If you follow the fascinating history of Metal Storm, the Australian company that built a weapon that can shoot a million rounds a minute, you might want to check out this story in Australias Sydney Morning Herald on their latest trials and tribulations. (If youre not familiar with their history, you can check out my very long article with sidebars in the September/October 2005 issue of Defense Technology International.)Im going to write a longer post on the company next week, but this news got me thinking on whether theres a way to predict bad and/or stupid weapons. Now, Im not saying Metal Storm is a bad or stupid weapon, Im just saying that it would be great if there were some way to guess ahead of time which ideas are really bad, and which are just a little silly.In giving some thought to this issue, Ive created the rating system below this is still a work in progress (and some credit clearly goes to the crackpot index) but I think its a good starting point.For suggestions or additions, please leave comments below (or if you prefer, e-mail me at sharonweinberger[at]gmail.com). Im going to need to run a few possibly stupid weapons through this rating system to get an idea of how the scoring works.And before anyone gets up in arms (yes, a bad cliche), PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A SLIDING SCALE. For example, Metal Storm has indeed built working prototypes, and Ive met some really bright military engineers who love to make references to Star Trek. Just look at this system as a reality check.Enjoy!How to rate a possibly stupid weapons idea:1) Promises a revolution in warfare.Add 50 points. Add 25 points for claims of a new arms race. Add 5 points for each time any derivative of the word transformation is used in promotional materials describing the weapon.2) Is supposedly based on a new innovation, yet on closer examination, there are myriad examples of attempts using similar ideas in the past.Add 10 points for each case of a similar idea in the past. Add another 15 points, for each case inventor/company was unaware of this earlier attempt, and thus failed to learn from past mistakes.3) Lacks a realistic operational scenario of where or how such a weapon could be used.Add 25 points. Add 15 points if inventor/company describes an operational scenario, but it has no relation to current warfare (i.e. aircraft equipped with laser beams shooting at each other).4) The usability of the weapon assumes as yet unproven leaps in technology to reduce size, power generation or other critical elements.Add 15 points for each needed technological advance.5) The idea comes from someone who is unfamiliar with how the military fights and how weapons are used.Add 15 points (this is slightly subjective, so add only five points if served in military, but never involved in any military operations). Add 20 points if military experience is derived from watching war movies or the evening news.6) The company/inventor relies on obtaining funding (private or public) from people who themselves have no idea how the military uses weapons (i.e. private investors, congressional earmarks).Add 20 points if developmental funding relies on congressional earmarks (as opposed to funds requested in the Pentagons budget). Add 25 points if developmental funding relies on publicly traded stock. Add 30 points for developmental funding from intelligence agencies.7) Incorporates references to and/or inspiration from Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, or video games.Add 10 points for Star Trek, 5 points for Star Wars, 3 points for Buck Rogers, and 2 points for video games (regardless whether XBox or Playstation II).8) Inventor/company argues that people also once doubted the feasibility of a nuclear weapon, as if that automatically means that this weapon will work and/or is deserving of nearly unlimited funding.Add 25 points. Also add 20 points if similar references are made to the Wright Brothers and airplanes.9) Claims foreign countries are working hard on this technology, and could overtake the United States if we dont invest in it (without proof of such work).Add 10 points for claiming Russia is working on the same type of weapons, 20 points for China, 30 points for North Korea, and 5 points for the French. Score extra 100 points if claim is that extraterrestrial life forms are working on it (in fact, stop now if thats the case trust me, thats a stupid weapon).10) Claims foreign governments have contacted inventor/company about buying the weapon and/or idea (but with no actual sales).Add 10 points.11) Relies on PowerPoint in lieu of engineering details to demonstrate workability.Add 5 points for each cartoon depiction of technology not yet in existence.12) References to previous military funding as proof the idea is valid, because we all know the military only funds things that work.Add 5 points.13) When presented with possible scientific laws that the weapon as proposed might violate, inventor/company simply insists the weapon works, and its up to the scientists to explain how.Add 35 points.14) Cost of the weapon (please include nonrecurring costs if the weapon doesnt yet exist), exceeds that of similar one currently in inventory by a factor of 10.Add 20 points for each factor of 10. Add another 5 points if you assert that costs will come down with mass production without being able to cite evidence for demand and/or how much those costs would be reduced.15) Any proof the weapon works is openly paraded to the media, but questions about problems with the weapon are rebuffed by claims that the information is classified or proprietary.Add 25 points.-- Sharon Weinberger (and cross-posted at my new Imaginary Weapons site)
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