Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 5

Given Russian strengths in physics and weakness  in electronics, the Russian solution is likely to be what is called “simple and elegant”, more like the carburetor of an old-fashioned car than fancy electronic fuel injection.

Our gadget needs parts that actually make noise. Loudspeakers make sounds like human voices, music, bells, chimes, whistles, anything you want. But  every loudspeaker has a natural frequency, like the tone of a bell, that it likes to sing louder than anything else. Music players are designed to avoid this. Wasteful of energy, but more pleasingly, a speaker is made to talk like a parrot.

So the simplest approach to our nefarious gadget is to make a speaker that sings at the frequency we want, which is somewhere around 30kHz. This is how ultrasonic cleaners work, with a specialized speaker —  called a transducer, that makes that frequency and no other.

But sticking to a single frequency is very limiting and it doesn’t concentrate energy like the cymbal clash. Each Patient Zero is different. The room, windows, shape of the skull, all vary. The dimensions of the person’s head vary depending upon the angle with respect to the ultrasound beam. We want to hit all the possibilities. A single frequency won’t do.

In the last article, we worked backwards from the head to deduce a range of attack frequencies. Some  victims report audible sounds of much less than ultrasonic frequencies. These could be produced by:

  • Mixing of ultrasound of different frequencies on room surfaces.
  • Sub-harmonics created by room surfaces.
  • Sub harmonics and mixing in the gadget itself. But this would make it very noisy on the street late at night.

The design that follows attempts to account for the audible sounds.

There are two kinds of transducers. Our interest is in the “piezo”, which changes shape when energized by an electric field. Here are some you can bolt to  an ultrasound cleaner tank. Piezos are found in stove and grill igniters,  because they work both ways. If you squeeze them, they make electricity for the spark. If you excite them with electricity, they make sound. A piezo is actually a kind of capacitor, where the polarization comes with mechanical strain.

A piezo is like a bell, with a preferred tone, but since it is a capacitor, it can be connected with an inductor, which is some wire wound around a ferromagnetic core, to make a tank circuit. The combination is a bell of a different, lower frequency. A tank circuit stores energy. We can fill it up with energy, and it will “ring”, resonate, for a while. It can release energy suddenly, like the ignition circuit in a car, or gradually.

This tank circuit is a harmonic oscillator (animation). In the universe of small, the harmonic oscillator is the most fundamental block we know. Each of these has a natural resonant frequency.  Two or more  can be coupled together and trade energy. Watch these two oscillators trade energy (animation.)

Inside one of these piezos is a thin flat disk of ceramic. It looks like a little piece of pottery. For our gadget, we can make it any shape we want, although the electricity is applied across the thinner dimension. Each crystal expands and contracts.

Attach each crystal to its own inductor. This changes the above frequencies, slowing them down a bit. Each of these combinations is a tank circuit,  can be made to vibrate with an electrical signal, and can store energy for a pulse. Each can be driven by a source of electrical power with a choice of frequency. So now the frequencies can be independent, and varied within a narrow range.

Now arrange the crystals in a stack. How they touch is extremely important.  A layer in between  acts as a spring, a third element. So we have four things to play with:

  • Resonant frequency of the crystal.
  • Size of the inductor.
  • Springiness of the separator.
  • Frequencies of the electric power for each crystal.

Let’s try this with just two crystals to start. Arrange the above so that one of the crystals vibrates at 25kHz (25,000 cycles/second), and the other at 30kHz (30,000 cycles/second). So the 30kHz crystal is moving 6/5 times faster than the 25kHz crystal. If we start each crystal vibrating at the same time, the 25 kHz crystal will catch up when the 30kHz crystal has gone 6 cycles, and the 25 kHz crystal has gone 5 cycles. This repeats over and over.

By themselves, the crystals store most of this energy. To make it go out as a beam in air, we need a radiator. An old-fashioned spring-wound Victrola has a needle that follows the groove in a record. By itself, the sound of the needle is faint. It is coupled into the air by a horn. Our radiator will probably  not be a horn, but you get the idea.

When the two crystals match up, they have maximum length at the same time.  When they are opposed, their length changes cancel out. When they are pushing together, combining to maximum length, this is the time to take some energy out and send it to the radiator. This can be done by attaching the radiator to the crystal stack with an elastic material that becomes progressively more rigid under pressure.

