Electromagnetic weapons-also known as E-bombs-are designed to release a high-power flash of radio waves or microwaves. Depending on the energy of the electromagnetic pulse, effects can range from the disabling of electronic circuitry to physiological effects in those exposed to the electromagnetic pulse.
The pulse released by an electromagnetic weapon lasts for an extremely short time, around 100 picoseconds (one ten-billionth of a second). The absorption of this blast of high energy by anything capable of conducting electricity, including nerves and neurons, overwhelms the recipient.
Research and development into the effects of electromagnetic weapons on human beings and animals was underway in the 1940s. The Japanese spent considerable sums of money on the development of a “Death Ray” between 1940 and 1945. A review of these studies by the United States military concluded that it was possible to develop a weapon that would produce an electromagnetic ray capable of killing humans five to 10 miles away from the source.
Animal studies have demonstrated the lethal nature of electromagnetic radiation. In the studies, wavelengths ranging from 60 centimeters destroyed the lung cells of mice and ground hogs. Wavelengths less than two meters also destroyed brain cells.
Electronic stimulation can have other, nonlethal effects on humans. Secret research conducted in the United States following World War II demonstrated that electronic stimulation of different regions of the brain of test subjects could produce extreme emotions of rage, lust, and fatigue. Another research program, dubbed “Operation Knockout,” operated at the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal, Canada, with funding from the Central Intelligence Agency. The study’s director, Dr. Ewen Cameron, discovered that electroshock treatments caused amnesia. Memories could be erased, and the subjects reprogrammed. Once these “psychic driving” experiments became public, Cameron-then a pre-eminent psychiatrist, endured harsh public and professional criticism.
In the 1960s, the U. S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) studied the health and psychological effects of low energy microwaves for weapons applications. The ability of microwaves to damage the heart, create leaks in blood vessels in the brain, and to produce hallucinations were demonstrated.
Many scientists assume that research into the debilitating effects of electromagnetic radiation has continued up to the present day. However, increasing restrictions on the information obtainable through the U. S. Freedom of Information Act have made verification difficult. A 1993 U. S. Air Command and Staff College paper entitled “Non-Lethal Technology and Air Power” documented low frequency, “acoustic” and high power microwave weapons that could deter or debilitate humans.
Low frequency electromagnetic waves, also known as acoustic waves, have been commonly used for decades in functions such as ultrasound machines. However, acoustic waves can also cause internal organs of humans to vibrate. The result can be nausea, diarrhea, earache, and mental confusion. The discomfort increases as one gets closer to the source.
Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation produces different effects. A common example is microwave radiation, which in a microwave oven can be used to heat up foods and liquids. When directed at humans, a microwave weapon causes atoms to vibrate, which in turn generates heat. At 200 yards away, body temperature increases from the normal 98.6° F to 107° F. At closer range, the temperature increase can be even higher, and is lethal.
Microwave electromagnetic weapons can also stun a victim. This is the result of the stimulation of peripheral nerves. The simultaneous activity of many nerves overwhelms the capacity of the brain to process the incoming information, and can induce unconsciousness.
The biochemical effect of microwave exposure is dependent on the distance from the source, as electromagnetic fields become much weaker as the distance from the source increases.
Experiments with very low frequency electromagnetic radiation have demonstrated that the radiation can induce the brain to release chemicals that induce slumber, or to release a chemical called histamine. In human volunteers, the histamine release produces flu-like symptoms, which dissipate when the radiation stops.
Not all electromagnetic weapons are cloaked in military secrecy. A device called the Pulse Wave Myotron is commercially available. The Myotron emits rapid pulses of electromagnetic radiation. The pulses incapacitate the movement of voluntary muscles by overriding the electrical pulse that normally flows from nerve to nerve within the muscles. Involuntary muscles, such as the heart and muscles that operate the lungs, are unaffected. Thus, a victim is rendered incapable of movement or speech. The effect lasts until the muscles can repolarize; approximately 30 minutes.
FURTHER READING : BOOKS: Alexander, John B. Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First Century Warfare. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. PERIODICALS: Pasternak, D. “Wonder Weapons.” U. S. News & World Report. July 7 (1997): 38-46.