July 13, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

5. The ultrasound gun The sonic devastator

Imagine the sound of fingernails scraping down a blackboard, then amplify it to 130 decibels (which is equivalent to a jet plane taking off) and you begin to understand how the Sonic Devastator got its name. Designed for riot control, the hand-held gun’s design restricts its beam to 45 degrees, protecting the user, but anyone within 50 feet of the business end can expect horriffc nausea and headaches. It’s available for sale on the Internet – yours for just $400. This weapon is no secret either, as the designs are also open source information.

4. The internet Cyberarms

Cyberspace has been dubbed the ‘fifth mode of war’, after land, sea, air and space. In January this year, five members of the hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ were arrested on suspicion of crippling the websites of corporations that had withdrawn services from Wikileaks. In the 2008 buildup to the South Ossetia war, Georgian governmental websites were plastered with photographs comparing the country’s president to Hitler and news agency websites collapsed – both coincided with the Russian army’s advance across the Caucasus. In 2007, the websites of the Estonian parliament, banks and several media organisations came under attack from hackers protesting against the removal of a Soviet-era memorial. It is feared that cyber assaults on power stations, emergency services or transport systems could be disastrous. Governments across the world now employ cyber armies; Iran claims to have the second largest after the USA.

3. Active Denial system The heat ray

Also known as the ‘heat ray’, the Active Denial System (ADS) is another non-lethal weapon that’s designed for use in crowd control. The transmitter fires a high-powered beam of high-frequency (95 gigahertz) electromagnetic radiation that excites fat and water molecules in the body, rather like a microwave oven. The skin heats rapidlycausing intense pain, but thankfully the beam has low penetrating power so victims don’t cook and there are no permanent effects. ADS was briefly deployed by the US Army in Afghanistan, but wasn’t actually used in warfare.

2. The Stealth Boat The Visby Corvette

The Swedish Navy’s Visby Corvette is designed with minimal vertical surfaces and no right angles, dramatically reducing the reflection of electromagnetic radar beams back towards enemy stations. Nicknamed ‘The Lunchbox’, the Visby’s hull is constructed from a sandwich of carbon fibre, PVC and vinyl, making it extremely light and fast with a top speed of over 35 knots (40 mph). The ship’s radar has a range of 100 km, but the enemy won’t get a glimpse until it’s within 30 km. Not that impressive, you might think – but the Visby also packs a radar-guided missile system which can take out enemy craft 70 km away.

1. Nuclear warfare Electromagnetic Pulse

If a nuclear weapon detonated 400 km above London, there’d be no sound and nothing to see, but every piece of electrical technology this side of Russia would fry. The culprit: an electromagnetic pulse. Airborne nuclear explosions produce gamma rays that knock lectrons from nearby atoms. These electrons then hurtle Earthward at over 90% of the speed of light, spreading out as they hit the Earth’s magnetic field and generating the massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP). EMP is well documented in nuclear tests; an experimental airburst over the South Pacific in 1962 took out electrics in Hawaii well over two thousand miles away).