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Crime The Military Technology

StunRay Incapacitates With a Flash of Light 431

Posted by timothy
from the taking-blinded-by-science-literally dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Scientific American reports that a newly patented method of non-lethal incapacitation can render an assailant helpless for several minutes by overloading the neural networks connected to the retina with a brief flash of high-intensity light. 'It's the inverse of blindness—the technical term is a loss of contrast sensitivity,' says Todd Eisenberg, the engineer who invented the device. The device consists of a 75-watt lamp, combined with optics that collect and focus the visible light into a targeted beam, which can be aimed like a flashlight to project a controlled beam of white light more than 10 times more intense than an aircraft landing light with a range as far away as 150 feet. Recovery time ranges from 'seconds to 20 minutes,' says Eisenberg. 'It's very analogous to walking from a very bright room into a very dark room.'"
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StunRay Incapacitates With a Flash of Light

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  • ...liabilities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpiralSpirit (874918) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:17PM (#35702342)
    ...and I'm sure the long term effects of overloading your sensitive, incredibly difficult and costly to regrow optic nerves to this degree are well known, and this represents no long term danger. right?
    • Re:...liabilities (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:26PM (#35702396)
      no problem, look at how Taser International's massive legal team can get all the maimings and deaths by electrocution swept under the run by buying off judges and doctors and county coroners. The military-industrial complex can steam-roll over peons, it's just operating costs and part of the business plan.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RoFLKOPTr (1294290)

        all the maimings and deaths by electrocution

        [citation needed]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You must be knew here. Citations are only needed if you're *defending* corporations or the government.

          • Re:...liabilities (Score:4, Interesting)

            by davester666 (731373) on Monday April 04, 2011 @04:17AM (#35705686) Journal

            Yes, everyone who died during or shortly after being tasered [and generally more than once] were all wusses. With weak hearts, small bladders, and obviously in the middle of a cocaine high.

            Because if it's been established that for most people without a heart condition can take being tasered a single time without lasting affects [which is what Taser International has established].

            Of course, in real life, cops:
            1) have no idea if the person they are tasering has a heart problem
            2) believe if you can tase them once and they don't die, you can tase them as often and as much as you feel like it

            For example, google "vancouver airport taser death" for an example of someone dying because:
            -he was elderly
            -he didn't understand english
            -he didn't comply with instructions in english within 25 seconds [not that he was attacking anybody, he just didn't flop onto the ground immediately]
            -he was tased 2-4 times [police claim they only got him twice, witnesses say 4, including twice after he was cuffed and on the ground]

            Hell, even the "don't tase me bro" guy, who was a dick, got tased multiple times, despite being held face-down on the ground by 4 cops.

            At least there is SOME accountability, in that the device supposedly keeps a record of when it has been triggered, and there is something either physically pressed against you or is shot towards you indicating who fired. I can't wait until they perfect the long-distance heat ray, also a 'compliance' device, which burns your flesh from a significant distance. You can just be wandering around in a crowd, and suddenly your skin [including your eyes] is burning. Not just the sensation, but is actually burning. And you have no idea how or why it is happening. And no way to prove afterwards that any specific individual or group did anything to you [other than yes, you appear to have second degree burns on your face and upper body].

            Good times.

        • Re:...liabilities (Score:5, Informative)

          by Unoriginal_Nickname (1248894) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:10PM (#35702708)

          "Excited delirium."

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taser_safety_issues [wikipedia.org]

          • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:26PM (#35702830)
        • I understand the pitfalls of anecdotal evidence as much as anyone, but it turned me into a newt.

          • by peragrin (659227)

            you are using a computer so you must have gotten better.

            unless you are telling me there are newt who twit tweets.

        • {citation needed]

          Only by uninformed basement dwellers, anyone who's been even casually following "the news" for the past five years would know it's true.

          • Re:...liabilities (Score:4, Insightful)

            by RoFLKOPTr (1294290) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:28PM (#35703358)

            {citation needed]

            Only by uninformed basement dwellers, anyone who's been even casually following "the news" for the past five years would know it's true.

            That's the problem. "The news" broadcasts controversial events and propaganda and anecdotal evidence and videos of stupid hippies yelling at cops because they hate cops and unruly college students refusing to comply with peace officer demands at public speaking events and then whining when they get tazed. That's all I've ever seen on "the news". How about some actual data? How about some real statistics? Here's an irl scientific study which stated that out of the nearly 1000 cases of Taser use studied, 99.7% resulted in minor to no injury (as in, fall and scratch yourself on the concrete or similar), three hospitalizations, and two deaths which were found to not have been the result of Taser use: Taser Medical Safety: the state of the science - William P. Bozeman, MD, FACEP, FAAEM (PDF of a slideshow presentation made at University of Florida) [ufl.edu], Study: Tasers are safe to use - Physorg [physorg.com], Independent studies could answer questions about Tasers [mnsu.edu]. I can't seem to locate a published record of that particular study, but here is another paper by Dr Bozeman that compares Tasers to other methods of incapacitation: Medical Aspects of Less Lethal Weapons [ispub.com].

