Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sharks: The New SEALS?

A British magazine is reporting that the Pentagon is about to turn sharks into soldiers. Not the killing machine type, although sharks are naturally well suited to that task, but the scout and snoop type.

It sounds fishy to me.

The BBC report quotes The New Scientist magazine saying the Pentagon is on the verge of creating "stealth spies" capable of sensing delicate electrical gradients and following chemical trails. Sure, those sound like good capabilities for sub-chasing, but the state of the science and the state of The New Scientist fantasy sound pretty far removed.

BBC says the mag reports:
[B]rain implant technology ... has already seen scientists controlling the movements of fish, rats and monkeys.

"Neural implants consists of a series of electrodes that are embedded into the animal's brain, which can then be used to stimulate various functional areas," the magazine says.

It says such devices are already being used by scientists at Boston University to "steer" a spiny dogfish in a fish tank.

Getting a dogfish to turn is cool enough, but it's a long way from that to encouraging sharks to track moving man-made objects. After all, we don't want to steer them; we want them to steer us to the Ruskies or the Chinese lurking offshore in their boomers.

But if you're planning on writing the next James Bond novel, you'll like this:

"As wild predators, it is very easy to exhaust them.... Despite this limitation, though, remote-controlled sharks do have advantages that robotic underwater surveillance vehicles just cannot match: they are silent, and they power themselves," the magazine says.

"What's your name?" she bubbled.

"White. Great White," he replied, sipping his very wet Martini.

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