Homework: Suppose you have a stack of 4 piezo crystals, each tuned to  different frequencies: 20, 25  30 and 40kHz. Start them off at the same time. How many cycles of the 40kHz crystal occur before they are all back in sync, pushing in the same direction? Hint: Divide them all by 5. The least common multiple of 4,5, 6, and 8 is 120.

What do the above numbers mean? We are concentrating power, getting close to a pulse.

Next:  Bells and Whistles.

To be continued shortly.











Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 4

Let’s refer back to the Polish paper quoted in Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only:

Roshchin and Dobroserdov indicated that levels of 90–110 dB within the range of lower frequencies (21kHz) and 110–115 dB within the range of higher frequencies (40kHz) constituted the limit of occurrence of functional changes [36].

Since we’re designing a weapon, let’s consider 120dB, at the head of Patient Zero, as an absolute minimum. Just inside the window, how much ultrasound intensity is required? Sengpiel Audio has a helpful page of calculators. Assume that the sound evenly spreads into one hemisphere, with Patient Zero sleeping 3 meters distant from the window,

120dB (sound pressure at head) = 137dB (sound power level 3 meters away)

Since 120dB (sound power level) = 1 watt,

137dB (sound power level) = 10^1.7 watts = 50 watts.

It turns out we need 50 watts. If only 5% makes it through the window, then we need 1000 watts hitting the window on the outside.

We chose a high ultrasound frequency to form the duct, between 140 and 400 kHz, specifically because it is rapidly absorbed in air, heating the air. But for the payload, we don’t want this to happen.

The AIRSTAR attenuation chart shows that for frequencies between 20 and 40 kHz, air absorbs hardly any of it. Most of it reaches the window. So let’s aim for those. Perhaps we need 4000 watts at the gadget to get 1000 watts on the window. It  depends upon the efficiency of the duct scheme, and distance. So pad the estimate good.

What structures in the brain correspond to wavelengths of ultrasound in water? The speed of sound in water is 1500 meters/second. Capillaries are 10 microns and smaller, corresponding to frequencies in the megahertz range. These fade quickly in air, too fast to use. With increasing feature size, nothing sticks out. But at an ultrasound frequency of 30 kHz, the wavelength is 5 cm, about the distance between the dura mater (the “brain bag”) and the cerebral ventricles (the inner fluid-filled chambers.) It also corresponds to other major anatomical structures.

This sounds like CTE, in ultra-slow motion! Beginning with “punch drunk” boxers in the 1920’s, chronic traumatic encephalopathy has progressively extended in the direction of less significant brain trauma, more frequently incurred. Boxers got knocked out; after a number of knock-outs, they weren’t the same. In 2005, it was found in football players whose trauma history was very minor compared to boxers. The Russian references imply that the lower limit is very, very low. If the brain is shaken, in a comparatively gentle manner, for a long time, symptoms overlapping CTE can occur.

The blow that knocks out a boxer causes a large impulse, a change of momentum, to the head. However the head was moving before the blow, it moves differently the instant after. The brain doesn’t follow this change in one piece. Tiny tears in the tissue occur, as different pieces move in different directions.

How much energy is in the boxer’s fist? Not much at all. It won’t heat your coffee. It’s enough to drive a few nails into wood. The energy a sumo wrestler employs to force his opponent to another position is much greater. The power levels we just discussed are continuously applied. We should change the design of our gadget to apply concentrated pulses.

The approach is so far tenable. 4000 watts for an hour is about equal to 40 battery packs for a laptop, or a typical add-on pack. So maybe the operator has to sit in a car. But if the device could deliver short, powerful pulses, it would ruin somebody’s brain much faster, like Joe Louis’s fist. For example, if the gadget delivers a 15 kilowatt pulse for 10% of the time and loafs the rest, it uses only 37% of the power, and gets the job done much faster to boot.

We want a cymbal clash!, not the soft tone of the flute. We want to be the drummer next door you’d like to brain. Well, now’s your chance. The more unevenly a given amount of energy is applied, the more damage the gadget will inflict. This also means that if the power calculations are too optimistic, we can make it up with pulses. And this is just the start. With every new and improved brain fryer, we can up the pulse and lower the total power consumption. We can make it small, even stylish. Everybody will want one.