            Your turn.

            • I can't seem to locate a published record of that particular study

              Obviously, I posted three links that were published records of that study. I mean an actual paper published in an actual medical journal. All that I can find in Google are the thousands of articles from "the news" about the study that have better PageRank than the actual text of the actual medical paper.

            • by shaitand (626655)

              "That's the problem. "The news" broadcasts controversial events and propaganda and anecdotal evidence and videos of stupid hippies yelling at cops because they hate cops and unruly college students refusing to comply with peace officer demands"

              You've got to be kidding me. At least here in the US the media is highly biased toward law enforcement, establishment, and the entrenched powers at be. Fox is openly biased and openly broadcasts this sort of propaganda and the other stations like CNN pretend to be fai

      • When you're a psychotic PCP crazed naked guy running down main street with a samurai sword, and the police chose to tazer you or flash you with a bright light, it's a whole new level of irony that you can then turn around and sue them for any negative side affects of the procedure they chose to use instead of shooting you in the head. I think we might all be better off if the police just went back to the old, much more lethal methods of threat mitigation.
        • Re:...liabilities (Score:5, Insightful)

          by clang_jangle (975789) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:44PM (#35703030) Journal
          Nice troll. You might be singing a different tune of you'd been an innocent bystander who got tased for "being in the wrong place at the wrong time" (in my case, Seattle 1999 WTO protests). This is a tool for repressing dissent, not for maintaining legitimate law and order.
          • by sycodon (149926)

            So you were just hanging out and decided to go down and see the riots and got tased eh?

            Uh huh.

        • by spud603 (832173)
          Troll?
          The whole point is that police use tazers as if they were non-lethal, not as a substitute for shooting in the head. As in: "This guy's not enough of a threat to assassinate him, so let's just taze him to get things under control. Oh shit, we just assassinated him."
          • The post I replied to was attempting to conflate being tased with being a dangerous, drug-crazed, public buisance. IOW. troll.
        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          I think we might all be better off if the police just went back to the old, much more lethal methods of threat mitigation.

          I pretty much agree, although probably for different reasons to you. As I mentioned in another post, most arguments in favour of the use of tasers revolve around the assumption that they're being used in place of guns - while that is sometimes true, it is absolutely no always the case. Even the worst officer is going to think twice about putting a bullet in someone, but the relative safety and moderate clinical detachment of using a taser invites them to be used much more freely.

          If police restrictions treat

          • by jvillain (546827)
            Tasers are often used as a form of punishment with out all that nasty proof and judgement nonsense, rather than the objectives they were purchased for. BTW my laser pointer has been doing the same thing this "new invention" does for years.
          • Perhaps, but the cops are in a bad position. They are usually out numbered and have no idea what level of threat you are. I went to college... I did all sorts of stupid shit that got me in trouble all the time. I was charged with bullshit stuff by the police and hated them for it. But the one thing I didn't screw around with was: When I got pulled over, or was at a party that got busted, etc... When the cops showed up and told me to show my hands, I showed my god damned hands. Sure there are examples of abu
            • Re:...liabilities (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Entropius (188861) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:29PM (#35703824)

              They are usually out numbered and have no idea what level of threat you are.

              Then they ought to treat you like a responsible nonviolent citizen until they figure it out. I'd have a hell of a lot more respect for police if they did this.

              when they decided not to do what the cops were telling them to do.

              This should never be justification for initiation of violence.

    • by arun84h (1454607)

      ...and what about the "liabilities" that come with using lethal force (aka your sidearm) to incapacitate a criminal? Isn't this much better than say, firing off a round into someones leg?

      The only thing that worries me is what the target may do when all of a sudden he's disoriented. What if his gun is drawn at the officers (or civilians) when he's disabled? TFA says most victims "freeze", but I don't see how inverse-of-blinding light would make your entire body stop working. What if the victim starts bli

    • The problem with all this kind of technology is that edge cases are ignored because it's viewed as always superior to existing options. It's a logical fallacy that's been reinforced by an ignorant judiciary and public officials that don't understand statistics, science, medicine, technology, etc. How well will a person who's eyes have been dilated at the doctor's fare against this? How about people that are prone to seizures or taking certain medications that increase light sensitivity? How about people pr
    • ...and I'm sure the long term effects of overloading your sensitive, incredibly difficult and costly to regrow optic nerves to this degree are well known, and this represents no long term danger. right?

