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Maximum pain: new US weapon

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    Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon 05 March 2005 New Scientist David Hambling http://www.newscientist.com/channel/mech-tech/mg18524894.500 THE US military is
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 5, 2005
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      Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon
      05 March 2005
      New Scientist
      David Hambling

      http://www.newscientist.com/channel/mech-tech/mg18524894.500

      THE US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a
      bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for
      use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain
      researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been
      used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be
      used for torture.

      "I am deeply concerned about the ethical aspects of this research,"
      says Andrew Rice, a consultant in pain medicine at Chelsea and
      Westminster Hospital in London. "Even if the use of temporary severe
      pain can be justified as a restraining measure, which I do not
      believe it can, the long-term physical and psychological effects are
      unknown."

      The research came to light in documents unearthed by the Sunshine
      Project, an organisation based in Texas and in Hamburg, Germany,
      that exposes biological weapons research. The papers were released
      under the US's Freedom of Information Act.

      One document, a research contract between the Office of Naval
      Research and the University of Florida in Gainsville, is
      entitled "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by
      laser induced plasmas". It concerns so-called Pulsed Energy
      Projectiles (PEPs), which fire a laser pulse that generates a
      burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid, like a
      person (New Scientist, 12 October 2002, p 42). The weapon, destined
      for use in 2007, could literally knock rioters off their feet.

      According to a 2003 review of non-lethal weapons by the US Naval
      Studies Board, which advises the navy and marine corps, PEPs
      produced "pain and temporary paralysis" in tests on animals. This
      appears to be the result of an electromagnetic pulse produced by the
      expanding plasma which triggers impulses in nerve cells. The new
      study, which runs until July and will be carried out with
      researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, aims to
      optimise this effect. The idea is to work out how to generate a
      pulse which triggers pain neurons without damaging tissue.

      The contract, heavily censored before release, asks researchers to
      look for "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor
      activation" - in other words, cause the maximum pain possible.
      Studies on cells grown in the lab will identify how much pain can be
      inflicted on someone before causing injury or death.

      New Scientist contacted two researchers working on the project.
      Martin Richardson, a laser expert at the University of Central
      Florida, refused to comment.

      Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the University of Florida,
      distanced himself from the work, saying "I don't have anything
      interesting to convey.

      I was just providing some background for the group." His name
      appears on a public list of the university's research projects next
      to the $500,000-plus grant.

      John Wood of University College London, an expert in how the brain
      perceives pain, says the researchers involved in the project should
      face censure. "It could be used for torture," he says, "the
      [researchers] must be aware of this."

      Amanda Williams, a clinical psychologist at University College
      London, fears that victims risk long-term harm. "Persistent pain can
      result from a range of supposedly non-destructive stimuli which
      nevertheless change the functioning of the nervous system," she
      says. She is concerned that studies of cultured cells will fall
      short of demonstrating a safe level for a plasma burst. "They cannot
      tell us about the pain and psychological consequences of such a
      painful experience."


      +++++++

      Chinese Axiom:
      When things are investigated, knowledge is extended. When knowledge
      is extended, the will becomes sincere. When the will is sincere, the
      mind is correct. When the mind is correct, the self is cultivated.
      --Confucius


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