The Diabolical & the X-Ray

Way back in June of 2013 around the Albany, NY area, two men were accused of constructing a portable X-ray weapon. These two knuckleheads (I refuse to call them evil geniuses) were trying to build a low-budget death weapon. Diabolical — except that their “engineering” seems to be the stuff comic books are made of.

If you somehow missed this news story, these characters built a remote control switch that they were going to attach to an industrial X-ray machine. This X-ray unit was to be mounted in a van, and with the all-important remote on/off switch, these guys would secretly radiate people at a distance and make them sick or die days later. Or at least, that's what they had planned.

X-ray photons carry enough energy to ionize atoms and disrupt molecular bonds. This sort of ionizing radiation is harmful to living tissue. The ionizing capability of X-rays can be used in cancer treatment to kill malignant cells. However, the effect of ionizing radiation on matter — such as human tissue — is more closely related to the amount of energy deposited into the tissue rather than the charge generated. The measurement of energy absorbed is called “absorbed dose.”

Eric J. Feight and Glendon Scott Crawford are the two perpetrators of this well thought-out crime. This pair is currently being held without bail because “they pose a threat to public safety.”

The FBI put a confidential source in touch with Crawford before their arrest. Crawford allegedly gave the confidential source a webpage printout of the specifications of a radiation emitting device, a printout of the Wikipedia page on Acute Radiation Sickness, and a two page, hand-written sketch of a radiation emitting device. I did not know that there were engineers on Angie's List.

The essence of Crawford's scheme was the creation of a mobile, remotely operated, radiation-emitting device capable of killing human targets silently and from a distance with lethal doses of radiation. Let's be honest, the weight load of the batteries to power the system would more than likely break the frame of a van. As far as the actual industrial X-ray machine, it consisted only of catalog pages and printouts from several online sources. Of course, there is that remote control on/off switch (very high-tech).

I have very little fear of death ray devices being developed in someone's backyard. From the government, perhaps. Keep in mind that a death ray developed under a secretive DARPA contract would probably earn bonuses and praise for those involved, but outside the agency, no one can talk about it.

What I want to know is, is there anyone doing this design work surreptitiously? Who? I realize if it's surreptitious, we probably won't know that answer. It's just a rhetorical question.

Now, just a few more points to consider. Where is the American spirit and the inventor's soul as it relates to this project? Is our government searching for this device? Did it already try to build one? And the important legal question: If this device did or does not have a workable design, should the dynamic duo (above) be prosecuted?

I guess if they could have made a digital switch versus an analog switch, maybe they could have gotten away with it. The digital switch would have had several other uses, so you could disguise it. The analog switch (also known as the remote initiation device) is a simple on/off switch. In this context, you cannot hide its purpose. Its purpose is on/off.

Have you worked on any death-ray projects? Did they work? At what range? What was the power source? Are you allowed to talk about them?

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42 comments on “The Diabolical & the X-Ray

  1. Jason Bowden
    August 2, 2013

    Nikola Tesla claimed that he invented a deathray that would destroy 10,000 airplanes from a couple miles away. This was a very very long time ago.

  2. BillWM
    August 3, 2013

    That was back when Aircraft were mostly wood and cloth — the Electro-magnetic waves from Tesla's system that he used to light the city of Colorado Springs could be “tuned” so that the metal parts in a 1910 aircraft would arc, and burn the cloth, wood and paper parts of the aircraft — (All modern aircraft have a layer of metal or metalization in the skin to sheild all the non-metal components from Lightning Direct Effects (an RTCA – DO-160 qualification test))   The lighning bolt generator in the DO-160 qualification test is pretty impressive, and Friends have seen it blow screws and bolts off of Test Articles due to impropper thread engagement)(It is the size of a multi-story warehouse, and enclosed in a metal safety cage)


  3. Gregst
    August 3, 2013

    The guys were uneducated idiots that whould have killed nobody but themselves. First, X-rays are not that energetic, easily absorbed by the materials, and there would be huge energy dispersion at the exit. Prosecution of these fools is also totally idiotic and rather attests to the very low scientific knowledge of the FBI and the courts.

    Yet the death ray in principle is possible. We are talking abouth the gamma-ray laser. There is some work on those lasers done in the scientific community, on hafnium lasers, for example. I don't know how much they progressed, but the hafnium lased project at the University of Texas at Dallas was closed a couple of years ago.

  4. Brad_Albing
    August 3, 2013

    @Will – I had heard of his claim, tho' never looked up the details. The arcing between the metal parts makes sense. Altho' at the frequency or frequencies of operation for his coils and the mostly omnidirectional radiation pattern, I'm surprised that he figured a range of a couple of miles.

  5. Brad_Albing
    August 3, 2013

    @Gregst – Or at least the government wants you to think it was shut down….

