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Less-lethal weapons

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My hope for the future, as far as military technology goes, is that as our science gets better, our weapons will become ever more efficient -- and less lethal. After all, if you could easily disable and subdue an enemy without killing him, wouldn't you? It's war without the nightmarish moral quandaries.

At least, that's the theory -- although in practice, it hasn't always worked out that way. (There were more than a few times in Vietnam where American soldiers used tear gas to flush VietCong from tunnels, only to mow them down; the fear is that the result would be similar with weapons like aerosolized Valium [nixed by the Pentagon for moral reasons, if you can believe it] or any of the weapons described below.) I guess it's just like Spiderman says: with really cool weapons comes great responsibility.

The gay bomb
The winner of this year's Ig Nobel prize for ridiculous scientific achievement went to the Wright Laboratory of Ohio, which developed the idea of an aphrodisiac bomb which would inspire "completely distasteful but non-lethal" homosexual behavior, distracting enemy troops with one another. Brilliant, yes, but sadly lacking in specifics -- would the effects be immediate? How quickly would they wear off, if ever? Would it turn already-homosexual troops straight? So many questions, so few answers. (That's the problem with hypothetical weapons.)

The Silent Guardian
nieuw_wapen_144244d.jpgDeveloped by the Raytheon Corporation, this "gun" fires off high-intensity beams of radiation for up to 500 meters, and anyone in its path will be overwhelmed by a nasty burning sensation. It's kind of like a big microwave oven with the door taken off -- except the wavelength of its beam is much shorter, so instead of cooking you all the way through, its heat only penetrates your flesh for about a tenth of a centimeter, which Raytheon says isn't enough to hurt you permanently, just make you scream a lot. Critics point out that the beam is only non-lethal when used correctly -- but if left on for just ten seconds, it can reach temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius; more than enough to give its target second- or third-degree burns, which can be life-threatening.

Long-Range Acoustic Device
200px-Soundweapon1.jpgSonic weapons are just coming into vogue, and are pretty nonlethal, but not always. Take, for instance, the anti-frogman bursts of sonar that can be emitted by some military ships; it's so powerful that it can kill the frogmen in question rather than just repel them, as well as ruining the collective day of local aquatic life. (A series of high-profile blue whale beachings in Southern California recently have people wondering if they're not being confused by Navy sonar weapon tests.) The LRAD in question, however, is used for land-based crowd control. It emits a sound 50 times louder than the human ear's pain threshold, which can permanently damage hearing. So far, the device has seen action in Iraq, during protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, and on a cruise ship to repel Somali pirate attacks. Then, of course, there's the hypothetical-but-hilarious brown note weapon.

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science
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.

1. SHE WAS BORN TO, AND FOR, GREATNESS.

A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.

2. HER PARENTS' MARRIAGE WAS A MODEL FOR HER OWN.

Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

3. SHE AND HER HUSBAND WERE AN UNSTOPPABLE PAIR.

Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.

4. THEY FOUGHT FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE.

The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.

5. SHE WAS NOT CONTENT WITH THE STATUS QUO.

Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.

6. SHE WORKED HERSELF TO DEATH.

Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like Delivery.com or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with Delivery.com or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]

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