like me, consider them so serious that the people leaving them behind should be punished for war crimes.

Re:Cheap countermeasure (1)

Immerman (2627577) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252279)

How would that work? Rat sees food, rat eats food, rat continues on. If food is rare it's not an issue, if food is common very quickly rat is full and gets back to work. It's not like it's going to circle the food or take a nap on it, it'll just be a detour on an already random path. Poison might work, but it's not that hard to train a dog not to eat found food, I doubt a rat would be any more difficult (during training all found food has been pre-treated to be very unpleasant when eaten).

As for blowing up the rat - the mine is probably as expensive; rats can be trained very quickly with minimal human interaction, much more easily than dogs. The not-terribly-expensive GPS tracker is probably a significant portion of the expense. Plus it's another thing rats could be easily trained out of - make some training mines smell delicious but deliver a shock or something when they get too close.

Re:Cheap countermeasure (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254141)

A few bags of Reese's Pieces spread around the field could be an effective way to confuse the rats. I haven't heard of rats being trained to ignore food when they are working like dogs. Another option would be if the mine could be triggered by a rat digging coat it with food smells. You loose a mine but you take out an expensive trained rat.

You could still use this technique in non wartime situations to find mines left from previous engagements. It's brilliant, regardless if it's new or old hat now, and if it saves a few children's legs I'm all for it.

Re:Cheap countermeasure (1)

Ollabelle (980205) | more than 2 years ago | (#40255853)

That won't work because there's lots of wild animals that would smell the food as well. You lose a mine, and your entire minefield, in short order.

Why train the rats? (2)

Laser_47 (234412) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251691)

Just get cheaper GPS units and make a note of when it stops sending data.

Re:Why train the rats? (2)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252965)

Improved headline: Untrained rats map minefields with explosions.

Re:Why train the rats? (1)

dredwerker (757816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254297)

Improved headline: Untrained rats map minefields with explosions.

LOL :)

Re:Why train the rats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40259917)

Sorry about being late to the party, but it's a good question (joking aside) so I'll tell you.

Rats are too small to set off land mines. It's part of the reason why they're used.

Those poor rats (2)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251723)

Surely we could find an even lower organism to locate these mines? I mean, what have the rats ever done to us. Maybe we can use PETA members instead. They are always trying to save animals, let's see them put their money where their mouths are. Besides, I think we're better off having a bunch of rats than animal rights activists. At least the rats are more useful.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251791)

Especially the naked ones!

Announcer for "Rat Chicks", a reality show.
"Pamela Anderson is bending over to take a look. Even after being with Tommy Lee, she has a great looking... BOOM!"

Re:Those poor rats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40251817)

Besides, I think we're better off having a bunch of rats than animal rights activists. At least the rats are more useful.

Now now, don't forget the politicians and the lawyers.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252265)

Yea, but they don't have "great looking - BOOM!" - have you seen Nancy and Hilliary - if there were ever a pair of boner killers, its them!

Re:Those poor rats (3, Informative)

hedgemage (934558) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251937)

Using animals to do the dangerous work of finding mines is INHUMANE! I suggest we do what most war-torn developing countries do and let children find them.
(this is the troll post that guarantees me a ticket to hell, isn't it?)

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Kohenkatz (1166461) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252027)

Sorry, I think Jonathan Swift [wikipedia.org] got there before you... kind of.

Re:Those poor rats (4, Funny)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252349)

Initially, they tried using conservatives, but it was just too hard to get one near a conflict zone.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252433)

Really? I know several that were or currently are in a war zone.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

nfras (313241) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252877)

That would be because conservatives have a proven track record of turning lots of places into war zones. Purely coincidence.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256233)

Kind of hard to see how these people I know turned the places into war zones, seeing as how they only went to these places after they were already war zones.....

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256623)

It's also impossible to see your sense of humor.

Because you don't have one.

I mean, seriously. What the hell were you thinking when you wrote that post?

