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Revisiting DIY HERF Guns 425

An anonymous reader writes "HERF guns have previously been regarded as nothing more than an interesting project with uses ranging from at-home experiments to malicious pranks. But the deployment of 'morally gray' forms of high-tech crowd control, such as the recent use of a sound cannon against domestic protesters, along with the likely future unleashing of the pain gun on more than just 'foreign terrorists,' creates a new purpose for these relatively easily assembled devices. Could HERF guns become a new method to counter the silencing of protesters via these sophisticated attacks, or is there any other way to prevent such efficient, convenient crowd dispersal?"
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Revisiting DIY HERF Guns

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  • by causality (777677) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @04:31PM (#29559745)

    a HERF gun is "(a device like EMP but directional) ... capable of stalling cars at a distance and crashing computers as well."

    I have no intention of actually doing this since it sounds like a great way to get in trouble. So, this is entirely hypothetical. I have thought of what it would be like to have a device like this in your trunk, and arranged so that it can transmit through the trunk lid (maybe this would entail replacing a part of the metal lid with something more transmissive) and pointed backwards. Then, some aggressive idiot wants to tailgate you, you tap your brake lights to ask him to back off. If he doesn't, you flip a switch under your dashboard and kill his engine by letting the EMP disrupt the electronics that control the ignition system. Then watch him disappear in your rear-view as he is forced to pull over with what momentum he has left. That would be most satisfying. Of course, you'd probably have to shield your own electronics, but it could be done.

  • by bcmm (768152) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @04:42PM (#29559817)
    The US and UK have two parties each, and the two parties are basically not very different. Barring a few specific situations, votes for other parties or independents have no effect. If you don't agree with the way things are, you can't stand for the major parties, and I'm not too familiar with the US system, but the UK's "first past the post" system makes it nearly impossible for new parties to go anywhere, as the only way for one to become effective would be for large numbers of people to throw their votes away for several elections in a row.

    Sometimes, voting is not going to change anything.
  • Countermeasures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bughunter (10093) <> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @04:53PM (#29559901) Journal

    I'm all for promoting homegrown electronic countermeasures, as I've long fantasized about building a directional, subsonic-targeting HERF weapon to discourage noise pollution on my residential street.

    However, I think promoting Counter-countermeasures is equally important: Faraday cages, attenuators, reflectors, and EMP-hard electronics. If you're gonna play with fireworks, then learn how to make a fire extinguisher, too.

  • Tyranny (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @05:02PM (#29559969)
    I'm all in favour of making DIY HERF devices to safeguard against tyranny. But we only need such things because the government is no longer afraid of the people who vote it into power. When ordinary people can no longer acquire the tools to depose despots, then it is a sure sign that those tools are now needed.
  • by causality (777677) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @05:22PM (#29560109)

    Having a car die in the middle of a crowded freeway is not a zero-risk event.

    I agree, which is the main reason why this is a hypothetical idea that I have no intention of ever implementing. Not ever, for any reason. Nor would I advocate that anyone else do so. It's alright to imagine fictional ideas like this because I plan to keep them fictional. If anything, this discussion for me is about human nature and the observation that there are so many who bully and take advantage because there are so few who decide that they will not tolerate it.

    I think it's kind of a disproportionate response, don't you?

    Not really, not when you consider that the other person is using the threat of a car accident to try to intimidate you into doing what he wants you to do. People who are concerned about their own safety don't do things like this. That it happens all the time doesn't change the nature of it. You could also add up every accident that has ever happened in this country during which one vehicle rear-ended another, add up the total dollar amount of the property damage, add up the total number of people who were injured or killed because someone was following too closely, and then tell me if you still think an effective deterrent is disproportionate. Every last accident of this type was entirely preventable, which only makes them more unjust, for that means that the inconvenience of paying attention was more important to the at-fault party than the safety of others. There are car accidents where you can say "damn, ANYONE in that position wouldn't have been able to see that coming" but this just isn't it.

    Besides, let's assume for the sake of argument that this is in fact a disproportionate response. There is plenty of precedent in law for increasing the penalty of a crime in the hopes that it has a deterrent effect on would-be criminals. This is particularly true for crimes where the individual criminal's chance of getting caught is low. Of course with the law you also generally have due process, which is absent here. This then would be more like those states which have enabled conceal-carry gun permits for law-abiding citizens, and as a result have seen violent crime drop significantly.

