January 4, 2002
10:30 PM   Subscribe

"Active Denial Technology uses a transmitter to send a narrow beam of energy towards an identified subject. Traveling at the speed of light, the energy reaches the subject and penetrates less than 1/64 of an inch into the skin, quickly heating up the skin’s surface. Within seconds, an individual feels an intense heating sensation that stops when the transmitter is shut off or when the individual moves out of the beam."
[The link is to an MS Word document, I saved an HTML version here.]
posted by quonsar (20 comments total)
Cool idea, but I doubt something like this would be as viscerally satisfying to most hawkish types as the oh-so-adorably named "Daisy Cutter".
posted by Optamystic at 11:04 PM on January 4, 2002

Hmm... so if we spot Osama bin Laden on a sand dune, we can only cut off 1/64th of his beard? Shit.
posted by bloggboy at 11:08 PM on January 4, 2002

More Official Page

The nice thing is that it's so versatile! Sure, the nice man at the controls can turn it off after a second or two to give you that "briefly touching an ordinary light bulb" feeling, but with a simple application of the "longer equals hotter" theory of microwave ovens, you can reach into "firmly holding an ordinary lightbulb" territory or further! This'll be great. They can even give them normal microwave oven interfaces: "Let's see... 'EZ-Cook, 160 lbs. Meat' sound about right, Jim? Here goes!"
posted by whatnotever at 11:16 PM on January 4, 2002

end those pesky WTO demonstrations efficiently!
posted by quonsar at 11:18 PM on January 4, 2002

More important, quonsar, end WTO riots without people needlessly getting shot.

Though really this is intended for MOOTW -- military operations other than war, i.e. peacekeeping, humanitarian, and other types of jobs which we typically give to the military. (Of course, they're all baby-killers, as Optamystic implies, so apparently the $millions the US military spent on this device are all a complete myth.) This is a direct outgrowth of situations like Somalia, where the rules of engagement were pretty much limited by the tools the troops there had available, i.e. yelling as loudly as you can for people to stay back or you'll shoot; and if the crowd continues to get out of control, shooting. It's a pretty horrible kind of problem to have, especially when the only other real choice is no mission at all -- which leads us to the famous US intervention in Rwanda.

In short, more and more we're using the military in these MOOTW situations, so it stands to reason we should give them better tools for the predicaments we're putting them into. Not everything is about breaking through the Fulda Gap.
posted by dhartung at 11:37 PM on January 4, 2002

I guess this can only be used where the enemy does not have any kind of way to fight back (i.e. firearms). Did anyone look at the size of it on the humvee? Why don't they just put the standard red and white rings to make it easier to shoot? This probably only has civilian riot control applications.
posted by geoff. at 11:50 PM on January 4, 2002

We discussed this last Spring.

This is not a weapon which can reasonably be used on a battlefield. If you go to a knife fight with boxing gloves, you're going to lose a lot of blood.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:07 AM on January 5, 2002

Stop! Or I will shoot you with my Orgazmo-Ray!
posted by SpecialK at 12:52 AM on January 5, 2002

Maybe someone who understands microwave physics can correct me, but wouldn't an effective defense against this be simply to hide behind any metal object, or even wrap oneself in a space blanket?
posted by normy at 1:53 AM on January 5, 2002

Oh, no! They're fighting back with Passive-Aggressive Tactics! Run!
posted by pracowity at 2:45 AM on January 5, 2002

How long before your local police department places an order for weapons like this? And further - "humane" weapons like this will effectivly put a stop to protesting of any kind - even here US. There is no moral objection to using weapons like this b/c the physical damage is close to nil. Anyone willing to bet some sort of active denial weapon will be used against a US citizen by the 2004 presidental conventions?
posted by wfrgms at 5:28 AM on January 5, 2002

Well, they already use firehoses, tear gas, stun guns, and rubber bullets... none of those have "put a stop to protesting of any kind".

