Entry 322: G.I. Jolt

It might come as no surprise to you that the United States military is experimenting with using electric shocks during battles. What might surprise you is that it is using them on its own soldiers.

According to engadget, the Air Force Research Laboratory is experimenting with the use ofelectrocution tiny jolts of electricity to keep soldiers alert. The article says:

By using a mild current to stimulate key parts of the brain, the military’s scientists can keep people awake and focused for long periods — up to 30 hours in recent trials.

I don’t know how the experiments are going, but I can see a few problems without even being in the lab:

  1. If it’s the Air Force, are we talking about pilots here? Because, considering that it’s supposedly dangerous for a 6-year-old to play with a Gameboy during take-off, what kind of disaster might be caused by a device that administers electric shocks to the flight crew?
  2. Is 30 hours the maximum time a soldier can be kept awake this way, or is it how long the battery on the shocking device can run without a charge? If it’s the latter, is it 30 hours of fighting time or 30 hours of standby time? You can run out of juice much faster if you make a lot of kills or download bombs onto suspected enemy hideouts.
  3. Will the plug on the charging cable be the same as the iPhone 5? Because otherwise the military will spend a fortune on adapters.

5hour[1]Speaking of which, considering how much the military pays for a hammer, it must be spending at least a trillion dollars on this research, when it could just as easily give a soldier six bottles of 5-Hour Energy Drink at a cost of about $2 each (or, in the case of military budgets, $400).

The Air Force says that the shocks are a good way to keep people awake without caffeine, which, as everyone knows, is much more dangerous than electricity coursing through your brain. Still, there are some side effects to plugging in your soldiers, such as skin irritation, short headaches and the inability to wear any sort of head gear because your hair is standing up straight.

The demented individuals behind this research believe the technology could eventually help drone pilots and other soldiers who can’t afford to doze during crucial missions, although it makes me wonder what those types of people do now. “Yes, sir, but can we do zero_dark_thirty_ver2[1]this at Zero Dark 45? I need a nap.”

It’s unclear how much more research they intend to do before unleashing our electric warriors upon the world, but you just know this is the sort of thing that’s going to turn up a decade or two from now in some heavily-redacted report about how personnel who participated in these experiments turn into raging maniacs every time there’s a thunder storm.

In Other Creepy Science News Involving Electricity…

American scientists have figured out how to get one monkey to remotely control another monkey.

I know, I know, it sounds just too wonderful to be true, but it is. And all they had to do to accomplish this feat is connect the two monkeys via 36 electrodes (hey, I didn’t say it was a wireless remote control). During this experiment, one monkey was awake and the other sedated, and the awake one was ominously called “the master monkey.” It was able to make the other monkey’s arm move just by thinking it…and being connected by those 36 electrodes.

Robot-monkey-terminators[1]This has been described as “a key step forward” in controlling living organisms from a remote  brain, which is kind of like saying that some bio-engineers have taken a key step forward in making chocolate taste like broccoli.

But there really is an upside here, besides the human race ultimately being controlled by a giant alien brain. This technology could one day get the limbs of paralyzed people working again, which would obviously be a good thing, unless they were still attached to the master monkey.

One thing is clear: the scientists behind this definitely need some PR people. First, don’t call it a master monkey. It needs to be something less evil-sounding, like “the suggestive organism.” And they have to make it clear that, if this ever is advanced enough to enable people to walk again, that it will be their brains controlling their legs, not a “remote brain.” I understand that, by “remote,” they mean “not connected the usual way,” but “remote brain” makes it sound like their legs are being controlled by some guy with a joystick.

And I have to wonder…if they combine this work with the jolts of electricity keeping soldiers awake, will they be able to remotely control the people remotely controlling the drones?

Just blows your mind, doesn’t it? (Don’t worry–someone else’s mind can take over.)

See you soon.

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