Friday, July 22, 2005

Set Phasors to Stun

According to this article from LONDON (Reuters) scientists are questioning the safety of a Star Wars-style riot control ray gun due to be deployed in Iraq next year.

The Active Denial System weapon is a 95-gigahertz microwave beam that can be fired at rioters and apparently causes heating and intolerable pain in less than five seconds.

But Neil Davison, coordinator of the non-lethal weapons research project at Britain's Bradford University has some concerns about the weapon:

"What happens if someone in a crowd is unable for whatever reason to move away from the beam. How do you ensure that the dose doesn't cross the threshold for permanent damage? Does the weapon cut out to prevent overexposure?"

Mr. Davison have you ever heard the story of the little old lady who tried to dry off her wet poodle in the microwave?

Actually if folks are worried about the safety of a non-lethal weapon we could just keep using the old tried and true methods of riot dispersal:

Riot Control Agents (CS & CR) - a pyrotechnic mixture or powder. It's pungent pepperlike order causes burning eyes, tearing, coughing, breathing difficulties, stining skin, sinus burning, vomiting and feelings of suffocation. These agents require significant planning for their safe use. Commanders must take into account - safety of the agent during shipping, storage and use, weather, riot escape routes, wind direction, the size of the area, and the proximity of children or the ailing.

Non-lethal weapons - rubber bullets, sandbags, batons, tazers. These devices usually work by inflicting blunt force trauma, shock, pain and discomfort on the rioters. Again they have their risks such as any force significant enough to stun or injure a person can also kill.

Neil Davison is worried about what happens if the rioters aren't able to move away from the microwave beam. A less flippant answer is: the same thing that happens when rioters don't move away from CS gas or spray or any of the other riot control devices currently in use today - they get hurt. This is called riot control. The object is to inflict enough pain and discomfort that people choose to run away instead of sticking around.

Assuring that the rioters have an escape route to disperse through is the responsibility of the force commander who is trying to qwell the riot.

Until we get Star Trek Phasors with a wide disersal stun setting. I guess 95-gigahertz of microwaves is gong to have to do.

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