There is a beautiful, perfect world, Math-land, where this is an easy problem. Math-land has a celestial piano that can play all the notes in the universe. By combining the notes in just the right way, as discovered  by Joe Fourier, we can make the pulse (the cymbal clash) we need. Back in the real world, it isn’t so easy. The real reason we want to make concentrated pulses is because it saves us energy. With pulses, the gadget only has to run full-tilt for short intervals. Then it rests. We call this “duty cycle.” Only very heavy machinery, like a power plant, is designed to run full power 24/7.

So the pulse idea is good, but only if it is practical, and saves energy. The Math-land scheme doesn’t work here. The idea of a celestial piano is just nonsense. As best, it serves as an inspiration. You build your gadget in Math-land first. Then you do it again, in the real world, where there is a budget for everything, including energy. Real gadgets can’t make pulses like that and work very long. For that, you need explosions.

So now we discover that back in the real world, there is no way to create the pulse we need. Life is sometimes cruel that way. There has to be an answer, so we can keep our lousy jobs. Relax, there is.

Next stop, the physics lab.

To be continued shortly.


Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 3

I was going to get right to blowing up Patient Zero’s head. But then I remembered that there might be someone in the audience whose sole purpose in life is to make the presenter miserable, by asking a show-stopper question. Richard Feynman, known for his kindness in all other ways, was famous for this. Some blame him for the death of Werner Heisenberg, who made the mistake of showing up at Caltech with a half-baked theory. Shattered, Heisenberg died the following year.  So I came prepared.

Full of hubris, the troublemaker says, just loud enough to make everybody stop, “What about window glass? How are you going to make it penetrate a window? I consulted eDiplomat to see if, maybe, people in Havana sleep with the windows open. This must be the way for most people, because Cuba does not have the massive power grid required to support an air conditioned existence. But I came across this:

All leased homes are furnished with a basic set of U.S. Government furniture, draperies, and major appliances, including a washer, dryer, gas range, water cooler, freezer, refrigerator, air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, ceiling fans, and residential alarm system. All houses also have generators due to occasional power outages. USINT handles all preventive maintenance and minor repairs in leased houses. Cubalse handles major repairs.

So it may be necessary to penetrate glass. And if I say no, the troublemaker in the audience will say (loudly), “Are you trying to tell me that the Russkies have made a weapon that only works in tropical countries? Gimme a break.” If you’re a techie, please be patient as I now try to clue everybody in. The actual solution is not what you would expect.

Glass actually conducts sound very well. It is used in ultrasonic inspection systems. But recall: a wave likes to stick to whatever it’s in. To an ultrasound wave in air, this is what doesn’t happen:

  • The air wave hits the glass.
  • The wave converts to a sound wave in glass.
  • The sound exits the glass on the other side.

The above does not happen to any significant degree. The difference in springiness of air and glass is too great. The sound that would do this bounces off instead. But there are more ways to skin a cat.

Why do we hear anything at all from the outside? Much of it comes from leaks around the windows. But some sound comes through the glass itself. This is because a pane of window glass bends back and forth in response to sound pressure. Instead of having waves inside the glass, the whole pane moves. It moves because glass is slightly flexible. When you’re just missing the postman, and you bang frantically on the glass, your knock produces a faintly musical tone. Could we make a pane of glass resonate like a drum?

A pane of glass is a little similar to a drum head, but the differences are major. A drum head is made of an elastic material held under tension. When the drum is struck, the drum head vibrates with what are called standing waves. These waves have fixed frequencies that are characteristic of the drum and the tension. You could make the drum head resonate with a sound beam, but the drum would respond in its own way, which is probably not what you want.

NASA studied the resonances of residential plate glass, and found very low frequency resonances, what we would call bass notes. They are of no help in blowing up human heads. So how is glass different from a drum head?

  • Glass is not supple, and it is not held under tension. However glass vibrates, it is entirely different from a drum.
  • Glass has spring properties. It has a “bending moment”. This means that if you apply force to a pane of glass, it will deform slightly. Under pressure, the nearest side compresses slightly. The far side stretches slightly. When you release the pressure, it will spring back.
  • That glass conducts sound well tells us that a vibration based on the above will be efficient. It will not waste a lot of sound by turning it into heat.
  • In sum, glass can be made to vibrate in modes based on the bending moment.

But what good is it if we are stuck with the standing waves that vary with every pane of glass and aren’t helpful to our evil purpose? The answer is to ignore them. In return, they will ignore you.

