Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New party-ending non-lethal weapon

Next time your kegger gets out of hand, you can use the Air Force's new Active Denial System (ADS) to get rid of your freeloading guests in a BIG hurry.

The ADS emits a type of electromagnetic energy longer in wavelength than X-rays but shorter than microwaves. The effect of these waves (called millimeter waves or MMW) is instant surface heating of any non-shielded skin surface. In other words, the top layer of your skin will immediately heat up, producing a feeling similar to being dipped in molten lava. But, and here's the kicker, there's no lasting damage done beyond a mild sunburn.

The result produced on an unruly mob is known as the "Goodbye Effect", or, as the military puts it, "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior." No kidding.

Sounds great, right? Here's a way to keep civil order without killing, maiming, or even seriously injuring anyone.

Not so fast. I may joke about busting up an out-of-hand keg party, but there's a bit more to this.

Highly effective, non-lethal weapons are much more likely to be used, don't you think? If there's essentially zero chance of a "Bloody Sunday"-type massacre, or another Kent State, won't the "authorities" be more apt to deploy the ADS?

So, the next question is: What constitutes an "unruly mob"? What group of protesters rates a high-powered ADS zap? The Klan? Anti-war protesters? The anti-abortion nuts? Who's decision is that?

Non-lethal weapons, especially ones with no long term negative physical effects, are, by definition, meant to control a civilian population. There's no doubt this is sometimes a necessary thing, but I think we still have things called "freedom of speech" and "freedom of assembly" in this country. New, highly effective devices which can be employed to curtail those freedoms are not necessarily wonderful news.

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