New Recruits In The War On Terror

Bomb-sniffing dogs and high-tech electronic devices designed to detect concealed explosives may soon be replaced by smaller, simpler, less expensive — but more discriminating — organic-based devices: sniffer mice.

BioExplorers, a new Israeli company, uses trained mice housed in a small multi-chambered box to sniff people passing by for signs of hidden explosives. Used in an airline screening area, for example, passengers would only have to pause for a few seconds as a slight current of air is blown past them toward the sniffer-box. Each box contains three “cartridges” with eight trained mice in each of them. If they smell any key components of explosives, they immediately avoid the scent by running into an adjacent chamber. When multiple mice do this, the human operator is signaled.

In recent tests, 22 out of 1,000 people were “salted” with explosives components and walked past the detector. The mice not only alerted on all 22 “bombs,” but had a false-alarm rate of just 0.1 percent — far better than bomb-sniffing dogs and high-tech devices! The founders of BioExplorers weren’t surprised. Dogs have 756 olfactory sensors in their noses, while mice have 1,120.

Critics complain that the mouse cages need frequent cleaning. Proponents point out that mouse poop is easier to deal with than dog piles.

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