Set your phasers on stun - Star trek comes to life

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Set your phasers on stun - Star trek comes to life

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Ionatron's prototype weapon uses laser light to ionize the air and channel a high-voltage electric discharge, which could be adjusted to disable a person without killing.

The newer generation of stun weapons will dispense with the clumsy darts and wires entirely.

In their place, they will use lasers to generate conductive channels of ionized air—raylike beams of plasma—through which an electric shock can be administered.

This general strategy, having a laser induce ionization and thus allow for the conduction of electricity, has for decades been the Holy Grail of scientists and engineers seeking to control lightning. They have longed to be able to generate a conductive path between a thundercloud and the ground, which could harmlessly drain off the buildup of charge that otherwise might strike a sensitive facility, say an electric-power substation or an airport control tower.

A less ambitious goal is to create a shorter "laser lightning rod" that could be deployed at the flip of a switch. The main hitch early on was that ordinary lasers do too good a job at inducing ionization, which then makes the air opaque to the light beam. But more promising results have been achieved using lasers that emit extremely short pulses.

Last December, for example, Roland Ackermann of Université Lyon 1 in France and 15 colleagues reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters their success in ionizing a path in air that served to channel an artificial electric discharge.

This recent experiment is notable because it was carried out under conditions of simulated rain. The length of the laboratory discharge was only about a meter, so this technology has a ways to go before it can be used to control real lightning bolts. But the same principles are now being apply in a phaser-like way.

Just as Ackermann's paper was being published, an Arizona company named Ionatron demonstrated the use of laser-guided electric discharges in something it calls a "portal denial system," which can be set up in a corridor and switched on to prevent intruders from passing through.

Three beams in this system create a virtual electric fence that spans the width of a hallway. Steve McCahon, Ionatron's executive vice president for technology and engineering, explains that the company's system demonstrated nonlethal levels of deterrence but "that doesn't mean you couldn't turn it up."

Are guns next?

According to the boldly written claim on its Web site, "Ionatron intends to use our compact, non-lethal LIPC [laser-induced plasma-channel] technology to replace guns as the weapon of choice in close-range defense." McCahon confirms that "the thrust is extending range."

Exactly how much range Ionatron has been able to achieve with such a weapon is being kept secret. And it's unclear whether the sophisticated lasers needed could ever be made very small.

Still, it seems reasonable to anticipate that in the not-so-distant future, military or law-enforcement officers might be caught uttering the phrase "phasers on stun" in all seriousness.
By netchicken: posted on 9-7-2005

ARLINGTON, Va. - For years, the U.S. military has explored a new kind of firepower that is instantaneous, precise and virtually inexhaustible: beams of electromagnetic energy. "Directed-energy" pulses can be throttled up or down depending on the situation, much like the phasers on "Star Trek" could be set to kill or merely stun.

Such weapons are now nearing fruition. But logistical issues have delayed their battlefield debut — even as soldiers in
Iraq encounter tense urban situations in which the nonlethal capabilities of directed energy could be put to the test.

"It's a great technology with enormous potential, but I think the environment's not strong for it," said James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who blames the military and Congress for not spending enough on getting directed energy to the front. "The tragedy is that I think it's exactly the right time for this." etc..........................


Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate:

TUT :sh
By TUTUTKAMEN: posted on 10-7-2005

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