Gleaned from Slate.com, a wonderful top ten of 2007 “Human and Nature” stories detailing scientific advances.

The temptation is to write a near-future short short for each one and try to sell it to Nature Magazine or Analog or something (you know in my copious spare time).

But instead I chose the one that scared me the most, while dovetailing nicely with a science fiction trope that’s been around a loooooooooooong time.

Yep, I’m talking about long-distance crowd control.

“In January, the U.S. military demonstrated a heat ray that inflicts disabling pain from one-third of a mile away. It consists of electromagnetic millimeter waves, which can penetrate skin enough to cause pain but not damage.

The military boasted that the ray had been tested on 10,000 volunteers, with “no injuries requiring medical attention.”

The weapon’s selling point is that it can disperse crowds, stop checkpoint runners, and disarm enemy fighters without having to shoot people. But perhaps for the same reason, we’ll find it easier to inflict pain.”

Not that I’m against crowd control, per se. Nor am I ignorant of the risks faced by riot police. But dude, when just pushing a button or controlling a joystick is the way people can be dispersed, or thrown out of a building, or tortured, for instance, what government/terrorist group could resist?

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