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Israeli Company Trains Security Mice 96

Israeli scientists have created an explosive detector using specially trained mice. Researchers claim the mice are more accurate than dogs or x-ray machines and best of all, they work for peanuts. From the article: "The device was tested last year on 1,000 shoppers in a Tel Aviv shopping mall when the mice successfully picked out 22 people carrying mock explosives."


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Israeli Company Trains Security Mice

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  • I wonder if we could get Mickey to volunteer for this mission? I bet Itchy is one of their top trainers ;-)
  • by Even on Slashdot FOE ( 1870208 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @11:51AM (#35090838)

    Don't mice cause terror in a(n exaggeratedly) large segment of the population? I wonder how long it will take for the screams and panic to start once the mice run up to them.

    Of course, this implies that mice are weapons of terror.

    • A very large portion of people are afraid of mice, however if I was presented with the choice between TSA Grope + Backscatter, and a mouse fleet I would take the mouse fleet, of course TSA most likely wouldn't do them as an alternative, but as an extra scan.
    • What about the emotional issues that the mice will have when people scream at them. Will they be able to obtain the proper counseling to overcome their emotional trauma? Will the government pick up the bills, or will they have to pay for it themselves? Will the psychologists accept peanuts?

      • by cpghost ( 719344 )

        Will the psychologists accept peanuts?

        Mice psychologists will settle for a little bit of cheese...

    • Robot Chicken predicted this long ago...

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEJi-Oa5cSo/ [youtube.com]

    • animals anyway.

      I doubt the public would be any more alarmed at the thought of having a cute small trained rat go through their clothes and luggage or some ugly full-sized trained troglodyte pawing at them.

      You put a little blue and gold uniform on 'em, add a little cap, and you'll have people lining up(, and enjoying it.)

      Its called Disneyfication.

  • by Klync ( 152475 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @12:00PM (#35090964)

    Explosion detection is pretty cool, and useful I'm sure. But I was hoping for special ops commandos.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Explosion detection is really easy. humans have been trained in explosion detection for decades now. Back in the 40's and 50's thousands of army men were trained out in new mexico in nuclear explosion detection. They want you to think we were testing bombs, no. These were secret tests to train men on how to detect nuclear explosions.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Special Ops. Commando Mice? Um...

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @12:01PM (#35090994)
    This will only encourage those who blame Mossad for shark attacks [bbc.co.uk] and who detained a vulture for working for Mossad [bbc.co.uk]. perhaps they will be detaining mice now.
  • All dogs have similar sense of smell. If this were about the high cost of dogs, they would have been using Chihuahuas years ago.
    To that end, they use large breed dogs for a reason - they're intimidating and can actually neutralize someone carrying a bomb. So unless these mice have really sharp teeth... =)
    • Follow. But! Follow only if ye be men of valor, for the entrance to this airport is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel, that no man yet has fought with it and lived. Bones of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair! So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!
    • What are you talking about? They won't replace dogs in that capacity, but there's plenty of areas like investigating IEDs or looking for mines or crawling in places that a dog can't fit where these are going to be quite useful. I don't personally see why the obsession with replacing things is so prevalent, why can't it just be a complementary option?

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      All dogs have similar sense of smell.

      As I understand it, bloodhounds and similar dogs have a far better sense of smell than the usual dog.

      • All dogs have similar sense of smell.

        As I understand it, bloodhounds and similar dogs have a far better sense of smell than the usual dog.

        Beagles too. Apparently, they're used for detecting food and the like by customs officials (and can distinguish between restricted and non-restricted smells).

        Just for fun: Beagle Brigade [wikipedia.org].

        • Beagles have the additional advantage of being small(food isn't free), relatively docile(even hardened cheese-smugglers tend not to resort to violence right in the terminal), and adorable(when a good percentage of the "restricted" hits are dumbasses who don't bother to read, or their innocent but idiotic children, something that isn't a baying German Shepard is better public relations)...