  6. Davidled
    August 3, 2013

    Laser Application

    Car OEM used headlight with laser beam in order to project picture or video from smartphone. In the military, already laser weapon and gun are tested in the field. Laser is used to shape and shrink the very complicated medical tool such as bone drill in the medical industry.

  7. BillWM
    August 3, 2013

    Acutally I recall seeing an article about the military testing a laser to shoot down Katyusha rockets, as well as the Boeing 747 outfitted with a laser so powerful it will burn through the several inches of high strength steel of an ICBM casing from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

  8. samicksha
    August 5, 2013

    I missed news, i dont know were they masters or dumb but yes the shocking part od story was

    The FBI has arrested two men, Glen Crawford, 49, and Eric Feight, 54, for attempting to assemble a lethal X-ray weapon that can emit lethal doses of radiation for the purpose of killing Muslims and “other enemies of Israel,” including President Obama.

  9. samicksha
    August 5, 2013

    I guess X-ray, Laser are entirely different type weapons, that can affect nuclei in human tissue, and heating can result from exposure to ultrasound and can damage tissue and organs. Studies have found that exposure to high intensity ultrasound at frequencies from 700 kHz to 3.6 MHz can cause lung and intestinal damage.

  10. PZman
    August 5, 2013

    One of the problems with laser weapons is almost instanteous harm or death would occur. This pair wanted to injure people and have them die later. I assume that way no one would notice people dropping on the roadside. Of course there is the van with the death ray hanging, suspension beyond its limits, don't forget someone holding the remote on/off switch. No one going to notice that van. There are other methods to accomplish this destruction, which we don't need to mention here. No, they take on the transportable X-ray challenge and the battery power version. I believe thay should be put away to save us from any other stupid plots not terrorism.

  11. samicksha
    August 6, 2013

    @PZman, This not new, even hospitals which carry Ultrasound machine for testing purpose clearly mentiones about RF emmiting danger,  we have been trying to work and devolop laser/ X_ray wepons since world warII and blogs states that we still continue to do this..

    During the early 1940s Axis engineers developed a sonic cannon that could literally shake a person apart from the inside. A methane gas combustion chamber leading to two parabolic dishes pulse-detonated at roughly 44 Hz. This infrasound, magnified by the dish reflectors, caused vertigo and nausea at 200–400 metres (220–440 yd) by vibrating the middle ear bones and shaking the cochlear fluid within the inner ear. At distances of 50–200 metres (160–660 ft), the sound waves could act on organ tissues and fluids by repeatedly compressing and releasing compressive resistant organs such as the kidneys, spleen, and liver. (It had little detectable effect on malleable organs such as the heart, stomach and intestines.) Lung tissue was affected at only the closest ranges as atmospheric air is highly compensable and only the blood rich alveoli resist compression. In practice, the weapon system was highly vulnerable to enemy fire. Rifle, bazooka and mortar rounds easily deformed the parabolic reflectors, rendering the wave amplification ineffective.

    Source: Wiki


  12. Brad_Albing
    August 6, 2013

    @PZman – Careful – if we start arresting people for being stupid, the jails will rapidly fill to overflowing. Remember, half of the population has an IQ below 100. Scarey….

  13. PZman
    August 6, 2013

    As to half the population has an IQ below 100, but which half? Always remember:

    “No matter where you go, there you are.”


  14. fasmicro
    August 6, 2013

    The FBI has arrested two men, Glen Crawford, 49, and Eric Feight, 54, for attempting to assemble a lethal X-ray weapon that can emit lethal doses of radiation for the purpose of killing Muslims and “other enemies of Israel,” including President Obama.

    Marie Curie that invented and provided the roadmap in radioactivity was consumed in this process. I think people that think they can do this in their homes in order to kill others may pay the price first. This is hard stuff and it is unlikely that one can get help from hardware stores to protect from radiation when that mistake happens. Let them buy better health insurance though!

  15. fasmicro
    August 6, 2013

    >> As to half the population has an IQ below 100, but which half? Always remember:

    The problem with measuring IQ is that it does not predict anything about success. To start with, many years ago, it would be a taboo to see someone dropped out of Harvard to pursue an untested idea. People will see that person as lazy, hinged and totally stupid. Today, we all work directly or indirestly for most of those dropouts who technically “failed” in the IQ factory without certificates.

  16. Pidas
    August 7, 2013

    “Keep in mind that a death ray developed under a secretive DARPA contract would probably earn bonuses and praise for those involved, but outside the agency, no one can talk about it.”

    Too Late!

    Anyone remember the Neutron Bomb of the 1970's?

    It was designed to kill personell,but leave the infrastructure intact.No sense invading a country with nothing left but a pile of rubble.

