back to article Ex-Star Wars boffins build mosquito-blasting raygun

Here on the Reg raygun desk, we like a deadly laser cannon designed to rid the skies of airborne assailants as much as the next man - indeed, perhaps rather more so. On some days our simple pleasure is spoiled, however, by the thought that humanity is merely wasting its resources on engines of destruction, and doing little to …

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  1. Charles Silver badge
    Happy

    Once upn a time...

    There was a lampooning news show on HBO called "Not (Necessarily" The News". One show featured a lampooning TV commercial in light of the Star Wars craze (both movie-wise an military-wise). It advertised a product known as "Fly Wars", which (jokingly, mind you) employed automated lasers and mirrors to automatically wipe out any flying insects in the deployed room or area--pretty much what the article above describes. Funniest part was the ending: "Just look for Luke Flyswatter on the label!" Just couldn't help noting the similarities: life imitates art--even if it IS silly art.

  2. Mike Plunkett
    Joke

    Protests Ahoy!

    Cue an unholy alliance between PETA and radical feminists complaining that this is just another example of human males seeking hegemony over the Earth Mother. Now if you could just come up with a laser cannon that targets the whining noise they make...

  3. vic denwood
    Thumb Up

    Laser Mossie Blaster

    Mossies are attracted to Carbon Dioxide exhalations, some american schools have used CO2 dispensers at the edge of playgrounds to attract mossies away from the children - think of the children!

    By applying a CO2 attractant with the laser mossie blaster then there would be no need for airborne platforms - just bring the beasties into a closed range killing field. The CO2 cloud would also stop the flaming shower of mossies starting an accidental forest fire.

  4. Steve Mason
    Thumb Up

    ROTM

    I for one welcome our laser wielding Dell powered overlords.

  5. Shady

    Is the replacement metaphor....

    ...for "a sledgehammer to crack a nut" ?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Obligatory Monty Python link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcACaW9vwg4

  7. breakfast
    Thumb Up

    No two ways about it...

    This is clearly one of the best inventions ever and I sincerely hope the technology can soon be made available in hat form as an anti-mozzy-laser-hat would be right up there alongside jet packs and flying cars on the list of things that make The Future an awesome place to live.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Females only

    Well surely if you wipe out the females, then the males will soon die of boredom anyway?? Or maybe they'll lvie a lot longer due to the reduction in stress and nagging! :-D

    And of course no next generation will put paid to any more mosquitoes pretty sharpish...

  9. Mister Cheese
    Go

    Cool :-)

    ...but can it zap wasps too?

  10. Youngdog
    Happy

    Funniest thing I've read all day

    "they killed their first mosquito with a hand-held laser in early 2008"

    That's some markmanship. I can only assume the little mite was pinned down somehow. Probably by 2 other scientists with handhelds providing a cross-fire

    The mental image of two white coat clad scientists leaping around a field shouting "There it is - shoot it! Oh no its flown over there!" will keep me chuckling well into the afternoon.

    Apparently after the first kill it does get easier - I have it on good authority that after a certain amount it is easy to become densensitised to the point where they will keep on doing it 'just to see the expressions on their faces change'

  11. 4a$$Monkey
    Black Helicopters

    ROTM

    Can I be the first to point out it is all well and good until the flying "death bots" with "freakin laser beams" decide we are are the the ones that need to be wiped out!

    FLEE!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Splendid!

    Next I would like one that can be cranially attached to my carcharadons. Also a small roof mounted device to slay the neighbourhood rats/hoodies.

  13. Solicitme

    April 1st?

    I can only imagine that this an April 1st joke in the works that slipped out prematurely. :-\

  14. Eddie Edwards
    Unhappy

    Man's place on the planet

    And after wiping out the mosquitoes, what even worse pest will rise having previously been kept in check by mosquitoes?

  15. Luis Ogando
    Stop

    Chaos Theory

    What? Has nobody considered the devastating outcome of systematically wiping out the ENTIRE mosquito population?? the knock-on effects could be horrendous; insects that feed on these insects will die out and the whole food chain will dissolve!!