Re:Those poor rats (1)

mxbradley (1925686) | more than 2 years ago | (#40262905)

Woodrow Wilson (leader of Progressive Movement and Democrat) got the U.S. involved in World War I. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) got the U.S. into World War II, and authorized hydrogen bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. John F. Kennedy (D) got us into Vietnam (and authorized the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba). Lyndon Baines Johnson (D) escalated the conflict in Vietnam. Hmm, looks like your left-wing meme is breaking down.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256443)

Really? I know several that were or currently are in a war zone.

Fair enough. So then, you'd agree that it's just the loud-mouthed chicken-hawk type conservatives that seem to find their way in to politics rather than serving honorably. Yes?

Re:Those poor rats (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40256959)

Really? I know several that were or currently are in a war zone.

Fair enough. So then, you'd agree that it's just the loud-mouthed chicken-hawk type conservatives that seem to find their way in to politics rather than serving honorably. Yes?

No. I don't consider a lot of those in politics to be conservative at all.

Re:Those poor rats (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 2 years ago | (#40262701)

Agreed. Most politicians that label themselves conservatives are good salesmen who pander to the religious majority and old people. Most politicians that label themselves liberals are good salesmen who pander to minorities and the young. When it is all said and done, they are all salesmen who are trying to sell the same thing (a giant pile of horseshit) to different people.

GPS? (2)

dido (9125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40251971)

For GPS to be useful for detecting mines in this way you'd need to have accuracy of the order of half a meter. I can barely get accuracy of less than ten meters with ordinary GPS. I suppose this is possible to do with differential GPS but I have to ask how long does it take to lock, and how well does it work in minefields that have obstructions from direct line of sight. Just having a building or a tree in the way causes accuracy to drop off significantly, and may cause loss of GPS signal altogether. I would have thought that they'd use some other means of position measurment that is not subject to such limitations.

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252143)

Stop using such shitty GPS devices. You can buy 22 channel quarter sized modules with -165 dBm chip antennas and active jamming reduction for under 60 bucks that get 10 cm repeatability after you account for the initial 2 meter error.

Just don't go faster than 500 meters/second:)

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252155)

4-digit slashtard,

Military GPS is super accurate. Not sure how much, but probably to at least 10 cm. If not 1 cm.

Re:GPS? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252371)

This kind of gps uses a base station and is accurate to cm, not meters.

Re:GPS? (2)

ghn (2469034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253145)

Any of you who replied that 'military gps' is super accurate.. any reference to your claims? Not denying, just genuinely interested in knowing more about this.

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253455)

GPS is GPS, not really more accurate with military tech, but perhaps less faulty. They can combine it with other systems to get much better accuracy though.

I wonder though, is the precision high enough to detect circling even without the accuracy to detect 5m where it exactly is?

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253463)

Forget GPS, just set up a few portable cell towers around the perimeter and use triangulation.... Just strap old shitty nokias to the rats backs ;)

Re:GPS? (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253785)

You don't even need differential GPS. You don't need the exact coordinates of the mine, you just need to get to its real location. Take the GPS location from the rat, then move until your own GPS location (almost) matches that location.

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40256261)

"bit to the left"
"bit to the left"
"nah, it's still 3 feet away"
<<< BOOOM >>>
"ahh, shit"

Re:GPS? (1)

n7ytd (230708) | more than 2 years ago | (#40263491)

You don't even need differential GPS. You don't need the exact coordinates of the mine, you just need to get to its real location. Take the GPS location from the rat, then move until your own GPS location (almost) matches that location.

GPS error isn't like that; the error in the location of the receiver isn't a constant off-by-this-many-meters-in-this-direction error, but rather an amount of uncertainty. If the rat's GPS receiver is accurate to 10 meters, that means that the coordinates shown by the receiver are at the center of a circle with a radius of 10 meters. The actual position is somewhere within the area inclosed by that circle.

Taking a second GPS receiver with the same accuracy means that now you have two circles that you can move until they overlap, but you cannot pinpoint anything to closer than the combined error of the two receivers; nothing finer than 20 meters.

