Journalist Michael Hanlon describes what it’s like to be on the wrong end of the US Army’s new nonlethal pain generator:
…It is a bit like touching a red-hot wire, but there is no heat, only the sensation of heat. There is no burn mark or blister.
…When turned on, it emits an invisible, focused beam of radiation — similar to the microwaves in a domestic cooker — that are tuned to a precise frequency to stimulate human nerve endings. It can throw a wave of agony nearly half a mile.
Because the beam penetrates skin only to a depth of 1/64th of an inch, it cannot, says Raytheon, cause visible, permanent injury. But anyone in the beam’s path will feel, over their entire body, the agonising sensation I’ve just felt on my fingertip. The prospect doesn’t bear thinking about.
“I have been in front of the full-sized system and, believe me, you just run. You don’t have time to think about it — you just run,” says George Svitak, a Raytheon executive.
For those who are science fiction fans, this sounds like a real-life version of the neural pain stimulator from Dune. And of course, there’s one more obvious application:
Perhaps the most alarming prospect is that such machines would make efficient torture instruments. They are quick, clean, cheap, easy to use and, most importantly, leave no marks. What would happen if they fell into the hands of unscrupulous nations where torture is not unknown?
The agony the Raytheon gun inflicts is probably equal to anything in a torture chamber — these waves are tuned to a frequency exactly designed to stimulate the pain nerves. I couldn’t hold my finger next to the device for more than a fraction of a second. I could make the pain stop, but what if my finger had been strapped to the machine?
The article includes a picture. (Via Boing Boing.)