The mosquito is the vector for diseases like malaria, yellow fever and West Nile. They are major scourges of public health, and while we have sunk a fair amount of money in drying to eradicate them, we haven’t put as much money into developing the technology for the war on mosquitoes as the war on other humans. Think of the Star Wars Initiative and the investment and difficult of zapping a single missile before it hits an population area. The technology is super expensive (and super profitable for defense contractors. And so far nobody has been able to make it work. The idea of shooting a mosquito out of the sky before it zooms in to bite you is even more outlandish and one doesn’t even want to think how impractical infeasible this is technologically, much less the cost of the equipment to do it. Talk about an expensive flyswatter.
Except that the folks at Intellectual Ventures have done made such a device with off the shelf (actually off of eBay) consumer electronics: a Blu-ray player with a blue laser and a laser printer with a fast-moving mirror. Last week inventor Nathan Myhrvold showed a video of a mosquito being blasted out of the air with this laser device (hat tip Boingboing):
This is cheap and safe enough for hospital clinics and at some point possibly for homes. It’s not the solution to the problem of mosquito-borne disease, but it’s amazing it can be done at all.