Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Now this is serious. It has a serious name - Photonic Fence.

Back in March 2009, I wrote about some people, including Nathan Myhrvold and Dr. Lowell Wood, who proposed to combat the spread of malaria by killing mosquitoes with lasers. I commented at the time:

I'm sure [that] Dr. Wood acted all serious in the meetings, talking about combating malaria and saving the world, but once he got away from the money people, he jumped up in joy and started talking about really kewl laser action!

Well, the idea has continued to evolve, and now it's no longer a hand-held laser. The new prototype is called the Photonic Fence.

The device creates a virtual fence that detects insects as they cross its plane. Once detected, the photonic fence uses the insect’s wing beat to determine if it’s a mosquito, identify if that mosquito is female (only females bite humans), and then shoot the mosquito out of the sky with a laser. Photonic fence devices could be set along the perimeter of villages or buildings to control mosquito populations without interfering with human traffic.

A fence that kills females - at first I wondered if I was reading about #GamerGate.

But the Wikipedia article on the technology links to criticism of the idea from Dr. Bart Knols. Among other things, the requirement for a stable power supply to operate the Photonic Fence makes the whole idea a non-starter in those areas of Africa that are worried about malaria.
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