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DARPA Funds Remote Control Sharks 137

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the sunday-morning-new-baby dept.
An anonymous reader writes "From Undersea Spies: Turning Sharks into Robotic Sentries "It seems like science fiction, but the U.S. military would like to use sharks as underwater spies. The folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who dream up the future of weapons and military systems, envision squads of sharks prowling the oceans with sensors that could transmit evidence of explosives or other threats.""
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DARPA Funds Remote Control Sharks

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @10:38AM (#17276946)
    are the friggin' laser beams and head mounts...
    • http://www.wickedlasers.com/?cpe=Y3A9a2VlbnNwb3Qmc z13d3cua2VlbnNwb3QuY29t [wickedlasers.com]

      Got you half covered. You'll have to provide the head mount.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by msobkow (48369)

      Yeah, but the naval commanders could never pull off the pinkie-lip snear as well as they did in the movies. Plus, having a bunch of bald or balding military commanders making such comments would really freak people out. :D

      Didn't they used to do the same thing with dolphins back in the 1960's-70's? IIRC animal rights activists objected to the bottlenose being trained to carry bombs.

      Yikes! The US military was training sea life to be suicide terrorist bombers! :eek:

    • Now all that's missing are the friggin' laser beams and head mounts.

      And the paradox is, they'd all be lining up to jump themselves.

    • I finnaly created an account just to leave that comment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)
        So, you expect to be able to open the account create page, fill in the details, submit your captcha three times, wait for your acceptance email, signin, re-find the page and actually type and submit your clichéd comment before a subscriber?

        Theres optimism if ever I saw it!
    • Seriously, I think remote-controlling animals is pretty unethical.

      Then again, this could be a good thing... Might put some political pressure into protecting sharks. They are in serious overfishing trouble nowadays. If one is going to use sharks as spies, might as well make sure there are plenty of sharks everywhere.
    • by raphae (754310)
      From the article:

      Atema was able to use electrical stimulation of a sharks brain, mimicking odor, to guide the shark around a large tank.



      This is one of the most hideous, ghastly things I have read. Not only should any "scientist" who engages in such ghastly experiments lose all his credentials, he and everyone in the chain above him should be criminally prosecuted.

      Such a horrific, sickening abuse of life is appalling.

      • by sanman2 (928866)
        Nah, I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for sharks, when you hear about the horror stories from shark attack reports. I don't care if they're given disproportionate press coverage, the fact is that sharks are ruthless, cold-bloodedly remorseless killers. If we can get them under our control with brain implants, then that's fine by me.
      • Such a horrific, sickening abuse of life is appalling.

        I take it you've never been to Taco Bell?

      • by mmdog (34909)

        Such a horrific, sickening abuse of life is appalling.
        Elaborate please. I don't find it particularly horrifying, abusive maybe but not horrifying. As far as appalling, well I'd suggest that runs to personal taste. I'd say that the cattle, pig or chicken industries would much better fit your description (although I'm glad to have them around too.)

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by raphae (754310)

          Elaborate please...

          Sure I'll elaborate: think of all the experimentation it took to figure this out. How many times did the sickos cut open the skulls of sentient beings and mess around with their brains to get the results they wanted? How many failed experiments were there? How many grotesque atrocities were perpetrated in the operating room? Its not too hard to visualize the animal laying there on an operating table with its skull cut open and blood and brains everywhere while these "researchers" slopped about. Its

          • by mmdog (34909)
            While your imagery indeed paints a horrifying image, you offer zero evidence of any such butchery. Considering that these are scientists and not high school biology students gone wild, I tend to believe that they would be working in a more orderly and methodical manner. It's also not too hard to visualize a non-invasive research program, followed by a humane and sterile surgical procedure less invasive than some cancer treatment. Given the right spin almost anything can be imagined to be gory and horrify
            • by raphae (754310)

              Considering that these are scientists and not high school biology students gone wild, I tend to believe that they would be working in a more orderly and methodical manner.

