Friday, March 17, 2006

Cry Havoc! And unleash the bugs of war…

Those wacky pranksters of the Pentagon are once again pushing the envelope on the words “unethical”, “impractical” and “deeply disturbing” with yet another attempt to turn animals into weapons.

After their recent fun and games with remote-controlled sharks, they’re trying the same trick with insects. By integrating microelectronics into butterfly larvae, they hope to direct the adults as bomb detectors or spies.

You might think that this is paranoid nonsense. And you’d be right. There are clearly unhinged minds at work here, which covers the paranoia, and the insects themselves have supplied the nonsense but firmly refusing to co-operate. Early trials with wasps quickly degenerated into farce: these skinheads of the insect world cheerfully ignored their remote controls, opting instead to obey their God-given primal instincts to mate, lay eggs, and ruin picnics. Unless Osama Bin Laden is sitting outside his cave on a red check tablecloth, wrestling with a mayonnaise jar, he can probably rest easy.

Nor is this the first time that the military has failed to overcome the natural limitations their unfortunate subjects.

In the Second World War, attempts were made to stick a bomb on a cat and drop it from a dive-bomber on to Nazi ships. The concept was that the cat, hating water, would "wrangle" itself on to enemy ship's deck. Result: the cats proved strangely ill-equipped to deal with being slung out of aircraft and operating parachutes, and promptly passed out in mid-air. However, 2nd Lt Muffy “Whiskas” Miaow, King’s Own Tortoiseshells, did go on to escape from Colditz a record three times, repeatedly taking the war to the enemy even in captivity, and killing an alsatian guard dog in his final ill-fated attempt by cleverly wedging his corpse in its throat.

Also during WWII, another winner. Attach incendiaries to bats, induce hibernation, and then drop them from planes. They wake up, fly any into nearby buildings (such as factories) to roost, and then blow up. Alas, hibernation takes several hours to fully recover from: the bats universally plummeted to their deaths, to the strains of the Last Post.

But it’s not all abysmal failure. During the Vietnam War, dolphins were trained to tear the diving gear off of Vietcong divers and drag them to interrogation, and even to use syringes placed on their flippers to inject carbon dioxide into the divers, causing them to explode. Whereupon they jumped through a hoop, rang a bell and got a fish. About 40 divers are thought to have met this truly bizarre end. Did they know what was happening to them? Did the dolphins?

Fortunately, there are also civilian applications. The New York Police Department, for example, is trying to wire up rats to find people trapped in collapsed buildings. Let’s hope that instinct does not win the inevitable conflict of interest in this case, too. After all, in the normal course of events, a rat doesn’t want to find live bodies in the wreckage – what it really needs is dead ones. But if hungry, it’ll settle for one that can’t writhe or kick too much. If the NYPD is reading this, well, keep your fingers on the “Off” switch, boys…


The Navy’s cutest secret weapon, yesterday. No Flipper jokes, if you know what’s good for you.

16 comments:

Gorilla Bananas said...

The idea of using insects as spies has a lot of promise. I often notice locusts giving me shifty looks out of the corner of their compound eyes. They won't do suicide missions, though. You'd have to give them time to escape.

Desargues said...
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Desargues said...

The Pentagon would do well to look to Hollywood for true inspiration for how to use bionics to lethal purposes:

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.

Ivan the Terrible said...

Hi GB - unfortunately, locusts only fly when they swarm, and ten billion of the things carpeting every horizontal surface in a three mile radius is not what you'd call "covert".

Des, good point, well made, but alas I think that's exactly what they did do, with the remote controlled shark thingy. Our tax dollars at work...

Foot Eater said...

Lemmings would be good for suicide missions, surely?

Ivan the Terrible said...

Nah - too predictable. The enemy would soon learn to stay away from cliffs. That or buy an umbrella.

R. Sherman said...

I marvel at the moral equivalance. Bomb-bedecked insects annoying enemy combatants = Bad. Bomb-bedecked children in pizza parlors of non-combatants = Hollywood fundraisers.

Query?

Cheers.

Ivan the Terrible said...

Well, I'm not going to any Hollywood fundraisers, either - tho' if they ever held any in an Israeli pizza parlour I might tune in.

But you're confusing ethical worries about means with hypocrisy re ends, if you don't mind my saying so. My main problem with the bugs is not that they'll be used on enemy combatants, but that they demonstrably don't work. Also, my phobias are bad enough already without adding in the possibility that someone is actively directing the wasp up my trouser leg...

Dr. E. Scientist, phD. said...

Insect repellent Vs. Remote control wasp. Hmmmmm...

Desargues said...

What is the deal with the quote from 'Faust' in Russian at the top of your blog, Mr Terrible? Engaging in a bit of East Europeans baiting, aren't we? I wonder if your Hungarian wife is aware of the kind of activities you engage in these days. ;-)

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

I saw on the telly a while back a thing where scientists, trying to fuse hydrogen into helium had to find some way of suspending the hydrogen fuel in a glass bead the same width as a human hair while they blasted it with loads of lasers to produce the temperatures needed to bring about the fusion.

They somehow trained spiders (can't remember what sort) to weave the bead, like they would an insect, and suspend it between wo posts.

Cool!

I don't believe any spiders were harmed in the helium production, but I tell you they'd better be nippy on their pins 'cos the laser beams were each in the trillions of watts ball-park.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

The Scottish midge has long been know as a crack commando in the field of warfare. It flies to great height, scanning the machair for any exposed inch of flesh, on man, woman or sheep and then dive-bombs them with little regard for it's own safety. Life is cheap to a disaffected midge, brought up in Thatcher's Britain. It doesn't need any remote control because it is driven by pure malice.

Unfortunately, meetings with top midges have, so far, failed to convince them to ally themselves with us in the War on Terror, and they continue to prefer to exercise their guerilla tactics on the pleasure-seeking holiday-makers of Scotland.

Gits.

Ivan the Terrible said...

"pleasure-seeking holiday-makers of Scotland"

Can there be souls so deluded? Sounds like another euphemism for care in the community to me...

R. Sherman said...

Ivan, I wasn't criticizing you. I was imagine the outrage of the PETA types at the use of critters as weapons, when other issues tend to be ignored.

BTW, for future German bashing purposes remember this Goethe quote:

"Gott bewahre uns von der Pest und Deutschen im Ausland."

Cheers.

Ivan the Terrible said...

That Goethe knew his Germans all right.

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