Monday, March 07, 2005

Bush funds scientific pornography

When the Supreme Court first ruled on pornography, one Justice noted that while it was difficult to give hard and fast criteria for what was a violation of community standards, "he knew it when he saw it." From The New Scientist (via Common Dreams):
Maximum pain is aim of new US weapon
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
David Hambling

The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture . . .
The "research," discovered by our friends at the Sunshine Project and going under the title "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by laser induced plasmas," generates Pulsed Energy Projectiles (PEPs) from a laser, producing a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid (like a human being).
According to a 2003 review of non-lethal weapons by the US Naval Studies Board, which advises the navy and marine corps, PEPs produced "pain and temporary paralysis" in tests on animals. This appears to be the result of an electromagnetic pulse produced by the expanding plasma which triggers impulses in nerve cells.

The new study, which runs until July and will be carried out with researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, aims to optimise this effect. The idea is to work out how to generate a pulse which triggers pain neurons without damaging tissue.

The contract, heavily censored before release, asks researchers to look for "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor activation" - in other words, cause the maximum pain possible. Studies on cells grown in the lab will identify how much pain can be inflicted on someone before causing injury or death.
[my emphasis]
To say this is beyond the pale doesn't begin to describe it.
New Scientist contacted two researchers working on the project. Martin Richardson, a laser expert at the University of Central Florida, US, refused to comment. Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the University of Florida, distanced himself from the work, saying "I don't have anything interesting to convey. I was just providing some background for the group." His name appears on a public list of the university's research projects next to the $500,000-plus grant.
I wonder who will play the "dental scientist" Mr. Cooper in the movie now that Laurence Olivier is dead.

If this isn't obscence science, I guess I don't know it when I see it.