              You should read about the experiments done to develop genetically modified crops. Sure, we all hear about the wonderful successes of the technology, such as Roundup Ready soy or cotton which are supposed to save the world, but we never hear about the dozens of horrific failures it took to get the results they wanted. Cotton whose heads would just turn brown and fall off for no reason, or plants with grotesque malformations or other characteristics. If people knew about these grotesque monstrosities t

          • It's not so hard to visualize the baby seal[1] with its limbs torn apart, flailing desperately in an unimaginably painful - yet entirely futile - attempt to escape the shark as it comes around for another pass. It's absolutely horrific.

            Of course, you'll probably excuse the shark's behaviour because it's "just an animal" and it's "doing what its instincts tell it to" in order to survive. Well, humans are animals too, and we do what we think will benefit us. You think the shark would hesitate to experiment on
    • by chord.wav (599850)
      We already have head mounts and lasers that can do pretty good damage.

      What we really need is a battery good enough to power the laser without sinking the shark or disrupting the shark's swim. The battery ideally would be IN the shark to preserve it's hydrodynamic coefficient. And I guess that's where robot sharks comes in.

  • So long as there aren't any speedy blue ones to foul it all up...
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @10:42AM (#17276980)
    Please, how far can you beat a dead shark?
  • [insert mashup of "Jaws" and "James Bond" theme music here]
  • by lupine_stalker (1000459) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @10:49AM (#17277024)
    That all the people killed in Jaws were terrorists and/or illegal immigrants?
  • Friggin' lasers (Score:1, Redundant)

    by MrNaz (730548)
    I know I'm late on this one and the joke has already been made. But there is no way in HELL that I'm not making a post about friggin' lasers. So here it is.
    • ... what's up with lasers and sharks on Slashdot? I must have missed something some time.
      • by gravesb (967413)
        On the assumption that you are actually serious, watch Austin Powers.
      • by Don_dumb (927108)
        Watch this - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118655/ [imdb.com] and all should become clear.
      • Re:Please update me (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:05AM (#17277124)
        It's a line from Austin Powers [imdb.com] where Dr. Evil says that what he wanted was sharks with lasers on their heads and the other guy has to explain that sharks are endangered and so they settled for the next best thing -- sea bass.

        Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?
        Number Two: Sea Bass.
        Dr. Evil: [pause] Right.
        Number Two: They're mutated sea bass.
        Dr. Evil: Are they ill tempered?
        Number Two: Absolutely.
        Dr. Evil: Oh well, that's a start.
  • by unitron (5733) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @10:58AM (#17277082) Homepage Journal
    So does this mean that DARPA has officially jumped the shark?
    • by dangitman (862676)
      They could probably jump the sharks through hoops at Seaworld to get some extra funding $$$$$. But you'd really want the Fonz at the controls for maximum effect.
  • by quixote9 (999874) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:02AM (#17277112) Homepage
    Really. They were even training them to do various things. (Look for subs or something. I don't remember.) There was talk of training them to attach mines to enemy vessels. Then an outcry began--rightfully, as far as I'm concerned--that it was a Bad Thing to use such intelligent and simpatico animals for this. Now, I see, they've moved to sharks. No lobby supporting them, I'll bet, but the military also won't be able to train them to do much. Sharks are well below flounders in brain power.
    • by Hal_Porter (817932) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:49AM (#17277384)
      Really. They were even training them to do various things. (Look for subs or something. I don't remember.) There was talk of training them to attach mines to enemy vessels. Then an outcry began--rightfully, as far as I'm concerned--that it was a Bad Thing to use such intelligent and simpatico animals for this. Now, I see, they've moved to sharks. No lobby supporting them, I'll bet, but the military also won't be able to train them to do much. Sharks are well below flounders in brain power.

      They're not training them, they're remote controlling them

      http://www.bu.edu/alumni/buforward/archives/Dec_20 06/articles/spies.html [bu.edu]

      DARPA turned to Jelle Atema, a College of Arts and Sciences professor of biology at the Boston University Marine Program, who for many years has been researching how marine animals use their sense of smell. Atema proposed that because sharks are expert at tracking odors over very long distances, the key to steering a shark was to follow its nose. With more than a year of DARPA funding, which ended last year, Atema was able to use electrical stimulation of a sharks brain, mimicking odor, to guide the shark around a large tank.


      So the simplicity of the shark's brain is actually an advantage. From the shark's point of view, it's chasing the smell, presumably, of prey.