We use (Youtube) traveling waves instead, not passing through the glass, but along the pane, from one end to the other, rippling the surface as they go. Normally, we would think of grabbing one end of the pane and shaking it somehow. Just as in the Youtube video, the shake would propagate (move) along the pane until it reaches the other side, where it would bounce back or be absorbed. This isn’t available to us.

We can do it with the ultrasound beam that is lingering outside the window, hungry for its victim. If the beam impacts the glass straight on, nothing much happens. But if the beam hits the glass at an inclined angle, much can happen. The trick is to get the angle just right.

Sound moves in air at about 1100 feet per second. Call this C_air. The bending-moment wave has a velocity also. Call it C_m. It is not a bulk property. Besides the glass itself, it depends upon the thickness. Suppose it’s 3300 feet per second. Then by inclining the beam to the glass at 19 degrees from vertical, the phases of the wave in the beam and the glass wave will match up. The formula is just:

sin( angle from perpendicular) = C_air / C_m.

Notice that it is independent of frequency. The clandestine operator may choose a position that gives access to a line of windows that are known from previous measurement. The angle can also be adjusted by elevation.

What happens at the glass edges? At ultrasound frequencies, a pane of window glass is very large. The edges are far, far away, so they don’t count much.

Now the glass has become our friend. Perhaps 10% of the ultrasound beam will make it through. But it is now a secondary radiator that can illuminate the sleeper’s head even if it’s not visible to the beam outside. If this is not beneficial to the situation, the glass can be shattered by the beam instead.

Yuck! But it’s all for the motherland.

To be continued shortly – the payload.



Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 2

Let’s continue building our hypothetical device. If it’s doable, it is probably shaped by the considerations that follow.

Note: if what follows is correct, the attacks should correlate to nights of low wind velocity, with the position of the attacker  sheltered from wind by a building wall. Absolute calm is essential.

If you want to think like the Russians think, read their books. In this case, I’m referring to books by Landau/Lifshitz,  Statistical Mechanics, Course of Theoretical Physics, Volume 5.,and Fluid Mechanics, Volume 6.

There are very few physics books that are good reads. Volume 5 was my favorite. Many other books cover these subjects. But I remember being so captivated by Volume 5, it was almost like a Vulcan mind-meld. If the sonic attack weapon exists, it was probably pioneered by students of Landau and Lifshitz.

I don’t expect you to look at those books, so let’s get back to applied physics for poets. Sound is a vibration in air. Countless particles of air jiggle back and forth in unison, making waves. The more pure the tone of a musical instrument, the more concentrated the note is about one frequency of vibration. The more character the instrument has, the more tones it has combined.

The extremes are the flute, and the cymbal. The note of the flute is almost pure. The note of the cymbal is made of almost all tones in combination. The xylophone is somewhere in between.

The note of the flute is long and smooth. The clash of the cymbal is sharp and brief. The clash can be broken down into an infinite number of smooth notes, added together in just the right proportion by the physical process of banging the cymbal. This may sound strange, but it is close to the basics of all physics.

In free air, sound rapidly spreads, and is absorbed by the air itself. We can minimize the absorption by choosing the lowest frequencies (tones), suitable for our purpose. But how do we keep it from spreading?

We try to send it all in one direction in the first place. A beam of light can be shaped by baffles and reflectors. To some extent, this can be done with sound also. But because waves of sound are so much longer than waves of light, we need to exploit this “wavyness” to direct the sound. This was first done with radio, saving  power by directing the signal to the people you want to hear it. Much of this applies to sound projection. The wavelengths of radar are very similar to those of sound, even though they are different in every other way.

With radar, it was discovered that instead of using a big rotating antenna to direct the beam, it could be accomplished electronically, with an array of antennas that reinforce each other in one direction, and cancel in other directions. The same can be done with sound. It is also true that some common household containers can be used to direct microwaves, for example, a wifi Pringles can antenna. The same shape can be used with sound, although the materials of construction are much harder to devise. The sonic attack device could use a combination of active and passive beamforming.

But the sound still spreads. To get high power all the way to the victims’ heads, more tricks would be useful. Perhaps when you were a child, you experimented with the telephone made of two soup cans connected by a piece of string. If it worked for you at all, you may have thought that the sound moves inside the string. It does not. It may seem completely strange to you, but the string actually captures the wave in the air from the end of the soup can, and forces it to follow the string, in combination with air movement.

