Seriously, you can’t convince me the U.S. Military isn’t really consulting SciFi authors. This 1998 document emerged from a 2006 Freedom of Information Act request. It’s a summary of the Army’s attempts to develop non-lethal weapons using microwave and other electro-magnetic radiation. Here’s a list of what the army came up with, and what it would do to an imaginary enemy soldier I’ve decided to name Gil (also, the Army has lame names for their weapons, so I made up better ones. Just so you know).
What it does: Gives Gil heat stroke by aiming a microwave at him.
Why it might work: As anyone with a modern kitchen knows, things exposed to high concentrations of microwaves get hotter. In this case, the idea is to make get Gil’s core body temperature rise to 41 degrees C (Normal is 37, for all of us non-metric folks). That will essentially give him heat stroke. We know it might work because we have lots of experience with microwaves, and “numerous studies have been performed on animals.” (Now we know what games these scientists played as children, don’t we?).
Why it didn’t: Subject has to remain in the beam for 15-30 minutes: “OK, Gil, I’m going to incapacitate you now. Just, don’t move.”
What it does: Makes it so you can speak into a microphone and beam your voice “hundreds of meters” to someone’s ear. Apparently only the person you aim at will hear it. They put a microphone next to a test subject, and the subject heard a voice counting one through ten, but the microphone caught nothing. That’s pretty nifty if you ask me.
Why it might work: Small bursts of microwave fired at someone’s ear will cause the air to expand against the eardrum, much like normal sound. Microwave radiation is already one of the more common causes for very brief audio hallucinations.
Why it didn’t: Aim has to be very precise. You’d hate to aim a message at American hostage Sarah, telling her to duck, because the Heat-o-matic was about to fire, only to hit Gil with the message by mistake and give away the plan. Still, this one seems pretty cool. The army should get it back on track.
What it does: Shoots pulses of microwave radiation into Gil’s brain causing him to have an epileptic seizures.
Why it might work: Because a very specific pattern of flashing lights in a Japanese cartoon (Pokemon) once induced seizures in thousands of school children. The military thinks it would be reasonable to imagine you could do the same thing with electromagnetic rays. Sent on the frequency level of Alpha brain waves, the beams cause neurons to fire in an uncoordinated manner, causing seizures.
Why it won’t work: Again, it’s hard to aim. Also, to induce seizures in just Gil is relatively easy, but to do it to Gil’s whole regiment would require a lot of power.
What it does: Play very loud, low pitched noise to make Gil dizzy and nauseous.
Why it might work: Apparently noise at the right frequency and volume will actually push some of the ear organs into the side of the aural canal, which then throws off all the balance mechanisms of the inner ear. This will make Gil dizzy, nauseous, and possibly cause rapid eye movement.
Why it doesn’t work: Because it sounds like something Cobra Commander might invent. And also, because it requires a lot of energy to make this much noise, so it’s not very portable, not to mention it would thwarted by a set of 99-cent ear plugs.
What it does: Shoot frickin’ lasers
Why it might work: A laser in the eye can make Gil go blind. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?
Why it doesn’t: A bullet in the eye also makes Gil blind, and it’s cheaper.