Protestors Finished in Under a Minute
July 21, 2005 11:22 PM   Subscribe

Scary Sci-fi inspired riot control being discussed in the New Scientist. I did check to see if this had been posted before...
posted by lerrup (29 comments total)
Not quite a double post, but there are similar "toys" in this earlier thread.
I guess they're busy at work on all sorts of techy "less lethal" (read: maiming) devices.
Fun fun...
posted by numlok at 11:45 PM on July 21, 2005

One person suffered a burn in a previous test when the beam was accidentally used on the wrong power setting.

The experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots.

Sketchy politics aside, from a technological standpoint I can't imagine this being used by any law enforcement or military force anytime soon, as the technology seems to be woefully inadequate at this point. Is a rioting crowd going to politely remove glasses, contacts, and metallic objects so they can be microwaved?

So any implementation of this would be very premature. The technology doesn't just have to change, it must be radically different.
posted by zardoz at 11:47 PM on July 21, 2005

Yes, these devices will maim people, creating an interesting historical circle. The reason we precieve weapons such as nerve gas as "bad" is because earlier versions merely maimed people. So a backlash is not out of the question.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:15 AM on July 22, 2005

I think if I had the choice of being microwaved or facing the Scream, I'd take the latter.
posted by dreamsign at 12:15 AM on July 22, 2005

Is a rioting crowd going to politely remove glasses, contacts, and metallic objects so they can be microwaved?

i think the keyword here is "non-lethal." in a situation where the alternative (read: the current M.O.) is to use potentially lethal force, there's a good argument that a weapon like this could be used effectively. Treating test subjects delicately is one thing, while violent, armed, attacking mobs are another.

And if I was on the wrong side of a weapon like this, I know I'd rather a zipper burn than a sucking chest wound.
posted by ab3 at 12:15 AM on July 22, 2005

Weak, lame duck, Governor orders National Guard "microwave the marchers!"(gagglenews April 2068)
posted by hortense at 12:24 AM on July 22, 2005

ab3: You're assuming that the users of the weapon are rational actors who will reasonably escalate force only when necessary. Just here in mild-mannered Portland, OR, the police love to use tasers in concert with lethal weapons and use pepper spray out of laziness and miscommunication.

Today's police force is undertrained and over paranoid. There's no such thing as a non-lethal anything, mm'kay, you can kill someone with a butter knife if you want to. At least guns have the advantage of hurting the person you are aiming at. There are lots of documented cases of "non-lethal" weapons being plenty lethal, but the advertising line being sold to police forces is that these things are perfectly safe. I see a heck of a lot more potential for abuse here than potential for good. I dunno about you, but the only place I've ever seen a "violent, armed, attacking" mob has been on television, but I've seen plenty of protests gone awry and history is rife with examples as well. Escalation of violence often starts with the police.
posted by Skwirl at 12:53 AM on July 22, 2005

> Today's police force is undertrained and over paranoid.

And well (too) respected. You just can't criticize cops these days. Doing so is just un-American. They seem to be able to get away with just about anything, on the basis that their job is sometimes dangerous (and then what, that they're keeping America free or something?)

> Is a rioting crowd going to politely remove glasses, contacts, and
> metallic objects so they can be microwaved?

"Dear rioting crowd. You're about to be teased/baked/whatevered. Please remove glasses/contatcs/metallic objects/someother things
so we can proceed with our non-lethal riot control weapon. Thank
you for your cooperation, God bless and have a nice riot. *Zap*.

It's time to arm the mob with non lethal weapon of the same kind,
just to get even. In the future, demonstration will boil down to beam
power contests.
posted by NewBornHippy at 1:41 AM on July 22, 2005

And, in the case of an armed crowd, won't these things be huge, delicate and line-of-sight?
posted by Skwirl at 2:06 AM on July 22, 2005

A vehicle-mounted version [...] could be in service in Iraq in 2006 according to the Department of Defense...

Don't worry too much about the details and tests, it would seem that this 'non-death-ray' will be used to frag terrorists and insurgents in Iraq. Phew! I thought for a moment the U.S. were going to have to make sure it was safe enough to use on real humans. Yee-har!!!
posted by DrDoberman at 2:47 AM on July 22, 2005

Fact: Tinfoil reflects Microwaves.

Finally, those hats will have some real-life use.
posted by uncle harold at 2:59 AM on July 22, 2005

There already exists non-lethal crowd control techniques such as tear gas and water cannons. The only benefits provided by the microwave dish is that the people using it don't need to wear a gas mask and it has a more limited radius than tear gas, but those are just lazy excuses on the part of enforcement agents. I've been subject to both tear gas and water cannons as a member of the military and as a protester (ok, I was never water-cannoned while in the army) and I can attest to the efficacity of clearing out a crowd. There's no way in hell that I'd ever wish anyone to be subjected to a microwave beam.