This is called wave-capture. If you’ve driven in the southwest U.S. you may have seen strange horn-like things attached to occasional power lines. It is a way of forcing a microwave to attach itself to a wire, which it follows for many miles, till it is recaptured by an identical horn at the other end. Waves like to cling to what they know.

Another example, popular in prisons, is the toilet telephone. Here the pipes form a duct. Sound waves of the speaker are captured by, and follow the duct formed by the pipes. Sound in a duct travels much further than sound in free air. While it is still absorbed, it does not spread.

I offered you the strange examples of wave capture first, so as to stretch your mind a little. Because if the sonic attack weapon exists, it uses one of the weirdest schemes imaginable. A duct does not have to be a solid surface. Here is a rule that works for both light and sound:

  • If a light or sound wave in a thin (not dense) medium scrapes against a denser medium, it will curve back to the thin medium.
  • If a light or sound wave in a thick (dense) medium scrapes against a thin (not dense) medium, it will curve back to the thick medium.

In whichever medium the wave starts, that’s where it prefers to stay. If instead of a scrape, it hits head-on, then, yes, the bumper car goes off the track and into the other medium. Our hypothetical sonic-attack weapon creates a duct in thin air! Another kind of sound, the payload, will travel confined to this duct.

Hot air is thinner (less dense) than cold air. We could create a thin-air duct by heating the air in a narrow beam to the target. We can heat it with sound. Conveniently, the frequencies that heat the best are also the most directional, because they have the shortest wavelength.

Refer to AIRSTAR‘s helpful attenuation chart, on this page. For the distances of our gadget, the range of 140 to 400 kHz is reasonable. This is between 7 and 20 times the maximum frequencies that humans can hear. Since the purpose is to heat the air in a duct that reaches the target, most of it doesn’t get there. But that’s not the purpose. By forming the duct, it greases the skids for what comes after, the “payload.”

Next, the payload. To be continued shortly.



North Korea Test H-Bomb – Andrei Sakharov’s Soviet “Layer Cake”

Edit: After further study, I have decided that the shape of the North Korea warhead does not suggest, with any strength,  “Layer Cake.” The description of the U.S. W80 has been corrected.

The shape is probably the result of a extra bulk in the primary from unsophisticated explosive lenses, and a small secondary to save material.

It is still possible that elements of “Layer Cake” are included, but the idea doesn’t satisfy Occam’s Razor.


This is republished to include the possibility of Andrei Sakharov’s design.

(Reuters)North Korea conducts sixth nuclear test, says developed H-bomb.

The possibilities:

  • The 10X tremor strength reported by Japan is easily in range of a large boosted fission weapon, such as the British Orange Herald device.
  • The North Koreans mastered radiation implosion on their first try. Since this is unlikely, it would indicate a major intelligence failure.
  • A third path of proliferation, providing a turn-key design – Andrei Sakharov’s Soviet design, known as “Layer Cake.”

Although we don’t have access to the U.S. intelligence product that could affirm thermonuclear, there is usually a parallel in open source analysis that approximates it. But it’s not out there.

The third path would be a design easy for North Korea to replicate from plans. “Layer Cake” fits this bill. Quoting Reuters,

The shape shows a marked difference from pictures of the ball-shaped device North Korea released in March last year, and appears to indicate the appearance of a two-stage thermonuclear weapon, said Lee Choon-geun, senior research fellow at state-run Science and Technology Policy Institute.

If this was Iran, we would say it was a dummy. Possibly so. But the RDS-6 device of the Soviet Joe-4 test in 1953 was a gun-type weapon, that used deuterium outside the uranium core, not a true “thermonuclear” device, but with a yield of 400kt. It also fits the general profile of the pictures. As a very old weapon, the design might have traveled on paper via aged Soviet scientists desperate for cash after the Soviet breakup.

Compare the (CNN) North Korea photo with a photo of the U.S. model W80. In the North Korea photo, the primary (in a gun-type weapon, the “target”) is on the left, indicated by the tube supplying tritium for the primary “boost” from the tank on the green table. In the U.S. photo, the primary is on the left.

(Nuclearweaponsarchive.org.: Gun-type weapons can be boosted, which the South Africans considered, by using the barrel/projectile as a piston. )

The alternative is the proliferation of a modern Teller-Ulam design, with a completely successful test on the first try. Perhaps some ex-Soviet physicists are living in luxury in North Korea. But the shape of the package adds to my skepticism.

