Sure, this project is the product of a great humanitarian impulse: wiping out malaria, which claims about a million lives a year. But you can tell the astrophysicists are having a blast with it, too.
First, I'd like to commend the Wall Street Journal for what's probably their best headline ever: "Rocket Scientists Shoot Down Mosquitoes With Lasers." I hope whoever wrote it isn't too entertaining to keep his job there.
The project, started by Microsoft alum Nathan Myhrvold, is part of the effort to eradicate malaria in the third world, where it's a major cause of death. In testing the lasers, the researchers used an old Dell desktop to locate and zap the mosquitoes. The computer registered each successfully felled mosquito with a gunshot bang, which is how you know this is a fun experiment.
The problem now, of course, is how to kill or blind mosquitoes without killing people or harmless animals. Possible solutions include a range of lasers around a house or village that blinds the mosquitos, or even a plane that emits a sweeping motion of blinding light. The tech is so sharp that it can even tell a male from a female mosquito by the pattern of its wings; it's an important distinction, since only the females transmit malaria.
This is really a humanitarian effort we can get behind. And by get behind, I mean can I be part of the elite Anti-Mosquito Laser Task Force? [Wall Street Journal]