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"...science fiction is sort of like a sociological genome. It's a huge range of possible futures, most of them useless; some vital. You never really know in advance."
- Peter Watts

Tanglefoot Field  
  A force field that would not harm but merely entangle and stop anyone (or anything) caught in it.  

At this point in the story, a crowd of unruly aliens are in need of restraint.

Greenberg slid a hand under his desk and located a control that would throw a tanglefoot field over the lower floor ... a permanent installation; the hall had seen other disturbances.
From The Star Beast, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1954
Additional resources -

Although no one has implemented this idea as an energy field, there is interest in quelling civil disorder using something similar. Once choice is an antitraction gel that is so slippery it is impossible to stand up. The Portable Vehicle Arresting Barrier is a kind of netting that can stop a 7,500 lb. pickup truck going 45 miles per hour, then wrap around to trap the occupants.

Compare to the IntruGrab from The Hunch (1961) by Christopher Anvil, the bubblegum pylon from Quantico by Greg Bear and the tangler from Logan's Run (1967) by Nolan and Johnson.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Star Beast
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to The Star Beast
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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