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Journalist Gets Blasted By the Pentagon's Pain Ray — Twice

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-will-try-to-get-timothy-to-do-this dept.

The Military 357

dsinc writes "Wired's Spencer Ackerman voluntarily subjected himself to what the U.S. military calls the Active Denial System, an energy weapon commonly known as the 'Pain Ray' that turns electricity into millimeter wave radio frequency and blasts targets with heat. He describes it thus: 'When the signal goes out over radio to shoot me, there’s no warning — no flash, no smell, no sound, no round. Suddenly my chest and neck feel like they’ve been exposed to a blast furnace, with a sting thrown in for good measure. I’m getting blasted with 12 joules of energy per square centimeter, in a fairly concentrated blast diameter. I last maybe two seconds of curiosity before my body takes the controls and yanks me out of the way of the beam.'" The device has been tested now on over 11,000 people, with only two serious injuries to show for it. However, the device has limitations: rainy weather decreases its effectiveness, and its "boot-up" time is 16 hours, making it useless for breaking up unexpected, impromptu mobs.

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Faster than windows (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328611)

Boots faster than windows...

Re:Faster than windows (-1)

Alunral (2477578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328931)

That's funny, Windows boots in about 1 minute for me. When did 1/60th of an hour = 16 hours?

Re:Faster than windows (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328993)

It's a joke. Laugh.

Re:Faster than windows (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329303)

it's not funny, don't laugh.

Re:Faster than windows (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329027)

Boots faster than windows? Absurd!

Faster than windows shutting down on a Friday evening when there are system updates to be applied on the other hand...

future weapons ? (1)

fluffythedestroyer (2586259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328615)

Pre star-wars era or pre star trek era weaponry ?

Re:future weapons ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328795)

In what part of "A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away..." is "future weapons"?

Re:future weapons ? (4, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328917)

Depends on your frame of reference. Something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away may not have happened here yet. If it happened 5m years ago (their time) in a galaxy 5.1m lightyears away then it's still 100,000 years in our future.

Hey, you started it.

Re:future weapons ? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329063)

Umm, no it's still in the past; we just have to wait until we get to see it.

Re:future weapons ? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329235)

Please, do explain to us what simultaneity means in galaxies separated by 5.1 million light years.

Re:future weapons ? (4, Funny)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328981)

The device has been tested now on over 11,000 people, with only two serious injuries to show for it.

Doesn't sound like an effective weapon to me.

16 hours? (4, Interesting)

Haven (34895) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328633)

What electrical components take 16 hours to boot up?

What mechanical operation requires 16 hours of prep?

Any insight? I read the article, and it had very little in the way of information.

Re:16 hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328675)

Batteries or capacitors?

Re:16 hours? (3, Informative)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328705)

Getting that much energy stored up and ready for use at 12 joules per square centimeter might be the reason, especially when you take efficiency losses into account.

Re:16 hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328713)

Massive capacitor.

Re:16 hours? (2)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328817)

I can't believe any capacitor takes that amount of time to charge. This isn't like a flash camera that is "pumping" a high voltage capacitor up to a few hundred volts from a pair of AA (1.5volt) batteries that have a slow discharge current. Setups like this have a big gas powered generator in the back of the truck, cranking out thousands of watts of power.

Capacitors themselves are certainly not the limit, they're specifically known and used for their ability to charge and specifically to discharge extremely rapidly. (like in the above mentioned camera)

Unless I hear otherwise, I'm chalking this up to "blatantly retarded design". Any capacitor that takes a decent genny 12 hrs to charge will have a building built around it.

Re:16 hours? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328737)

I could be completely wrong here but I think it is because you need to create a superconductive state and it takes 16 hours to get cold enough. That's the only thing I can think of.

Re:16 hours? (5, Informative)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328797)

The capacitor banks in certain analysis instruments (ie: high precision impedance analyzers) take at least two hours before they are ready to take measurements. The primary reason is that they have to build up the power slowly to avoid stressing the components. Also, they don't want to introduce too much ripple or overshoot, so the charging circuit is effectively overdamped, and has virtually no ripple when fully charged.

