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Drones Distribute Swarms of Sterile Mosquitoes to Stop Zika and Other Diseases

Keeping a million mosquitoes alive on board a drone isn’t as easy as you think

4 min read
Photo: Dan Vostok/Getty Images
Bug Off: Of the 3,000 mosquito species in the world, just three spread most human diseases.
Photo: Dan Vostok/Getty Images

The deadliest animal onEarth, by far, is the mosquito. Each year, mosquitoes infect about 700 million people with diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and Zika. Millions of people die annually from mosquito-borne illnesses, and many of those diseases can’t be cured with drugs. It’s best to avoid being bitten in the first place, but this is becoming more difficult as the insects expand their range, migrating north with warming climates.

For decades, government agencies and nonprofit organizations have tried to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases in developing countries by spraying large areas with insecticides. But that process is expensive, especially as mosquitoes develop resistance to commonly used chemicals. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun to look for other mosquito control methods.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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