Fish coughing as a terror warning

First off, hat tip to Sharon Weinberger who found this gem.

While some people might think the people in San Fransisco are strange, they have even stranger ‘water police‘.

Fish are being drafted in San Francisco’s war against possible terrorist threats to its water supply.

Akin to hospital gadgets that chart a patient’s heart rate and breathing, a new water-quality monitoring system automatically analyzes the behavior of eight to 12 bluegill fish in a tank at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s water-treatment plant in Millbrae.

Did I mention these were secret water police?

For security reasons, she and other officials won’t reveal the locations of the planned installations. Officials with the commission, the manufacturer, Intelligent Automation Corp. of Poway (San Diego County), and the U.S. Army also declined to give many specifics about what the system can detect and what it can’t.

Ok, let’s get this right. The US now has secret fish tanks. What’s next spying squirrels? Cockroach cameras?

 Don’t get me wrong, I really do understand what they are trying to do. The idea of monitoring water quality using living creatures has been around forever. It used to involve lots of dead fish though. You would put a number of fish in a tank and count the number that died or mutated. It only showed really nasty levels of contamination.

I’m guessing here but someone probably put very accurate pressure sensors in a fish tank to monitor oxygen use in fish. Then they saw the fish ‘cough.’ They realized you can monitor the output of the sensor and determine how often (and which fish) breath or cough and bingo, you have a biosensor. They use bluegills because they are easy to breed and to feed.

And the guy that discovered all this? Think of the cocktail party conversation. What did you get your PhD for? Fish coughing.

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