The North Korea (photo) warhead  looks like a dumbbell connected by a narrow neck. The globe on the right side, connected by a narrow neck to the primary does not  resemble the functional shape of a Teller-Ulam secondary. The great secret of the Teller-Ulam design, that the U.S. fought so hard to keep, is that the secondary of  a hydrogen bomb is set off by radiation, what we call light, not touch. The radiation channel is just under the skin of the device, surrounding the secondary material. It needs the most direct way possible for the fission primary to illuminate the channel. And so,

  • The kink in the housing of the North Korea package doesn’t help. But the shape is fine for Sakharov’s “Layer Cake.” The smaller, near end of the dumbbell can hold the breech of the gun.
  • The U.S. warhead (photo) has no neck between the fission primary on the  left, and the fusion secondary on the right. So as much as possible, the light emitted by the fission primary has an unobstructed view of the radiation channel.

Since the North Korea pattern is to announce events that are somewhat in advance of actual progress, it is possible that the strata, the rock in which the test device was placed, was deliberately chosen to be harder than usual. This would increase the signal received by distant seismic detectors.

To take into account the photos that North Korea claims are of the actual weapon, the design estimate is changed from Orange Herald to the Soviet RDS-6.


North Korea tests H-Bomb?

(Reuters)North Korea conducts sixth nuclear test, says developed H-bomb.

The possibilities:

  • The 10X tremor strength reported by Japan is easily in range of a large boosted fission weapon, such as the British Orange Herald device.
  • The North Koreans mastered radiation implosion on their first try. Since this is unlikely, it would indicate a major intelligence failure.
  • A third path of proliferation, providing a turn-key design.

Although open-source does not give us access to the U.S. intelligence product, there is usually a parallel in open source analysis that approximates it. But it’s not out there.

Since the North Korea pattern is to announce events that are somewhat in advance of actual progress, it is possible that the strata, the rock in which the test device was placed, was deliberately chosen to be harder than usual. This would increase the signal received by distant seismic detectors.

So this estimate is that the North Korea test was of a boosted fission weapon, similar to Orange Herald.


Havana Sonic Attack Weapon — Let’s Build It! Part 1

We’re not actually going to. This will be informed speculation, guided by open source physics and electronics. But perhaps it will inspire some young budding Dr. Evil to a lifetime of work. It all depends on your idea of fun.

Let’s consider the general shape of the package:

  • Futuristic. Eventually, all surfaces will be active. The attack vehicle  could be the wall paper itself, containing printed circuits and patches of active material that transform electricity into sound. With the huge area provided by wallpaper, it is actually possible to contemplate powering it by radio waves. The time is not yet.
  • Practical. It could be something quite prosaic, hidden in a hot water heater. Metal pipes are efficient conductors of ultrasound. It could be powered without easily detectable connections. By disconnecting some of the plumbing from “ground”, the pipes themselves could carry a low voltage, high amperage supply. I am confident this has been done one time or another.
  • Sound cannon. The use of sound as a projectile has attracted interest since about 1900.  But why would sound work at all? Sound carries energy. All weapons other than CBW work by transferring energy to the target in a way to make it stop working.

We will focus on the sound cannon. The portable nature of this hypothetical device, and the multiple locations of the attacks, conform with the inability of the F.B.I. to locate the source.

How much energy is required? It turns out that it’s not the amount of energy that counts, but how it is delivered. If you walk down a flight of stairs, your foot pads absorb the slight shock of each step. But if you fall down, you hurt yourself. The effect increases rapidly with height. Two flights is nothing for your feet. Try jumping off the roof and let me know. A pistol bullet has less energy than a medium firecracker. So the delivery is more important than the total.

Nuclear radiation provides another insight. The total energy in a lethal whole-body dose of gamma-rays is less than the energy in a cup of coffee. But it is delivered in a range of frequencies called the “ionizing band”, which knock electrons loose from atoms. The victim feels nothing, yet it kills.

One form of air disturbance, the pressure pulse of a bomb blast, lethally ruptures the lungs. But inconveniently for the designer, it takes a lot of energy to create the pulse. Our designer would like a solution that uses minimal energy to fry a brain. The press has recently served up a bunch of experts who assert this is impractical. Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only, refers to Russian references in a Polish paper, “Effects of Ultrasonic Noise on the Human Body – A Bibliographic Review”, which imply it is eminently practical.

