This is the second of David Hambling’s two-part series on plasma and electromagnetic weapons. Check out part one here.
The American military may want to attack the nervous system, with pain rays and laser plasma pulses. But they’re not the only ones. The Russians have long studied such systems, too — including one weapon that could, in theory, remotely trigger heart attacks.
In 2003, at the 2nd European Symposium on Non-Lethal Weapons, Anatoly Korolev and his colleagues from Moscow State University presented a paper with the snappy title “Bioelectrodynamic Criterion of the NLW Effectiveness Estimation and the Interaction mechanisms of the multilayer Skin Tissues with electromagnetic Radiation.” This is a study of how radio-frequency weapons — like the American Active Denial System — affect the skin. After wading through a mass of technical data showing how complex the interactions are we reach the punch line:
The sensations modality (pricking, touch, pressure, gooseflesh, touch, burning pain etc) depends on the field parameters and individual concrete human being factors. As a matter of fact, we can really choose the non-lethal bioeffect.
The effects include sensations similar to those discussed previously, and more besides. The paper discusses effects on cell membranes and affecting the bodys normal function, including “information transfer to the organs of control.”
At the same conference, V Makukhin of the Trymas Engineering Center in Moscow described “Electronic equipment for complex influence on biological objects.” And when he says “biological objects,” he means you and me.
His laboratory apparatus uses a modulated beam of radio waves to produce what he terms “disorder of autonomic nervous system,” put forward as a possible non-lethal weapon. Makhunin notes that there is no general agreement on how EM waves disrupt nerves – he mentions ion channels similar to those in the plasma paper – but he certainly seems to be seeing the same effects as American researchers.
But it need not be a non-lethal weapon. Makhunin also mentions the effects of “change of electrocardiogram” and what he calls “function break of heart muscle.”
The vulnerability of the heart to electrical stimulation (including that produced by EM waves) is well documented. A lethal device would interfere with the electrical potentials that keep the chambers of the heart synchronized, producing fibrillation and rapid death. A death ray doesnt need to be a truck-sized laser that reduces the target to smoking heap; a small device that stops the heart will do the job.
Little has been openly published in this area in the public domain, but this may be the tip of the iceberg. We are likely to be hearing more in future – especially if the Russians manage to find funding.
I dont think we need tinfoil hats just yet. But a layer of conducting mesh built into body armor might save a lot of heartache in years to come.
(If you want more, theres a whole chapter on different non-lethal directed energy weapons and where the technology might lead in my book Weapons Grade. )
— David Hambling