LONG BEACH, California — If Microsoft founder Bill Gates unleashes more mosquitoes at this year’s Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, Nathan Myhrvold will be ready for him.
Myhrvold demonstrated a “Death Star” laser gun designed to track and kill mosquitoes in flight. The device was crafted from parts purchased on eBay by scientists at Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures Laboratory.
As Myhrvold explained, a child dies every 43 seconds from malaria. Current methods for eradicating the disease aren’t working very well. There’s no viable vaccine yet, and although mosquito nets work, people don’t always use them. When given free nets by public health organizations, many people in the developing world use the nets for fishing instead.
So until the time comes when malaria can be controlled, Intellectual Ventures thought it might be a good idea to try to control mosquitoes.
Myhrvold’s team demonstrated the system onstage using a green laser light rather than a real laser for safety reasons. They let loose mosquitoes in a glass box rigged with a camera on one side of the stage, then pointed the laser device at the box. The laser lights quickly located the mosquitoes in flight.
After the live demo, Myhrvold showed a video depicting mosquitoes being zapped for real in flight.
They’re currently examining how cost effective it would be to deploy the device in places like Africa.
YouTube fans, of course, know that Myhrvold’s crew didn’t invent the idea of the mosquito zapper. In 2005, two Dutch video makers created a spoof commercial for the Star Wars Mosquito Defense System. A few minutes spent setting it up in your home and “there is no spot at all where the mosquito is safe.”
But don’t stop there. You can adjust the system to destroy all irritating elements in your surroundings. For instance the neighbor’s cat. Or the neighbor’s house. Or undesirable planets.
Presumably, Myrhvold’s zapper doesn’t go that far.
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