      Interestingly, something like this happens naturally. Parasitic wasps perform brain surgery to zombify roaches.

      http://www.boingboing.net/2006/02/03/wasp_performs _roachb.html [boingboing.net]

      Makes you wonder if you could do it with higher animals actually. Even though we seem to have aa certain amount of free will about how we achieve our objectives of eating and reproducing and avoiding pain, there's probably low level hardware in our the oldest parts of our brains which enforces those objectives by sending reward/punishment signals 'up' to the high level, conscious bits of our brains. I can imagine that if you attached electrodes in the right places, you could run mammals and even humans in remote controlled zombie mode too. It would be a hellish experience though, since you'd know your free will had been strongly curtailed.

      Still, look on the bright side, most /.'s seem to be quite skilled at ignoring the signals from their cerebellum to reproduce. So long as the evil scientists don't wire the neurons that reward you for successfully finding carbohydrate based junk food we should be immune.
      • by Venotar (233363)
        My understanding is there are some parasites that affect human brain functions - apparently there's a worm of sorts that can infect people through puncture wounds, but I wasn't able to find a specific reference to it in my quick search. There is a parasitic microbe in cats [wikipedia.org] that some scientists believe could have influenced the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxoplasma_gondii [slashdot.org]">de velopment of whole human cultures.

        Then there's the Gordian Worm [wikipedia.org] seen forcing a cricket to drown itself here [google.com]. Apparently it g
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by darkfire5252 (760516)
        They already solved that problem [slashdot.org].

        By using electricity to manipulate the nerves in the inner ear in the same way that the scientists are manipulating the nerves in the nose, scientists were able to make a person feel like they had to go a certain direction in order to keep their balance.
        • Yea the human model has been in use for some time now. DARPA lent out the prototype to Cheney in the late 90's, for field testing. The remote can't handle linguistics as well as they'd hoped, but otherwise it's worked perfectly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It would be a hellish experience though, since you'd know your free will had been strongly curtailed.

        For a second there I thought I was back in the Vista thread...
      • by quixote9 (999874)
        Trying to remote control sharks, judging by comments below. Still, given the simple nature of sharks' brains, I can see where that could be theoretically workable. As far as insects go, yes, there's some really bizarre stuff that goes on. "Alien" had nothing on some wasps. My favorite parasitism story is Wolbachia. Since the bacteria are passed to the next generation of insects through the eggs, the bacteria reprogram the host's reproductive system so that males either die, don't reproduce, or turn int
        • Since the bacteria are passed to the next generation of insects through the eggs, the bacteria reprogram the host's reproductive system so that males either die, don't reproduce, or turn into functional females. Probably don't need to worry too much about the macho DoD playing around with that one.

          Oh, I dunno -

          http://www.e-sheep.com/spiders/3.5/01_hospital.htm l [e-sheep.com]

          Can't see the lawyers allowing it, but feminizing most of those hostile Islamic societies would be a vast improvement, both for us and for the peopl
      • by chochos (700687)
        You can remote-control and zombify certain humans with carbon in a compressed form.
    • by antiaktiv (848995)
      They still use dolphins. You can watch them train in San Diego. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Navy_Marine_Mamm al_Program [wikipedia.org]
      • by quixote9 (999874)
        Hmm. I thought that program had been nixed. Looks like it never even hiccuped. I thought I remembered that sea lions had been used too. I guess the reason it bothers me so much that the military uses them for this is that I have a hard time believing the military is treating them like, say, seeing eye dogs. I figure the Navy thinks that if dolphins get blown up, it doesn't matter much. On the other hand, considering how much training must go into each animal, maybe the Navy cares more about them than
    • by cbacba (944071)
      obviously someone has been watching some really cruddy grade F sci-fi movies. I don't recall the name of it - but it's already been done by holy-wood. Hopefully, this unimaginative soul is some druggie poster who cannot comprehend the difference between reality and the cinema rather than some worthless derailed career officer who will forever be stuck as a major. Hopefully, neither saw that epitome of wasted film - Pirhana II with the flying, walking fish. Geez, the scifi channel sucks so much of the tim
  • by denttford (579202) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:04AM (#17277120) Homepage
    ...that DARPA has a division researching /. trolling.
  • It seems like most of the kinks are worked out, and the project has been classified. The really interesting part, though, is the potential civilian applications. If this doesn't harm the sharks, it seems a lot cheaper and more efficient means than either human divers or remote subs.
    • by Joebert (946227)
      If this doesn't harm the sharks, it seems a lot cheaper and more efficient means than either human divers or remote subs.

