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Never mind the Black Helicopters, look out for the Dragonflies.
October 12, 2007 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Reports have been circulating of insects hovering over anti-war rallies recently. Paranoia? Research? It's getting discussion in a lot of mainstream places.
posted by Mcable (74 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

No way, really?
posted by arcticwoman at 12:43 PM on October 12, 2007


we need some portable EMP devices to aim at the swarms, that should clear this up one way or another.
posted by edgeways at 12:45 PM on October 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


arcticwoman writes "No way, really?"

I has a colleague in grad school who was doing this, but I don't know that he had DARPA funding. And they were flightless cockroaches. He could definitely control their motion, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:46 PM on October 12, 2007


There's an easy way to find out. Start showing up at rallies carrying a butterfly net. If you get tased or disappeared, then the insects are probably surveillance devices.
posted by hattifattener at 12:47 PM on October 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


They like heat?
posted by taursir at 12:48 PM on October 12, 2007


The next step is to arrest anyone wielding one of these as a suspected terrorist.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:49 PM on October 12, 2007


Dammit, hattifattener!
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:49 PM on October 12, 2007


Thanks for my daily dose of crazy.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:50 PM on October 12, 2007


Well, I don't know if the tiny one they had pictured was supposed to be a mock-up or not, but since most of the pictures were of flying devices that ranged in size from eight inches across to several feet, I'd be hard pressed to be fooled into thinking that these were insects.
posted by quin at 12:53 PM on October 12, 2007


Are these the same bugs that assaulted the Yankees during that playoff game?
posted by exogenous at 12:54 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yikes, this is a scary prospect.
posted by agregoli at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2007


Puts the bug into bugging.

a butterfly net

ROFL
posted by nickyskye at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2007


I think they hover over pro-war rallies too. And chili cook-offs. And steaming turds. And my aunt Grace.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


I has a colleague in grad school

Someone's been looking at too many lolcats, methinks.
posted by dersins at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


If they move like dragonflies, they're probably just dragonflies. DC has some fairly large ones (a few inches long), here on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay.
posted by zennie at 12:57 PM on October 12, 2007


I know, ask the president. Whatever he says we can assume the opposite is true.
posted by edgeways at 12:59 PM on October 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


i for one am happy to see that someone is finally acknoweldging that the cockroaches are spying on me

also links requested for about how the trees talking shit about me

in return i will link back here from my geocities page

thank you
posted by Greg Nog at 1:00 PM on October 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


God, I love DARPA...
posted by SweetJesus at 1:00 PM on October 12, 2007


Why would they bother to go to this kind of trouble when existing technology already has everyone in public spaces on video 24/7?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:01 PM on October 12, 2007


I don't like where this is headed...


...the future, I mean, not the thread.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:01 PM on October 12, 2007


And I for one welcome our robot insect overlords etc. etc.
posted by stargell at 1:01 PM on October 12, 2007


If they move like dragonflies, they're probably just dragonflies. DC has some fairly large ones (a few inches long), here on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay.

Nope.

Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Dragonfly, developed by the CIA's Office of Research and Development.
posted by nickyskye at 1:02 PM on October 12, 2007


The internet is turning into one giant deafeningly stupid cacophonous misinformation echo chamber conspiracy theory amplifier. I like. More please.
posted by srboisvert at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2007


Oh, and 20 comments, and not one about welcoming our new insect overlords? What happened to the MetaFilter of my youth?
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2007


GODDAMMIT, STARGELL!!!!!!
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2007


these dragonflies, they vibrate?
posted by quonsar at 1:06 PM on October 12, 2007


Oh, right, the Associated Press is part of the whole conspiracy tinfoil hat gang.
posted by nickyskye at 1:07 PM on October 12, 2007


I, for one, welcome our overlord welcoming overlords.
posted by katillathehun at 1:07 PM on October 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


Paranoia, with a little mass hysteria thrown in.
posted by yhbc at 1:10 PM on October 12, 2007


admittedly, first thought I had reading the headline:

anti-war rally ---> lots of unwashed hippies camping out ---> insects
posted by NikitaNikita at 1:11 PM on October 12, 2007




Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

Dr. Cronenberg; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Freakish Terrifying Cyborg Zombie Spy-Bugs

Also! What is for dinner tonight?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:11 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


If someone pointed to a bunch of small flying objects and said "I think that those aren't bugs. I think that they are robotic listening devices." I would either (1) think that they were crazy and walk away or (2) go over there and swat one of them and then pick it up. Then I would know. Is this unreasonable? You would think that this would be the first step that these people took before telling the Washington Post about it or posting things to the internet. I am good at swatting bugs, just call me the next time you see one of these things. We'll clear this shit up.
posted by ND¢ at 1:14 PM on October 12, 2007


Silly non-believers, God created dragonflies as spies for the US government. Only now do we have an administration pious enough to receive their holy debriefings.
posted by mullacc at 1:16 PM on October 12, 2007 [3 favorites]


I love to travel!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:22 PM on October 12, 2007


MIT's Technology Review:
“A life-size, robotic fly has taken flight at Harvard University. Weighing only 60 milligrams, with a wingspan of three centimeters, the tiny robot's movements are modeled on those of a real fly. While much work remains to be done on the mechanical insect, the researchers say that such small flying machines could one day be used as spies, or for detecting harmful chemicals.

