Backyard Star Wars

green and white leafed plantsBackyard Star Wars

Missile warheads are fast, and if a single one gets through, it could destroy your country’s seat of government. Mosquitoes are slow, solitary, and if a single one gets through, you can live with it. So why not turn the technology developed for anti-ballistic missile defense against the far less challenging target presented by the pesky insect?

Jordin Kare, a leading expert in missile defense, has done just that, using cheap, off-the-shelf lasers, sensors and optics to construct impenetrable light fences that can shield your backyard barbeque from mosquitoes. So accurate is the detection system–based on the characteristic vibration pattern of the mosquito’s wings–that it can kill the mosquitoes while sparing other, beneficial insects. In fact, it could even save on power by zapping only female mosquitoes–which alone feast on blood–while letting the harmless males sail on by.

In the May issue of IEEE Spectrum, Kare explains exactly how to build such a system for home use, and how to ensure that it will be absolutely safe for all humans and pets in the area. He also argues that larger systems, perhaps based on airborne platforms, could secure croplands from the depredations of agricultural pests without harming bees and other creatures. It’s more than a pipedream: Kare’s idea has the support of Intellectual Ventures, an invention-generating company founded by Nathan Myhrvold, formerly the chief technology officer of Microsoft.

The full article can be found here:

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