February 12th, 2010
Who would have thought President Regan’s Strategic Defense Initiative would really have a practical application? Yes, there are missile defense systems that seem to work, but shooting nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles out of the sky with a laser? As a kid in the 80’s, I liked looking at the diagrams and thought the “Star Wars” nickname was kind of funny. But it looked really, really complex.
(at right: click on image to see video of mosquito zapper in action–scroll down to 3rd video)
Intellectual Ventures, an outfit run by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer, is re-purposing concepts in an spare-looking lab that is a tech-head’s equivalent of a souped-up garage workshop. Check it out in this PDF of a Seattle P-I article. It sounds like a cool place to work–lots of interesting projects.
Take, for instance, the mosquito zapper. Technology developed for laser printers is coupled with digital camera sensors and imaging software that can differentiate the size and sex and species of insects flying through the air. It then fires the laser, searing the insect, and killing it.
Apparently all of this was assembled from parts found on eBay.
Still, something tells me that tried and true methods like insecticide impregnated mosquito nets and awareness building advertising campaigns might be the best thing for the near future. Like in Brasilia–we used a net to keep T from getting bit at night. And I couldn’t help but notice all the bright advertisements at bus stops. Empty out all standing water, they were saying, to deprive dengue fever infected mosquitoes a place to breed. Pretty simple solutions…but still, I always like a good bug zapper.
…as a side note, this just out: Boeing shoots down a ballistic missile with an airborne laser. It only took two decades.
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