Directed energy weapons fire painful but not lethal rays

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(THE CONVERSATION) The latest episodes of the so-called Havana Syndrome, a series of unexplained illnesses plaguing American and Canadian diplomats and spies, are spreading across the globe. They include two diplomats in Hanoi, Vietnam – who disrupted Vice President Kamala Harris’s overseas travel schedule – in August, several dozen reports to the US Embassy in Vienna earlier this year and a pair of incidents at the White House last November.

The cause of these incidents is unknown, but speculation in the United States centers on electromagnetic beams.


If Havana Syndrome turns out to be caused by weapons that shoot energy beams, it won’t be the first such weapon. As an aerospace engineer and former vice chairman of the US Air Force Science Advisory Board, I researched directed energy. I can also personally attest to the effectiveness of directed energy weapons.

In 2020, a study on Havana Syndrome conducted by the United States National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded that the more than 130 victims had suffered actual physical phenomena and that the cause was most likely some form of electromagnetic radiation. These incidents began in 2016 with reports of several U.S. Embassy staff in Havana, Cuba showing alarming and unexplained symptoms. Symptoms included a feeling of pressure on the face, loud noises, severe headache, nausea and confusion. In some cases, the victims appear to have permanent health effects.

Scientists from the Cuban Academy of Sciences released a report refuting the report by the United States National Academies and attributing the reported symptoms to psychological effects or a range of ordinary illnesses and pre-existing conditions. But based on my own experience, directed energy seems like a plausible explanation.

Here’s how these beams affect people.

At the right wavelength

There is a very wide range of electromagnetic waves characterized by wavelength, which is the distance between successive peaks. These waves can interact with different types of matter, including human bodies, in various ways.

At short wavelengths, a few hundred billionths of a meter, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can burn the skin’s surface if someone is exposed for too long. Microwaves have longer wavelengths. People use them every day to heat up meals. Microwaves transfer energy to water molecules inside food.

The US military has developed directed energy technology that projects beams of a slightly longer wavelength into a focused area for distances of up to a mile. This directed energy technology was designed for non-lethal crowd control. When these waves interact with a person, they pass through the skin and transfer energy to the water that is just below the surface.

I had the opportunity to be skipped by one of these systems. I was standing about half a mile from the source and the beam was on. The part of my body exposed to the beam got very hot very quickly and I immediately stepped out of the beam. It was as if someone had just opened the door of a large oven right next to me.

At even longer wavelengths, electromagnetic radiation can interact with electronic systems and can be used to disable computers and control systems. For these waves, the interaction with matter generates electric currents and fields that interfere with electrical systems. The military is developing these technologies to defend against drone attacks.

Defense by detection

It is plausible that at the correct wavelength, an electromagnetic beam could be projected hundreds of meters to create the symptoms seen in incidents of Havana Syndrome. If so, it is likely that these beams are interfering with the electrical functions of the brain and central nervous system.

For example, the Frey effect involves microwaves activating auditory sensory nerves. Other studies have noted potential effects of microwaves on the central nervous system, such as decreased response time, social dysfunction, and anxiety.

Further study is needed to determine the cause of incidents related to Havana Syndrome. Unfortunately, this type of electromagnetic radiation does not leave a telltale mark like sunburn, which makes it difficult to explain.

Although the results of the National Academies study have been made public, it is likely that federal agencies are carrying out additional behind-the-scenes activity in an attempt to explain these incidents and determine who is to blame. Similar to responding to cyber attacks, however, the government may be reluctant to disclose too much information to the public as it could reveal techniques for detecting and countering attacks.

If the source of Havana Syndrome turns out to be electromagnetic waves, then in principle, buildings could be hardened against them. However, it would be expensive and still leave vulnerable people on the outside. Detection is perhaps the best option to prevent further attacks. It is relatively simple and inexpensive to install sensors to detect electromagnetic waves on buildings and vehicles. Such sensors could also help identify the location of the source of attacks and in this way act as a deterrent.

Assuming Havana Syndrome is the result of deliberately targeted electromagnetic beams, employees of the U.S. government and other countries will remain susceptible to these attacks until governments take such defensive measures.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/directed-energy-weapons-shoot-painful-but-non-lethal-beams-are-similar-weapons-behind-the-havana-syndrome-167318.

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