Why something that just pumps out such large amounts of juice needs that long a startup cycle though, I have no idea. My best guess is limitations on the components themselves. Maybe the energy storage elements suffer from charging too quickly, or maybe it has to store plenty of energy in advance to maintain a full-power beam over extended periods of time.

Re:16 hours? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328913)

Chinese made electronics. Just be happy it even works. But by the time 16 hours have passed, I'll have already dispatched the guiards, taken over the security emplacement, infiltrated the compound, and opened the door from the inside for my friends.

Re:16 hours? (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328825)

Takes that long for the ritualistic sacrifices and dark prayers to Satan to be chanted.

Not really integral to the function, the design team was just really goth.

Re:16 hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328833)

They have to get a 240V extension-cord from a european electrical store.

Re:16 hours? (2)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328979)

Supracooled components. I've used a gamma-ray spectrometer that took about a day to get running for this reason.

Not sure why this one would have any of those. Maybe it uses a superconductor?

Re:16 hours? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328987)

You read the article? SLASHDOT FAIL.

Re:16 hours? (4, Informative)

mindcandy (1252124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329073)

This is CW Microwave at 95ghz so I'd imagine it takes that long for everything to charge and come into spec frequency-wise, since all of the waveguides and antenna would be very sensitive to SWR if the frequency drifts too badly .. probably to the point of destruction at 100kw PEP.

Re:16 hours? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329295)

Because the engineers that built this wanted to make sure the Pentagon couldn't randomly use it nilly willy? So a 16 hour "boot up" time was hard-wired to make sure it wasn't just randomly abused/used.

Wear Foil! (4, Interesting)

owenferguson (521762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328653)

Would a foil suit help? Can we reflect it back at the source somehow?

Re:Wear Foil! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328773)

I wear a foil hat all the time. It seems to disable the mind reading abilities of the satellites that the United States government uses.

That's really the only thing you need to worry about. I'm thinking of having foil implanted on the inside of my skull for a more permanent solution. I just hope the person performing the surgery isn't a reptile. He or she or it might kill me on the operating table. You know how They are. They are always plotting against us, and they have been slithering around in the highest offices for so long...

Re:Wear Foil! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328809)

It has to cover every square inch of your skin to be effective. Doesn't matter where the energy hits, it's still extremely painful and the instinctive reaction is to move out of the beam.

Re:Wear Foil! (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328947)

a faraday cage should work, so only every square millimetre (anything smaller than the wavelength is effectively solid). you may have to worry about anything conductive turning into an induction heater though.

Re:Wear Foil! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329123)

3 mm wavelength, so you can properly calibrate your ferrous fishnet bodysuit.

Re:Wear Foil! (1)

Captain.Abrecan (1926372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329299)

I wonder if the two reported injuries are from some badass with a huge pain tolerance standing in the beam for 20 seconds. This thing would cook you like an oven if you stayed under it, which makes it a lethal weapon imho.

Tinfoil burka... (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328823)

You've got to protect all your exposed skin. Conductive fabric or foil should do quite nicely. (Has to be reflective, though; if it's just resistive/dissipative, then you're wrapped in flaming fabric.

Re:Wear Foil! (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328967)

If the cops are bringing-out the stun guns and pain givers, I'd rather just re-locate myself (and the protest) to a different location. Like maybe along an interstate highway and hold-up big signs. - "End the TSA"

Crouch under a school desk. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329053)

Would a foil suit help?

Just crouch under a school desk.

They were good enough to protect school children from nuclear bomb-blasts in the 1960's (kids in school had regular drills for nukes and had to do this), so they should handle the mass of weapons of destruction that get barfed out of the sick minds of the (mostly) American (ueber alles) kill works.

Re:Wear Foil! (1)

mindcandy (1252124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329159)

Ever put tinfoil in the microwave? .. what happens at the edges. Unless you're 100% covered *and* grounded to a decent earth, you'll just gather and concentrate the energy.

The standoff distance of this toy is still less than your average deer rifle .. which I suspect is what will happen if it ever finds use in any US city.

