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Raytheon Creates Pain Box From Dune

In his epochal 1965 novel Dune, Frank Herbert created a world in which advanced technology existed side-by-side with a feudal political system. Various groups vied for power in different ways; one group, the Bene Gesserit, tested its members with a special device.

Paul slowly put his hand into the box. He first felt a sense of cold as the blackness closed around his hand, then slick metal against his fingers and a prickling as though his hand were asleep.

"What's in the box?"

"Pain." He felt increased tingling in his hand, pressed his lips tightly together. How could this be a test? he wondered. The tingling became an itch... The itch became the faintest burning... It mounted slowly: heat upon heat upon heat... . The burning! The burning! He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained.

It stopped! As though a switch had been turned off, the pain stopped... "Take your hand from the box, young human, and look at it." He fought down an aching shiver, stared at the lightless void where his hand seemed to remain of its own volition. Memory of pain inhibited every movement. Reason told him he would withdraw a blackened stump from that box. "Do it!" she snapped. He jerked his hand from the box, stared at it astonished. Not a mark. No sign of agony on the flesh. He held up the hand, turned it, flexed the fingers. "Pain by nerve induction," she said. "Can't go around maiming potential humans. There're those who'd give a pretty for the secret of this box, though."
(Read more about the pain box from Frank Herbert's novel Dune)

Raytheon has unwittingly created the pain box (also called the agony box in later books) as a demonstration device for its directed energy system, which uses 95 GHz electromagnetic radiation to excite water molecules in the outer skin to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit. An intense burning sensation is created, but it does no permanent damage.


(Raytheon Silent Guardian demo device -
Frank herbert's pain box)

Here's how a reporter describes what it feels like:

"Where do I put my finger? There ... OK? Nothing's happening ... is it on?"

"Yes, it's on. Move your finger a bit closer."

"Er ... ow! OW!" Not good. I try again. "OWWW!" I pull my hand away sharpish. My finger is throbbing, but seems undamaged.


(Raytheon Silent Guardian demo device -
Frank herbert's pain box)

Catch a glimpse of the future - choose among more than one hundred of Frank Herbert's ideas and inventions. Read more about Raytheon's directed energy system. Via Daily Mail.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/20/2007)

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