    Gun control advocates have a real hard time admitting this, but the way this works is simplicity itself: criminals want helpless victims, and they think twice when their would-be victim is likely to be able to defend himself. To me, bullies on the road are no different in principle. They are cowards, and as such they put themselves in positions where they can hassle others with little fear of harm to themselves. An EMP device like what I imagine would give them something to think twice about. The result would not be a high number of people whose engines get stopped via EMP. No, the result would be far fewer tailgaters. What reasonable, law-abiding, non-aggressive driver would find that undesirable?

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:37PM (#29560667) Journal
    And yet it is getting better, for lots of reasons:

    * I read a survey that shows 70% of the country believes that the news is biased and inaccurate. This is compared to 30% only a year ago. Realizing that your news source is inaccurate is the first step towards a realistic perception of the world.

    * The internet is giving people more information, and forums where they have to defend their ideas. I know it may be hard to believe, but the sophistication of the average argument on the internet is improving. Sure, we always have people going through the clueless adolescent troll stage, but compare the arguments of someone who actively posts on the internet with someone who only reads the newspaper and talks to his friends, and you will see a huge difference. You just can't get the same breadth of ideas in meatspace.

    * People actually care. In the 90s, when everything was going well, no one cared too much what the government was doing. We kind of ignored it. Now after 9/11 and Bush, people are taking a lot greater interest in their government, and are really unhappy with it. If there's one thing I can thank Bush for, it's motivating people to be more interested in government.

    * The two parties have never been weaker than now. Centrist, independent voters have become a major force to reckon with, and there is even talk that in the next few years independents might start winning elections. Really, there isn't much to like about either party, but politics move slowly, and it will take time for things to change.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @06:48PM (#29560739)
    I took a driver safety course and they absolutely recommend NOT do as you suggest because you are only inviting road rage by doing so. And if someone discovers some of the nasty tricks I've learned in my time you could end up with flat tires, busted side windows or a completely non-functioning electrical system in your car, and all this while you're still driving the car. The windows is the fun one because the thing that breaks them is smaller than the fingernail on your pinkie finger and can be flicked like a booger. I haven't even gotten into what can be done to someone's car in a parking lot but suffice to say that technology allows me to render you without a vehicle for days/weeks/months/years if I so choose. No, I don't use this stuff(I do like to dream it up though) but it's not like any of it is expensive or hard to pull off....
  • b) Government now has sufficient control of the media that they don't need to play by the rules. They can kill whoever they want, whenever they want, and then call it terrorism, and the majority of the population will not challenge it.

    I think you'll have a hard time proving that 'government', or even some specific component of government, has enough control of the media in order to perpetrate something serious. They can frame a small number of people, brand them with 'pedo' or 'terrorist' or 'drug dealer' and everybody just nods... but this doesn't scale.

    A much more relevant government power is this: more than 50% of Americans now receive significantly direct payments from some level of government. At that point it is impossible for a democracy to scale back its own taxing or spending. The only way out of it is to switch over to a monarchy for a while, and hope we get a philosopher king who can resist the corrupting force of that power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:26PM (#29560977)

    a HERF gun is "(a device like EMP but directional) ... capable of stalling cars at a distance and crashing computers as well."

    I have no intention of actually doing this since it sounds like a great way to get in trouble. So, this is entirely hypothetical. I have thought of what it would be like to have a device like this in your trunk, and arranged so that it can transmit through the trunk lid (maybe this would entail replacing a part of the metal lid with something more transmissive) and pointed backwards. Then, some aggressive idiot wants to tailgate you, you tap your brake lights to ask him to back off. If he doesn't, you flip a switch under your dashboard and kill his engine by letting the EMP disrupt the electronics that control the ignition system. Then watch him disappear in your rear-view as he is forced to pull over with what momentum he has left. That would be most satisfying. Of course, you'd probably have to shield your own electronics, but it could be done.

    What if the occupants have a pace maker? Or the pulse 'gets' somebody else? Is it worth it?