But, even with that level of accuracy, useful information can still be obtained. If there is a square field 500 m on a side, having the rats indicate that there's one or more mines somewhere inside that field would be enough to justify breaking out the more accurate DGPS receivers for a second run.

Re:GPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40261159)

Wow. The replies to your post are crazed and full of half truths and misinformation. Military grade GPS provides a second code channel on a different frequency. This allows the receiver to do an ionospheric correction (dual frequencies lets you measure it via dispersion). The ionosphere is the largest source of error in simple receivers. It changes slowly (most of the time). It's very unlikely military grade GPS would be used. They are expensive and key management is a serious hassle.

Because this system has the rat communicating with a close by base station, differential GPS would be the way to go. GPS errors sources like the ionosphere vary slowly with time and effect all receivers in the same area the same way. You simply subtract the errors you see on your base stations from your rovers (rats). This gives you better accuracy than a stand alone military receiver and removes nearly all the drift. I'd trust such a setup to under 20 cm horizontal and you'll be able to tell if something is wrong and degrading your quality. It can also be done with very cheap GPS receivers.

One of your replies mentioned cheap 22 channel receivers. That "initial error" he's talking about removing drifts over time. That's what the base station is for. A few comments act like these errors don't change. They do and it can be fast. You don't want your error to drift, because BOOM!

They are gradually replacing the old GPS satellites with new ones that are much more sophisticated. Once there are enough of them and the system goes live, civilians with have multiple frequencies and what I said above with change significantly.

Gives Invasive Species a whole new meaning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40252093)

Wondering what happens if a couple of rats run off and breed in a country they aren't from.

Rats? (1)

InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252387)

Rats are far too noble animals to be working for the military.

Wouldn't it be easier... (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252579)

to just round up a ton of rats (from say New York) and realease them in the minefield. No training necassary and get rid of all the mines at the same time.

Re:Wouldn't it be easier... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254243)

Or New Yorkers.

KISS? (2)

Tolvor (579446) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252747)

I've always wondered if there was a *simple* method to deactivate minefields cheaply (Keep It Simple and Straightfoward). I've wondered whether a cloth sack filled with 150 pounds of dirt (weight discriminating trigger), and dragged across a minefield with a long length of rope. If a mine goes off you lost one sack and need to shovel more dirt. Repeat as necessary.

I realize that this will probably not work since military contractors have spent a lot of time ensuring that the mines are 'smart'. However I think that there has to be a simple solution. Getting legions of highly trained rats to run through a minefield (and not set off the mines) does not fit the criteria of simple nor effective.

The solution of getting a mine deactivation specialist (or whatever the technical term the military gives it) to inch thru the minefield with a wire probe moving the soil at a careful handful at time isn't the solution either. There is simply too many mines, too few removal specialist, and it takes too long.

Fortunately for me I live in a country that for now does not have minefields (for now). I believe that minefields are evil. They persist for years, sometimes even decades, often target non-combatants, and are indiscriminate. There has to be a simpler solution than minefield rats. This sounds too much like bad movie science/comedy, like laser-armed sharks, or penguins armed with rocket launchers.

Re:KISS? (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253137)

don't know what it costs, But this is a British tool its called a python basically something similar to a firemans hose packed with explosive. fired out across the mine field by a rocket.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eeaou2L2sI&feature=related [youtube.com]

It isn't designed to clear a mine field, just quickly clear a path through a minefield, according to another video it was first used in Afghanistan fun video if you like explosions

Re:KISS? (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253321)

First, the rats do not set off mines, or your minefield would self-clear too quickly from common field mice, squirrels, etc.

As far as clearing a minefield without rats, there was something in WWII called a Flail Tank, that had a long boom with a rotating cylinder at the end. On the cylinder were lengths of chain that beat the ground to trigger the mines. The exploding mine usually didn't harm the chains or the cylinder, so it wasn't difficult to clear an entire minefield once its edges were roughly known. I do not know if Bouncing Betty-type mines are more dangerous to the cylinder, though. Also, fuel-air explosives produce enough overpressure to trigger most mines, even if a bit hard on the locale.