    Alternatively the mosquitos may mutate and become huge, laser-powered death-bringers, wreaking havoc on our poor, defenceless planet.... I for one...etc...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But how long..

    Until we see Sharks with frikkin' laser cannons?!?

  17. Simon Williams
    Boffin

    This is one small step...

    Nobody has yet mentioned the sentence 'Placed across the room from an empty fishtank filled with mosquitoes, the machine reaps a deadly harvest', so I will. The words 'fish', 'barrel' and 'shoot' spring to mind. There's a heck of a difference between picking off mossies in an otherwise empty, transparent container and picking them out from a typical domestic background in 3D, while avoiding blinding human/canine/feline/piscine occupants. And, if you've got all the mossies in a fish tank, why not just fit one of those high-voltage, UV zappers. Still, I guess it's a start.

    PS (Pedante Scriptum) Can any vessel 'filled with mosquitoes' be described as 'empty' ?

  18. Scott Evil
    Black Helicopters

    If they succeeed

    Then congrats to them all who developed a way to rid the disease from the 3rd world.

    Shame the beeb couldnt have used the millions and millions of pounds they get from the UK public year by year from Cominc relief to comeup with something so inventive and usefull

    Lets hope this rids the 3rd world of death mozzys

  19. Sweep

    @ Eddie Edwards

    "And after wiping out the mosquitoes, what even worse pest will rise having previously been kept in check by mosquitoes?"

    yes, you're right- imagine how many more tourists we'd get in Scotland if there were no midgies to keep them in check. The horror!

    No creature springs to mind that is currently being kept in check by mosquitoes. In many parts of the world the large numbers of the little buggers is due to man supplying them with lots of tasty farm animals to feast on.

    Don't really see this working except in very localised areas- around schools etc. To actually get rid of mosquitoes completely would require something much more radical- they hatch in their millions and killing even quite large proportions of their numbers would have very little effect on overall population levels.

  20. Miami Mike

    I want a couple of these

    Damn good idea, lets put all our computer power to work for something good instead of just ogling Paris Hilton's nether regions.

    Although there's an idea - a close look at those would probably prove fatal to more pests than just mosquitoes. (Note to self - "bad job" - PH's GYN.)

    I want a Firefox plug-in running Linux, connecting my anti-mosquito death ray via the USB port. One for my house, one for my shop, two or three to keep my yard clear. And a spare. Remember that the mosquito is the state bird of Florida. We can fix that . . .

    Yessir, buy your Eye of Sauron (tm) bug blaster here, just three easy payments of $29.95, call now 1-800-KIL-M-DED and take back your life. Operators are standing by . . .

  21. MnM

    Male mozzies are vegetarian?

    Laser the shunners! It's the least they deserve.

  22. Crossbow
    Flame

    Hug a mosquito?

    @Eddie Edwards

    As far as I'm aware, the only "pest" kept in check by malaria carrying mosquitos are the million people killed every year. Apparently, this doesn't worry you? And then theres West Nile too.....

    Being green and tree huggy is all very well, but a death count in the WMD scale is bit much of a price to pay.

  23. Martin Lyne

    I've

    I've often considered small ceiling-corner mounted laser turrets to rid my life of nasty spiders and flys.

    But it's kinder just to put htem outside..

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    RE: Man's place on the planet

    I do beleive that mankind was the pest that mosquitos kept in check. As for the future, I presume something else will rise up...

    I for one welcome our.......ZAP

  25. mcnicholas
    Pirate

    Loving that

    Damn fine piece of kit, but I can't help wondering about the whole "circle of life" thing - you know - if we kill all the mozzies, we'll have a plague of elephants. That sort of thing.

    Anyone know what mozzies actually do in the ecosystem, other than spread disease?

  26. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Mosquito's successor

    Mosquito larvae eat algae and bacteria from the surface of stagnant water. I doubt that wiping out mosquitoes will cause an increase in human deaths from roaming packs of killer algae.

