Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bloodsucker Defense System

Eleven months ago, I wrote
I have joked around since the Reagan era that the best possible application of "Star Wars" or SDI technology would be to blast mosquitos and flies out of the air. Usually followed by guffaws and descending, fluttering fingers to portray the charred remains of these pestilential little bastards falling out of air the after after a successful deployment of the imaginary laser system.
The research, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is intended to reduce the incidence of malaria by finding ways to keep mosquitoes from infecting people. Sometimes science and technology advance faster than one expects.

I don't pay a lot of attention to science by press release anymore; I simply don't trust it. PhysOrg is one of a number of groups that pick up press releases, slap their copyright claim on it, link others' graphics and multimedia, and aggregate it all in one convenient, slick website. Despite my distrust of such sites, I do skim over many titles from them each day. And I guess the bottom line is that if you're approaching them with a high degree of skepticism, if you're alert to weaselly phrases containing "might" and "could" (e.g. "Scientists could be on brink of discovery that might lead to unicorns who fart rainbows, reports say."), and if you read them in light of their PR intent, they can have some positive value. "Myhrvold said that the lasers could shoot between 50 and 100 mosquitoes per second."

Still, I find it interesting that PhysOrg would make the effort to take a YouTube video, change formats to an unembeddable one, but leave the YouTube logo in place.

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