      Means of what ?
      I don't keep up with the news like I used to, but last I checked, sharks didn't have opposable thumbs or an easy way to attach robotic arms.
      • by gravesb (967413)
        According to the article, tracking fish groups and monitoring water tempature changes. It also mentions chemical spills, but that seems like it would hurt the sharks, so probably not as easy to justify.
        • I don't know about tracking fish groups, but you could certainly herd them in the right direction (i.e. into the fishing nets).

          <tinfoil racism> One wonders if the Japanese will call a sudden end to whaling... at about the same time schools of sharks start chasing whales toward the Japanese coastline where they beach themselves. </tinfoil racism>
    • by Maurice (114520)


      How do you send electrical signals to its brain without harming the shark? My guess is they drilled electrodes into the sharks' brains.
  • by SirBruce (679714) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:06AM (#17277136) Homepage
    Do the sharks have logos on them?

    Bruce
    • by Patik (584959)
      For those at don't get it, it's a reference to Lost [abc.com] (and actually the first thing I thought of before laser beams).
  • US army, now with more lawyers!

    -
  • Resistance is futile.
  • they will seek Samuel L. Jackson and eat him!
  • Dumb idea (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The Chinese will defeat this by increasing their uptake of shark fin soup by ten fold.
  • by jaypeg (711764) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:26AM (#17277228)
    The only thing worse than roving gangs of US Navy mind controlled sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads is a land shark from Mother Russia with a beowulf cluster!
    • by andphi (899406)
      What exactly is the Challenge Rating on an army of Russian-born Bulettes [d20srd.org]? It sounds fairly horrendous.
    • by blippy (844130)
      Contrary to what most people say, the most dangerous animal in the world is not the lion or the tiger or even the elephant. It's a shark riding on an elephant's back, just trampling and eating everything they see. -- Jack Handy
  • Ok, I've read them all so far and it's just BS comments about lasers.

    Anyway all I wanted was some serious post to attach my opinion to but since there are none a new post will have to do. And what I wanted to say is that I think this is both wrong and cruel against the animals, they aren't supposed to be drones for humans. Get real robots or put humans into it, but not animals, or even better yet just stop dumping oil, start wars or whatever.
    • by Hawkxor (693408)
      even better yet just stop dumping oil, start wars or whatever

      What does this have to do with the story? (-1, Hippie)

    • The original post should have been made under the Humor than the Science category. Yes, it is wrong and cruel to animals and perhaps a stupid use of tax money as well, and that makes it funny. No, there is nothing wrong to see humor in something that is wrong and cruel because that is one way to make people aware that something wrong and cruel is also stupid.
      • by Shakrai (717556)

        No, there is nothing wrong to see humor in something that is wrong and cruel because that is one way to make people aware that something wrong and cruel is also stupid.

        It's that same logic that compels me to point out that my Grandfather died at Auschwitz every time somebody starts talking about the Holocaust. Poor bastard fell out of a guard tower :(

    • by leoc (4746)
      I agree 100% about the sharks. DARPA could not have come up with a better way to help ensure the extinction of sharks, because now every country that thinks they have something to worry about will be catching and killing as many sharks as they can find, and the species is already heavily fished and at risk [planetsave.com].
      • by aliquis (678370)
        Didn't even thought about the possibility that during wars people might become even more affraid of them, anyway even the idea of "remote controlling" sharks, cockroaches or whatever is so fucked up. Let them live their lifes and do whatever they want to do with it.

        Some idiot moderated me -1 aswell, sure the begining was filled with useless crap but I didn't liked the fact that ALL the comments I read had those retarded laser jokes in them and nothing was on topic.
    • by Pichu0102 (916292)
      Ok, I've read them all so far and it's just BS comments about lasers.


