Ray guns aren't just for Flash Gordon anymore, the Economist reports. The US military and defense contractors are experimenting with “directed energy” weapons systems on the battlefield and in labs, most of which help troops zap unexploded bombs and incoming fire. One model, the Zeus, is designed to more effectively and safely destroy explosives that menace troops in modern combat zones.
The military is also building systems to stop artillery and missiles before they reach their targets, but the ambitions aren't only defensive. One system under development, one expert says, could be used to kill enemy combatants. The military is staying mum, worried the “public may have misgivings about a silent and invisible weapon that would boil the body’s fluids before tearing it apart.”