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Gates Foundation Funds "Altruistic Vaccine" 259

QuantumG writes "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Queensland, Australia to develop a vaccine against dengue fever, a disease spread by mosquitoes. Unlike other vaccines, the 'altruistic vaccine' doesn't specifically protect the individual being bitten, but instead protects the community by stopping the transmission of the pathogen from one susceptible individual to another. The hope is to do this by effectively making their blood poisonous to mosquitoes, either killing them or at least preventing them from feeding on other individuals. Professor Paul Young explained how his work fell outside current scientific traditions and might lead to significant advances in global health — he said he could envision the vaccine being used around the world within 10 years, and it would be designed to be cheap and easy to implement."

Texas Makes Zombie Fire Ants 398

eldavojohn writes "What do you do when a foreign species has been introduced to your land from another continent? Bring over the natural predator from the other continent. Scientists in Texas have introduced four kinds of phorid flies from South America to fight fire ants. These USDA approved flies dive bomb ants and lay an egg inside the ant. The maggot hatches and eats away juicy tender delicious ant brain until the ant is nothing more than a zombie that wanders around for two weeks before the head falls off and the ant dies. A couple of these flies will cause the ants to modify their behavior and this will be a very slow acting solution to curb the $1 billion in damage these ants do to Texas cattle ranches and — oddly enough — electrical equipment like circuit breakers. You may remember zombifying parasites hitting insects like cockroaches."

Packs of Robots Will Hunt Down Uncooperative Humans 395

Ostracus writes "The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to 'develop a software/hardware suite that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject. The main research task will involve determining the movements of the robot team through the environment to maximize the opportunity to find the subject ... Typical robots for this type of activity are expected to weigh less than 100 Kg and the team would have three to five robots.'" To be fair, they plan to use the Multi-Robot Pursuit System for less nefarious-sounding purposes as well. They note that the robots would "have potential commercialization within search and rescue, fire fighting, reconnaissance, and automated biological, chemical and radiation sensing with mobile platforms."

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