Friday, January 26, 2007

help, help....I'm being Actively Denied

This interesting article appeared on the BBC website a couple of days ago. For those of you who can't be bothered to follow the link, basically the US military have prototyped a device which sends out a tightly-directed beam of electromagnetic radiation which, if a human happens to get in the way, causes a painful but not lastingly harmful burning sensation. Wikipedia has a typically informative article as well.

A couple of observations spring to mind:

  • There are some splendidly sinister US military-industrial phrases here: it's an "Active Denial System" intended to induce the "goodbye effect" by use of "non-lethal technology". I fully expect Dick Cheney to be personally directing it into the eyes of small children for reasons of "national security" within a year or two. Either that or accidentally setting fire to his friends with it while trying to shoot down some ducks by roasting them in flight.
  • It's apparently non-harmful, just highly uncomfortable. Well.....if you're intending to use it for crowd control, isn't it a bit counter-productive to be telling people that? "I say, Hamid, my skin appears to be burning." "Not to worry, Abdul old chap, it's just a non-harmful heat ray." "Fair enough then, we'll continue smashing the infidels. After you with that petrol."
  • What if it goes in your eye? Surely a direct hit on the cornea causing your aqueous humour to boil might conceivably be non-"non-harmful"?
  • Couldn't you ward off the effects with something as low-tech as, say, a dustbin lid? And what if you used a mirror? Could you blow up the truck the ADS was on?
  • Surely there are some civilian uses as well? Just leave a meat pie on the window sill when you set off for work in the morning, give it a blast of Active Denial power when you pull into the drive later, and hey presto, a piping hot dinner ready and waiting for you. Imagine the convenience of being able to defrost a chicken from half a mile away.
  • This article has a couple of interesting revelations: firstly that there is a publication called Microwave News, "a leading newsletter on non-ionizing radiation". Sounds fascinating. And also that the US Air Force Research Laboratory have a department called the Human Effectiveness Directorate, which sounds pretty scary. If they've gone to the trouble of euphemising it like that, you just know there's some dodgy stuff going on with stirrups and electrodes in a concrete-lined bunker somewhere in Area 51.

1 comment:

The Black Rabbit said...

re: observation 3
Don't you just hate it when "it goes in your eye"....
Every bleedin' saturday mornin' it seems these days...