Bug zapping

No video this time, but I have a provisional answer to the question I'm sure you've all been asking:

Can you kill an insect with a 350mW laser?

Well, I just managed to shoot a cockroach off the wall.

The bug clearly didn't like the beam on its body. It wasn't possible for me to hold the beam still enough to just burn the roach's head clean off (350mW will burn most plastic just about instantly, and is clearly powerful enough to incinerate a bug's head, but only if you hold the beam still on the target for a moment). But after I'd shot the roach for several seconds it fell off the wall, into the grasp of the rather intrigued cats.

(Who then probably juggled it for a bit and then lost it under the fridge, or something. They're not exactly killers.)

I don't think the beam had actually damaged the roach enough that it had to fall off the wall; I think its little flowchart brain had just decided that it was being exposed to fire, or something, and should therefore engage its emergency drop-to-somewhere-safer subroutine.

I await the arrival of a mosquito with interest.

9 Responses to “Bug zapping”

  1. Stark Says:

    This made me laugh out loud. Mostly because there is a TV ad that ran for awhile here where an exterminator is setting up a laser system to kill an ant... and here you are, actually doing it. Of course, if the laser is capable of damaging plastic instantly I wonder what it would do a wall painted in a dark color.....

  2. ZorglubZ Says:

    The first thought was of Robert L. Forward's "Dragon's Egg"... which starts off with a malformed (pink skinned) alien feeling the laser being used to scan the surface of the neutron star it's living on...... which is still one of the best SF (hard or not) novels I've ever read.

    [I have now gotten around to reading that book. The pink alien actually arrives quite a way into the story, but I concur with your overall evaluation. -Dan]

  3. catmacey Says:

    I tried the exact same thing with a mosquito last week. My laser is only a 5mW "tactical-green" from qualitychinagoods.com so I wasn't expecting instant annihilation, but it did seem to upset the mosquito quite a bit.
    It's not a very practical method of dealing with mozzies but is actually very satisfying, irrespective of what the wife thinks...
    I'm envisioning some sort dual laser system with a low power targeting laser just enough to spot but not disturb the bug, coupled with a much more powerful single pulse high power death ray. I'm thinking orbital laser platform from Akira... Of course it'd need some sort of overly complex charging/arming sequence with attendant lights and noises.
    Anyway, the bad news was that after all the messing about with the laser all I managed to do was annoy the mosquito rather than kill it so I was bitten about 8 times that night!

  4. ratkins Says:

    Ahem. I would like to claim the credit for inspiring Dan on this one via email a couple of weeks ago, after a particularly rough night. My idea was for some kind of spinning mirror arrangement creating a WALL OF GREEN LASER DEATH stretching across the whole aperture of the window.

    But even more fun would be some kind of targeted system. A little turret sitting in the corner of the room, spinning around, tracking the little fuckers and dropping them out of the air with barely perceptible PULSES OF GREEN LASER DEATH.

    (I ended up getting flexible flyscreens, which unfortunately work very well).

  5. RichVR Says:

    You know the bit that George Carlin does about sentences you never hear? I believe that "I await the arrival of a mosquito with interest" falls into that category.

  6. Alan Says:

    Interesting concept.. a 2x2 grid of sensors should be able to triangulate a position. Some DSP to filter out non-mosquito freqencies.
    Sensors might have limited range. Better have a 2x2 grid on each wall. Oh and TWO lasers (or more) in the ceiling corners giving a total mozzie zap of 700mW to 1400mW.

    And if the mozzie is sitting on your nose at the time?

  7. Falk Says:

    I can't wait for some lunatic animal rights people to pick this story up.

    Then they can back to telling us what intolerable cruelty antibiotics represent to those poor, hard done by prokaryotes.

  8. Daniel Rutter Says:

    I think they're all booked up with their protests against the free availability of magnifying glasses to small boys.

  9. ralph Says:

    One data point. Preying mantis 1.5"long, green, 5mW green LASER caused death in

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