      You must be new here.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jeffeb3 (1036434)
      I agree, it's horrible. Puting tracking devices on sharks is totally invading their privacy.
  • Overlords (Score:3, Funny)

    by youthoftoday (975074) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @11:32AM (#17277262) Homepage Journal
    I, for one, welcome our new robotic shark overlords.
  • Navy sharks (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If one of those beasts attacks me while I'm surfing, can I sue the navy for damages?
  • The Military, tired of Atemas' funding milkage, have enlisted Tucan Sam to train theese sharks to follow their nose to explosives.
    The Military plans to recoup their lost funding by excluding the part of the protocol that would make the sharks stop when they got to the explosives, then selling the Hi-Def video captured as the Digitally Remastered, Cut Scenes from the Jaws movies.
  • ...but all they'll be doing in the long run is teach other navies' that don't wish to be spied on to take out any fish that happens to wander too close - or better yet, just preemptively take out all large sealife so as not to interfere with our wargames. Animal rights activists will love that one.

    OTOH, we might have a new way of tracking enemy submarines - look for the trail of dead fish floating on the surface...

    • by hazzey (679052)
      ...but all they'll be doing in the long run is teach other navies' that don't wish to be spied on to take out any fish that happens to wander too close


      But we have already started on this path with all of the experiments with dolphins detecting divers and the like.

      Actually, why are they using sharks at all? Besides having sharp, pointing teeth, I wouldn't imagine that they would be any easier to train than dolphins.

  • A story comes along about a defense company funding shark development and the site lights up with countless ameteur attempts at SNL-quality writing.
  • I can see it now..."Waiter there's a laser in my soup!"

  • This [satirewire.com] needs to be updated...
  • .. like a bad movie I saw on SciFi. It sounds almost like Peter Benchley's "Creature", which was about a mutated shark. Then again there is that movie set "Shark Attack" 1, 2 and 3.

    I can read articles that are like this!

  • _____|\_____\o/_____ oh noes!! SHARK!!!
  • 'Dr. Evil: You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!' [imdb.com]
  • So it's just an automated vesion of Fabien Cousteau [apple.com]'s fake shark?
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @12:42PM (#17277718)
    I think the main military benefit to this technology is that it will force hostile nations to build chum launchers as a countermeasure. The notion is so disgusting it will reduce reenlistment rates for their navies.
  • by perrin (891) on Sunday December 17, 2006 @12:51PM (#17277796)
    This proposal is unethical on so many levels. Most urgently - many species of shark are already nearing extinction, and if subs and other sea vessels that would like to go undetected start killing any sharks that come close "just in case", they will disappear quickly. As noted in this slashdot story: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/2 3/0214242 [slashdot.org], and this one: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/01/1 7/1815250 [slashdot.org]

    Besides, this story is a dupe: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/0 2/0031225 [slashdot.org] was the previous one.
  • Gentlemen, I have taken nature's most dangerous killing machine, and needlessly made it a robot.
  • I was thinking about how we'll tag whales and dolphins with low power radio collars. It tracks time and depth and maybe a few other parameters. When the animal surfaces to breathe, the tag squirts off its collected data.

    Why not tag animals with something that measures, say, salinity and temperature and then gives this data to our submarines? Or that detects the presence of explosives trace? Radiation? Large sound transients... like a mobile living hydrophone network.

  • Hooray, we're yet again selfishly messing around with nature, causing it to substantially deviate from its normal patterns. The funny part will be when something gets messed up on a large scale (such as the ocean ecosystem becoming seriously disrupted and so forth) and people will be all surprised and shocked, "All we did was put electrodes in shark brains and have them do our bidding!"
  • Let's remote control every shark in existence. Then we won't have to worry about sharks attacking humans any more.
    • by chord.wav (599850)
      I bet the number would actually go up.

      Shark Controller (moving 2 levers constantly): MMMMM yummy surfer!!! DIEEEEE HAHAHAHAHA!!!
  • In Soviet Russia, Shark jumps YOU!
  • by Cyno01 (573917)
    LL Cool J will be the only one to survive...
  • that they could do this with sea turtles? I guess thats why we're looking at their natural predators. I think some Limies proved the theory with rats some time ago to.
  • Nah.. Spielberg did it first.

Wasn't there something about a PASCAL programmer knowing the value of everything and the Wirth of nothing?

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