      I'd rather go blind the traditional way - standing too close to the TV and touching myself (apparently).

  • I'm sure this will end well...

  • safety? (Score:5, Funny)

    by CubicleView (910143) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:21PM (#35702368) Journal
    Can't be good for the retinas? Second link was busted but the first link is very light (ahem) on details
  • by volkerdi (9854) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:21PM (#35702370)

    I remember advertisements in magazines in the years before Tasers for a magic-sounding non-lethal weapon that would instantly incapacitate an attacker. The ads were vague about how the device worked, but I recall hearing (reading?) somewhere that it was a super-bright flashlight. Perhaps a strobe.

    Maybe the difference is that it's effective this time.

    • by pavon (30274)

      Yeah, the one's I've seen in the past were based on strobing at a specific frequency that made you very disoriented and nauseous. Probably more dangerous for epileptics but they also wore off more quickly. I'd be worried about permanent damage from something that takes 20 minutes to regain your vision.

    • by innerweb (721995)

      Ask anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Bright strobe lights in dark dance halls. You couldn't see anything when you first walked in.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...by wearing sun glasses?

  • Clancy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thynk (653762) <slashdot@thynk.TEAus minus caffeine> on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:23PM (#35702388) Homepage Journal

    Didn't Tom Clancy use this in one of his novels to blind the Japanese pilots like 15 years ago?

  • The brief pulse of extremely bright light from a nuclear explosion would cause "flash blindness," which sounds like the same thing.

    That's why everyone was always putting on goggles in the old newsreels about nukes.

    • by vlm (69642)

      That's why everyone was always putting on goggles in the old newsreels about nukes.

      I thought it was to prevent permanent damage due to the ultraviolet light, much like staring at an electric arc welder?

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Probably a little different. The reason everyone put on goggles in the old newsreels was that the UV from the explosion would blind you. The visible light probably wouldn't do you much good either, but the UV was the real killer.

  • The summary and article seem to be implying this is more clever than it is.

    overloading the neural networks connected to the retina with a brief flash of high-intensity light. 'It's the inverse of blindness

    No, I think it's just blindness, albeit temporary. You're not really "overloading the neural networks", you're just flashing a bright light in someone's eyes. Unless you're doing something very clever with that flash of light that makes it more effective than just a normal bright light...

    The device consist

    • by vlm (69642)

      This thing doesn't stop you madly swinging your arms about until your eyesight comes back, which I think will be a pretty common response.

      Infantryman, OK. tank driver or attack heli pilot, not so good. Civilian driver, not good.

      I wonder if its been patented? Rednecks have been shooting deer at night from the back of pickup trucks by pointing a floodlight at the deer, which makes it freeze, since... I donno probably about one night after the floodlight and/or pickup truck was invented. Probably the part he is patenting is doing this process while NOT drinking beer and NOT listening to country music.

  • I'm selling specially constructed eye protection devices to make your optical nerve, also known as sun glasses for a reasonable price.
    • by reboot246 (623534)
      If sunglasses aren't enough, then use the kind of lenses used in auto-darkening welding helmets. They can change in about 1/12000 second.

      Or how about a combination of mirror lenses with auto-darkening ones?
  • by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:47PM (#35702542) Journal

    In protest about people whining about tasers, I propose we take tasers, batons and bean bags away from the police. Also since cops don't wear running shoes, and they're given guns, the guns should be used instead of chasing. So any one resisting or trying to run away, you will be shot and you will be killed.

    If force needs to be used, make sure its as lethal as possible.

    • by Ltap (1572175) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:17PM (#35703278) Homepage
      The issue with tasers is not that they exist, but that they are misused -- Taser International has misled police and the public to believe that tasers are more safe than they really are, so police will happily overuse them without making as many judgement calls as if they used live weapons. While trying to ban tasers is misguided, trying to educate people about them (especially when people with financial stakes try as hard as they can to obscure the information) is not.
    • by jaypifer (64463) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:22PM (#35703314)
      I agree, but why stop there, let's take the guns away, too.

      Shooting someone for running away or resisting arrest is the stupidest suggestion I've ever heard. Spend a little less time watching Cops and read more about abuse of power, wrongful arrest, and unarmed shootings by police because of "self-defense".

