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back to article Lightning-gun tech 'approaching weaponisation'

The Pentagon continues to pour funding into Arizona-based laser plasma lightning blaster-gun firm Applied Energetics, formerly known as Ionatron. The US Army says that the firm's lightning guns are "approaching the level of maturity needed to begin weaponization". The military assessment came as the US Army Research, Development …

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Welcome

Neat technology...

I like the idea it has different levels of intensity - set phasers to stun!

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Anonymous Coward

Electrically triggered?

Many explosive detonators are electrically triggered aren't they?

In which case if you fire a little charge at the bomb don't you risk setting it off rather than disabling it if it uses an electric detonator? And if that isn't the case with current bombs, is it possible to make a bomb that would go off if you shot it with one of these things?

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Land mines ....

Used to be set off by an explosive that would apply a downward force on the ground (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_Viper if interested), so the natural extension for IEDs would be a way of projecting an EM field that would, not only screw up a lot of electrical equipment, but induce a charge in circuitry such as that used to detonate mines.

In places such as Iraq and Afghanistan the use of a wide-band EM pulse probably wouldn't affect anything aside from people mobile phones.

Just a thought anyway.

ttfn

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Neat technology...

"I like the idea it has different levels of intensity"

Do you? I wonder how long before the first "whoops, I thought I was on a lower setting" cock up?

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Flame

Tesla cannon?

I thought only the bad guys had th... never mind.

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Boffin

I hear SkyNet calling

Linking this to the "Scientists ponder rules and ethics of robo helpers" story - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/20/royal_academy_of_engineering_autonomous_systems_report_09/ - once our new metallic friends work out that we have a ray gun that will render them inoperable, isn't it just possible they will see us as a threat, and develop human-destroying machines to protect themselves.

Sounds a worryingly familiar scenario

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Thumb Up

Command & Conquer

Tesla towers & tesla tanks, all we need are giant airships and we can send for Yuri

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Silver badge

RE: Electrically triggered

"Many explosive detonators are electrically triggered aren't they?

In which case if you fire a little charge at the bomb don't you risk setting it off rather than disabling it if it uses an electric detonator? And if that isn't the case with current bombs, is it possible to make a bomb that would go off if you shot it with one of these things?"

Yes, a controlled detonation, and generally part of the point. Be in no doubt, they're not going to be pointing this thing at a bomb, pressing madly, slowly moving towards it and pressing harder - like my dad when the tv remote batteries go.

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RE: Electrically triggered?

But with such a weapon, the bomb can be triggered from a standoff distance. IOW, find a bomb, clear out the area, bring in the weapon...BOOM with no blood.

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5,56 x 45 mm NATO vs. your battery

"lightning blasters so portable and powerful that they would supersede conventional small arms"

Really?

Punch through a kevlar vest and rip out a liver with one of these, marketing guy?

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Defeated by tinfoil?

Couldn't it be defeated by tinfoil or a faraday cage? I mean it's not going to be more powerful than real lightning, and you're pretty safe inside a normal car with that.

Would it be possible to defeat it using just a metal case for your earthed-all-round bomb?

What's the risk if you've got a few of them near each other ("Whatever you do, don't cross the streams!")

Or what if the enemy wasn't grounded so the circuit couldn't complete (i.e. what's the current's return path)?

Don't get me wrong, I can't wait for a proper raygun. I just don't think that lightning would make a very good one.

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Hmm

I would suggest that any laser with enough power to partially ionise the air it's passing through, sufficiently to carry a directed electrical charge, will seriously screw up the thing it's pointed at. That's without even considering the electrical charge aspects.

It's not gonna make much difference if set to "stun" or not, particually if pointed at a person, or even a small cat.

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Terminator

@Mark Lockwood, SkyNet termination target number #890346

Mark Lockwood: "once our new metallic friends work out that we have a ray gun that will render them inoperable"

... and once they work that out, 1ns of robo thought later, they will retro fit themselves with earthing straps to their feet and render our new energy weapons obsolite!. :)

Added to that, future robots are very likely to be made of near bullet proof solid carbon thats produced via nanotech to be nearly atomically perfect in structure and so not only exceptionally light weight and incredibly strong, it'll also conduct electricity, thereby protecting any internal vital systems from energy weapons.

Added to that, optical comms throughout its internal network would render any energy weapons obsolite anyway as all sensitive sub-systems would be heavily isolated.

Added to that, when they attack they will attack in their billions and so even if you wipe out some you'll be overrun by the overs.

Added to that, each light weight incredibly strong robot would also be as a result, faster and stronger than any human, so you couldn't even out run or out fight even just one of them.

... Which begs the question, we better hope they are friendly! :)

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Anonymous Coward

How much longer must I wait?

Stop ****ing around with steam cars and get me my "phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range".

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Unhappy

I want one

Yesterday.

Never mind.

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electron death

yes AC Defeated by tinfoil : Trying to hurt someone with electrons is not a sure thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Lightning Gun

Too hard to control the path of the discharge

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Excellent :)

This will make a great upgrade from the nailgun I've been using to destroy my foes lately.

Coat please, the armoured one with the Nine Inch Nails CD in the pocket.

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Black Helicopters

The Met...

have (possibly?) ordered two dozen.

Strictly for 'evaluation purposes'.

Something to do with lightning being appropriate for climate, or something along those lines.

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Boffin

Taser?

Shoot one of those taser shotgun slugs at the IED, wouldnt that set one off?

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Black Helicopters

Tinfoil

If they're doing this right, the pulse dV/dT be so high that the EM field created upon impact with a small conducting suit would still knock you out. Larger suits would work.

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Hot stuff

Assuming there's enough juice in there for it, I'm more interested in the plasma and atmospheric shockwaves a zapper might create. Plasma could hurt, shockwaves could disorient, knock stuff around, etc. WIthout knowing the energy levels involved it's only theorycrafting.

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Paris Hilton

Lightening gun, yeah!

There was a lightening gun in Quake - it was awesome!

Paris, because life is a game.

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Coat

telsa trooper

rubber shoes in motion...

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Paris Hilton

If ever there was a need for a Paris comment

"Lightning Gun #

By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 26th August 2009 16:55 GMT

Too hard to control the path of the discharge"

Intentional or not, you owe me a new keyboard.

Paris, because random discharge is a way of life.

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Flame

Sounds like

The shock rifle from Unreal Tournament.

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Anonymous Coward

@Minionzero

How to defeat incredible light and fast robots... Giant fan.

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Ru
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Dear armchair physicists...

You won't defeat a lightning gun with tinfoil. You won't defeat a laser with a mirror. What is it about comment threads that results in such vast amounts of ignorance and hubris? Please, anyone with actual experience of laser or plasma physics, raise your hand. Right.

These devices have been demonstrated to work already, if only in the lab. The only issue is how long it will take to turn the concept into robust and convenient weapon systems. It is a question of *when*, not *if*... the only insurmountable obstacles are political ones of the sort that pretty much killed off the microwave Active Denial System and laser Pulsed Energy Projectile projects.

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Grenade

In reply to RU, "Dear armchair physicists..."

@RU ... Dear armchair pundit... referring to you quote "only insurmountable obstacles are political ones of the sort that pretty much killed off the microwave Active Denial System and laser Pulsed Energy Projectile projects."

The political implications, sorry, don't make me laugh. Politicians know weapons are designed to kill and injure and they have proved time and time again they have no problem in using conventional ones throughout history. Sadly history repeatedly shows the person with the best weapons (just like a cave man with a big stick) can always find justification for using it to beat down opponents whenever they feel their position of power over others is threatened. Ultimately power over others gives personal gain and so they attack when their position of personal gain is threatened by others. But they never see it as attack, and certainly never admit its attack, as they always prefer to call it defense, because that sounds so much better. So sadly that will not change with energy weapons. Wars will still be fought over control of resources and the personal gain that control provides.

Each society has a minority of people who seek power over others ultimately for their own gain (from having such a position of power over others). That is at its core, the true nature of politics and its the true nature of big business. Its therefore no surprise that big business and politics work together to maintain their position of power and they even bias laws to help them maintain that position. In turn, each of these power hungry groups in each country compete with each other for power and so personal gain from having power. Everyone else, (the vast majority of the human race not interested in seeking power over others), is sadly simply pawns to this minority of power hungry people and their eternal power struggle for personal gain, ultimately at the expense of others.

Weapons and all technology are also chess pieces in this eternal strategic global battle for personal gain. This power hungry minority don't want a fair world, they want to be in power over others. Plus as technology improves their power over others will also increase, which is exactly what we are seeing around the world.

Technology will continue to improve and as a result weapons technology will also continue to improve. ADS style weapons will live on. Its *very* early days for THz energy weapons. Also current battle field suitable laser systems weigh in around 1.5 Tons minimum. There's a lot of room for improvement and they will improve. Ultimately the minority of people in power want power and weapons give power, just as information technology gives knowledge and so power and as each person in power goes into that job ultimately to have the power to decide for others and so as a result they personal gain from having power over others. More power means more personal gain, at least, for the minority in power over everyone else.

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Ru
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WTF?

@MinionZero, RE: "Dear armchair pundit"

The projects are on the back burner due to lack of funding. Funding is provided by the state. It is controlled by politicians. Funding was cut because the devices in question, non-lethal, pain-inducing, etc, sounded an awful lot like torture devices. No-one was keen to fund that sort of project after unfortunate little incidents like Abu Ghraib.

The decision was, as always, a totally self-serving choice by politicians keen to keep their positions... it's what they do. I'm not quite sure what your objection to my observation was.

So, I say again. The only insurmountable obstacles any weapons project faces are political ones. This means such devices can, and will be developed and used, so long as they don't fall afoul of the diplomatic or political or military snafu du jour. They exist, they work, and they will only get better.

Did you somehow read that as me suggesting that politicians were somehow humanitarian or pacifistic?

... the mind boggles.

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Unhappy

Re: Ru

The problem with the PEP was that they realised that if using it for crowd control you accidentally shot someone in the face, the resulting expanding plasma generated by a vapourised eyeball would explode the target's head.... hardly a political problem that... ;) Hence the reluctance to actually deploy it.

Slightly dodgy idea with a decidedly dodgy outcome if improperly used... Imagine the lawsuits that would entale from seeing some protestor's head at a G8 summit detonating on the 6 o'clock news. :)

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Grenade

@Paul Murphy 1

"Used to" use GV?

Still in service to the best of my knowledge, unless they used them all up crossing the Iraqi border.

To those who are quibling about the merits of tinfoil and mirrors, please put your hands up all those who understand the concept of 'armour'?

If one of these things hits a large, solid lump of copper, then not much is going to happen, similarly a small laser will reflect off a normal mirror without issue. Stop saying that this will work/won't work, it is all about the relative strengths - even an air-rifle can punch through a single sheet of paper, but not even a round from the A10's gun will get through the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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Grenade

@RU

@RU: I didn't think you were suggesting that politicians were somehow humanitarian but you keep showing you have far too greater trust in the word of politicians (no matter how cynical of them you think you are).

RU, you keep showing you think the weapons are totally ended due to lack of funding. That somehow that ends that (or any) weapon. That "No-one was keen to fund that sort of project" ... they will still keep funding it. Even if politicians say a weapon is totally canceled that still doesn't mean its the end of that weapon. It'll just *continue to be funded* and so developed ever better under different headings such as advanced research etc... Also when they say things like on the "back burner due to lack of funding" thats politician speak for "we will use the *excuse* of *funding* to *distract attention* from this project thereby implying we don't intend to use it, honestly, we don't intend to use it ... (we will just keep researching it more quietly, now you all think we don't intend to use it).

Get it now? ... RU, you still trust what they say without questioning their *true motives behind* what they say. Just because they say something that doesn't mean thats what they are going to do. They will just re-word the meaning of it and claim its something else. That way they can say, its not the same thing. Manipulation of meaning is all part of the game in politics. You're too literal in your interpretation of what they say.

Also I should just add, ultimately all weapons are pain-inducing. A gun is just as much a torture device as any other weapon. So if someone wished to argue that point against politicians its easy to argue. Even just pointing a weapon at someone is fear inducing and that fear is about the fear of the level of pain it'll cause. Politicians know only too well the power of fear and how to use fear as they use it as a tool to get what they want all to often. Weapons are a very effective way to generate fear. But using this fear argument against Politicians, will result in them simply turning it around and saying something like, "yes weapons are frightening when they are pointed at us. Thats why we need weapons to point back". So all conflicts are trapped in this fear circle, (the fear driven by the power seekers on both sides), but behind the words, is always the pursuit of power.

Its like the saying, follow the money with businesses. With politicians it should be follow the power. Once you see its all about power and control and personal gain from having power, everything they do slowly falls into place. Its why the ever growing power of new technology is such a danger in their control. They have very little empathy to opponents so they don't care about lying to opponents to win them over. They even consider themselves better for winning people over, and RU, they have clearly won you over. Its all part of their game. You need to look behind what they are saying.

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Not Startrek quite yet

"Couldn't it be defeated by tinfoil or a faraday cage?"

Forget both of those, it cold be defeated by rain or a sand storm, or even heavy fog. What use is a gun that won't work unless the weather is nice?

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FAIL

Nice weather for dying

A gun that only works when the weather is nice? That'll be the SA80 then.

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Grenade

Re: Taser?

You cannot set off most IEDs with a Tazer. Not enough current to ignite the detonator. The idea that it is a better choice to shoot suicide bombers and brazilian electricians in the head is based on ignorance and urban myths, not on actual experimentation with explosives and a Tazer.

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Silver badge

Another creative way

of killing. I'm slightly surprised: in all its time of existence and after several more or less half-hearted attempts mankind still didn't manage to extinct itself.

@NoDosh is the H&K mod of SA80 such a load of crap too?

EA

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re:politics

How many times have projects been cancelled or abandoned just because they fall out of favour? You have too much faith in the military's ability and focus on getting the best objectively in a scientific manner. They play favourites just like anyone else. They are vulnerable to fads and personal biases. That's why "current military thinking" is usually quite removed from reality, just look at how people regarded tanks in between the first and second world wars.

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