As to whether minefields are evil, are poisonous snakes evil? Placing a minefield may be a matter of necessity, in which case it is no more evil than anything else in war (see comments by Sherman, William T. for expert opinion on that), or it may have been placed to deliberately target the civilians, in which case it is no more evil than deliberately killing them with bullets. In any case, the mines aren't evil, being inanimate objects that cannot target anything by themselves, although the mine placers may be.

Yes Virginia, Mines are evil. (2)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 2 years ago | (#40255015)

the acceptable civilian risk/kill ratio of mines makes them evil.

no other class of weapon is as inexpensive, and deadly decades later.

yes, occasionally unexploded artillery shells turn up on beaches....

but for the most part-- minefields left behind are just flat out wrong....

read up on it here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landmine#Anti-personnel_mine_ban [wikipedia.org]

Re:Yes Virginia, Mines are evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40255421)

Here's a more personal take on this:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10388620 [nzherald.co.nz]

Re:Yes Virginia, Mines are evil. (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40266015)

So the Khmer Rouge were not evil, just their mines? Seriously?

Re:Yes Virginia, Mines are evil. -- No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40257989)

Dumb mines are evil-- IF you aren't willing to permanently accept the /legitimate/ use of mines -- which is area suppression and denial. In principle, I don't like that idea -- but I have to concede that at the time they were used, it made a LOT of sense on the north korean border, and was a strategically valid reason for the USA not to participate in the Ottowa treaty.

When people use mines offensively, instead of strategically... yeah, they're evil.

There's a *copious* quantity of mines developed that will automatically detonate in a period from hours to months. While an arbitrarily low percentile may fail -- you run into *that* risk with any and all forms of UXO.

And the purpose of those is to keep people out of areas you can't hold and control. As long as you aren't some asshole in Africa -- the value in a minefield comes in putting up a sign saying where it is so nobody can use it. In a month when the war's over, they detonate.

The acceptable civilian risk/kill ratio is an artifact of
1) dumb mines
2) dumb civilians ignoring signs
3) dumb civilians traveling through an area with active combat during a mine deployment.

With the exception of #1, those are all ... appropriately acceptable.

Re:KISS? (1)

splutty (43475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40255167)

Iran and Iraq just used POWs and 'undesirables', sometimes kids. Very efficient, although possibly not entirely in accordance to the Geneva convention...

Re:KISS? (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#40257987)

Possibly?

Re:KISS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40267355)

I've always wondered if there was a *simple* method to deactivate minefields cheaply (Keep It Simple and Straightfoward). I've wondered whether a cloth sack filled with 150 pounds of dirt (weight discriminating trigger), and dragged across a minefield with a long length of rope.

The US used plows dragged across a field by an Apache helicopter. It worked pretty well, until the other guys started digging in big horizontal iron rods...

Awesome (1)

s.t.a.l.k.e.r._loner (2591761) | more than 2 years ago | (#40252775)

Where the hell can I buy one of those tiny laptops they're giving out to the mine detector rats?!

Is this the best way to go? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253075)

You know, there are a lot of lawyers who are having trouble finding jobs... you could be hiring them to do this, and then you don't have to worry about the rats' handlers feeling bad about the rats potentially getting hurt if one of them somehow trips a mine...

Nothing can go wrong with a few rats... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253449)

...just ask the Cook Islands...

Wanted (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254133)

Anyone else think of the movie 'Wanted' when they read this?

What would PETA think? (1)

distilate (1037896) | more than 2 years ago | (#40255179)

Since PETA would likley have a serious problem with this I suggest that instead of rats we use members of PETA!

not gonna work! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40256609)

Baaah!! How's a rat ever going to carry a LAPTOP in a backpack!

Give 'em hell Johnathon Brisby! (1)

modi123 (750470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40257297)

See! See! I told my parents that the Secret of NIMH [imdb.com] wasn't just a fictional piece! Trained smart rats with backpacks CAN help us humans... even after we took their rosebush fort!

if they're too light to trigger mines (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 2 years ago | (#40258061)

Why not teach them to carry people across minefields? :)

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