The future of law enforcement and warfare could revolve around new military technologies that inflict pain without causing bloodshed.

The U.S. military recently invented one such technology: a nonlethal weapon that shoots a beam of "directed energy" that penetrates just 1/64th of an inch into the human body, inflaming nerve endings to inflict pain without harming the target.

The pain beam technology, manufactured by Raytheon, "allows precise targeting of specific individuals," and the pain immediately ceases if the target flees or the beam is moved off the target.

The Department of Defense (DoD) saw the need for nonlethal weapons about a dozen years ago, noting that military forces were increasingly being used for peacekeeping missions and that enemies had begun melding with civilians. But traditional nonlethal weapons like rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray all have disadvantages and drawbacks.

Thus, the DoD called for researchers to develop weapons "to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment."

The energy beams, unlike projectiles, are not affected by factors like wind and gravity, and their effects are uniform from both near and far.

Military leaders will soon hold a meeting in London to address the future of directed-energy weapons.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) from the Washington Post (02/18/07); P. B2; Saletan, William.