      Giving any people that sort of power will guarantee a rash of "necessary force". Dead people can't argue.
  • The British SAS and various other counter-terrorist/hostage rescuers and other Secret Squirrels have been using these for years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stun_grenade [wikipedia.org] . When storming some nasty hornet's nest, toss in a couple of these in first. A device that causes permanent blindness is forbidden by the Geneva Conventions.

    But this thingy has a longer range, so that you do not have to be in throwing range. But I am afraid that these devices will fall into the wrong hands . . . like the lasers that c

  • What's old is new (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord_Pall (136066) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @05:52PM (#35702582)

    I saw this as a kid in Looker.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Odj86eBenWk&feature=related [youtube.com]

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:19PM (#35702788)
    From TFA,

    The adjustable beam is typically one degree wide

    So for this to be effective, you have to aim fairly precisely at someone's eyeball. Presuming they aren't cooperating by standing stock-still with their eyes open and looking at you, the chances of managing a "hit" before they do whatever it is you would prefer they didn't must be quite small.

    Although the article doesn't say: the assumption is that this would be a hand-held weapon, much like a taser or revolver, so the operator would need even more luck at hitting their intended target than with (say) a vehicle mounted or sandbagged device. Also, those configurations wouldn't have the flexibility to "control" multiple people in a fast developing situation.

    If this ever gets into development, I think I'd invest in a pair of laser-protection goggles and a large mirror if i ever felt tempted to put myself in a location with somehting like this would be used against me.

    • by woolpert (1442969)

      From TFA,

      The adjustable beam is typically one degree wide

      So for this to be effective, you have to aim fairly precisely at someone's eyeball. Presuming they aren't cooperating by standing stock-still with their eyes open and looking at you, the chances of managing a "hit" before they do whatever it is you would prefer they didn't must be quite small.

      The angular diameter of the full moon (or the sun) is just about half that, and I think you'll find that is plenty large to paint a face quickly and easily.

    • by subreality (157447) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:00PM (#35703604)

      For an example of how this works, go into a mostly dark room with a camera. Have a look around. Turn on the camera, look straight into the flash as you fire it. Have a look around again.... Your wide-open pupils just let the full force of the flash in before you could blink, every receptor on your retina just fired, and it's going to be a few minutes before you can see anything again.

      With a high enough power light source, this works just fine in daylight. I know this because I've flashed myself with a MIG welder - It was just a brief flash as I flicked the trigger at an inopportune moment, but the center of my vision was completely blank for several minutes. Simply turning off the machine and finding a safe place to sit down to wait for my vision to return was a challenge. I would have been screwed in a melee.

      Anyway, no, goggles won't save you. If it's white light, you can't filter a narrow band like laser goggles. When welding with a shade 10 filter, when the arc is on, you can see what you're working on OK, but the arc itself is just white, completely clipping at the top of your eyes' sensitivity. When you turn the arc off, you're blind if you're indoors unless you have a 150 watt light inches away from what you're looking at. Outdoors you can just barely see what's going on, but at many angles the reflections of light leaking in from behind you overwhelm your forward vision (like with glossy screen laptops used outdoors, but worse). Using those kind of lenses will leave you blind anyway - they wouldn't need to flash you. Anything less and you'll still be vulnerable to the flash.

  • I am surprised and shocked that there are no comments here about the neuralizer from Men In Black.

    • by cstacy (534252)

      I am surprised and shocked that there are no comments here about the neuralizer from Men In Black.

      We were going to comment about the "Flashy Thing", but ...we forgot. Um, what was I saying again?

    • Actually, the prior art would be Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor, which describes a device exactly like this; incredibly bright flash of light, overloads the optic nerves.
  • Oh, it will just be used on assailants. Who are up to 150 feet away. Well, I definitely trust that. I mean, nobody would ever use this for crowd control. Or robbery. Or in traffic... oh man, this would be *awesome* for tail gaters! Sorry, where was I... oh yeah, nope, this will be the first ever weapon that can only be used for good!
    • The police will manufacture a way and reason to test this puppy out there without any doubt. Just like they did in Toronto when they gave the police ample opportunity to train in using all the new toys they bought them - without any justifiable reasons required.

      We may say we support democracy here in North America (I am Canadian) but we don't really, because when people go out in the streets to protest and make their opinion known, we arrest them without a warrant and treat them worse that we are allowed to

  • Thank god nobody has thought to invent something to counter this. Something like a set of dark lenses that could fit in front of the human eye. Or perhaps even lenses that could darken in a tiny fraction of a second, or allow only light of a certain polarity to enter.

    You might even want to attach a catchy name to such devices. Something like "Polaroid" or "Rayban".

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