  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:50PM (#29561127) Homepage
    Which is why the insurance fraudsters like to duck in front of your car very quickly and slam on the brakes.

    Or, sometimes, wait at a stoplight for someone to leave enough room behind them, shift into reverse, and slam the accelerator.

  • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:54PM (#29561149)
    I hate to agree with such inflammatory, insensitive remarks, as my dad and aunt were present for the Kent State fiasco (and I am an alumnus), but I do in fact agree. Non-violent protests are fine and dandy and leave the few participants with a nice feeling that they tried, but these rarely seem to accomplish anything dramatic or lasting. Even what occurred in Kent in 1970 was not intended to be anything other than peaceful, but government and university folks reacted poorly, things got out of hand, some windows were broken, a building burned, and some scared amateur soldiers fired on unarmed protesters who were no threat to them. I wouldn't wish something like this on anyone. But incidents like this do get their message across and create lasting memories. We have to stand up for our rights or we will lose them, and we will not attract attention with boring 2-hour demonstrations where everyone stays on the sidewalks, sings on the town square, pats themselves on the back and then goes home. If "the powers that be" will stop at nothing to maintain control over our lives, then we need to fight back - not just whine and give up when they break out the hoses, sound canons, and pepper balls.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @07:56PM (#29561157) Homepage

    It's also a very safe thing for them to rely on. The contemporary population of the entire Western world has been domesticated more chronically than at any other time in human history. Only very small percentages of that population have actually seen active combat. The rest of them would have less than no chance, and that includes you and me. Training and physical fitness aside, the single biggest problem is probably simply the extent to which we would not have the stomach for it.

    In other words : you have it too easy and cannot effectively defend yourself. You should consider how lucky you are to live in 21st century in the west, in most other periods, and most other cultures, you'd be dead. Or at least beaten. Your problem would not be theoretical and academic with situations on far-off battlefields that you really don't have sufficient information to judge. Your problem would most likely be with the treatment of your sister (or yourself) by the local police officer, and the body parts it involves.

    You refuse to be troubled by defending freedom, but demand the result of it. Why should anyone choose to die for you ? For your freedom ? If you can't answer that question ... heh ... guess what will happen when too much of the population cannot answer that question anymore. The old answer was simple : "Christ". Of course that answer had shortcomings, like it's dogmatic nature and it's obvious intolerance of different cultures (but the cultures that support individual freedom are few and far between, and certainly "western culture" is the only ideology that tolerates individual freedom today)

    Most of the mass-media, imho, actually attack anyone who defends freedom, because hard choices and mistakes are made when violence is used against those who curtail freedom of others. Instead they offer the "neutrality" option as a supposedly morally good option. In reality, however, neutrality favors the stronger, and is the opposite of the ethic of defending the weak against the strong. Anyone claiming any neutral position really favors the short-term stronger party. Neutrality really favors the taliban, and not afghan journalists. Neutrality favors the murderer, not the victim. And that unfortunately includes "not judging a culture" when it's about something like honor-killing. In reality neutrality (or "tolerance") is, in this case, supporting the murderers. Everything except supporting violence against the culture is in practice equivalent to supporting the murders that are part of it.

  • Re:Countermeasures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bughunter (10093) <> on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:23PM (#29561649) Journal

    While effective, a shotgun lacks finesse.

    I'm designing a directional system that reflects audio frequency signals below 40 Hz back at their source, but in the form of high energy RF, strong enough to drive subwoofer speaker coils at a range of 100 yards. The goals are to establish a feedback loop that results in failure of the subwoofers, and to leave no other evidence.

    Now that's finesse.

  • by Brewmeister_Z (1246424) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:40PM (#29561759)

    I first noticed this type of driving in Iowa while working a co-op education job for a company there. I grew up in South Dakota so there was not as many multi-lane highways or congestion on them as in other places. However, when I drove on the highways in Iowa, it seemed that there were many drivers that would play the game of "match the speed" with the car next to them thus creating traffic slowdowns and clustering of cars which means more tailgating and frustration. I heard people jokingly call Iowa an acronym for Idiots Out Wandering Around and I believed it after working there for a summer.

  • by nabsltd (1313397) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @09:56PM (#29561843)

    Just so you know, this is illegal in Kansas [], as of July 1st. They will be issuing warnings for a year, and then start ticketing.