The Russian references indicate that the unintended spillover of industrial devices such as ultrasonic welders can, with prolonged exposure, cause the effects reported to afflict the Havana diplomats. The first thought of an engineer is, if this is accidental, can one do “better” by design?  “Better” is quoted because many engineers would not consider this fulfilling work. It strikes me as something that would take as cold a heart as Dr. Evil, or Gordon Gekko in Wall Street,  to pursue without internal conflict.

So let’s be Dr. Evil for this article. The object is to scramble the brains of John Doe with a compact, practical, portable device. This implies a ultrasonic beam, that can project to a target some moderate distance away. With sound, distances are meters, not miles.

Through tragic lack of imagination, the “experts” cited by the press (hopelessly naive CNN video)  are stuck with the most prosaic of assumptions:

  • The beam has a single frequency.
  • The energy is delivered continuously.
  • The device is big and bulky.

Their thinking is stuck in a tiny box. Let’s think outside the box:

  • The beam can be composed of a complex combination of multiple frequencies with multiple effects and enhancements. A complex, time-varying waveform.
  • The intensity can change rapidly, for specific purposes and optimizations: penetration, resonance, efficiency.
  • Since the device does not deliver continuous power, it can be small and compact.

Since the device must deliver a complex waveform, forget about the “experts” who say this gadget can be built by anyone with modest engineering talent with off-the-shelf parts. It cannot. Your first stop will be to the funding office. Ask for $50M.  You’ll need at least one specialist in each of these:

  • Physics,  hydrodynamics of compressible fluids.
  • Ultrasonic transducers, experience in both piezoelectric and magnetostrictive types.
  • Antenna theory, someone who transferred into ultrasonics.
  • State-of-the-art ceramics fabrication. This is not pottery at the neighborhood art center.
  • Control theory and heuristics.
  • Electrical engineering,  Class-D amplifiers.
  • Electrical engineering, power supplies.
  • Software engineering, real time and wave tables.
  • Software engineering, user interface.

This is a lot of work, but in the end, you’ll have the satisfaction of pointing it at a CNN “expert” and asking, “How much do you want to bet this doesn’t work?” If you interest flags, remember, glory awaits the next Dr. Evil.

To be continued shortly.










Why the Russian Consulate was Closed – Espionage?

Edit: See end.

Reuters: U.S. to search Russian consulate in San Francisco, says Moscow. Quoting,

“The American special services intend to conduct searches on Sept. 2 in the general consulate in San Francisco, including in the houses of employees who live in the building and who have immunity,” the spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said.

Families, including children and toddlers, had been told they would have to leave the building for 10-12 hours, she said.

Termination of diplomatic status of the building renders it accessible to search. So  “retaliation” is at least partly an excuse. The abruptness of the closure order facilitates a search for something that cannot be quickly  destroyed, eradicated, or moved. Since code books and cryptography devices are easily destroyed, what is it? What can’t they remove in a diplomatic bag?

In December, the consulate was implicated in espionage. (SF Gate  December 29, 2016) Russian diplomats in San Francisco among those told to leave U.S. Quoting,

The State Department didn’t immediately identify the diplomats being expelled or say how many were working in San Francisco. All 35, department officials said, “were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status,” which is political-speak for spying.

Start Google Earth on your computer and zoom in  on the consulate. The imagery is recent and of revealing quality. The  The roof of the Russian Consulate is at an altitude of 231 feet. There are structures on the roof that rise to 246  feet. Such structures are typically “machine rooms”, holding A/C, elevator, and perhaps a water tank. But what if there is something else?

Zoom out, and  slowly move your cursor south-southwest towards San Francisco Bay. The altitude declines all the way down to the bay. When you’ve reached sea level, continue your course, and you’ll hit San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley, 44 miles distant. The consulate has what is called “line of sight” access, unobstructed by hill or buildings, perfect for a tight microwave beam, or perhaps a laser.

As we know from watching spy movies, we would like to set a trap to catch the industrial spies in the act. But perhaps this has not been fruitful. Perhaps the Russian communications links are asymmetrical, with the Russians receiving return messages from their agents by other routes, such as the venerable dead drop.  Or perhaps agents operate their stealth-burst radios from mobile platforms. Counterespionage is a highly intellectual game with many strategies. One of them is,  if you’re not winning, change the game. By forcing the adversary to change tactics, it may become more vulnerable.

