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Feels Like a Death Ray

January 25, 2007

Our military has demonstrated the power of a new weapon set to be produced starting in 2010:

The military calls its new weapon an “active denial system,” but that’s an understatement. It’s a ray gun that shoots a beam that makes people feel as if they are about to catch fire. [Associated Press: Military shows off new ray gun]


  1. Should this be seen as a good thing: that we’re trying to come up with non lethal weapons in the hopes of reducing “collateral damage” in warfare?
  2. Should it be a concern that powerful people — our leaders — can’t seem to get past the use — and justification — of the coercive effects of WAR and PAIN as means to impose the power of a truth on a non-receptive population?
  3. Should we be troubled that past scientific inquiry into non-lethal weaponry was meant to determine “how much pain can be inflicted on someone before causing injury or death,” rather than ‘what amount of pain must be inflicted to compel an enemy to put down their weapon?’
  4. Who are we? Can we be beacons of liberty and terrorists and torturers?

Questions aside, the good news is that the active denial system demonstrated for the press is perfectly innocuous!

Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat throughout the body. While the 130-degree heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite.

Perfectly innocuous!

The system uses electromagnetic millimeter waves, which can penetrate only 1/64th of an inch of skin, just enough to cause discomfort. By comparison, microwaves used in the common kitchen appliance penetrate several inches of flesh.

Indeed. Safer than disabling the safety mechanism that stops your microwave from operating with the door open, sticking your head inside and pressing ‘start.’ I’d bet you could disperse the shit out of a group of protesters with microwaves, though!

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