Weed Zapper

by wjw on November 11, 2011

As I mentioned in an recent post, European scientists are about to use huge megalasers to create a rip in spacetime.

The U.S. Air Force has something a little more modest in mind.  They’ve just published a wish list of technologies they’d like to see developed, and one of them is a “Directed Energy Weed Abatement and Prevention Tool.”

Yes, the USAF is looking to kill weeds with ray guns.

“Develop a device that uses directed energy technology to prevent and abate unwanted plants (weeds) in areas that require control or defoliation. The purpose of this system will be the removal of unwanted plants and keep seeds from germinating.”

This isn’t necessarily as, umm, crazy as it sounds.  I mean, we’d all rather zap weeds with a magic jimjam than have to remove them by hand, right? Right now, the USAF has to pay contractors to do this, or deploy its warfighters against weeds rather than the enemy.

But do we really want the Air Force to do this?  Consider that their four largest transport plane projects are over budget by nearly $1 billion, that the World’s Most Expensive Fighter Plane, the F-22, was recently grounded for months because of its habit of poisoning its own pilots; and that the F-35, which was supposed to be the low-cost alternative to the F-22, has about tripled in cost, has now been grounded indefinitely due to technical problems, and has been described as a plane that “can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.”

Why do I have a feeling that by the time the Air Force is finished with their weed-zapper, they’ll cost 4.1 billion dollars apiece, require a crew of twelve, cause power blackouts whenever they’re fired, and require an evacuation up to a radius of 3.7 miles due to a discharge of radiation?

Dave Bishop November 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

As a conservationist and an amateur botanist I’m appalled by this crazy idea! As if the human race wasn’t destroying enough vegetation already (we should never forget that “all flesh is grass”).
A team from the University of Hull (UK) has recently published a paper on the importance of arable weeds and their seeds for biodiversity: ‘Seeds in farmland food webs: Resource importance, distribution and impact of farmland management’ by D.M. Evans, M.J.O. Pocock, J. Brooks and J. Memmott, ‘Biological Conservation’ Sept (?) 2011. It’s a sophisticated, quantitative study which shows that ‘weeds’ definitely serve to maintain ecosystems in heavily farmed environments.

jon spencer November 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm

The F-35 is not grounded, as of November 9 it was undergoing flight test at sea and had been for some time.
Though it is over budget and late on its schedule.

Bruce November 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Say what you will, it’s likely to do a lot less damage that Agent Orange (With Dioxin(tm)) that the airforce used last time.

Dave Bishop November 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm

I’ve read recently that, back in the 1960s, the UK Forestry Commission actually used Agent Orange to destroy ancient British woodland. They then replanted with conifers. Due to subsequent market conditions these plantations became uneconomic before they were fully grown.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the human psyche has evolved a meme which leads it to destroy the natural environment and this meme is much more powerful, and all pervasive, than the conservation meme which has evolved relatively recently; the destructive meme trumps the conservation meme every time. Give the human species another powerful tool to destroy the environment with and it will destroy as much as it thinks it can get away with.

mastadge November 11, 2011 at 5:31 pm

“The purpose of this system will be the removal of unwanted plants and keep seeds from germinating.”

I think USAF needs to invest in some editors.

I do think weed zappers may be a step up from weed control chemicals, which ultimately serve to breed hardier weeds, but I also think that this is not a tool we really need to be investing in right now.

Shash November 11, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Finally, a way for you to get rid of your rocket. Volunteer your place for testing.

Seriously, I am horrified by the idea. Long live plants.

Pete Johannsen November 12, 2011 at 2:55 am

This screams war on drugs to me. What a bunch of short sighted, money wasting, new-toy-obsesssed jackholes. Just what the hell happened to us? For at least half of my life most people would regard the US in general, and our military in particular as comparatively benign compared to most similar organizations. Did we finally open our eyes or did Emperor Palpentine grab the reins when I wasn’t looking?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Contact Us | Terms of User | Trademarks | Privacy Statement

Copyright © 2010 WJW. All Rights Reserved.