Lab Defense: Pain Ray

We all know that security at the country's nuclear labs has been a little, um, uneven. Scientists at Sandia National Labs think they've found a way to plug up those porous defenses: a microwave-like pain that roasts intruders.nonlethal-weaponry_nr.jpgFor years, the Air Force and the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate have been working on the Active Denial System, or ADS. It's a real-life ray gun which shoots 95 GHz millimeter waves. They penetrate a 64th of inch beneath the skin, where nerve receptors are concentrated. And when the waves hit, they produce an "intense heating sensation [which] stops only if the individual moves out of the beams path or the beam is turned off," a Sandia press release explains. "The sensation caused by the system has been described by test subjects as feeling like touching a hot frying pan."It's a pretty damn persuasive way to get people to clear out of the way. And unlike, say, an M-16 fired into a mob, the beam's only lasting effects seem to be bad memories. No wonder folks are calling ADS "the Holy Grail of crowd control."Raytheon has built a Humvee-mounted model, which is currently being tested before a likely trip to Iraq. The Air Force is developing an airborne version of the pain ray.Now, Sandia researchers are getting in on the act, too. But unlike the military-grade units -- meant to zap masses of people far, far away -- the smaller Sandia model would be used to dissuade nearby individuals from sneaking into classified facilities. The researchers ran performance tests on a mini-ray prototype in late May. More "human effectiveness" trials will continue over the next six months.If those work out, Sandia says, a "second-generation small-size ADS system [is] expected to be fielded at several DOE [Department of Energy] nuclear facilities as early as 2008."

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