... issues and tissues with a touch of the spicy from the spirit hag ...
hey ! he's just a big cockroach !
Published on November 28, 2004 By mignuna In Current Events

 

The modern world is advancing, and with that advancement comes such looming horrors as ‘chemical weapons’ and ‘biological warfare’. These ‘modern’ ideas of ours surely have reached the  outer limits of the awful things we humans are capable of. We have come full circle.

 

We have developed chemical weapons, that, once released, cannot be detected or controlled, and we have developed conflicts that almost guarantee their eventual use.

 

Modern day scientists have been fighting an uphill battle to find a way to reliably detect when chemical attack is imminent, or indeed has even taken place. Vague guesses replace scientific fact in this area.

 

Nobody actually knows, beyond a prediction of lives lost in the millions, what specific effects these chemical agents have, or how far and how fast they will spread, yet the indicators given by the Sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 are grave indeed.

 

In desperation, man has, once again, turned to mother nature and her creatures to provide a solution to the self-created mess we homo sapiens have found ourselves in, and once again she has shown us that she had the answer all along, if we had only been paying attention.

 

The US Government has officially enlisted the help of cockroaches, beetles, bacteria, shellfish, spiders, worms and even weeds as a new and growing defence against chemical agents, via a US$1million grant to biologist Karen Kester.

 

Kester, based at Virginia Commonwealth University, received the research grant from the Pentagons’ ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’ (DARPA), and says she uses the bugs and insects as 'flying, crawling Q-Tips'.

 

According to Kester, "Insects check their habitats meticulously for noxious materials from anthrax to chemicals more cheaply, and more reliably, than man-made sensors. You (can) look at what these animals have picked up or ingested while going about their day-to-day activities".

 

"Insects haven't been used this way before. No one has looked at what they are naturally picking up to monitor contamination," she adds. "It's more than bugs fighting terrorism. It's developing new technology to detect and map biological and chemical contaminants in the environment".

 

June Medford, plant biologist at Colorado State University, says the September 11attacks were a wake up call for scientists who had not previously thought of researching how nature can help with domestic defense.

 

Medfords’ work, also funded by the Pentagons’ DARPA, involves genetically modifying common weeds to act as ‘bio-sentinels’, changing color if exposed to a biochemical attack, thereby using them to form a ‘map’ of the spread and rate of contamination.

 

"The goal is to get a plant to have a simple color change that anyone could recognize, and that the could be seen via satellite" Medford says. "This way, in the event of a chemical attack, first responders would know where to don chemical suits and which areas the public should avoid”.

 

In agreement with the move towards ‘critter technology’ is Rajesh Naik, a biologist at the US Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio, who says that “There are still some things nature simply does better than man”.

  

Naik is currently researching beetles with heat-sensing capabilities that can detect bushfires up to 30 miles away. If successful in their quest to learn how the beetles use this sense, Naik's team will attempt to recreate the process in a laboratory, in the hope of earlier detection of forest fires in remote areas.

 

Also called to the front is the humble honey bee, useful for its superior odour detection capabilities. So acute is the bees' sense of smell, they can detect even minute amounts of substances that appear completely odourless to humans and most other animals, such as the host explosive, 'Semtex'

 

A favourite with terrorists, Semtex is a relatively stable and easy-to-transport compound which acts as a 'host', and is, in itself, relatively harmless. Due to its very weak odour and malleable texture, Semtex has in the past escaped detection by 'normal' methods, such as electronic or canine 'sniffers' and airport x-ray technology.

 

Mobile bee hives carried and used by trained operators are already in limited use within the US airport system, and are successfully detecting trace amounts of ‘host’ explosives, including Semtex and others like it, with a very encouraging success rate.

 

Many sea creatures also have potential as ‘early alerters’ for biological and chemical attacks. Molluscs, which can detect foreign substances in water quickly and easily due to their method of filtering water for food, are proving useful to provide a 'snapshot' of the health of a body of water.

 

Along with clams and some varieties of worm, molluscs can be used to warn of and track dangerous water contamination, helping authorities to better protect the human population in a more timely and accurate way, and providing a natural solution to some very unnatural events.

 

 

 

*Quotes from: Link , Link , Link

 

 

 

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Comments
on Nov 28, 2004
Interesting stuff! I really think that people are drastically overreacting to the terrorism thing, but there's no such thing as useless knowledge. And if it saves some lives down the road, well, there you go. Still, I think there are better things we could be putting our tax dollars towards right now--or at least, if we feel it necessary to research defense, then to perhaps not divert SO much funding towards it. I am rather reminded of Regan's disastarous "Star Wars" program. --LL
on Nov 28, 2004

thanks for your comment, llamalamp, and nice to 'meet' you .

i agree with you on both counts that the program is interesting and that defence spending is insane, although US$1million for insect research seems like a very insignificant amount compared to the total amount expended in the name of defence.

i liked this program mainly due to its minimal environmental impact (ie: first, do no harm). its making use of existing resources (albeit with initial tax funding) without creating a new waste or other hazard in the process seems like the way forward to me.

and, as you say, if it saves some lives down the road, it may prove worth it.

vanessa/mig XXX

on Nov 28, 2004
This almost sounds like a joke, but then again, darpa does deal with the odd stuff
on Nov 28, 2004

i promise you it's for real, danny. and yes, it seems that darpa will 'leave no stone unturned' in their quest for new defence techniquues ! (bad pun, i know !)

mig XXX

on Nov 29, 2004
In the worst of times, follow the cockroach, for they have survived millions of years of earth's catastrophes. 
on Nov 29, 2004
darpa will 'leave no stone unturned' in their quest


Yes, they're determined to 'stamp out' the bioterror issue once and for all. Once this program gets out from underfoot and can stand on its own, it'll really start to fly, and suck the threat right out of chemical attacks. Terrorists will feel its sting as their efforts are swatted aside.
on Nov 30, 2004
A little twist on the Miners who used Canaries. DARPA has done some remarkable things. NASA could benefit from having a division like DARPA.
on Nov 30, 2004

A little twist on the Miners who used Canaries. DARPA has done some remarkable things. NASA could benefit from having a division like DARPA.

hi evorg, nice to 'meet you'. as you say, it is a modern twist on the 'gas in the mineshaft = dead canary' (yuck. sorry) idea. as strange as some of this sounds, i agree that more programs should be looking at different ways to do old things - preferably as 'naturally' as possible.

Yes, they're determined to 'stamp out' the bioterror issue once and for all. Once this program gets out from underfoot and can stand on its own, it'll really start to fly, and suck the threat right out of chemical attacks. Terrorists will feel its sting as their efforts are swatted aside

citahellion, congratulations, you just made my day !. funny. too funny !

In the worst of times, follow the cockroach, for they have survived millions of years of earth's catastrophes.

stevendedalus, we soon may have no choice ! (um, or are we already doing it now ??? )

mig XXX

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