Drunks, Butts Test Pain Ray; Paris Hilton Next?

I have a story in Wired News today about the Air Forces Active Denial System (or pain beam) and why it is still not in service — despite all those years of development, and all those calls for it in Iraq. The big problem is not with the technology, which seems to work fine. The problem is getting people to accept it. Everyone is still worried the millimeter-wave beam is going to give them cancer, melt their eyeballs or make them sterile.
ADStest.jpgThe Air Force has done a lot of safety testing on the Active Denial System. They have done every sort of test you could think of and many you would never imagine. Thanks to Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project, I received a hefty stash of all 14 sets of protocols for ADS testing involving humans which he acquired using the FoIA. There are some amazing ones in there.
F-WR-2002-0024-H - Effects of Ethanol on Millimeter-Wave-Induced Pain translates roughly into lets see if a guy can stand the pain if we give him enough vodkas. FWR-2002-0023 Facial sensitivity and eye aversion response says that earlier trials included testing the pain beam on subjects buttocks; and FWR-2004-0029-H: Effects of Active Denial System Exposures on the Performance of Military Working Dog Teams involved putting a trained attack dog and its handler in front of the beam and seeing what happened when the animal was exposed to sudden, intense pain. Down, boy, down…
The beam has been tested thousands of times, and the bottom line is the same apart from very occasional blisters (seven in ten thousand exposures), all the ADS does is hurt a lot. Earlier concerns about zippers and spectacles seem to have been settled. But the Pentagon are hugely defensive about it. Perhaps its coincidence, but since those FoIA documents went out the Joint Non-lethal Weapons Program updated their web sites section on the ADS. The best bit is the new video here. If you ignore the Pentagon PR blather and move to a point 1 minute 19 seconds in you can see the actual effects of the beam, but only for 8 seconds, and again at 1 min 40 for 6 seconds.
And this is the problem. Tests conducted in secrecy without independent observers are not going to convince people: it amounts to “Its safe because we say it is. Trust us.” The ADS must not simply be safe and effective, it must be seen to be safe and effective, preferably by as many people as possible. And that means television.
Which is where my own modest proposal comes in. Its inspired by F-BR-2006-0018-H: Effects of Exposure to 400-W, 95-GHz Millimeter Wave Energy on Non-Stationary Humans:

Adult volunteerswill be asked to traverse a course as quickly as possible. At the end of this course they must then unlock a door (a subtask requiring some degree of fine motor skills) in order to exit the course (complete the task). During commission of this task, subjects will be targeted by the small-beam diameter, 400-W, 95-GHz device.

In other words, you try to get through the obstacle course (described as maze-like) while being zapped one or more pain beams. Its a valid test of the beams ability to prevent people from getting through a perimeter fence or similar, but it’s also got a neat competitive element. It’s already using cameras, and it has a sort of gameshow format, with post-zapping interviews:

Subject performance during all of the trials will be videotaped. After each trial, subjects will be asked for a self-report of “hits” and the perceived effectiveness of those hits utilizing a pain scale.

Reality television which involves suffering has been huge recently. Weve seen a rash of programs like Big Brother (which did more damage to George Galloway’s reputationthan the Senate Committee) and Survivor in which contestants endure appalling experiences for big prizes. We used to laugh at the Japanese humiliation-show Endurance, but the UK’s biggest hit du jour is I’m A Celebrity Get me Out of Here, in which D-list celebs try to boost their flagging ratings by eating caterpillars and even more disgusting delicacies .
So why not turn the ADS testing into a live show? That way millions of people could see for themselves exactly what the pain beam does. Familiarity would dispel all the myths about it, and thorough medical examinations (and perhaps the odd lawsuit) would settle any questions its safety once and for all. Even better, because it’s a matter of the nation’s defence, we can rope in anyone we want from the worlds of sport, entertainment and politics to ensure we get the ratings:

Dear Minor But Irritating Celebrity,
You have been selected by national poll to participate in a project vital to National Security. You are therefore required to report at the address attached on the stated date. Filming starts at 20:00 Saturday, and your attendance is mandatory and will be enforced. It’ll hurt, but it’s in a good cause.