    Bats and purple martins like to eat mosquitoes, but have other things to eat. Plenty of fish and some mosquitoes go for the larvae. Dragonflies eat mosquitoes and larvae - enough to make a big dent in mosquito populations (preventing stagnant water works too).

    The most obvious predator to proliferate in the absence of mosquitoes is humans, but their numbers are on the increase despite the best efforts of blood sucking insects and politicians.

  27. Dave
    Flame

    Oxymoron

    "an empty fishtank filled with mosquitoes"

    You didn't think I could let that one lie, did you? Either the fishtank is empty, or it isn't.

    On another note, how much energy does this all use up?

    Would a simple flame-thrower not be more efficient, and more fun, and less likely to lead to Terminator-style armageddon?

  28. Tom Silver badge

    @ Man's place on the planet

    "And after wiping out the mosquitoes, what even worse pest will rise having previously been kept in check by mosquitoes?"

    Man.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Man's place on the planet

    Isn't the human being the best tool for keeping the numbers of humans in check?

  30. Lewis Mettler

    don't try this at home

    What an ingenious idea. Zap flying insects with a laser.

    Not original perhaps but I can see some useful products being developed.

    I can also recall thinking about the laser device in the original LaserJet I bought way back whenever. Must have been the early 80's. The thought did occur to me to pop the hood on the device, figure out the navigation and use the LaserJet to zap common house flies. Not sure about the power rating.

    Of course the tricky part is homing in on the location of the little guys/gals. Mosquitos fly slow and relatively straight. A house fly is another animal. Maybe the DELL is up to it and maybe not.

  31. Sacha TF Padovani
    Thumb Up

    Fan-bloody-tastic!

    We need more of these guys.. LOTS more!

    With minds like these, who knows what hurdles humanity could conquer?

    Credit crunch greedy execs? Pah! Zapped!

    Traffic congestion? ZZAAAP!

    Hey.. what about ants? Aren't those damn critters really annoying? Could'nt we zap away a whole colony? Hope the device works underground too.. maybe some millimetre wave thingy, instead of lasers?

  32. David Pollard

    Next -

    - the locust.

  33. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Anonymous Coward

    carbon dioxide

    A physician I have met, employed then by the US Centers for Disease Control, said that pigs give off more carbon dioxide than humans and so make excellent skeeter bait. Perhaps the next logical step is to develop a laser-armed flying pig that can lure its own targets into range.

  34. al
    Paris Hilton

    @Eddie Edward

    humans.

    Paris, coz she would drink like a mosquito..

  35. Nick
    Happy

    Not original

    First read about something quite similar in David Brin's novel Earth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_(novel), where one of the principal characters has built a system using lasers and sound detectors and other "Star Wars" technology to coordinate a pest protection grid.

    So, these guys come second and only get credit for the implementation, not the idea.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    @ RE: Man's place on the planet, 13:16

    "Isn't the human being the best tool for keeping the numbers of humans in check?"

    Patently not :-(

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So....

    ...third world countries that cannot afford basic and cheap kits such as mosquito nets and shovels to fill in stagnant pools will cough for these devices? Ah, wait, I see how it goes. USA give $x million in aid that *MUST* be spent on these devices and the new power stations to run them.

    USA can they say "We are wonderful, we gave $x million in aid.", when in fact it was nothing more than a way to grease the palms of a few defence contractors.

    Malaria control is easy

    1) Stop people getting bitten (this stops people infecting mosquitoes with malaria, and stop the mosquitoes passing it on after biting an infected person)

    2) Fill in stagnant pools

    3) See 1.

    It's not laser science, people.

  38. Charles Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Re: So....

    Just like with powedered milk, nets sound good in theory but fall flat under real-world implementation.

    1. preventing bites is difficult in cultures where most activity is conducted outdoors and in the open. Most African cultures are like this. Most are agrarian, which also necessitates lengthy periods in the wide open where things like nets are impractical. Head to toe clothing is out, too, because of the heat and humidity. And no chemicals.