All it takes is for a person to be immobilized and they are going to bake like a potato, or as in the example mentioned in the article where they accidentally set it too high. Police/military do a terrible job at distinguishing between a protest and a riot, and I'd hate to see the day something like this comes into use.
posted by furtive at 5:20 AM on July 22, 2005

Let's have this large, loud crowd you have designated "rioters" and you turn the heat-ray on them. I gotta think that once they start "feeling the burn", you will now have a large, loud crowd running fearfully through the streets, trying to escape the pain. Now, you really have a crowd of rioters on your hands. Scared rioters. Yeah...that works.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:34 AM on July 22, 2005

There was a post on Slashdot about this yesterday.

The device is very much operational, as it is slated to be "tested" in Iraq next year.

The key points of the discussion on /. were:
  1. How does it distinquish between friendlies and non-friendlies (for example, the WTO riots in Seattle)? Answer: it doesn't.
  2. Could it accidentally kill someone? Answer: you betcha!
  3. Why would we need to deploy something like this in Iraq? Answer: good question!
  4. How long before we start seeing this used by our own police? Answer: 2008 Republican National Convention sounds good.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:07 AM on July 22, 2005

I'd call it the "Neuronic Whip."
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:43 AM on July 22, 2005

I don't see why they're bothering with all this flaky high-tech nonsense, when this kind of device has proven so very effective, and has already been successfully tested in Iraq and many other places around the world.
posted by sfenders at 7:08 AM on July 22, 2005

Well, one concern with the aforementioned Scream is that its very nonlethality will give rise to overuse in an attempt to silence critical dissent.

Not too farfetched a concern, methinks.
posted by dreamsign at 7:22 AM on July 22, 2005

Another thing about this kind of control device is its silence in operation, and far out sci-fi nature, create a ripe potential for "plausible deniability." If they can load one of these things inconspicuously into a cargo van, and target a single person the government finds annoying, presto, they got an instant crazy man, running around screaming that his skin is burning. What happened? Nothing. Crazy people, that's all.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:51 AM on July 22, 2005

What happened? Nothing

Except, of course, for the large cargo van that made its way through the crowd, and pointed a giant sinister-looking metal radar dish at the target. Besides, if these things go into use, how long would it take for people to realize that guy in horrible pain + mysterious truck = anti riot weapon?
posted by unreason at 8:05 AM on July 22, 2005

Na they want you to envision a 60's era protest every time they roll one of these things out. They say, they want to be able to control riots. By preventing them in the first place. Where they start. With free thinking ideologues. They have all manner of craziness tech, to put the bug in ya.
posted by nervousfritz at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2005

Riot foam is better.
posted by bardic at 8:55 AM on July 22, 2005

Let them start using it in the U.S. It'll only be a matter of time before protesters develop their own to use against the police. After all, you're not applying lethal force, right? Should be fine. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:56 AM on July 22, 2005

"I'd call it the "Neuronic Whip."
Harry Seldon predicted all this, of course.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:11 AM on July 22, 2005

Well, one concern with the aforementioned Scream is that its very nonlethality will give rise to overuse in an attempt to silence critical dissent.

Not too farfetched a concern, methinks.

Not too farfetched at all when you see how Tasers are being used these days.
posted by caddis at 9:13 AM on July 22, 2005

Q: How easy would it be to design a bomb that was triggered by microwaves? As in, suicide bomb?
posted by voltairemodern at 9:15 AM on July 22, 2005

The part of this article that got my attention, was the Air Force's perceived need to control riots from the air. There are some nefarious plans being set in place.

Are we going to toast indigenous peoples who protest the usurpation of native lands? Are we going to toast people who riot for food? Just what is in the planning stages that will require force of that nature?

Will our children be the victims of this crowd control technology?

Just the discussion of the deployment of this technology, and in fact the development of this technology is innately unconstitutional. The first time this is used in the US will be in violation of the rights of any person that suffers it's effects.

Research into this technology, and release of information regarding deployment, is a terrorist activity, aimed at domineering any and all human beings.

I am also excited about the gun that serially shoots ball bearings, acting more like a flying chainsaw than a machine gun. People who think this stuff up, should be in mental hospitals; but bingo they are in high demand in the current climate.
posted by Oyéah at 9:56 AM on July 22, 2005

Well, I for one plan on building an ultra low frequency noise generator.

If they nuke me, I'll disrupt their bowels.

posted by Freen at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2005

What kind of sick bastard would use this on someone? Reminds me of the SNL sketch with Mel Gibson: Josh Acid.
It's ok to shoot people but throwing acid on them is just too gruesome.

Well....yeah. I might rather try to beat the odds and live by getting acid thrown at me, but it's far more reasonable in a crowd to shoot one than it is to cause severe perhaps crippling if not eventually lethal damage to thousands.
I'd shoot or shoot at, or shoot to wound someone but I wouldn't use this.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2005

Are we going to toast indigenous peoples who protest the usurpation of native lands? Are we going to toast people who riot for food?

My first thought on the issue.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:06 AM on July 22, 2005

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