You could vote for people to be included because you want to see how tough they really are, because they absolutely deserve it — or just because it would be fun to see them get zapped. Unlike other non-lethal weapons like rubber bullets and tear gas, ADS is equally safe on a 250 lb althete or a 110 lb heiress. Pacemakers, piercings, prosthetic joints, pregnancy or silicone implants are no obstacle to competing — the whole point of the ADS is that everybody is fair game. And it won’t leave any bruises, marks or damage a hair.
Whichever celebrity gets furthest in the trial is the winner that week, and gets to go on all the chat shows and talk about their experiences and have their picture in all the magazines. (Heat would be sort of appropriate). Picking the planet’s most egotistical and driven individuals should ensure that the beam really does work against highly motivated opponents, which previous tests have not necessarily proven.
As for a title - how about calling it “No Pain No Gain”?
I’ll settle for 2%, Mr Murdoch…
— David Hambling

  • campbell

    Luv yur show!

  • Sven Ortmann

    The jackass crew is a natural candidate … they#d even do it!

  • Sinjoro Arto

    People that live with a lot of pain to start with might have less of a problem with this. Let me be a on the show. I bet I could make it out the end.

  • Brian

    The Jackass crew?
    They’d wear out the damn beam. Watch as he stops running the race, walks over to the gun, drops his pants, and rubs his balls on it.
    “Dude… this hurts!!! Huh-huh huh-huh-huh.”

  • bjf182

    Two words - VIRTUAL BORDER. We’ll have thousand of volunteers to test with.

  • Edward Liu

    If we can’t get a whole show dedicated to this, are Stan Lee and SciFi going to start up “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” anytime soon again? I think this might be a good test for any cape-and-spandex wannabes. Winner gets a portable version for use on the superstitious, cowardly lot of criminals.
    Now that I think about it, I’m surprised no comic book superhero has a had a Pain Ray. Batman just dishes it out the old-fashioned way, I guess.

  • Peter

    GENIOUS. If I had the connections, I’d set this up in a heartbeat. Anybody with solid network contacts?

  • Peter

    GENIOUS. If I had the connections, I’d set this up in a heartbeat. Anybody with solid network contacts?

  • David Hambling

    Everyone brings up the ‘kitchen foil’ idead - read the article to find out why it won’t work.
    It also has an even bigger problem, in that it immediately marks you out as someone the security forces want to get to know better. You might as well carry a sign saying “I’m an insurgent, shoot me”

  • Beth

    Thanks for keeping this issue in the public eye.
    This technology in slightly downgraded form is being used by civians at the present time around the world to commit the “evidence-less” crime.
    Directed energy weapons leave no evidence behind except on the victims and that can’t be traced.
    Directed energy equipment can be made easily in one’s garage with few components and a few tools, for those who can’t borrow them from a military or DOD contractor’s pipeline due to failures in inventory control and oversight. People are being harmed by these technologies in neighborhoods because these weapons in place of conventional firearms because these don’t leave any traceable evidence or make any noise to attract attention when used. Even the victims don’t always know what hit them. I agree with you that there needs to be a public demonstration of some kind that is transparent to the public. There should be a pain endurance and side effects trial. I would volunteer for it to spare someone else because I already have been in the line of it’s fire, and it’s hell on earth. This is the technology of the 21st Century. Since the US is in the business of hugely funding these weapons, the citizens need to know what our tax dollars are paying for. It would help people understand also what they may be subjected to by one of their strange neighbors or adversaries when they start feeling undiagnosable pain in the night or they have ringing in the ears and disorientation that defies explanation. This technology is a criminal’s dream, and they don’t have to dream anymore. They have these weapons and use them. Tin foil won’t do anything against these frequencies. Nothing in the civilian sector will. Wake up America and smell the…..burn.
    Beth
    San Diego

  • Emilie

    Those studies can go join the pile with the others, “Tasers Cannot Kill,” “Depleted Uranium is Safe and Effective,” “There is no Gulf War Illness,” and “Flouride is Good for You.”
    Why don’t you spend more time figuring out WHY these wars are going on:
    http://www.ghosttroop.net
    http://www.teamliberty.net/id215.html
    If Iran’s desire…is old news, which it is, then why is
    it being splashed as breaking headlines across the
    world? Why now?
    Iran does pose a real threat [that] the Big Five is not
    reporting…In March 2006, Iran will break the seals on
    its Iran Oil Bourse….the proposed Iranian Oil Bourse
    will accelerate the fall of the American Empire….
    I…served ten years in the United States Marine Corps.
    Arguably, we are all hawks. There are wars worth
    fighting….Sustaining the Federal Reserve Banking
    Cartel…is not one of them.

