You may remember way back in 1997, also known as “The Beforetime” before 9/11, when there was an episode of Pokemon that was blamed for giving kids seizures. This gave an idea to the US military, who then went on to research the idea of creating a weapon that would induce seizures in the enemy.
Perhaps the most disturbing item on the Army’s nonlethal wish list: a weapon that would disrupt the chemical pathways in the central nervous system to induce a seizure. The idea appears to have come from an episode of Pokemon.
The idea is that seizure would be induced by a specific electrical stimulus triggered through the optic nerve. “The onset of synchony and disruption of muscular control is said to be near instantaneous,” the 1997 Army report reads. “Excitation is directly on the brain.” And “100% of the population” is supposed to be susceptible to the effects — from distances of “up to hundreds of meters” — “[r]ecovery times are expected to be consistent with, or more rapid than, that which is observed in epileptic seizures.”
That’s not a lot of time — the Army’s analysis noted that a grand-mal seizure typically lasts between one and five minutes. But the analysis speculated that the seizure weapons could be “tunable with regard to type and degree of bodily influence” and affect “100% of the population.” Still, it had to concede, “No experimental evidence is available for this concept.”
The document cautioned that the effectiveness of incapacitating a human nervous system with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) “has not been tested.” But the analysis speculated that “50 to 100 kV/m free field of very sharp pulses” would likely be “sufficient to trigger neurons or make them more susceptible to firing.” And a weapon that harnessed an EMP-induced seizure could conceivably work from “hundreds of miles” away. The idea might as well have been stamped “As Seen on TV.”
“The photic-induced seizure phenomenon was borne out demonstrably on December 16, 1997 on Japanese television when hundreds of viewers of a popular cartoon were treated, inadvertently, to photic seizure induction,” the analysis noted. That cartoon was Pokemon, and the incident received worldwide attention. About 700 viewers showed symptoms of epilepsy — mostly vomiting — an occasional, if strange, occurrence with TV shows and videogames due to rapid, flashing lights.
The Army’s interest in the technology doesn’t appear to have gone anywhere. When Danger Room asked the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, the command overseeing the Pentagon’s weapons that can’t kill you, if they had ever developed or explored developing an EMP seizure ray, spokeswoman Kelley Hughes flatly replied, “No.” But at a minimum, it’s bizarre that the U.S. military would entertain the idea of neurological weaponry.
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