    My prediction is that there will be 1 ticket for this issued for every 1000 speeding tickets issued because of radar (or other devices that require no real work on the part of the police).

    Seriously, I've seen many cops completely ignore drivers pulling incredibly stupid moves in order to pull someone over doing 5mph over the limit, and all simply because with the radar the cop doesn't need to put himself on the line to testify. Any "reckless driving" sort of ticket requires the cop to really explain why it was unsafe, and even then it will likely be reduced to something a lot less serious when it is contested.

    And, in the case of this law, the cop would have to be driving along with the offender for at least a half-mile while they were blocking someone. Then, when it goes to court, the driver will say something like "I was going to pass, but slowed down because I was afraid the cop was going to ticket me for speeding".

  • Re:bad idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thomas Shaddack (709926) on Sunday September 27, 2009 @11:37PM (#29562343)

    When it comes to brute force power, you're right. However, brute force is not everything. Even an underpowered adversary may win, with sufficient brains and other factors. Weapons are a force multiplier; nothing more, nothing less. Brains, decentralization, and sheer numbers, are just a few of many other factors We The People have at our disposal.
    Don't give up in advance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @12:11AM (#29562503)

    I think you've misapprehended the nature of modern, "professional" police forces. They were invented over a hundred years ago because the previous policing solution -- community hired police selected by town-hall vote or volunteer militia from townsfolk, as in posse comitatus -- were insufficiently willing to bash the heads of their friends and neighbors who got all union-y and disobedient. Hell, when the (often mining) companies sent in Pinkerton goons with orders to shoot anyone on strike, these police would actually side with the people and fire back against the hired thugs! (Why, the nerve of them!)

    A standing, professional force controlled by a bureacracy that's distanced from the populace is much easier to order in against the civilians they're supposedly there to protect. That's why that kind of police force was invented in the first place!

  • Re:Sounds like... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday September 28, 2009 @02:17AM (#29562937) Homepage

    It can also silence any police radios.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Monday September 28, 2009 @07:24AM (#29564239)
    OK, so I have the right to assemble, but I need to arrange the time and place with the government, and if they don't like how I peceably assemble, they can and will arrest me.

    The right to assemble was written to prevent the government from breaking up groups of people whose sole threat was sharing their ideas with each other.

    So you are stating that the right to assemble can only be exercised on private land? If so done, can the government still bust your door down Waco-style?

    The first amendment does not guarantee the right to create anarchy.

    Apparently, it just says I don't need to get the government's permission to hold a dinner party, but anything else I must get permission from them and, in many cases, pay them fees to freely associate with others in public. That sounds like a pretty useless "right" and even then, it wasn't upheld during the Red Scare at all.
  • by jonadab (583620) on Monday September 28, 2009 @07:29AM (#29564279) Homepage Journal
    > For the person tailgating, well, that person is attempting
    > to bully you into driving the way he wants you to drive

    I disagree with this assessment. Most tailgaters habitually drive on the tail of whoever happens to be in front of them, no matter *how* that person is driving. I haven't figured out *why* they do it, but I don't think it's because they're trying to elicit modified driving behavior from the person in front of them.

    However, I suspect the other poster may have been thinking more in terms of what could go wrong for other motorists *behind* the tailgater, if they don't manage to get off the road as their engine dies. Leaving a stopped car on the freeway is a good way to cause an accident. Sure, the tailgater deserves worse, but you also should be thinking about the people behind him.

    > I am not too proud to pull over and force a tailgater to pass me, for example

    I usually look for a place where they have room to pass (no oncoming traffic, or a passing lane) and then slow down to a point where they feel they have no choice *but* to go around. This usually requires slowing down by at *least* 50%, sometimes more like 75%. This is one of the identifying features of a serious hardcore tailgater: they would rather go a good deal slower than be able to see any open road in front of them.
  • by jonadab (583620) on Monday September 28, 2009 @07:47AM (#29564403) Homepage Journal
    > sometimes a person will pull into the left lane and either
    > maintain the same speed as the right lane (two-lane scenario,
    > for simplification), or so minimally faster that it will take
    > several miles before they pass the car on their right

    That's passing-lane bunching, and it's not the same thing as tailgating. It *is* dangerous and stupid, but it's also somewhat understandable, and it only lasts for a minute or two on each occasion, so it doesn't make the person in front jumpy and nervous. All told, passing-lane bunching generally doesn't make people want to slam on their brakes and/or drop proximity mines out the back of their vehicles just to make it stop.

