Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Buzz of War

Honeybee bomb detectors have been created by scientists and researchers at Los Alamos National Lab. The wee critters have been trained to essentially stick out their noses when a variety of explosive material is nearby, according to the reports today:

Researchers in the program, dubbed the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, published their findings on Monday.

By exposing the insects to the odor of explosives followed by a sugar water reward, researchers said they trained bees to recognize substances ranging from dynamite and C-4 plastic explosives to the Howitzer propellant grains used in improvised explosive devices in Iraq."

Insects may be emerging as the new warrior, and of course saving human lives through innovation is truly laudable. Earlier this month, the nation of Israel announced their ongoing research and development of a sort of "bionic hornet," a miniature spy drone the size of an insect which might be capable of not only negotiating its way through nefarious hideouts, but perhaps even have a weapons capability - one would expect it to be more severe than a simple sting.

Whether using live or manufactured mini-bugs of warfare, the key is nanotechnology. Many advances have been achieved in just the last few years, and the U.S. has already established a National Nanotechnology Initiative, whose budget has jumped from the millions to an expected $1 billion in research and development. The concerns of developers and theorists alike project startling advances and grim new realities of war as well:

Virtually every aspect of human life would be affected: for example, tiny robots could be sent into the human body to locate and destroy cancerous cells or viruses, or even correct failing organs at the cellular level, leading to indefinite extension of the human lifespan.

The dangers posed by MNT (molecular nanotechnology) are also nearly limitless: cheap, fast mass production would enable spasmodic arms races; improved smart materials could make current weapons systems much more capable, or permit creation of entirely new classes of weapons.

Perhaps the most publicized danger from MNT is the so-called "gray goo" problem, where self-replicating nanomachines essentially out-compete the naturally occurring life forms on earth."

Human history has already had molecular encounters of many kinds which shifted civilization itself. A microbe can challenge more than just one person, it can challenge a society. A recently published account of how the city of London battled the outbreak of cholera in 1854, "The Ghost Map" details one such encounter, long before science had even connected the "bug with the disease."

It just isn't a science-fiction concept anymore -- yet one of the best examples of that, however, Neal Stephenson's award-winning "The Diamond Age" explores an astonishing world where nanotech is not only the norm, it can affect the ways in which all levels of society develop. A molecular-based have-and-have-not social structure.

Mini-spy drones are presented in the book in ways which current research and development indicate may be active in the very near future.


  1. Anonymous4:22 PM

    this is a good blog, joe. it's not your work. you copied it from somebody else. that's better

  2. who reads these posts to you?

  3. anon: Joe gives reference to Reuters by way of a link in the first paragraph. He puts in italics the directly quoted items (them is th slanty words like this). The other parts of the article are his observations combined with his reading from other sources which are also linked and in the slanty words. You should be thankful someone gives you this much information compiled neetly and interestingly. Otherwise it would just be one of items you would never notice in the tech page.

    So "shut the fu-k up and learn to buck up" in the imortal words of Cake.

    Have mommy explain it to you baby.