Uh, what (3, Interesting)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328715)

Ok, I get that this baby is running on beta hardware. But 16 hours? Can anyone here venture a guess as to why? No matter how sllloooowww the CPUs, or how inefficient the code, 16 hours isn't plausible.

So, it must refer to something the hardware is doing. Still, 16 hours? Thermodynamics is normally quicker than that for a machine that can fit on a truck. That's an awfully long time for it to be heating up or cooling down.

Any RF engineers here know a reason for this? My best guess is that components of this device rely on superconductivity, and require very slow peltier coolers to bring the operating temperature down to the range of operation. I've seen radios sold on ebay that use superconductors for parts of the RF elements.

Re:Uh, what (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328765)

> No matter how sllloooowww the CPUs, or how inefficient the code, 16 hours isn't plausible.

Only if you're crazy enough to think the CPU is a ray gun's limitation. As opposed to, you know, energy generation itself

Re:Uh, what (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328783)

Because we live in a software-dominated society, all our common technical lingo is computer-related. Instead of the correct terminology which few would understand, a computer booting is something we all deal with now. Probably there's some kind of capacitor being charged here.

Re:Uh, what (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328877)

Well it's quite simple: they're focusing large amounts of energy at a person. Since the actual power source cannot dispense this much energy at once, it must be used to charge a capacitor bank - much like a camera flash.

That said, they could probably optimize it to shoot a narrower beam, but hey: this is the military. They can't do anything right, that would be unpatriotic.

Re:Uh, what (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329017)

It's not THAT much power being radiated. A few thousand watts at most. 1 Joule = 1 Watt*second. 1 Joule per square centimeter. Any decent military generator can produce that. If they have to charge up capacitors, what concerns me there is how rapidly they will be drained out. They need the green model that will be endorsed by hippies everywhere.

Re:Uh, what (3, Informative)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329031)

That is a pretty common time for cooling down to liquid nitrogen or superconducting temperatures.

Re:Uh, what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329161)

Not my FTIR. You just fill it with LN2 and wait 10 minutes or so.

Corner reflector (5, Informative)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328719)

If you ever go to a protest where you expect the government to use one of these on you, bring a buch of corner reflectors. [wikipedia.org]. They can be bought in boat stores, or made cheaply out of paper lined with aluminum foil, and they will send the "pain ray" right back at the operator.

Re:Corner reflector (5, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328807)

Good luck with that. If you are successful, you will be accused of doing horrible things to a law enforcement person, and will be locked away for a very, very long time. The prosecution will describe the effects of the heat ray in very different terms than the defense would, if the tables were turned and you were suing law enforcement for using it on you.

Re:Corner reflector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39328873)

It will reflect directly back at the source; it would be unlikely to hit anyone else unless they were standing very very close to the emitter.

Re:Corner reflector (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328839)

This needs to be wide spread so the cops can enjoy what they dish out. Dont send it back, target the scumbags in riot gear on the ground around the truck.

Re:Corner reflector (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328955)

Considering that he's going to be in a Bradley that's RF shielded... It's not going to matter much unless they're making man-portable versions- and I suspect they'll have "armor" for the person wielding it, regardless of how bulky the stuff is.

Right answer, wrong question (4, Funny)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329189)

The proper resistance mantra is:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear... I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

Re:Corner reflector (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329223)

Back your cardboard protest signs with aluminum foil. Make them large, and hinged so they can be opened up either as a full-body shield, or half-way as a corner reflector to aim some of that pain back at the operators.

Hmm... (2)

owenferguson (521762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328741)

Given the weird operational profile, I can see this being used for psy-op. Flashing people with pain from afar, seemingly for no reason. Is that too MK-ULTRA to think about?

Less Effective (4, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328749)

Sounds less effective, most costly, and more dangerous then tear gas.

Re:Less Effective (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329111)

This is much, much more effective than tear gas: the pain ray has a several thousand-foot range and nearly instantaneous effects, plus you can't negate the effects with a (fairly) simple gas mask. Also, tear gas is pretty dangerous stuff which can cause lasting damage, and anyone who uses it risks getting caught by it themselves (a fundamental problem with all chemical weapons).