    Tailgating does. Tailgating is when a motorist insists on driving mile after mile after mile so close to the rear bumper of whoever is in front of him that there's no way he could possibly slow down in time to avoid a collision if the vehicle in front of him needed to decelerate suddenly for any reason. This could theoretically be done in the left lane, but in practice it almost always occurs in the right lane.

    It's one of the most dangerous driving behaviors known, short of outright inebriation (or doing various non-driving-related things, such as texting, while driving). Tailgating is a good deal worse than speeding, and arguably worse than passing in the right lane. It's right up there with passing through an intersection, brake-checking on the freeway, attempting to "pop wheelies", and similar bizarrely unsafe schenanighans.

    I'm not sure any fate is too harsh for tailgaters, but I favor an approach that would either force them to reform or get them off the road if they won't: three-month license suspension on the first offense, three years on the second offense, and the license to drive permanently revoked on the third offense. Underage tailgaters could lose their license until they turn 18 and then have the record wiped clean, I suppose.
  • by moeinvt (851793) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:45AM (#29564911)

    Mod this one up:

    "Most tailgaters habitually drive on the tail of whoever happens to be in front of them, no matter *how* that person is driving. I haven't figured out *why* they do it, but I don't think it's because they're trying to elicit modified driving behavior from the person in front of them."

    I think you're absolutely right, and it was a very interesting and somewhat pleasant revelation for me. I figured this out a long time ago when I had to do some hitch-hiking while my car was undegoing major repairs. I met at least half a dozen drivers whose tailgating behavior I would previously have attributed to rudeness or impatience. These people were nice enough to pick up a poor hitch-hiker, seemingly care free and not at all in a hurry, but insisted on following the vehicles in front of them at ~1-2 car lengths when doing 40-50 mph. I couldn't figure out "why" they did it either, and I wasn't about to question the driving behavior of someone giving me a free ride. It's always nice to find out that there are fewer arseholes in the world than you had previously imagined.

  • by dawich (945673) on Monday September 28, 2009 @08:53AM (#29565015)
    From a MO Highway Patrol friend, 15 years ago, MO would specifically target the left lane people, even if they knew the guy in the right lane was speeding to pass the car in the left. They aggressively enforced the state law about keeping the left lane clear. Nowadays, I don't know if that's still true, not being back except on short visits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:48AM (#29565683)

    Hackers are so passe, the real art of applying technology to crime has yet to be developed. Things that were impossible in years past are becoming simple, and the parts and pieces are now filling landfills and so are becoming untraceable.

    Each new development in technology is a tool that criminals can use to trick unsuspecting marks in new ways - ways that really haven't been tried before, and ways they were never warned about.

    Web newbies are often taken in by the thousands of scams from sites that look like their bank but really are run by criminals, to sites that say your computer is infected and ask you to install a virus eradicator which is really a trojan horse, to a hundred other tricks. Some people avoid the internet entirely thinking it's just not for them, and if they just don't go on the internet then they never have to deal with it.

    Now, with devices everywhere in everyone's lives the world itself is becoming hackable. And the unsuspecting marks are everywhere, waiting to be relieved of their wallets.

  • by RoverDaddy (869116) on Monday September 28, 2009 @09:58AM (#29565795) Homepage
    Sorry, I disagree with one of your points. As long as I'm passing somebody, I get to decide the speed with which I pass them, not the car behind me. I'm responsible for my safety, not them. I'm typically talking about a case where the car behind me would like to be going 80+, and I'm passing at 70 a car to my right going 65. Yes, a 5 mph difference means the driver behind me may get impatient. Too damn bad.

    Name provided because I believe in this -very- strongly. If you want something to complain about, complain about the drivers that sit anywhere but the right line without passing anybody at all.

Nothing in progression can rest on its original plan. We may as well think of rocking a grown man in the cradle of an infant. -- Edmund Burke