February 16, 2010

Killing Mosquitos with Laser Beams (Shark Mounting Kit Sold Seperately)

You remember that old saying about using a sledgehammer to swat a fly as a metaphor for overkill? How about using a laser to kill a mosquito:

When an invading insect is detected, our software identifies it by training a nonlethal laser beam on the bug and using that illumination to estimate the insect’s size and also to measure how fast its wings are beating. Using this method, the system can not only distinguish among mosquitoes, butterflies, and bumblebees, but it can even determine whether a mosquito is male or female! (Females are significantly larger than males and have slower wingbeats.) This is useful because only female mosquitoes bite humans.

Our software is able to track a mosquito in flight once it establishes that it is a valid target. After running safety checks to ensure no unintended object is in view, the system activates a second, more powerful laser that zaps the mosquito, causing death either by damage to its DNA (an unconfirmed hypothesis) or by overheating. The energy levels and light frequencies used are not capable of damaging human tissue, but even so, we’ve built in safeguards that ensure that the system doesn’t fire when anything much larger than a mosquito is in the photonic fence.

Hat tip: Richard Fernandez who has more discussion.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 02:06 PM | Comments |