Thursday, February 26, 2009

Electricity Plus Water


Although most of us are preoccupied with the agony of our country's self-inflicted wounds, the extent of which an amateur like Osama bin Laden can only envy, the threat posed by Islamic frogmen is still grave and gathering.

A few military experts hoped that this problem could be solved by training dolphins to attack enemy swimmers. But some people -- let's call 'em "traitors" -- argued that that was...well, not entirely ethical, but also pretty fucking stupid, when you come right down to it.

Noses were accordingly reapplied to the grindstone, and in due time, we arrived at Plan B:

[T]he sea service is bankrolling an alternative project: an "electrical swimmer barrier... that will take advantage of ocean oil-barrier deployment technology, the conductive properties of near-coast waters, and the physiological sensitivities of human swimmers to electrical shocks."

Electricty plus water usually makes for a dangerous combination. But this system will be "non-lethal," promises Bedford, Massachusetts' Diversified Technologies, Inc., which recently won a Navy contract to start development on the thing.
Here's one of those tiresome semantic quibbles that've made me famous from Uelen to Shishmaref: the opposite of "dangerous" is not "non-lethal." The Taser, for instance, is a non-lethal weapon. All it really takes to earn that designation is the lack of an intent to kill on the part of the weapon's designers; without that intent, any deaths that occur are simply unfortunate accidents that happen to troublemakers who deserve whatever they get.

I don't want to be seen as a coddler of terrorists, who may be plotting to strap themselves with explosives, swim from Bullhead City to Laughlin, and launch a suicide attack on the Colorado Belle Casino, for all I know. But I can't help thinking that this barrier is more likely to be used to protect our language, borders, and culture from migrant lettuce-pickers.

The system is "deployable and retrievable by two persons working from a 24- to 28-foot boat," which begs the question of how we'll keep evildoers from tampering with it and its power source. Maybe its perimeter can be patrolled by attack dolphins.

What really interests me about this scheme is how well it'd work against people who are wearing some sort of electrically insulating suit. Which, in turn, brings up the question that always fascinates me about projects like these: what's the cost to evildoers of adapting to a barrier of this sort, versus the cost to us of re-engineering the system once it's been overcome?

(Image at top via Modern Mechanix.)

10 comments:

Diane said...

Of for crap's sake! That is the most inane and the most vicious plan I've read in two weeks.

I thought we had finally pulled the plug on Tom Tancrdo.

dan mcenroe said...

Wouldn't it be cheaper to get sharks with frikkin' laser beams attached to their heads?

Jazzbumpa said...

At the risk of appearing to be some sort of flaming squid hugger, can we really be assured that this doesn't in some way harm the local aquatic habitants? I mean, aren't fish supposed to be our friends. That is, when they're not our actual food. Even then, shouldn't we catch them first and cook them later? isn't proper sequencing of some importance?

Just askin' . . .

Phila said...

Wouldn't it be cheaper to get sharks with frikkin' laser beams attached to their heads?

If you read the dolphin article I linked to, they're talking about equipping dolphins with a syringe-tipped CO2 canister that'd essentially blow enemy swimmers up.

At the risk of appearing to be some sort of flaming squid hugger, can we really be assured that this doesn't in some way harm the local aquatic habitants?

As a flaming squid hugger myself, I'm obliged to answer that we probably can't.

Jazzbumpa said...

I'm now toying with idea of changing the title of my blog to "Flaming Squid Hugger"

Phila said...

I'm now toying with idea of changing the title of my blog to "Flaming Squid Hugger"

You'll earn a link from Pharyngula, if nothing else!

grouchomarxist said...

You'd think The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror XI: The Night of the Dolphin" would have been sufficient warning, but nooooooo ...

Jazzbumpa said...

I took the middle road, and put it in the description.

Here's a thought. If we were all to squeeze our squids just a little bit harder, maybe we wouldn't be drowning in a sea of red ink.

Jazzbumpa said...

George Will squid squeezing update

Steve Bates said...

"The system is 'deployable and retrievable by two persons working from a 24- to 28-foot boat,' "

It certainly is deployable. Indeed, I deploy the very intent of the entire system.

What? Oh. Well, that's completely different. <emily_litella_voice> Never mind! </emily_litella_voice>