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View Full Version : "Lock beetle wings in attack position!" (SCIENCE!)



13_CBS
2009-09-27, 08:52 PM
UC Berkley engineers can now remote-control a beetle's flight! Perfect for pranking that girl you like, or performing remote surveillance on your worst enemies! (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/95032-DARPA-Builds-Cyborg-Beetles)

Trog
2009-09-27, 08:57 PM
Yeah, I saw this story yesterday somewhere in my RSS feeds. Oh man it never occurred to me until now to use it as a scare tactic. :smalleek:

My ex is -deathly- afraid of insects. She better hope she doesn't have enemies at UC Berkley. :smallamused:

Spiryt
2009-09-27, 08:59 PM
I'm probably not into science enough, but that's rather terrible for me.

Not that beetle can really tell much about what's going on with him, but anyway it doesn't seem okay to me.

Keld Denar
2009-09-27, 09:24 PM
Its possible since beetles don't have brains. They have clusters of nerves that serve as motor control on a purely instinctual level. Thats why they can do that. They could probably do it with just about any insect.

And if you think that's the cruelest thing ever done to an insect, look up Malathion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malathion).

Solaris
2009-09-27, 10:37 PM
Yeah, that kind of thing's been around a while. Pretty cool if you don't think about it too much - personally, I find the potential espionage applications creepier than any possible moral ramifications of remote-controlling an organicsm.

Green Bean
2009-09-27, 10:42 PM
Keep in mind that not only would any recording device have to fit inside a beetle without damaging its ability to fly, it'd have to fit in alongside the control devices. Plus, the range on that can't be good, and it isn't like you can encrypt the signal without even more hardware on the bug end.

Solaris
2009-09-28, 02:02 AM
You can buy cameras the size of watch batteries. What makes you think the professionals don't have better stuff? Currently, the control devices are a bit of a limitation, but in five years? The transmitter doesn't have to be able to broadcast that far, just far enough to reach a cell phone or any other conveniently placed relays. I know a few species of beetle that could carry equipment pretty easily - most any one over an inch long is a good candidate.
Besides, the bug doesn't need to be able to fly, just crawl. A crawling insect is barely noticeable, while you always see a flying one with a little camera and antennae attached.

Kcalehc
2009-09-28, 11:05 AM
Plus a walking insect could tow something too, like a fibre-optic camera into a vent/duct and crawl into a position to see into any room (you may need several insects spaced along the length if it gets long, but thats not going to be too complicated to control.. Or drag an object behind it or have it mounted on top/underneith for dropping somewhere. Listening devices are smal enough a remote insect could drop one off almost anywhere inside most buildings.

Telonius
2009-09-28, 12:14 PM
Kinda creepy, but I'm really not sure about any sort of espionage using the beetle alone. For starters, you'd need to implant the stuff on the beetle, transport it to the target, and have whatever conversation you're looking for actually take place, all while the beetle's still alive. You could reduce the time it took to do that if you implant the beetle while you're in the country you want to spy on, but a beetle implantation laboratory strikes me as something that people might notice. Or, you could choose a beetle that has a particularly long life-span. But if that beetle isn't native to your target's country, their security will know what to look for.

There's also the matter of natural predators - it would be pretty embarrassing for your million-dollar spy device to end up providing an in-depth view of a bird's stomach.

Towing other things, like Khalec suggested, would probably be a better use of resources.

Prime32
2009-09-29, 07:06 AM
They've also done this with rats, though I think that was less controlling their body than interfering with their senses. The rat also had to carry a circuit board on its back. :smalltongue:

I'm just waiting for some breakthrough with growth hormones and we'll have Silt Striders. :smallbiggrin:

Yarram
2009-09-29, 09:21 AM
I've read a fictional novel about this happening... At the time, I thought it was totally unbelievable and bizzare. (A pair of children remote controlled about 500 cockroaches to drive their next door neighbors out of their house. Does anyone remember what this story is called?)
Wow science is awesome.

J.Gellert
2009-09-29, 10:51 AM
Remote-controlled mosquitoes: Make sure your opponents never sleep well again!

I want one now...

So, let's have a bet. How long until they admit they can do that with people? (we already know where motor control functions are located on the brain).

Solaris
2009-09-29, 11:17 AM
[B]So, let's have a bet. How long until they admit they can do that with people? (we already know where motor control functions are located on the brain).

