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The Military Science

Microwave Pain Ray Keeps Frost From Killing Crops 278

Posted by kdawson
from the active-frost-denial dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Philip K. Dick's novella Project Plowshare was set in a world where deadly new weapons are 'plowshared' into consumer products. A few years after that book was set, defense giant Raytheon is spinning its raygun-like Active Denial System from a weapon into an agricultural tool to prevent frost from damaging citrus and grape crops."
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Microwave Pain Ray Keeps Frost From Killing Crops

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  • Okay... (Score:5, Funny)

    by kurokame (1764228) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @05:15AM (#32707850)
    So now they're going to microwave my food before it's even done growing? That's...nice...
  • Popcorn (Score:5, Funny)

    by ByteSlicer (735276) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @05:19AM (#32707856)
    Imagine the fun we could have with one of these on a corn field.
  • In Soviet Russia... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hymer (856453) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @05:33AM (#32707932)
    ...and most of the former Eastern Europe, they used old T-34 (with turret removed) as tractors in the 1950'ties and 1960'ties.

    No, not the usual "In Soviet Russia..."
  • What are the microwaves going to do to the nitrogen fixing microbes in the soil? What about the worms that keep the soil tilled and fertile? I'm wondering if the vinyard owner is going to wake up next year and find his land unfarmable. Not to mention the question about what happens to other wildlife, or people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dachannien (617929)

      The boundary of effect on the pain ray is pretty distinct. There was an episode of Futureweapons a while back where the host and some colonel were standing a few feet apart from each other; one was affected by the pain ray while the other wasn't.

      So, you could aim the edge of the beam parallel to the ground to avoid any undesired effects to the soil (if there even are any - I'm guessing that the beam doesn't penetrate very far at all).

      As for other wildlife, I would assume that birds and such would learn to

    • by Urkki (668283)

      What are the microwaves going to do to the nitrogen fixing microbes in the soil? What about the worms that keep the soil tilled and fertile?

      I'm wondering if the vinyard owner is going to wake up next year and find his land unfarmable.

      Not to mention the question about what happens to other wildlife, or people.

      First of all, I think they'll find out very fast (in about a year or so :-) if there are measurable harmful effects.

      Secondly, I think the harmful effects would be limited to the microbes at the surface, not covered by any dirt, ie. those microbes that are already dead due to UV radiation... ;-)

      Also if it affects the worms, they'll go underground very fast (as worms go, which is in fact pretty fast considering the scale). Flying insects might suffer, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad for most (non-insec

      • Flying insects might suffer, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad for most (non-insect-pollinated) farming.

        Even for insect pollinated farming it's probably irrelevant. This is used for elimination of frost on frost-sensitive crops, which means application during freezing temperatures, or near-freezing temps with clear night skies. Very low occurrence of pollination going on at those times. I can see a potential mis-use to try and eliminate pests at other times, but the energy cost may preclude its use for that.

  • by SmarterThanMe (1679358) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @05:43AM (#32707960)

    I don't think greed is an actual issue. I would imagine that there are two distinct major camps of people that work for Raytheon and similar companies. People that feel that they are doing the right work, and people who just don't think about it at all.

    Some people who work for these companies (a friend of mine included) genuinely feel that they are doing the right work. They've come to the ethical conclusion that Raytheon and similar companies are doing work that makes them and other people safer. Think 2nd Amendment types who scream about the need to have a personal arsenal of weapons with which to "defend" themselves. Not that I agree with these people, but it's a legitimate perspective.

    Then there are people who just don't think. I would say that this is the minority of the people who work in the more intellectual ends of the military industry. You have to remember that half of people are below average, and it doesn't relate just to academic (or cognitive) intelligence. Socioaffective (or emotional and interpersonal) intelligence is also an important mental factor. These people view their work in the same way that all of the rest of us view our work, just something to do between 9am and 5pm every weekday.

    Of course, there's variations on the theme, but I'd say that in the end 90% of people in the military industry can be categorised one way or the other.

