Dr. Dolittle at Darpa

The Pentagon’s defence scientists want to create an army of cyber-insects
that can be remotely controlled to check out explosives and send transmissions.

The idea is to insert micro-systems at the pupa stage, when the insects
can integrate them into their body, so they can be remotely controlled

Experts told the BBC some ideas were feasible but others seemed "ludicrous".

A similar scheme aimed at manipulating wasps failed when they flew off
to feed and mate.

The new scheme is a brainwave of the Defence Advanced Research Projects
Agency (Darpa), which is tasked with maintaining the technological superiority
of the US military.

from the BBC

Darpa, of course, are the clever darlings who really invented
the internet (get real, Al Gore), named at that embrionic stage Arpanet.
Not all their
projects, however, have turned out quite that well…

Our favorite part of the article is a breif review of other US attempts
to use animals in warfare. To wit:


WWII: Attach a bomb to a cat and drop it from a dive-bomber on to Nazi
ships. The cat, hating water, will "wrangle" itself on to
enemy ship’s deck. In tests cats became unconscious in mid-air

WWII: Attach incendiaries to bats. Induce hibernation and drop them from
planes. They wake up, fly into factories etc and blow up. Failed to wake
from hibernation and fell to death

Vietnam War: Dolphins trained to tear off diving gear of Vietcong divers
and drag them to interrogation, sources linked to the programme say.
Syringes later placed on dolphin flippers to inject carbon dioxide into
divers, who explode. US Navy has always denied using mammals to harm

also from the BBC

Incomplete list. We are reminded of the strange
and somewhat sad case of Richard Hernstein, know among Harvard undergraduates
the day as the "Pigeon Professor."

Hernstein, who as a grad student had demonstrated
his slavish dedication to the advancement of science and blind obedience
his Harvard mentor, B.
F. Skinner, by volunteering his firstborn son while still an infant
to be placed in a "Skinner Box" in a Harvard Psych lab, basically a featureless,
neutral environment, a padded white sterile capsule, where every stimuli
be controlled,
measured and observed, would later become famous for his controversial
work linking intelligence with genetic (and racial) differences between

But the most bizarre chapter in his career occurred
during the Korean War when his early work with visual acuity, intelligence
and pigeons
came to the attention of the boys in the Pentagon. Probably Darpa, if
it existed back then, or its predecessor. At the time they were hard
at work on the seeds of the technology that would later come to be
guided missiles, laser guided bombs, camera-in the-nosecone weapons,
heat-seeking, etc.

Back in the 50’s, though, they were still groping for ways to self-direct
the explosives, and one of the ideas they were exploring was animal-directed
bombs. Pigeons have excellent eyes – they can spot a tasty morsel of
regurgitated fried dough from hundreds of feet in the air. Hernstein
had shown that pigeons could be trained to peck at certain shapes on
a piece of paper, in a photograph, or on a touch-sensative screen.

The idea was to have a bird in the nosecone of each
bomb or missile, pecking at an image of the target projected on a screen
from the nose
of the missile, and steering it accordingly. According to Hernstein himself
during and aside in the course we took from him (and the only thing
we remember from that course), the result of three years of top secret
and several million taxpayers dollars was the realization that although
the pigeons performed well, accuracy was not within acceptable limits.

Interesting, and the focus of the third year of
research, was the fact that if THREE pigeons were lodged in each bomb,
and their pecking triangulated, the
resulting accuracy WAS within the target range. However, with
three pigeons and all of their necessary equipment, there was no room
left in the bomb for explosives. Another brilliant innovation wrecked
on the shoals of martial realities.

The butterflies sound promising, though…

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