... Ten years.
By the way, nice name. First red I ever killed. Heheh.

Eldan
2009-09-29, 01:34 PM
I'm pretty sure I saw the first article on this about a year ago... why are they publishing it again, now?

Lupy
2009-09-29, 08:03 PM
I look forward to buying RC beetles at my local Wal-mart. :smallbiggrin:

I don't think it's wrong to control a creature with no brain, if they did this to an animal with a brain I would be concerned though...

Vespe Ratavo
2009-09-29, 08:55 PM
Everyone's saying "espionage," but frankly I'm more scared about the possible military applications of this. My dad got a beetle in the ear a few months ago...those little twig legs scratching on the nerve endings...it was terrifying. He said it was the most painful thing he's ever felt. I'm fairly certain weaponized beetles violate the Geneva convention in about seventeen different places.

But we can trust scientists. Right? RIGHT? :smalleek:

Pyrian
2009-09-29, 09:13 PM
It's the engineers who'll get you. :smallwink:

Eldan
2009-09-30, 07:32 AM
Yeah. Those bastards. Always taking our theories and making weapons out of it.

Explosives are for mining, I say!

:smallwink:

Keld Denar
2009-09-30, 03:25 PM
It's the engineers who'll get you. :smallwink:

You're knowledge of the fundamental truth of the world can not go unpunished. As an engineer, its is my fundamental duty to construct some horrendously complicated contraption that shall ultimately result in your complete and utter destructions. Assuming funding doesn't get cut again...darned burocrats...

Pyrian
2009-09-30, 03:34 PM
Be good, or I'll corrupt your projects' change histories.

Keld Denar
2009-09-30, 03:47 PM
But....but...but...the RFIs! They will be lost! How are we supposed to get paid for these change orders if the RFIs are lost! Oh the inhumanity! What a world! What a world!

*melts*

Eldan
2009-09-30, 04:21 PM
Pyrian, I envy you for your skill in engineer-defeating. I can only get rid of them by throwing copies of Bridge Builder at them. :smalltongue:

Telonius
2009-09-30, 04:31 PM
Everyone's saying "espionage," but frankly I'm more scared about the possible military applications of this. My dad got a beetle in the ear a few months ago...those little twig legs scratching on the nerve endings...it was terrifying. He said it was the most painful thing he's ever felt. I'm fairly certain weaponized beetles violate the Geneva convention in about seventeen different places.

But we can trust scientists. Right? RIGHT? :smalleek:

As an employee of scientists, I'm obligated to answer yes. :smallsmile:

averagejoe
2009-09-30, 05:55 PM
As an employee of scientists, I'm obligated to answer yes. :smallsmile:

Yeah. I mean, there are definitely a lot of scientists who dream of having the sort of power that would make it so trusting them is actually a concern, but in reality the whole thing is terribly over romanticized by philosophers and television.

Keld Denar
2009-09-30, 06:02 PM
Pyrian, I envy you for your skill in engineer-defeating. I can only get rid of them by throwing copies of Bridge Builder at them. :smalltongue:

Eh, defeating engineers isn't difficult. After all, our people have been repressed for decades by "managers" with half the schooling and 1/3 the IQ and we have yet to rise up, throw off the yolk of repression and conquer the universe as it was foretold many years ago.

Pyrian
2009-09-30, 06:04 PM
My experience with engineers is that for the most part we don't want to manage people if we can help it. :smalltongue:

Solaris
2009-10-01, 12:02 PM
I'm pretty sure I saw the first article on this about a year ago... why are they publishing it again, now?
Slow news day.


Everyone's saying "espionage," but frankly I'm more scared about the possible military applications of this. My dad got a beetle in the ear a few months ago...those little twig legs scratching on the nerve endings...it was terrifying. He said it was the most painful thing he's ever felt. I'm fairly certain weaponized beetles violate the Geneva convention in about seventeen different places.

But we can trust scientists. Right? RIGHT? :smalleek:
You mean for assassinations? I'm not sure about the Geneva Convention, but yeah, international law prohibits the use of assassination (even if it would save lives...). I can't see employing swarms of brain-eating beetles being anything but a really bad idea, but a single creature could, maybe, be feasible.
But it might just be easier to build a similarly-sized robot to inject a poison.