Summer is upon us. Hanging out with friends, going to the beach, hosting a barbeque – all of these are staples during these lackadaisical months. And these activities are always relaxing…until night falls. As the sapphire and violet colors envelope the sky, scores of mosquitoes stalk their dinner, causing parties to be moved indoors, repellent candles to be lit, and bug spray to be applied. But, what if this could all be avoided? Astrophysicist Jordin Kare and his team of scientists may have the answer.
Dr. Kare and his colleagues have developed an anti-mosquito laser that was originally introduced during the early 1980’s by Lowell Wood. This laser mimics technology utilized by the Strategic Defense Initiative, a program that former President Ronald Reagan developed to protect the United States from attacks by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles.
So how does it work? First, the laser detects the mosquitoes by honing in on the frequency of their wing beat. Once this is identified, information is sent back to the laser, which then fires at the insect. The result is a small flame that falls to the ground. The laser is planned to distinguish between male and female mosquitoes as well as kill millions of these insects in minutes. Scientists note that the distinction between the sexes may be of significant importance. This importance is the foundation of why this program was unearthed after twenty plus years since only female mosquitoes carry a deadly protozoan parasite, more commonly referred to as malaria.
Last year, Bill Gates contracted several astrophysicists including Kare and Wood in conjunction with PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, a grantee of the Gates Foundation. Right now, researchers are in the research and development phase of using the laser technology to create certain barriers around houses and villages in malaria-ridden areas that could “kill or blind the insects.” Another section of the project is developing a flying drone which is capable of detecting the mosquitoes by radar and can then “sweep the sky with the laser.”
However, this technology has not yet been perfected. Developers are still modifying the strength of the laser so it does not affect other insects, animals or humans. After an interview with Dr. Kare, it has been learned that “The laser is able to distinguish between mosquitoes that go after people and those that aren’t dangerous.” Kare added that there should not be any adverse effects on the eco-system and that the team of scientists is trying to perfect the preciseness of the device. While waiting for this laser to be perfected, alternatives are still available to help combat malaria: vaccinations, mosquito nets and indoor residual spraying.
Hopefully, in the coming years this technology will not only curtail malaria, but it will also allow one to enjoy eating a hamburger during the summer months without being disrupted.