The Pentagon is known for its ominous pet projects, but here’s one we can honestly say doesn’t have us losing any sleep: Cyborg crickets.
No, seriously, cyborg crickets. This is a good thing!
Why? Simple. When a building collapses, say from an earthquake or a terrorist bombing, survivors are often trapped in the rubble. Sometimes they’re rescued, and sometimes, due to the nature of being buried alive under tons and even tonnes of rock (something we do lose sleep over), they aren’t.
Enter the cyborg crickets. What the Pentagon hopes to do is make these six-legged pests into chemical sniffers and eventually even human sniffers when catastrophe strikes.
They’ll do this by implanting electrodes into winged insects to control their wing muscles. The inaugural class of crickets, cicadas and katydids are already being worked on as I type this, so that their usual calls and communication will instead only occur in the presence of certain chemicals.
Additionally, scientists would “install” an acoustic sensor on our new six-legged saviors that’s “designed to respond to the altered calls of other insects.” Ultimately, this final modification would ensure a cascade effect amongst the insects, so that their signals are eventually picked up by ground-based human-controlled transceivers.
So the next time you’re trapped in a collapsed building, don’t crush that little guy who’s chirping madly into your ear. He may very well be trying to save your life. [New Scientist]