‘Nature makes the world's best fliers,’ says Robert Wood, leader of Harvard's robotic-fly project and a professor at the university's school of engineering and applied sciences.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] is funding Wood's research in the hope that it will lead to stealth surveillance robots for the battlefield and urban environments. The robot's small size and fly-like appearance are critical to such missions. ‘You probably wouldn't notice a fly in the room, but you certainly would notice a hawk,’ Wood says.”

Watch the fly take off.

See the wing move in slow motion.
posted by ericb at 1:23 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


So ... if these are surveillance dragonflies, what exactly do they learn by flying them over antiwar rallies? "Yep, those protestors wear hats! And some of them are bald! Get me the president!"
posted by Camofrog at 1:25 PM on October 12, 2007


The bigger question is this: what is the relationship between the CIA dragonflies and the Mole-kings? Did the CIA sell Australia to the Mole-kings? Are the chem-trails a sign that the Mole-kings have finally defeated the Gnomes of Zurich?

My god people, we're through the looking-glass here!!

...and I haven't even STARTED to address the issue of the Protosyndicalist Conspiracy and why they're hiding the fact that the universe is Geocentric! If it isn't, then someone tell me why Kombinat subsapien thugs are trying to steal our precious bodily fluids! You can't, can you?!?
posted by aramaic at 1:26 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Of course, a reasonable person might wonder why an agency would go to the trouble to launch a swarm of super-technologically-advanced (and presumably super expensive) robotic insects to hover over a public anti-war rally, when it could get better information by, say, sending in people pretending to be participants in the anti-war rally. I mean, it's not like these rallies check to make sure you have your proper anti-war paperwork at the door.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:26 PM on October 12, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe dragonflies are attracted to the smell of B.O. and patchouli oil.
posted by Reggie Digest at 1:28 PM on October 12, 2007


Harvard Microrobotics Lab.
posted by ericb at 1:29 PM on October 12, 2007


Don't listen to pardyou! That's the kind of talk The Man uses to poison and destroy!

Rationality is a tool of the corrupt power structure! It's what They want you to think!

You can't defeat the subsapien thugs with your mind! Thought brings slavery! If you think, they'll just spy on your brain, using the tiny transmitters in my teeth! We have to shatter the power structure of the Mole-kings while we still can!

Why would the CIA use fantastically advanced spy insects, rather than cheap shotgun microphones, parabolic dishes, and high-powered lenses? I'll tell you: because the Mole-kings tell them to! People, I beg you, before it's too late! They're going to make us invade Andorra next!
posted by aramaic at 1:33 PM on October 12, 2007


Media coverage of Harvard Prof. Robert Wood and the Microrobotics Lab.

As stated in many of the articles, they were able to get the 'robotic insect' to fly this summer, but still need to devise an onboard power source and design it so that it can operate without being attached to a tether, etc.
posted by ericb at 1:35 PM on October 12, 2007


With each passing day, I become more convinced that Ted was right.
Mostly.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:36 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Dragonfly, developed by the CIA's Office of Research and Development.

Yeah, that looks like a dragonfly, but I'd be very surprised if it could move like one. Besides, I'm not about to believe the military is going to release expensive new spy toys in DC, where there are so many other surveillance options available with the FBI on the corner and the Pentagon on the other side of the river.
posted by zennie at 1:40 PM on October 12, 2007


Maybe dragonflies are attracted to the smell of B.O. and patchouli oil.

As a particular data point, I was on a little vacation in New Hampshire this summer and I was in the middle of a good three days of pretty mountain man/backwoods hippie kind of behavior (Black Sabbath, cigars, whiskey, a little bit of reefer, Bar-B-Q, camp fires, bathing only in the lake, gutting fish, no patchouli - God between us and evil- of course) and I was sitting there peacefully at one point and a fucking monster dragonfly flew out of nowhere and banged into my face*.

I whacked it away and assumed that it was sent by the government, but maybe they do just like hippie-stink.


