malaria-laser
A laser to stop malaria? I get to zap mosquitos and save the world? Sign me up.

Intellectual Ventures Lab is shooting mosquitos out of the sky with lasers. The invention-focused company received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to find solutions for many of the world’s leading health problems, including malaria. Using cheap components from various commercial technologies (laser printers, digital cameras, etc) IVL has devised a fence-like system which would monitor for mosquitos and zap them as they try to fly by. By controlling the mosquito population the company hopes to stop the spread of malaria which kills more than a million people each year. For those who just want to see the laser in action, check out the brief video from National Geographic after the break. A more in depth discussion, and a live demo (12:32), can be seen in Nathan Myhrvold‘s recent TED talk below.

IVL’s foray into mosquito hunting is awesome looking. Growing up I received enough ‘squito bites that watching their burning deaths has become very cathartic. But there are more important factors at work here than just marveling at what lasers can destroy. Humanity is faced with several grand challenges, and among these are poverty, hunger, environment, health, and energy. These problems are responsible for millions of death each year, and have ramifications for everyone on the planet. That’s why groups like Singularity University, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others want to use advancing technology to mitigate or maybe even solve some of these issues. IVL’s plan to combat malaria is one such application of technology, and Myhrvold discusses a few more in his talk. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a much larger trend wherein the best and brightest minds are given the funding and the materials needed to find sustainable solutions for Earth’s troubles. Of course, solving these probelms will require everyone to do their part. I have my pointing laser ready, just tell me where to shoot.

[image credit: Intellectual Ventures]


[source: Intellectual Ventures]