The Pentagon is working on a funky new weapon that is, in the words of the estimable Popular Mechanics, "profoundly weird." In short, military scientists aim to use lasers to create what sound like human voices that could be projected afar. These "voices" could then be used for "psychological operations, making announcements, or just plain weirding out the enemy," writes Kyle Mizokami. The details of what's called the Laser-Induced Plasma Effect come from a report at Defense One. One laser, called a femtolaser, creates a ball of plasma that's hit by a second nanolaser. Tuned to a precise range of wavelengths, the laser manipulates the plasma to produce light and sound. In a video, a noise a bit like human mumbling can be heard during a second test of the device. The Pentagon thinks it can produce intelligible words in about three years.
"We're this close to getting it to speak to us," says David Law of the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program. A second video shows the weapon creating the sound of a stun grenade. But the plasma can also be manipulated to produce heat, as seen in one test that caused a military uniform to burn, reports Ars Technica. Potentially, this could be done from a distance of several miles, Law says, noting an 8-inch laser mirror would create the effect about three miles away. A person between the weapon and the target would be unaffected, he adds. Some other possible uses: warning (or frightening) people away from a military checkpoint or perhaps mimicking the sound of gunfire. (It seems that orcas can sound like humans, too.)