    It could even penetrate tank armour and kill the occupants inside without damaging the outside.

    X Rays? Primitive by comparison.

  17. WKetel
    August 7, 2013

    A van with a dangerous x-ray device would not want to use batteries, but rather an alternator driven by then engine. That could easily produce a hundred amps at 240 volts, enough to cause lots of dangerous X-rays. But the harmful range would only be a few feet. But surplus magnetron tubes have been available for years, and a 156KW magnetron tube can easily be carried by one person. The delivery horn to focus the beam would not be that very large, either. But once again the range would not be that great. But it could certainly be hazardous to a few people. But for just plain creating mayhem, nothing could match a high frequency whistle, perhaps 10 or 15 KHz, powered by an air compressor like the ones used to power jackhammers. A 250 gallon tank at 200PSI could store a huge amount of energy, and the resulting sound level could easily exceed 200decibels. Something like that near Times Square could cause a huge panic and quite a bit  of hearing damage. But it would probably not kill people.

    My point is that bad machines are certainly possible, even “not that hard”, but that the nuts who want them are not smart enough to make them work. At least, not most of the time. Remember the Boston Marathon bombers.

  18. eafpres
    August 7, 2013

    An interesting bunch of comments here; not sure how much is sarcasm, tongue in cheek, and how much is serious.

    A few points:

    The 747 with the laser was real, carried a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) in the 100kW range, and shot down a boost-phase test target at 50 miles.  The program was cancelled.

    The miliatary, long a proponent of chemical lasers due to the high power potential, has shifted to fiber lasers.  They have demonstrated a system onboard a marine vessel shooting down a small aircraft.  There are truck and other battlefied versions afoot.

    The sonic weapons causing nausea is also real as I recall.  The press on that was a few years ago.

    Let's face it, anything you can dream up that does not violate conservation of mass or energy or a few laws of thermodynamics has probably already been studied and developed to some point by the US Military.

  19. PZman
    August 8, 2013

    I going to bring this around again. I love all the comments and really appreciate them. Now remember my opening statement was going through some of the legal considerations. The key to the court case was not the X-ray machine, which they did not own one or were in the process of buying one immediately. They were accused of and having a remote control on/off switch. We all could dream up some kind of remote control. You can buy them at the R Shack. When is a part of the system equal to the entire integrated package. I would like to finish part of RF system and consider the entire system completed. Give more some more comments about how much is enough to call a system complete.

  20. eafpres
    August 8, 2013

    @Peter–“You can buy them at the R Shack”

    Engineer: “This is a really complex design and will take weeks of work with several different skill sets needed”

    Boss: “Can't we just get one at Radio Shack?”

  21. eafpres
    August 8, 2013

    @Peter–now, more seriously, it seems like a bad legal precedent to arrest and hold someone for having a remote control and a stupid web page.  There are nationally syndicated commentaters and columnists that say worse things and can't claim ignorance as a defense.

    There is a town out here in Colorado where a guy named Philip Steel has been on national news stating he wants the town to issue licenses to shoot down drones.  The FAA has pointed out this would be illegal.  As in Federal crime.  Half the city council voted for it but due to a split vote they will hold a special election to determine whether to do it.  I'll say it is a safe bet that Mr. Steel owns firearms sufficient to the proposed use.  Likewise the town council members.   Shall the Feds pre-emptively go and arrest all of them?

  22. PZman
    August 9, 2013

    I am curious about the FAA ruling, I don't know how low the FAA area covers but I would believe at 100 feet, they are not in their juristiction except at airports. Now is it illegal to shoot down a illegal drone? To launch something that could? Is it illegal to shoot down a drone that is not there and doesn't exist? Not that I am recommending a course of action, I just don't like something being illegal by some general clause in some vague document. I second the motion of some syndicated commentators can say worse things, but then I could not say what I say without the commentators saying theirs.

  23. eafpres
    August 9, 2013

    @PZman–to be clear, I don't think there was a “ruling”, just a “statement”.  At this site, I found the following alleged statement released by the FAA.  I searched the FAA's site but could not find the statement there (not saying it isn't there, I just could not find it in a few minutes).

    “A drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” the statement said. 

    “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane,” adds the FAA.”

    The problem with legal/illegal real/not real was there/wasn't there UAVs is only going to get more complex.  Actually there is probably a lot of good fodder for this community on Analog applications in UAVs.  But…I think you are generally correct that below some size/altitude it is out of the FAAs hands.  On the other hand, I just saw they (to my amazement) have started approving UAVs in the commercial US airspace (I thought they would drag that out for years).

