Simon’s Backup Weblog

Life imitates science fiction (yet again)

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on December 5, 2005

If you’ve read David Marusek’s wonderful Counting Heads, you’ll be familiar with his idea of nanotechnologically-enhanced bees and wasps as sensor platforms for AIs – and as defence systems.

Well, now it looks as though his future could be here a lot sooner than he thought. This article from USA Today talks about using wasps as scent sensors for explosives and drugs.

Trained wasps could someday replace dogs for sniffing out drugs, bombs and bodies. No kidding.

Scientists say a species of non-stinging wasps can be trained in only five minutes and are just as sensitive to odors as man’s best friend, which can require up to six months of training at a cost of about $15,000 per dog.

With the use of a hand-held device that contains the wasps but allows them to do their work, researchers have been able to use the insects to detect target odors such as a toxin that grows on corn and peanuts, and a chemical used in certain explosives.

Apparently the trained wasps are known as “wasp hounds”. Meanwhile bees are being used as mine detectors.

Jerry Bromenshenk, a research professor at Montana State University, is using bees for mine detection. The bees congregate over mines or other explosives and their locations are mapped using laser-sensing technology.

Of course there could be problems if the detectors escaped…


One Response to 'Life imitates science fiction (yet again)'

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  1. nerdware said,

    The smart bleeding-edge writings get their ideas from the researchers (research papers, science media, etc). So I doubt that David Marusek had that idea. It sounds a lot like the kind of ideas that nano-tech researchers talk about all the time. Y’know, “smart dust” etc.

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