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Comment Re:A noble effort, but... (Score 1) 137

Fair enough, although I'm a little surprised when you say there's no statistical difference between genera. We haven't previously encountered such a strong negative reaction to the "wingbeat hypothesis," but it's obviously an issue. As a physicist, I appreciate the comparison to perpetual motion machines, and have no desire to make unsupportable claims. I'll point our more mosquito-knowledgeable folks (yes, we do have some involved) at your post and references.

Comment Re:A noble effort, but... (Score 1) 137

As the lead inventor of this particular piece of bogus technology (Tom N. worked on the project under my direction) I'll politely disagree. Of course, popular articles oversimplify -- we don't expect to be able to identify the species of a single mosquito on the wing with 100% accuracy. We can, however, measure the frequency at which an individual mosquito flaps its wings, and, on average, that differs from species to species, and differs quite a lot between males and females of a given species. So we can indeed tell individual males from females, and with wingbeat frequency and other data we expect to be able to get a pretty good statistical estimate of the population distribution among species in a given area. And indeed, we are very interested in applications of the system, without the killing mechanism, to collect data on insect populations.

Comment Re:Wrong technology (Score 1) 98

Diffraction. Lasers have a wavelength of around 1 micron; the shortest-wavelength microwaves we can make at high power (using gyrotrons, incidentally; unlike lasers, masers are low power, and are now quite obsolete as microwave amplifiers) are around 2 millimeters, 2000 times longer. The antenna/telescope diameter is proportional to wavelength, and the aperture *area* (which is what costs money) is proportional to the wavelength *squared*.

Comment Re:Forgot the Mercury Maze (Score 1) 404

Actually, not much would happen -- metallic mercury is pretty innocuous. I had a pretty extensive chem lab in the garage at age 9 or so, including about 5 lb of mercury in a bottle -- I'd pour some out and play with the loose drops on a plate. Demonstrating the formation of amalgams by dipping a penny in mercury used to be a common chemistry demonstration. Mercury vapor is toxic if inhaled, so heating mercury (or working with lots of mercury for a long time) in an enclosed space is bad. And mercury dumped into the environment gets converted to organomercury compounds (which *are* very toxic) quite a bit faster than people thought back in the 60's, which is why most places treat mercury as hazardous waste: they want to discourage people pouring it down drains. But small amounts of metallic mercury? no big deal.

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PL/I -- "the fatal disease" -- belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra, SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 17, Number 5