In a way, nonlethal weapons actually encourage more extreme protests (this is, of course, a very US-centric viewpoint.) The protestors know that footage of a bunch of people on a corner holding signs and chanting slogans is going to make page seven, at best. A protest being washed away with firehoses and teargas is much more likely to make the nightly news, thereby spreading the message to more people, thereby, in theory, advancing whatever cause the people are protesting about. Plus, as an added bonus, they know that none of them are going to have to be martyrs to the cause if the cops are using nonlethal weapons instead of bullets and truncheons. So in a way the fact that nonlethal weapons exist make protestors that much more likely to cross the line into Seattle-WTO-style active riot.

Probably the biggest advantage this "Active Denial" technology has, from the gummint's point of view, is that it makes lousy TV: an invisible beam of microwaves that makes the protesters uncomfortable is boring to watch compared to teargas etc.

(as for protests in 2004... you're kinda jumping the gun, there, arencha? Let's find out who's running, first, then start protesting it.)

I don't see this as being at all useful in in a military situation: a tear-gas canister would be far more effective, much less expensive and easier to transport. I suspect that when they spent their $40 million they hoped to get a killer sci-fi laser beam instead of a 'hot lightbulb'. But the technology didn't pan out, so this was the fallback.
posted by ook at 9:17 AM on January 5, 2002

wfrgms, the cops are already willing to whack the shit out of protesters, put pepperspray in to their eyes and make a big show with nasty looking and totally lethal weapons in what they call crowd control. I suspect that your concern lies in the liklihood that cops won't think more before firing if they can hurt without permanent damage, and I agree with that.

nd further - "humane" weapons like this will effectivly put a stop to protesting of any kind - even here US.

Personally, I don't consider smashing starbucks stores and showing up with molotov cocktails to be protest. It's thuggery.
posted by holycola at 9:22 AM on January 5, 2002

Grampa: What the hell is that?
Frink: Why it's a death ray, my good man! Behold!
Grampa: (putting his hand in it's path) Hey! Feels warm, kinda nice.
Frink: Well, it is just a prototype. With proper funding, I'm confident this little baby could destroy an area the size of New York City.
Grampa: But I want to help people, not kill 'em!
Frink: Oh. Well, to be honest, the ray only has evil applications. You know, my wife will be happy. She's hated this whole death ray thing from day one.

Life imitating The Simpsons. Frightening yet hilarious.
posted by Danelope at 9:46 AM on January 5, 2002

Holycola: one should be careful to differentiate between the actual protestors and the opportunists. The protestors in Seattle had a valid point to make, and it's a shame that it was completely overshadowed by a gang of idiots who saw it as a chance to break some stuff.
posted by ook at 9:52 AM on January 5, 2002

(Which oversimplification, I see on rereading, I made myself as well. Oops.)
posted by ook at 9:56 AM on January 5, 2002

Of course, they're all baby-killers, as Optamystic implies

posted by Optamystic at 12:07 PM on January 5, 2002

This is but one of the new Technologies of Political Repression. Some others:

* Ultra-sound generators that disturb the inner ear system that controls balance, inducing nausea, disorientation, vomiting and involuntary defecation. The system, which uses two speakers, can target individuals in a crowd.
* High-intensity strobes that pulse in the critical epileptic fit-inducing frequency.
* Illusion techniques that use holograms to project "active camouflage."
* Disabling, sleep-inducing agents mixed with DMSO [a skin-penetrating chemical that quickly delivers drugs into the bloodstream].
* Pain-causing, paralyzing and foul-smelling area-denial chemicals, some of which are chemically engineered variants of the heroin molecule. They work extremely rapidly: one touch and disablement follows.
* Microwave and acoustic disabling systems.

and the list goes on...
posted by ferris at 12:08 PM on January 5, 2002

Personally, I don't consider smashing starbucks stores and showing up with molotov cocktails to be protest. It's thuggery.

a few anarchist putzes break some windows and that invalidates the protest thousands of respectable UAW members? you really need to turn off your television, holycola.
posted by quonsar at 2:25 PM on January 5, 2002

And still, a .22 beats them all.

Hell, half of those are chemical weapons. Why don't we just use Adamsite like the Russians do? Heck, we have nonpersistant nerve gas -- why not dilute it and use it for crowd control? There are no proven long-term effects, and it is extremely effective at reducing people's will-to-riot.
posted by Ptrin at 11:59 AM on January 6, 2002

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