Re:Less Effective (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329251)

And considering the first thing that probably pops into the public's mind when they see anything involving "rays" is "cancer" .. it's not even more politically safe.

I can see the headlines... "police irradiating protestors!!!".

Someone put it best.. the most effective (both in cost and effectiveness) tool they ever had was the shock baton... but the PR was so bad there's no way they could use it. The stuff with the high PR is ineffective. This thing seems to be the worst of both worlds!

And is easily defeated... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328815)

Wrap yourself in tinfoil and it's completely neutered. Make clothing out of cloth that is conductive and you can make long underwear that will protect 90% of your body, slap on a baklava of the same with gloves and flip them the bird while they get out the mace cannon.

Re:And is easily defeated... (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328991)

You can test your tinfoil theory at home. Cover some uncooked food with tinfoil. Put it in the microwave. Turn it on. Wait for results.

Re:And is easily defeated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329043)

mmm baklava.

The same old problem with non-lethal weapons (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328849)

It is unlikely that the military will use non-lethal weapons on a large scale anytime soon. The reason is pretty simple: such weapons kill fewer people but often make for worse PR. A few years ago they were looking at lasers that could temporarily blind people although there would be permanent damage in many cases. That didn't get adopted because having dead people in the long-run is less PR damage than having horrifically crippled people.

Re:The same old problem with non-lethal weapons (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328983)

But in the long long run, crippled people destroy your opponent's economy. That's why the chinese poison our children's toys with lead.

Re:The same old problem with non-lethal weapons (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329301)

It's against the Hague convention to intentionally cripple/blind people.

Torture (5, Interesting)

sideslash (1865434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328921)

Why is it OK in public spaces for law enforcement and the military to use extreme pain from heat rays and Tasers (TM) to force people to do what they want, yet it's not OK in a private cell to force somebody through pain to share information? We can torture people without leaving permanent physical injury, just like with the heat ray. So do we as a society really have moral qualms about torturing people because of the pain, or is it purely a pragmatic decision based on the low signal to noise ratio of intelligence from tortured prisoners?

Re:Torture (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329091)

I think that it must be pragmatic. I am 28 years old and find myself becoming more cynical of our leadership with every passing day. Follow the money. Follow the power.

Just wait and see what a grumpy old man I shall be some day!

Re:Torture (2)

ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329103)

I believe the argument is that rioters have the option of just walking away and those being arrested have the option of just complying. (Ignoring, of course, when cops taser people unnecessarily.)

Re:Torture (2)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329257)

Good point.

If I got to be pragmatic about it, it's because torture generally doesn't produce good results. Torture someone for long enough and they'll admit to anything.

Other unfortunate uses (4, Insightful)

JeanCroix (99825) | more than 2 years ago | (#39328985)

Sixteen hours warmup might be far too long for use as crowd control, but it's plenty of time for use in interrogations.

Less lethal badger cull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39329079)

They should use the pain ray as a less lethal alternative to culling badgers.

Moral dangers (1)

mindcandy (1252124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329241)

Good 2012 Ted Talk on the "Moral Dangers of non-lethal weapons"

eye lesions (2)

frisc (565407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329255)

Microwaves cause eye lesions, which have occurred at military radar sites. the 11,000 subjects better have their eyes checked.

1 out of 5500 people is severely injured? (2)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329259)

That's at least one major lawsuit per protest broken up. Good luck getting any major civilian police force to risk that. The only place this has any use would be a battlefield, where lawsuits are irrelevant.

"16 hours" start-up time probably bogus (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#39329297)

That "16 hour" start-up time is probably bogus. It's not in the article. If it's real at all, it probably refers to how long it takes to drive the thing from some base to the target area. The military often figures response times like that - from when it's called for until it gets there and starts shooting.

There's a smaller version, the Silent Guardian [slashgear.com], with only about 250m of range. This is about the size of a WWI tripod-mounted heavy machine gun.

If this technology had been available in the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement would never have happened.

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