    • by moz25 (262020)

      You have to remember that half of people are below average

      If half is below average and half is above average, do people who are average exist? :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thinking that one is doing good is often just clever self-delusion, unfortunately.

      My co-workers, friends and most everyone I encounter seem to think that I am a peace-loving type. I go out in the woods and camp, take pictures of beaches and flowers, write about my feelings. I've opposed certain wars and capital punishment for various reasons.... Yet, I don't oppose them on any philosophical grounds. Quite the contrary, actually. I think wars are necessary. I think having the biggest and most horrifyingly de

  • Ice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by symes (835608) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @06:30AM (#32708062) Journal
    I might be wrong here - but doesn't the fact that microwaves pass through ice crystals more easily than squishyt fleshy stuff mean they'll cook the oranges and leave them with a light dusting of frost?
    • by ascari (1400977)

      cook the oranges and leave them with a light dusting of frost

      Bam! You should be on food TV.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @07:17AM (#32708134)

    Maybe this "Active Denial System" could be deployed on ships to ward off Somalian pirates? I mean, deploy a series of these around the perimeter of the deck of the ship, so the crew doesn't actually need to aim them, just flip a switch. This would create a "ring of pain" around the ship. The crew can be holed up in their safe room.

    First Mate: "Captain! There's pirates off the starboard bow!"

    Captain: "All hands to the safe room!"

    In the safe room . . .

    Captain: "Now let me read the instructions. Set power to 1000 W. Cook until pirates have fled. Cooking times will very depending on how tough or tender the pirates are.

    Meanwhile, back at the pirate cove . . .

    Pirate #1: "How was your pirating today?"

    Pirate #2: "Terrible, I am like totally fried . . . "

    Unfunny Comedian: "Thank you! Tip the veal, try the waitress . . ."

  • by jimmydevice (699057) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @07:58AM (#32708198)

    was proposed in a 70's IEEE publication I read while killing time at the computer center help desk as a student.
    It was thought at that time that microwaves could be used safely to heat the occupants directly, without raising the
    ambient temperature. Apparently this idea did not fly after later scrutiny.

  • you know, bees, birds, ladybugs and other beneficial creatures. And how about soil biology? without healthy dirt, you end up dumping more chemicals on your food to get in to grow (nitrogen, etc). I'm not a PETA nut, hell I love bacon, but just wondering. If people run from that thing, everything in the orchard may too.
    • by jack2000 (1178961)
      You do know you don't want flying and walking things in your orchard right?
      Also the cutoff area of effect is pretty sharp you can aim it so it doesn't affect the ground.
      Everything that's flying/walking around your fruit trees should probably not be doing that. And even if it did it'd leave the zone pretty fast.
      • by Junta (36770)

        Everything that's flying/walking around your fruit trees should probably not be doing that.

        You mean like the creatures that fly around and help your plants pollinate so they actually, you know, bear fruit? I guess the point could be made that this would only be used when frost was a risk and therefore no pollinating would be occurring anyway.

    • I doubt the microwaves would penetrate that far into soil, and it seems counterintuitive to construct a device that blankets a large area with microwaves instead of just sweeping the fruits once in a while.
    • Most "beneficial" insects are not active during frost periods - i.e. below freezing or near-freezing with clear night skies.

  • Project Plowshare (Score:3, Interesting)

    by handy_vandal (606174) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @09:28AM (#32708534) Homepage Journal

    1. I've read The Zap Gun (Dick's novel-length version of Project Plowshare [wikipedia.org] ). The "plowsharing" metaphor is heavily ironic: "plowshared" consumer goods are useless, or purposeless, or trivial, or outright annoying -- e.g. there's a talking ashtray named "Ol' Orville", if memory serves.

    2. "Operation Plowshare [wikipedia.org], better known as Project Plowshare, not to be confused with the anti-nuclear Plowshares Movement, was the overall United States term for the development of techniques to use nuclear explosives for peaceful construction purposes."

  • How do you reboot a frozen crop?

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

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