Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cooking People the High Tech Way

No, I'm not referring to Islam Karimov, the dictator of Uzbekistan who likes to boil his enemies alive. That's low tech. My subject is the Active Denial System, scheduled to go into service in Iraq in 2006. In development for more than ten years by the Air Force, it is a non-lethal energy beam weapon intended for use against rioters and combatants. The weapon fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam which causes an intense burning sensation within 2-3 seconds. The manufacturer, Raytheon, and military developers claim that the device does not cause permanent damage and, hence, is safer than taser weapons, tear gas, rubber bullets, etc. Unfortunately, there are still a few lingering questions. Test subjects were required to remove their contact lenses, glasses, and any metal objects before exposure. Due to the lack of details provided, possible corneal damage (literally cooking your eye), or very uncomfortably located burns from metal zippers could possibly occur in a riot situation. Since the beam induces extreme pain without apparent lasting damage or scars, it could also be used as a very effective torture device. Raytheon is also developing a hand-held version for use by police and security forces, thus increasing the likelihood of "non-sanctioned" use by official agencies, criminals, terrorists, and freedom fighters (okay, I admit it, I'm being sarcastic). Incidentally, this technology isn't foolproof. Remember how you're not supposed to put metal in your microwave oven? A microwave beam can be deflected by metal plate or foil. Or, have you seen the episodes in Mythbusters when Jaime and Adam painted themselves gold? Protesters might walk around covered in gold and wearing tin-foil hats.

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