So it appears to be more than a game of tit-for-tat. It could be as complicated as tic-tac-toe. Sergey Lavrov, I will have to wait to hear you laugh.

Edit: (Reuters)Russia hands note of protest to U.S. over plans to search trade mission. Quoting,

The ministry called the planned “illegal inspection” of Russian diplomatic housing an “unprecedented aggressive action”, which could be used by the U.S. special services for “anti-Russian provocations” by the way of “planting compromised items”.

Sergey Lavrov, get a hold of yourself. Are you suggesting we would bug your building? Perish the thought! We would never do a thing like that.  We would never stoop so low. You know us better than that. We’re you’re  friends. But if you worry anyway, here are removal instructions.

Thank you, Maria Zakharova, for your explanation of the San Francisco smoke. Quoting,

“In relation to this, the windows could be closed, the light could be turned off, the water could be drained out, the heating appliances could be turned off, the garbage could be thrown away, essential services could be turned off and many other things,” she wrote on social media.

I thought somebody left some Rice-a Roni, the San Francisco Treat,  on the grill too long. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a wonderful change from potatoes.



Just a reminder — Looking for a gig (U.S. Expels More Russian Diplomats; try Rat Psychology Instead)

The web counter implies some interest in the applications of B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning  to diplomacy. I thought of the idea while contemplating rats being tickled — and laughing. I hen began to imagine –  strictly in my imagination –  Sergey Lavrov  laughing.

If you enjoy the writing, the broad assemblage of information, and perhaps  even the humor, I’m looking for a gig.

I am within range of NYC.  Email: contact at this domain name.

U.S. Expels More Russian Diplomats; try Rat Psychology Instead

Bloomberg: U.S. to Shut 3 Russia Diplomatic Sites But Expel No Staffers, with 48 hours notice. (NY Post) “Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the move brings the US and Russia into “parity” — with each having three consulates in the other country.”

Reuters: Russia pledges ‘harsh response’ to U.S. tit-for-tat measures. “Lavrov, addressing Russian students, complained that the United States had only given Moscow 48 hours to comply with its demands and hinted that Russia might look at ordering further reductions in U.S. embassy staff.”

It was a polite game of tit-for-tat, but for some reason, the latest tit-for-tat seems taken by the Russians as a bitch slap when it should have been taken as a mere….you know.  How will it all end? Like a game of strip billiards?

If the initial tat was the meddling by Russians in our domestic affairs, then by my count, the most recent tit evens things up, and requires no retaliatory tat by Russia. If, on the other hand, the integrity of the mathematics is important to Russia (and their contribution to mathematics is illustrious), then they may not be able to accept the implication that theirs was the initial tat, setting off a chain of tats and tits,  leaving our relations in tatters.

Perhaps the F.B.I. reached a conclusion similar to my own in Sonic Attacks on U.S. and Canadian Diplomats in Cuba; a Kremlin Op?, but with greater authority, that the Russians fried the brains of U.S. diplomats in Cuba. That could explain why the diplomats were given only 48 hours to pull up stakes.

There are always hidden stakes. The San Francisco consulate could have been particularly useful for industrial espionage.  CBS has the best picture, “Black smoke pours from chimney at Russian consulate in San Francisco”, of smoke coming out of the consulate as the Russians burn their secrets. But suppose there are activities of the Russians  that you would like to discourage? Would you train a lab rat this way? Or your dog?

Of course not. You provide incentives and disincentives. Two names are associated with this idea, Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner, who coined the term “operant conditioning.” According to Skinner, if an organism can be trained at all, it can be trained by operant conditioning. And all the complexities of what it might be thinking can be avoided. Every undergrad psychology major takes a course in this,  called  “rat psychology.”

Henry Kissinger’s concept of linkage has close analogy. It  Incentivizes the actions or restraint desired by U.S. foreign policy. It depersonalizes a bit of diplomacy, replacing it with benefits and costs that the other party can judge for themselves. See Linkage as a Foreign Policy Technique for the Trump Administration.

Operant conditioning contains an implied corollary: A foreign policy action should never be taken because it makes us feel good. If it does, we should worry about the purity of our motives.  The only acceptable reason should be the advancement of a policy goal, by a means that can be clearly elucidated in a logical, emotionless fashion.

The purity of our motives is very suspect, because we are deeply annoyed with the Russians. They have very little feeling for why. According to Skinner, it’s not an obstacle.