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The Military Will Test a New Terrifyingly Loud Noise Directed Energy Gun

Imagine walking through a field on a cloudless day when you suddenly hear the 130-decibel roar of a fighter jet. But you can’t spot the jet, or even tell which direction the sound is coming from. Rather, it seems to originate from the thin air in front of your face, like a shout from an angry, Old-Testament God. No, you aren’t hallucinating. And you aren’t Moses. You’re experiencing a new type of military weapon intended not to kill but to startle an enemy into retreat. It’s called the Laser-Induced Plasma Effect, or LIPE, a weapon that the U.S. military hopes to begin testing in coming months.

LIPE is the brainchild of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, a group tasked with inventing better options for crowd control and checkpoint security. The noise comes from a unique manipulation of matter and energy to produce loud sounds at specific target locations, sort of like an incredibly precise missile of noise. Here’s how it works:

Matter comes in four states: solid, liquid, gas, and what’s called plasma, the one least familiar to most people, though it’s actually the most common state of matter in the universe. You can think of it as gas plus. In the plasma state, high doses of energy have pulled electrons from their atomic nuclei, creating ions. A bunch of these hanging out is a state of matter that isn’t a liquid or solid and doesn’t behave exactly like a gas either, but rather has magnetic and electric properties and can take the form of light (think neon lights, or the Sun).

LIPE’s lasers fire extremely short bursts (around a nanosecond, or a billionth of a second) of directed high energy at a target. That target could be on a person, a windshield, or merely a single point in space. The energy, relatively harmless at the LIPE levels, separates electrons and nuclei at the target area to create a blue ball of plasma. Additional pulses of directed laser energy manipulate the ball to make a noise that seems to come from nowhere.

 

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