    2. Stagnant water may be located in places like jungles where you worse to worry about then mosquitoes. Then you're caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. Do you die by mosquito or by snake or some other?

  39. Andy Gates
    Thumb Up

    Easy?

    If it was that easy, it'd be done already.

    I say yay - and stick one of these gadgets onna stick in a town square. Sorted.

  40. Schultz
    Flame

    Worthy cause

    Star warriors turning to mosquitos. I expect the price tag will scale with the target, so we should see some fake results for only tens to hundreds of k$.

    Of course you can build your own, get the laser blaster from http://www.dealextreme.com/ (some 100 mW for 30$ should do it), get a usb-controlled mirror mount (a bit more pricey: http://www.newport.com/Agilis-Series-Piezo-Motor-Driven-Optical-Mounts/683081/1033/catalog.aspx), get some decent optics and a usb camera for targeting and off you go. Remember to close your eyes when you hand cotrol to your robotic master or you may have seen your last mosquito.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Errr...

    Love it and want one, but... How can you have an Empty fish tank full of Mosquitoes?

  42. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Errr...

    Well, it's empty of water, which you would usually expect a fishtank to be filled with. I shall let it stand.

  43. Paul

    "and placed this fearful engine of insectoid genocide under the control of a Dell PC"

    Dell PC's with frikkin lasers, Be afraid, be very afraid!

  44. Dave Bell
    Boffin

    This really is what mad science looks like.

    Dr.Kare is known to wear a t-shirt with the slogan,"Don't Worry, Ma'am, I am a Rocket Scientist."

    He was involved in a scheme to use a high-energy laser to launch satellites.

    Compared to some Americans, he's a pretty nice guy. Good singing voice, too.

  45. Shane Orahilly
    Coat

    @ Sarah Bee (who may be nervous once the mosquitoes are finished off)

    Surely then, if it's full of water, there is no room for Fish? So, it's a Water Tank, not a fishtank...

    This could take a while.

  46. Adrian Esdaile
    Thumb Up

    I want one.

    Now.

    oh, and where the hell is my jetpack?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Natural Selection

    Won't this just result in breeding a chrome mosquito?

  48. Pete
    Thumb Up

    Next logical step

    Is to use the high-power, helicopter-mounted version of the laser for exterminating all humans in known filesharing and music-downloading neighbourhoods. Spiffingly efficient!

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Awesome

    I want to be the one of the first people to have an automated laser cannon to seek out and destroy those illusive mossies that disrupt my sleep at night

    They'll need to sell these devices at a large markup to the developed nations to subsidize them for the developing nations.

  50. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Millennium

    IIRC in the film Millennium the future contains lasers which zap your fag ends when you've finished. The central character is sat in a bar, and chucks her finished cigarette in the air and ZAP - it's gone. How nonsensical. Just imagine! A bar where you could smoke a cigartette...

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The empty fish tank.

    If it's empty of water yet has mosquitoes, how do they fly?

    Presumably it must be filled with both air and mosquitoes in carefully calculated proportions, too much air there would be wasted space in which you could have kept mosquitoes, too little air the mosquitoes will be crushed by their own buzzing mass..

    How did the scientists resolve such a challenging conundrum.

    Hmm... Air fish tanks delivered empty or full?

  52. Emilio Desalvo
    Alert

    Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.

    If the LASER is eye-safe, I could use one in my bedroom...

  53. Tom
    Pirate

    Dave

    It is not an oxymoron, moron. it's a contradictory statement.

    The words need to be in succesion, IE, 'Beautiful Violence'

    Sorry my friend, it's a fine line, and you just had to cross it....

    ;)

  54. Chris Lovell
    Alert

    RE: Oxymorons

    > It is not an oxymoron, moron. it's a contradictory statement.

    > The words need to be in succesion, IE, 'Beautiful Violence'

    Actually no, I used to think this when I was at school but was pointed towards a dictionary which proved otherwise. An oxymoron IS a contradictory statement, not merely a pairing of contradictory words. As an example, "to make haste slowly" is an oxymoron.

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