Raytheon’s recent patent application for a new choking sound-cannon has gotten a bit of attention since Gizmodo picked up the story from New Scientist.……

My soon-to-be-patent-attorney friend has chided me not to worry, because this is “just a patent application.” And here’s an example of how a little bit of legal education, which strictly de-emphasizes context and the analysis of power dynamics, can be a dangerous thing. There is a substantive difference between a patent application by a random would-be inventor working out of her garage and a patent application by Raytheon.

Raytheon is one of the largest arms dealers in the world. Raytheon has billions of dollars of US government contracts. Raytheon has current contracts to develop crowd control weapons, and is testing them on American prisoners. Raytheon has already developed crowd-control weapons from battlefield technology and sold them to domestic prisons for use here in the States.

Raytheon is girding itself for shifts in US government defense spending, partly by selling more war-weapons to other countries……

…but also by increasingly marketing to ‘non-military customers.’ Such as the Department of Homeland Security and prisons, public and private. These ‘non-military’ customers buy a lot of crowd-control weapons.…

Another sonic weapon, developed by LRAD, has already been deployed against first amendment-exercisers here in the States.

It’s really not a giant leap of logic to imagine that this particular patent application might be something nasty, deployed for nasty purposes.

Oh, BTW? Raytheon has been repeatedly sanctioned for illegal and unethical practice – it’s the 5th-worst government contractor, according to the Project on Open Government’s misconduct database. Competing, of course, with the OTHER four major defense contractors.,73,221,html?ContractorID=46&r…


Quantum entanglement describes the metaphysics of devotion.

“Two particles can be related, or ‘entangled,’ in such a way that they instantly coordinate their properties regardless of distance in space and time…Eistein found entanglement particularly troubling, denigrating it as ‘spooky action at a distance.'”  – Rivka Galchen, “Dream Machine: the Mind-Expanding World of Quantum Computing,” in the New Yorker, May 2nd, 2011.

Einstein could barely bring himself to believe in quantum physics, and resisted their influence until his death. Einstein also resisted love.

“If we are to survive in the environment we have made ourselves, may we have to be monstrous enough to greet our predicament?” – Nicholas Mosley, Hopeful Monsters (Dalkey Archive Press, 1991).

There is something monstrous about our interweavings, the invisible bonds that tangle our fates together, and something monstrous in the moment of reveal, when two particles collide in recognition.


Photograph by Karsten Heller.

via We Find Wildness:


Stanley Milgram is a name everyone should know. If you can, watch his films. Read his books. He is best known for his laboratory experiments, where he proved that the gentlest nudging of authority can get the average citizen to kill his brethren. Urged to apply deadly electric shocks to unseen subjects, most people complied.

Milgram was troubled by the Nazi killing program, and wanted to know how ordinary people got involved with atrocity. Conventional wisdom of the time postulated an ‘authoritarian personality type’ or a form of mass psychosis. However, neither insanity nor special cultural conditions were necessary. It seems that the requirements for atrocity include obedience to authority, dispersion of responsibility, and distance.

It’s the last condition that interests me the most. Apparently, humans are highly ethical actors within a limited realm of physical proximity. You are not likely to harm someone in your direct vicinity – someone you can see and touch. However, ethical boundaries degrade very quickly when the victim is somehow removed from your perception – when you can’t heat the screams, or see the anguish on the faces.

It’s troubling, then, that we can go to war by video game, controlling death-dealing drones from the safety of a US military installation. We are already very removed from the dirt and blood of war. Our eyes can’t see what our hands are doing. Milgram has shown that this means our hands can be easily persuaded to do the devil’s work.

Here is a link to a podcast about a recent recreation of the experiment:

And a website about Milgram:


The large hadron collider is utterly kick-ass in a multitude of ways, such as spawning ‘doomsday lawsuits‘ in which plaintiffs struggle to establish standing against black holes. And inspiring loving raps by earnest Euro-scientists. Also, it just happens to be stunningly beautiful. There are 27 photos over on The Big Picture.


Another victory for those of us with old-fashioned (read: ’16th century’) values. Studies show: Sun is better than sunscreen. Butter is better than margarine. Soap is better than antibacterial handwipes. And heartbreak is better than apathy. (That last one, you’ll just have to trust.)

Here’s a handy guide for those ambitious neo-pharmacists ready to get busy-beavering away on placebo production for the brave new world. This piece in Wired has a full-color diagram showing what colors your pills should be for maximum efficacy: happy pills should be yellow, calming pills should be green. Oh, and more expensive pills work better – so don’t let any ethical qualms interfere with your profit margin. Set those street prices high!  And a truly enterprising soul could dig up the list of 679 physicians polled in a recent study – half of them admitted to regularly giving patients fake pills. Voila! Ready-made marketing email list!


I’ve heard a lot of water-cooler chat about the accumulating indications that antidepressant medications are no more effective than placebos. And it’s not just antidepressants that fail to outperform sugar pills: a diverse collection of illnesses, from psoriasis to “orange-sized tumors,” apparently respond as well to fake medicine as they do to the ‘real’ stuff.

And we’ve been all flustered about this affordable healthcare kerfluffle! Clearly, we can address exorbitant drug costs, public health, and unemployment in one fell swoop. After a brief examination by a traditionally educated allopathic physician (you know, one of the poor saps who spent decades in pursuit of training and degrees and board certifications and whatnot) most patients could be referred to ‘specialists’ in their placebo-responsive conditions. The new specialists would be responsible for administering courses of well-chosen placebos. They wouldn’t need a lot of fancy education, just an easy-to-read chart with the various colors and shapes of pills and their effects – and, of course, a convincing bedside manner. You could take an unemployed worker straight off the welfare rolls after a six-week acting class, give him a white coat and a stethoscope, and let the perceived authority of the medical profession work its magic on the health problems of our society!

And for those of you concerned about the welfare of Big Pharma, and whether their vital research budgets would be undermined by all this open-access placebo distribution, fear not. Big Pharma is a vital component of the new system. Merck and Eli Lilly and all our other beloved corps can keep on doing what they do best – ubiquitous, expensive campaigns of deceptive direct marketing to consumers. We’ll need them to keep churning out television ads with carefree folks frollicking in sundappled fields, urging us to ask our doctors about Perfecterol and Idealexa. After all, the placebo effect is only as durable as our collective faith in the ineffable power of Pill. And if Big Pharma is good at manufacturing anything, it’s faith!

(Here’s a link to the full text of the Scientific American article linked above – the one with the citrus-sized weeping tumors – in case you don’t have a subscription.)

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