The conversation's electric in the leafy confines of Ettlingen, the small town between the Pfalz and Black Forest regions of Germany, where a multinational confab on non- (or less-, actually) lethal weapons is ongoing.
Actually, the conversation is about electricity. How to better tune it, how to make it travel across spaces and zap someone, and whether it might cause damage at the genetic level. Three successive experts laid out their cases yesterday, one Russian, two Italian. The moral of the story is, most clearly, if you're ever in Russia, it's a bad idea to screw around with the militia; that the Italians are pursuing shocking water cannons, and that at the cellular level, it's an interesting question whether your very DNA might get jangled around while your muscles are convulsing on the wrong end of a Taser.
A fellow named Mikhaylin representing the Special Materials and Constanta outfits from St. Petersburg (Special Materials makes the stun guns for the militia, in the 100, 200, and extra-shocking 300 versions) is first to bring up the subject. "No-one was killed during these experiments," he says reassuringly as video comes up of a rabbit (or, as he calls the bunny in Russian-tinted English, the "bio-object") thrashing around and doing a backflip while rigged up to some electrodes. (See a man have a similar reaction to a taser test in the photo at right.)
"Now, look at the optimized version. Much better results." The rabbit stretches suddenly, stiff as a board. No flips. No movement. Bunny just quivers there. Mikhaylin posts some equations outlining how the optimization on the bio-object is performed--but I'll have to get them from him later, as he's moved out and I don't have the memory for calculus. Clearly, however, the juice was flowing pretty good.
And he wants to add some range to it. "Generation of water shock waves is widely used for metal forming, surface cleaning and grinding," Mikhaylin and his partners outline in a paper given here. "Experimental results obtained by the authors have shown that under certain conditions, generation of water shock waves can be applied for the hitting elements delivery or the water jet throwing." That translates to 30 feet of juice in a jet or plasma stream.
It's still being worked on, however, as the Italian Pier Ciro Steardo of Oto Melara shows on tape. Oto is working with the Italian MOD on configuring both a portable and vehicle-mounted "electric hydrant" capable of launching water jets carrying electric current pulses up to 60 feet. "We want to make it safe for the operator and the target," he says. They've got a demo model, but it only goes fifteen feet. It needs two nozzles, and looks like the cloud of charged water it sprays could be pretty hard to control. I'll try to track down the video.
But at least some concern was posited at the combination of water and electricity, this being a non-lethal (or at least less than lethal) affair. A prof in the Pisa University biology department and his team is working further on whether short pulses of electricity actually cause damage at the cellular level. It stems from work on whether radar and communications workers suffered at the hands of their instruments, work which was refined further the deeper the labcoats got into the question.
They're looking for chromosome aberration as a result of pulse exposure for less that 100 seconds at a time. Apparently, though I'll have to track him down and ask further, lymphocytes show something happening. Down the road it could have an impact on the immune system, or even genetic effects.