* I also saw a bear up close, when I ran inside and said "holy shit yo I just saw a bear" this one dude said "Don't worry they're more scared of you then you are of them." I said "That's highly fucking unlikely since I'm in here yelling about a bear and he's outside rummaging through the fucking trash cans." I bet that bear was from the government too.
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:41 PM on October 12, 2007 [9 favorites]


Do yo not want your gov. to have a tool to fight islamo-facist?

some of the comments under the popsci article are just tragic.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:41 PM on October 12, 2007


There are still anti-war rallies going on somewhere?
posted by NorthernLite at 1:44 PM on October 12, 2007


There are still anti-war rallies going on somewhere?

Uh, yeah -- like the one in Washington DC a few weeks ago.
posted by ericb at 1:46 PM on October 12, 2007


Uh, yeah -- like the one in Washington DC a few weeks ago.

Which is the rally referenced in the Washington Post article in the first hyperlink of the FPP.
posted by ericb at 1:48 PM on October 12, 2007


Use silly string on 'em. Simple solution.
posted by SPUTNIK at 1:55 PM on October 12, 2007


Divine_Wino: see the problem is, they ARE more afraid of you than you are of them. But they only attack WHEN THEY'RE AFRAID!!!!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:56 PM on October 12, 2007


Yes, it's high-tech robotic insects monitoring the anti-war rallies.

Because, of course, we can't just walk up and take fucking pictures of these things.

/me silently weeps for the future
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:05 PM on October 12, 2007


Metafilter: America can be very sneaky.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:08 PM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Of course, a reasonable person might wonder why an agency would go to the trouble to launch a swarm of super-technologically-advanced (and presumably super expensive) robotic insects to hover over a public anti-war rally, when it could get better information by, say, sending in people pretending to be participants in the anti-war rally.
Especially when one of the referenced protests is on the National Mall, which is undoubtedly saturated with microphones, cameras, heat sensors, radiation monitors, and every other conceivable mode of surveillance. Occam's razor, nickyskye, et al., Occam's razor. It's not that I doubt the possibility of such devices, it's that I doubt the utility and/or necessity of deploying them in DC and NYC.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2007


Insect Robots aside it's not too hard for the government [or anybody] to simply use a video camera to video tape the protests and get the same information. Why go the the trouble to make it secret by using robotics? it's not like videotaping is illegal.
posted by Rashomon at 2:12 PM on October 12, 2007


Shades of Danny Dunn. Abrashkin and Williams were 30 years ahead of their time, but they got the out-of-control, authoritarian, intent-on-spying-on-its-own-citizens military-industrial complex thing down perfectly anyhow.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:14 PM on October 12, 2007


These would be an incredibly useful technology (a la nits of Nu Nu, for all you Illusion fans out there) though not for anti-war rallies, for the reasons mentioned above. If it doesn't exist yet, I'm guessing it soon will.

I do know from personal experience that somebody's looking looking through anti-war rally pictures for people who aren't supposed be there (as in, military officers, etc).
posted by small_ruminant at 2:16 PM on October 12, 2007


Still, don’t let this put you off Dragonflies. They are kick ass insects and eat mosquitos.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:40 PM on October 12, 2007


If you've ever flown a mini helicopter outside, it's hard to imagine something this small flying successfully when the Beaufort number is equal to or greater than 1.
posted by MtDewd at 4:21 PM on October 12, 2007


If you've ever flown a mini helicopter outside, it's hard to imagine something this small flying successfully when the Beaufort number is equal to or greater than 1.

I'm sorry - this thread has been closed to relevant comments. Do you have any paranoia to share? Because if not...

Me? I'm waiting for the fundies to figure out that tiny robotic spiders with poison payloads would be far more useful.

*scratches shoulder*
posted by mr_book at 4:54 PM on October 12, 2007


but they got the out-of-control, authoritarian, intent-on-spying-on-its-own-citizens military-industrial complex thing down perfectly anyhow.

They were also pretty good on VR helmets, for 1974.
posted by smackfu at 5:06 PM on October 12, 2007


Metafilter: Paranoia, with a little mass hysteria thrown in.
posted by qldaddy at 5:16 PM on October 12, 2007


a reasonable person might wonder why an agency would go to the trouble to launch a swarm of super-technologically-advanced (and presumably super expensive) robotic insects to hover over a public anti-war rally, when it could get better information by, say, sending in people pretending to be participants in the anti-war rally. I mean, it's not like these rallies check to make sure you have your proper anti-war paperwork at the door.

Don't underestimate the many bizarre paths that can be explored and rationalized as a result of the fantastically large US military budget.
posted by MillMan at 5:24 PM on October 12, 2007


DARPA has spent a lot of money researching biologically inspired robotics. When I was an undergraduate my first lab job (for a DARPA project) was to insert stimulus probes into giant cockroaches. We had a reasonable degree of control over the beasts, and they could haul a huge amount of weight with respect to their mass (including miniature cameras). This project also developed the RHex Robot. That project was renewed by DARPA as the Rise Robot which is still under active development. From what I have heard the robot can use gecko adhesive to climb smooth surfaces.