          Somewhat less fortunately for the beagles, small, docile dogs are also pretty good for animal research.
    • I think the idea is more identification than neutralization. Although how a rat is supposed to tag someone effectively is beyond me.

      Oh, and fun fact- daschunds are one of the best breeds for bomb sniffing. They're close to the ground, so they pick up the scent where it is most potent- at the ground. Although, the back problems inherent in daschies might limit their cost-effectiveness.

    • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

      My bag was totally sniffed by a drug enforcement puppy when I flew home from Cleveland.

      I went to pet this cute puppy running around and the handler was the threat.

      This was at the baggage claim, so i assume it was drugs and not security.

    • Something tells me housing, feeding, breeding, and training mice is far less expensive than with dogs.
  • "... the mice successfully picked out 22 people carrying mock explosives". What use is that? Surely they would be rather better if they picked out people carrying real explosives. I can just see the terrorists plan now - 5 suicide bombers and 5 people carrying 'mock explosives' to fool the mice.
    • Aren't you clever? How didn't they think of that! You should charge them a consultation fee.

    • Because finding mock explosives is a lot harder than finding the real thing. Usually what they do is take a material and rub it up against a small amount of explosive, like say a little bit of black powder or rub it against a bit of TNT to get the chemicals on it. So, the material itself isn't going to explode no matter how careless you are with it, but there's still chemicals from the explosive on it for the mice to identify.

      • Someone's stolen the sense of humour from /.
      • I wonder if any practical jokers have picked up on this one yet...

        A low concentration of, say, ammonium nitrate dissolved in a suitable volatile carrier fluid would be harmless enough; but could be sprayed surreptitiously on large quantities of baggage, travelers, random fake airport plants, etc. The sniffer dogs would be flipping out at assorted random people and objects all day...

        Students in those charmless "zero-tolerance" districts could presumably inject small quantities of bong water into random
  • by alta ( 1263 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @12:13PM (#35091116) Homepage Journal

    Against defending against Egyptians?

    Just to be clear, I hope there is no war. Egypt needs to get their stuff together and settle down.

    Thank goodness they're not a nuclear weapons holding country.

  • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @12:17PM (#35091182)

    With a live mouse down your pants, you'll confess to anything!

    • With a live mouse down your pants, you'll confess to anything!

      For some people, maybe. But I doubt practitioners of this sport [wikipedia.org] would even be fazed by a mouse in the pants...

    • With a live mouse down your pants, you'll confess to anything!

      Yes, but usually I have a safeword.

      - RG>

  • Lifespan (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Riceballsan ( 816702 ) on Thursday February 03, 2011 @12:21PM (#35091220)
    The mice may work for penuts, but training them can't be free, and then assuming the mice can be trained in 3-4 months then you still have to deal with an average lifespan of only 2 years.
  • False Positives. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Faux_Pseudo ( 141152 ) <Faux.PseudoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 03, 2011 @12:24PM (#35091260) Homepage

    They found all 22 out of 1000 but the article doesn't tell us how many they declined to tell us how many false positives they got. Which, in my book, makes this story useless for science but serve a use as a PR use. "Those crazy zionists have mice that can detect bombs!"
    Also the story doesn't mention anything about the process or methods. Are the mice running free? Trapped in a box? Is the mouse live or dead? Is it live or dead in a box? Does it use smell or does it turn colors?

    Sure some of that is joking but this article really doesn't say much and leaves a lot to speculation.

    • by z3pp3h ( 1842070 )
      You're spot-on regarding the lack of additional documentation. However, the article says this: "The device was tested last year on 1,000 shoppers in a Tel Aviv shopping mall when the mice successfully picked out 22 people carrying mock explosives." Not all 1000 shoppers were carriers. It would certainly be nice to know the number out of the 1000 that were targets.
      • The bigger question is why 22 out of a 1000 random shoppers in Tel Aviv were carrying mock explosives? Is this a representative sample of the entire population?
    • RTFA. it explains the process, simplified:

      "Israeli scientists have created a detector, similar looking to a full-body scanner but with three concealed cartridges each containing eight specially trained mice. ....When the mice sense traces of drugs they run to a side chamber where the trigger an alarm, the magazine said.
      Eran Lumbroso, and inventor whose company BioExplorers is hopeful a larger company will help with the final stages of development, said: "It is as if they are smelling a cat and escaping. We

    • TFA says they react to explosives to "escape" like they would from a cat... so what about people who own a lot of cats?
  • This reminds me of the recent story of executing a vulture for suspicious activity (hanging around the desert) and claiming it was an Israeli spy in training. Now with news that real mice are being trained for detecting explosives, I have to wonder how much mass hysteria we will see in the Middle East.....

    • > This reminds me of the recent story of executing a vulture...

      I know of no reports that the bird was "executed".

      > ...for suspicious activity...

      It was wearing a radio collar with Hebrew on it (installed by an Israeli university for the usual reasons).

      > I have to wonder how much mass hysteria we will see in the Middle East.....

      Hopefully less the in the USA and Europe.

  • Are we really sure that it is not the mice [wikia.com] doing the experimenting?
  • Rats are being used to detect landmines (and tuberculosis) in Africa. www.herorat.org


  • Those meddling RESCUE RANGERS!

    Always ruining my plans!!!

    - F. Cat

  • Of having too much money for R&D. When you're doing stuff as ridiculous as DARPA, you may need to rethink your objectives. Really, how much money did it take to come up with this nonsense? There's no way a startup company just decided, "Mice? Mice!" unless there was prior research, and research is expensive. Also, their website isn't very well done. Couldn't really find any important information about them.
    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      Their, they're. Its OK. You'll survive.

      Oh, and you may want to losen up, before you loose it!

  • Mice are fast and hard to see, but I would think rats have a little more brain capacity.

    I've got some pet rats and they seem to be a little less hyper and less brainless than the smaller rodents like mice, gerbils and hamsters.

    Rodents certainly do have keener senses than humans, and less obvious than dogs.

    Note that rats and mice are not kosher.
  • They won't be able to train the mice to harass Palestinians and leave Jews alone.
    • Depending on what, if any, differences there are in genetic, dietary, and cultural/grooming habits, that might actually be pretty doable...

      For an animal able to detect trace quantities of explosives, a population-level difference in dietary spice preferences, shampoo brands, or similar such trivial-but-chemically-distinguishable matters would be cake.(During Ramadan late afternoons, you could probably just use ketone-sniffing mice. Fasting makes humans smell different...)

      It wouldn't do much about gene
  • Sounds like a bar bet... Bet you can't take a bunch of disease spreading rodents and teach them how to track down explosives...
  • for when it's time to retire a mouse that's losing its effectiveness due to old age: anyone know if rodents are kosher? :p
    • You can always ship it to Bombay. I'm sure it's entrails will be most interesting after dealing with all the drugs.

  • urzu 7 to backer echo, have found what appears to be a french fry in the passenger lounge.
    baker echo: ignore it, you are supposed to search out a drug shipment.
    urzu 7: it appears to have catsup on it.
    baker echo: I don't care. Look for the drug shipment.
    urzu 6: yes, it appears to be catsup.
    urzu 7: leave my evidence alone.
    urzu 6: this is big enough for the both of us.
    baker echo: drugs! drugs! find the damn drugs! leave the damn french fry alone.
    urzu 5: definately catsup.
    urzu 7: what are you doing here urzu 5

  • And always there in the nick of time!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYpBoYa4pno [youtube.com]

  • ...with these motherfucking snakes on these motherfucking planes.

  • Mice scare people. If you release them into a baggage claim area to check for bombs, wouldn't you start a stampede of people and all-around terror?

    If I tried this at an airport with a box of mice, I'd get arrested. If the TSA or Israel's equivalent tries it, I suppose it would be legal because of their power?

    (I'm half joking, I don't think they'd just release mice into a crowd without warning)

  • We have a rat infestation problem in Sydney at the moment. Can we train them to detect bombs and sell at a mark-up?

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser