Original link: http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002152.html

Air Force Plan: Hack Your Nervous System

This is the first of a two-part series on plasma and electromagnetic
weapons by David Hambling, author of Weapons Grade: How Modern
Warfare Gave Birth to Our High-Tech World.

The brain has always been a battlefield.  New weapons might be able
to hack directly into your nervous system.

"Controlled Effects" (see image, right) is one of the Air Force's
ambitious long-term challenges. It starts with better and more
accurate bombs, but moves on to discuss devices that "make selected
adversaries think or act according to our needs... By studying and
modeling the human brain and nervous system, the ability to mentally
influence or confuse personnel is also possible."

The first stage is technology to "remotely create physical sensations."
They give the example of the Active Denial System "people zapper"
which uses a high-frequency radiation similar to microwaves as a non-
lethal means of crowd control.

Other weapons can affect the nervous system directly. The Pulsed
Energy Projectile fires a short intense pulse of laser energy. This
vaporizes the outer layer of the target, creating a rapidly-
expanding expanding ball of plasma. At different power levels, those
expanding plasmas could deliver a harmless warning, stun the target,
or disable them - all with pinpoint laser precision from a mile away.

Early reports on the effects of PEPs mentioned temporary paralysis,
then thought to be related to ultrasonic shockwaves. It later became
apparent that the electromagnetic pulse caused by the expanding
plasma was triggering nerve cells.

Details of this emerged in a heavily-censored document released to
Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project under the Freedom if Information
Act. Called "Sensory consequence of electromagnetic pulsed emitted
by laser induced plasmas," it described research on activating the
nerve cells responsible for sensing unpleasant stimuli: heat,
damage, pressure, cold. By selectively stimulating a particular
nociceptor, a finely tuned PEP might sensations of say, being
burned, frozen or dipped in acid -- all without doing the slightest
actual harm.

The skin is the easiest target for such stimulation. But, in
principle, any sensory nerves could be triggered. The Controlled
Effects document suggests "it may be possible to create synthetic
images to confuse an individual' s visual sense or, in a similar
manner, confuse his senses of sound, taste, touch, or smell."

In other words, it may be possible to use electromagnetic means
to create overwhelming 'sound' or 'light', or indeed 'intolerable
smell' which would exist only in the brain of the person perceiving

There is another side as well. The "sensory consequences" document
also notes that the nervous system which controls muscles could be
influenced to cause what they call "Taser-like motor effects." The
stun gun's ability to shock the muscles into malfunction is
relatively crude; we might now be looking at are much more targeted

Tomorrow: Moscow moves in. Remote-controlled heart attacks, anyone?

-- David Hambling