Homeland Security Orders Modern Version of Jules Verne's Leyden Ball

Homeland Security Orders Modern Version of Jul

Mide Technology Corporation of Medford, Massachusetts is working on a non-lethaldevice called the Piezer (pronounced "pee-AY-zer"). Conventional 'stun-gun'devices like the Taser rely on batteries linked to transformers and a capacitor.The range of the device is limited to the length of the wires that carry theelectrical charge - typically no more than 20 feet. The company has been awardeda Phase I SBIR from the Department of Homeland Security for development of thedevice, described as "anuntethered electro-muscular disruption non-lethal stun weapon based on piezoelectrictechnologyfor civillaw enforcement officers and the military."

The Piezer contains piezoelectric crystals, which produce a voltage when they are compressed. The Piezer is designed to be fired from a standard 12-gauge shotgun. Mide claims the Piezer could be effective at 40 to 50 meters, longer than the 'bean bag' rounds also dispensed with shotguns.

In his 1875 science fiction classic 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Jules Verne writes about an undersea hunting expedition using a very unique form of bullet - a Leyden ball:

...the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little cases of glass. These glass cases are covered with a case of steel, and weighted with a pellet of lead; they are real Leyden bottles, into which the electricity is forced to a very high tension. With the slightest shock they are discharged, and the animal, however strong it may be, falls dead. (Read more about Verne's leyden ball)

In Verne's novel, the leyden balls are fired with special rifles that are powered by compressed air; it is only necessary that they touch the target. It is even possible to use them to bag game that is flying mere feet above the waves:

I was witness to one of the finest gun shots which ever made the nerves of a hunter thrill. A large bird of great breadth of wing, clearly visible, approached, hovering over us. Captain Nemo's companion shouldered his gun and fired, when it was only a few yards above the waves. The creature fell stunned, and the force of its fall brought it within the reach of dexterous hunter's grasp. It was an albatross of the finest kind. (Read more about Verne's leyden ball)

Science fiction fans may also recall the electric rifle, a somewhat more fanciful idea from the 1911 classic Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle.

See also information about two similar devices, the Lynntechprojectile and InertialCapacitive Incapacitor,both under current development. There areother technologies under study: take a look at the VLevariable projectile gun, as well as the ActiveDenial System.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)

Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.