  • Fang Liang

    Why tinfoils would not work? I try reading the article again, still see no reason why it would not. there is mention of metallic object creating hot spots, but I don’t see why covering yourself in metallic foil/mesh would not bounce off the microwave. I can see how such metallic cloth would bounce the microwave in such an fashion to magnify the cooking effect, but I am not however convinced. Is it because the high frequency waves are able to penetrate, or go through any seams and openings larger than a few millimeters? please do tell in detail, I do like to know. I used to work in an mil. antenna company, and we use fancier version of the kitchen foils all the time, but we work on lower frequencies, and I am Mech Engr, and not so verse in EM as I should, so do tell.
    as for being marked as a shinny insurgent…put on another layer of cloth to cover it.
    I know that no weapon system is perfect, but do our troops have problem dispersing crowds over there? I just haven’t heard much of mass protests in Iraq.
    I don’t know, just think that dish is just a huge target for someone to pop a few bullets into the array, especially in a urban environment where the threat can come from all directions, and there are so many corners that you can hide behind.
    Is the array so rubost not to suffer from such small arm fires or minor damages?
    What is the beam with of this thing? 30 deg? then you are exposed to 330 deg attacks. I suppose you can scan it, but that’s a big dish to move….
    I just don’t know enough about the system at this point, but I just haven herd how this system can be use effectively. It’s new and a new strategy would need to be develop to use it, but in my mind, it’ll be years before it becomes the magic bullet or even effective.
    Like I hear else where, what’s wrong with tear gas?

  • whatareuthinking

    Just call it the Terrorist Creator. It doesn’t harm enough to stop someone from coming back to fight again but it is going to make them really really mad. Fact is the way you win wars is by Killing People not ma,king them angry or wasting a bunch or money. This will only end up in the hands of all the, couldn’t get a real job with my GED cops who already misuse Tasers and pepper spray.

  • Ronald Morris

    I have a serious question? What happens when an ADS system hits the blasting cap or detonator on an IED? No effect, fry cell phone based remote, detonate cap? If we had something to detonate IEDs and suicide vests reliably from a distance, and was area of effect as well, now that would be a good item to have.

  • JoSchmo

    I watched the video: All I saw were paid actors making a commercial, not “actual effects” of the system. The enemy combatants aren’t going to automatically raise their hands and walkinto a conveniently located holding pen in the opposite direction of the RAY GUN> this is more pork, like most of the other SPACE JUNK we’ve been seeing on the Discovery Channel. Who are you trying to kid?

  • Robert

    They just featured a reporter getting hit with this thing on 60 Minutes (now, 4 Mar 08). I don’t care if it’s harmless or not. It’s a torture weapon. Using this on civilians should be considered a war crime. Beyond that, it is a threat to democracy at home. “Bull” Connor would have loved this baby in Birmingham, 1963. Kept everyone it their place, it would have.
    I also have some questions based on various comments I’ve read here. If this thing can deliver enough power to boil the water in a wet “protective” leather garment, why -wouldn’t- it burn the top layer of your flesh rather than merely causing the -sensation- of burning? It seems to me that if it couldn’t hurt you, it couldn’t deliver the energy needed to defeat a moist-protective barrier. And if the only reason that it can’t hurt you is some safety mechanism that stops it from delivering too much energy, then the safeties can be defeated to create a lethal weapon. (Which is in some ways more desirable — because in the long run it would remove the pretense of this being some sort of “humane” weapon.)
    So, when do we start selling this to the Chinese Communist Party to put down strikers? I’m sure they’ll be glad to learn from our own history. Shooting strikers dead makes you unpopular. But control them “humanely” (cough) and you might spin the news in your favor — as long as the comfortable audience at home never suffers the same torture.
    This is sheer sickness. Nothing “cool” about it.