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Invisible beam tops list of nonlethal weapons:
No one has withstood the pain it produces for more than three seconds. People who volunteered to stand in front of the directed energy beam say they felt as if they were on fire. When they stepped aside, the pain disappeared instantly.

When the beam hits an individual, it penetrates 1/64th of an inch beneath the skin and heats water molecules to 130 degrees in less than a second. "It tricks the pain sensors into thinking they're on fire."

Susan Levine, the Pentagon's project manager for the energy beam, said years of tests on humans and animals enabled researchers to establish a margin of safety. After several seconds, the device automatically shuts off to avoid burning its target, she said.

Karcher said the Active Denial System "is absolutely not designed or intended or built" to be a torture device. "To use this as any sort of torture device would be in direct violation of" the Pentagon's definition of nonlethal weapons, he said. "Nor, as professionals, would any of us sign up for it."

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23 Responses:

  1. pfrank says:

    I will not fear / Fear is the mind killer...

  2. endquote says:

    What a completely non-scary name. Elsewhere in the article they refer to it as "millimeter-wave," which is way cooler.

    The thought of one of these getting shot from a plane across a battlefield (or domestic riot) is pretty damned scary, though. However, you'd think that there's already some sort of shielding developed already to protect soldiers from it. Maybe it's made of something simple that your average dissident could get ahold of.

    • flipzagging says:

      I'm not a physicist, but how about a mirror?

      Other things to try: wet clothing, or clothing with a lining of water. I wonder if this works when it's raining. But they could just turn up the juice a bit then, and you'd still get fried.

      Things not to try: tinfoil hats.

      • Actually, wouldn't tinfoil be good?? This is a radio wave that you want to reflect, not light. Note that they use aluminum in that test you link to, not a light mirror.

        What you really want is a Faraday Cage. Which is not all that pratical to move around in at your average demo. :)

  3. jkonrath says:

    If this ray also disrupts cellular phone service, it would truly be the most wonderful invention ever, and I'd love to have one the next time I go to the movies.

    • vxo says:

      It most likely would permanently damage cell phones and other electronic devices. Read: Let out the magic smoke.

      What it is, is basically the guts of a fucking huge microwave oven, hooked up to an easily movable parabolic antenna.

      There have been many cases of permanent internal injuries caused by microwave radiation.... I'd like to know just how the military's been covering that up.

      • eqe says:

        Well, most microwave ovens operate around 2-3 GHz (wavelengths around 10 cm, if I did the math right). They're talking about millimeter wavelengths, and though "the exact parameters are still classified", if you do the math you can see that 1mm = 300 GHz, 3mm = 100 GHz...

        At those frequencies, a mylar blanket will probably provide plenty of protection. Or, for that matter, a bundle of those metallized plastic balloons.

        If you really want to let the magic smoke out, you can do it without noticably affecting passersby -- just pump out a few kilowatts in the 1 meter range.

      • kscaldef says:

        No, microwaves are designed to penetrate. They are at a frequency with a skin depth of a couple inches, not 1/64th of an inch. This, of course, is because you want to cook more than a tiny skin of your food, leaving the rest raw. This gadget, OTOH, seems to be tuned right on the water resonance so the radiation is absorbed very quickly once it hits a person (or pretty much any other living being). This should be pretty similar to a really nasty sunburn, but without the skin cancer potential.

  4. ammitbeast says:

    I'd feel better with a phaser in Capt. Kirk's paw than the grimy mits of the Pentacle-Building folks. Kirk was too busy banging babes and emoting so never had time to shoot too many people.

    To summarize, all of our future wars should be fought with Shatner impersonators to force the enemy into "Please-Make-It-Stop" submission.

  5. jck says:

    Bah, the Ruskies already beat us to it.

    ARMOR HAS NO EFFECT.

  6. riffraff says:

    i'm sorry, all i could think when i was reading this was

    "with a large spinning mirror, you could vaporize a human target from space"

    "too bad, he was a good man, i'm afraid we're going to have to liberate him" "liberate? don't you mean, 'liquidate'?"

    we have to get back at the government, it's a moral imperative!

  7. fantasygoat says:

    When are you installing one in the corner of the DNA's entrance for the taggers?

  8. aprilized says:

    ok...we're doomed if we gather together for some civil disobedience...but it's better than than getting your fingernails ripped out...
    possibly even better than a woody norris invention...

  9. bradbev says:

    I don't understand why somebody didn't get up close and put a crowbar through his tracks. Kinda like a scaled up version of the broomstick through the spokes trick. Either the track is going to get thrown off, or the crowbar will stop the track from driving.
    And it's not like these things go faster than say a segway.

  10. duskwuff says:

    Karcher said the Active Denial System "is absolutely not designed or intended or built" to be a torture device. "To use this as any sort of torture device would be in direct violation of" the Pentagon's definition of nonlethal weapons, he said. "Nor, as professionals, would any of us sign up for it. No, of course not. We'd never think of doing anything of the sort now, would we? Now if you'll go now, we've got some work to do in Guantanamo."

  11. node says:

    When the beam hits an individual, it penetrates 1/64th of an inch beneath the skin and heats water molecules to 130 degrees in less than a second.

    What does it do to eyes?

    • Probably nothing worse than what rubber bullets would do to eyes. Why would this be special?

      • flipzagging says:

        Instant cataracts.

        It's possible there's some range that's unpleasant to the skin without being dangerous to the eye, but it seems like that would have to be perfectly calibrated -- the right distance, the right intensity... is that possible when firing into a crowd?

        Still not a physicist.

        • I don't see how this has anything to do with my reply. Rubber bullets will destroy any eyeball they happen to come in contact with. Which means that the storm trooper already know how to aim for the body pretty well, so I don't see why eyes are an especially higher concern with a new weapon.

  12. khephra says:

    1. How much?

    2. Can I mount it on my car?

  13. All things serve the Beam.