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Mysterious loud noise may be from new plasma weapon

Weapons have always had some sort of loud noises associated with them: cannons blast, guns fire, bombs explode, planes create sonic booms. In those cases, the noise was the aftereffect. A new weapon being developed uses noise as the actual effect. Will the next military marching song be about a little ear-drummer boy?

The weapon is called the Laser-Induced Plasma Effect (LIPE) and is being developed by the U.S Defense Department’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program. According to them, a non-lethal weapon is one …

… employed to incapacitate targeted personnel or materiel immediately, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property in the target area or environment. Non-lethal weapons are intended to have reversible effects on personnel and materiel.

LIPE is best described as a noise gun – a weapon that shoots a ball of plasma which produces a painfully loud sound when it explodes near a target. The so-called “blue ball of plasma” is the result of firing nanosecond laser bursts of high energy at a physical target or even just a spot in the air. The laser energy ionizes the air into plasma, then explodes it to create a noise that seems to come from nowhere while making a 130dB sound that resembles a fighter jet buzzing your ear. What?

This is not the first such noise weapon. Similar projects called the Pulsed Energy Projectile and the Plasma Point Defense were started but never reached completion. On the other hand, LIPE is ready for testing to begin next month. It has already been tried at very short distances and the next tests will attempt to hit targets at 100 meters with a loudness of 130dB or higher.

“Non-lethal weapon” seems to be an oxymoron, especially when the weapon can cause permanent damage to body parts (including the mind) that would make the victim’s life difficult. Non-lethal seems to apply more to structures, vehicles, weapons and other physical entities that have use during or after a battle or war.

Does the world need more non-lethal weapons?

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