One of the graduate students I worked with said that at an ICRA conference he went to a few years ago there was a small flying bot. It was about 50g and it could take off and land in a controlled (i.e. wind free) environment. The control systems for something like that to fly freely would be insane. That said, conventional ultralight UAVs are getting pretty small.

While all of this is all military funded research, most of the scientists involved would be really hesitant to make something that could be used against the populace. DARPA is just another source for funding interesting science and engineering. It is a shame that the same research could be done for the NSF or NASA if they had an R&D budget as big as the DoD.
posted by kscottz at 6:45 PM on October 12, 2007


Do android flies dream of electric shit?

At this point in time, the truth is just as wacky as any conspiracy theory the paranoids can come up with. We live in the future, nothing shocks me anymore. Robot insects? Whatever. Call me when our only hope to win the Man/Machine war is to block out the sun. That's when I'll freak out, and not a minute sooner.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:51 PM on October 12, 2007


Do android flies dream of electric shit?

No, but they do of electric sheep.
posted by ericb at 7:06 PM on October 12, 2007


We had dragonflies like crazy up here on Capitol Hill this summer past. I have never seen the like--oh, you see them on the lakes but on the hill ? This was new for me. I would be putting water on the grass in the courtyards in the evenings and six or seven would swoop down and run up and down over the grass, making right angle turns coursing over the lawn. And they would hover and then dive and dart. I sure could see what they were getting. And I heard one buzz against a windows one night--it was loud. I thought it was a bird at first.

They really are the original biomechanicals--needle in fuselage, they got the hover and those radome compound eyes. I see how people could see a surveillance device in them. They really do make some moves not normally seen in nature. And it would be nice to hear a proper explanation for the part in the Telegraph about
They all described seeing a row of spheres the size of small berries attached along the tails of the "dragonflies".
They also reported seeing at least three together. Mr Louton said that dragonflies never fly in a pack.
And, then there is this Beamed Power For Dragonfly Spies. Technologically speaking, it's not entirely in the realm of the impossible that such devices have been developed and deployed. And as for the pointlessness of using such for spying on people at peace rallies, one recalls that Eleanor Roosevelt had an FBI file longer than a Dostoyevsky novel. Never overestimate the intellects of the people likely to using them--life does not imitate Tom Clancy. And the thought does occur they could be testing some sort of dragonfly borne weapons platform for crowd control.

I was thinking of Vance's Worlds of Durdane series the other day, where every man and woman was fitted with an explosive torc when he or she came of age, where a person who went too far could lose their head and all were ruled by the Anome and his agents, who could be anywhere at anytime, seeing everything and hearing every conversation. And he had everyone unconsciously tugging at the ring around their neck when they spoke of such things. Man, and I thought the future would turn out like a Philip K. Dick novel. Now I wonder.
posted by y2karl at 7:17 PM on October 12, 2007


Do android flies dream of electric shit?

[pedant mode=KING OF THE PEDANTS]
An android fly would be a fly shaped like a man, or a device emulating a fly shaped like a man. Likewise, an artificial woman would be a gynoid and an artificial dog a cynoid.

A device emulating a fly might be, from googling, a mugoid or mygoid. It is all Greek to me.
[/pedant]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:43 PM on October 12, 2007


Isn't this really Gene Simmons' fault?
posted by kirkaracha at 8:17 PM on October 12, 2007


Meh. They don't stand a chance against my army of robotic warblers.
posted by effwerd at 8:22 PM on October 12, 2007


Of course, a reasonable person might wonder why an agency would go to the trouble to launch a swarm of super-technologically-advanced (and presumably super expensive) robotic insects to hover over a public anti-war rally, when it could get better information by, say, sending in people pretending to be participants in the anti-war rally. I mean, it's not like these rallies check to make sure you have your proper anti-war paperwork at the door.
posted by pardonyou?


Indeed. One does ask such questions with programs such as Star Wars and the Patriot missle, etc. and so forth.
posted by juiceCake at 11:33 PM on October 12, 2007



I like to watch.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:12 AM on October 13, 2007


Transistors. They can not be trusted. Transistors use quantum mechanics, which no human mind can truly understand, leaving a security vulnerability that can not be fixed. It is entirely feasible that every transistor sold since 1963 is equipped with an NSA-sponsored quantum computer, which monitors the stream of information passing through it. We must take a step back. My radio tube computer is almost ready.

When a cybernetic moth ends up caught in the relays, we will have gone full circle.
posted by Anything at 2:58 AM on October 14, 2007


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