    So, you are out on your farm, and along comes a flying thing, hovering around your cows in the pasture.  Do you shoot first and ask questions later?  Or do you go to some (possibly non-existant) online database and see if there is an approval on file, then call the local FAA office/airport and ask if there is any flight plan or other clearance that would allow operation over your property, get out your laser range finder, range the target (oops, should have said “range the object”), using the now known distance and the angle above horizon calculate an altitude, and decide if it is fair game?

    What if it buzzes your cows and spooks them?   What if it scares the horse your kid is riding and she is bucked off an critcally injured?

    If it was an F-16 doing a low-pass you would probably be irritated but not shoot it.  Where do you draw the line?  I don't really know, but I agree with you it is not my preference to make more laws and make more things illegal just in case somebody might do something dumb.  I would guess the FAA statement is meant to be interpreted that in some cases it would be in their jurisdiction, but in any case it might be a bad idea as it could lead to violation of many other existing laws.

  24. PZman
    August 9, 2013

    Well said, amazing how a drone in Colo and a remote control switch in NY are so related.

    “History is made in the night.

    Character is what you are in the dark.”  

      from John Lithgow in  Buckaroo Banzai

  25. eafpres
    August 9, 2013

    @PZman–“Buckaroo Banzai”

    One of my favorite “cult” movies.  I've met only a few who have ever seen it.  Great reference!

  26. PZman
    August 13, 2013

    Guess I scared a few people off with movie quotes. The question I still have, when does a on/off switch change from a useful device to a part of a WMD? Will some agency “outlaw” Ham radio next? Do I have paranoia setting in? Let me know what you think.

  27. PZman
    August 27, 2013

    I am starting to fel paranoid here unless I hear back on the blog. I think I had forgotten to mention about the X-ray machine, is that it was to be an industrial machine. The kind that is used by machine shops, airframe mechanics and by others who need to check out the quality of welds, some materials and degradation of tubing. No special license or permit required.

  28. Navelpluis
    September 10, 2013

    fasmicro, well said about the Harvard dropouts, had a good laugh..  😉

    Back on topic: From some research we know that directly after the war some folks in the UK worked on 'lethal sound generation', indeed, to blow one away off his socks with sound. Charles Bovill is the inventor, among lots of other things, like spy transmitter detection techniques (even if they are switched off ! ). Lots of security companies tried to implement this as a commercial product, but as far as I know only a couple had commercial success. The ultrasound now you can see on Japanese vessels trying to get rid of Greenpeace demonstrators trying to enter their ships. The only thing they forgot is to add 11Hz flash lights, proven to get your brain into short-circuit…. Creepy stuff, but fortunately not deadly.

  29. fasmicro
    September 25, 2013

    >> Anyone remember the Neutron Bomb of the 1970's?

    Seems like the '70s were the time many of these stuffs happened. The created some of these tools and some became real problems. I was told in college why FDA will inspect any line of code for any x-ray machine was because someone made some, got approval, sold and then modified the code which unfortunately changed the dosage. Problem – people were fried in hospitals. The big question would have been how a company made that new change without retesting. Seems no QC was in the '70s

  30. fasmicro
    September 25, 2013

    >> My point is that bad machines are certainly possible, even “not that hard”, but that the nuts who want them are not smart enough to make them work. At least, not most of the time. Remember the Boston Marathon bombers.

    That is the more reason why we must not share some hard techniques online for them. Most of these guys are very bad students and that is good news that they cannot get these things done. I wish govt can ban some distributions associated with these designs and production on the Internet.

  31. fasmicro
    September 25, 2013

    >> Let's face it, anything you can dream up that does not violate conservation of mass or energy or a few laws of thermodynamics has probably already been studied and developed to some point by the US Military

    It is never good in the world of science and technology to say “already” been developed. It is possible our knowledge is limited by tools and constructs of today. Faraday's laws were for ages until they were broken with the era of nuclear physics and chemistry. It may take a long time but never is never because innovation is alive in this world.

  32. fasmicro
    September 25, 2013

    >>   I'll say it is a safe bet that Mr. Steel owns firearms sufficient to the proposed use.

    The problem is that he cannot even see drones. If he does that means the bad guys in Asia and middle east can. Not sure the guy has any capability that the usual antagonism displayed to govt by some folks

  33. fasmicro
    September 25, 2013

    >>  Is it illegal to shoot down a drone that is not there and doesn't exist? Not that I am recommending a course of action,

    How can you prove that something is illegal with all the secret courts in the world? Anyone must be sensible in doing things. I always think that anything from govt is legal because they have all the tools to make anything legal. That is wisdom – you cannot be smarter by the people we are pay to do same. Drones are not toys, they are used to police the state.

  34. eafpres
    September 25, 2013

    @fasmicro–You are probably correct there are new things to be discovered that even the secret military research hasn't found.  But I'll stand by the statement that there is a lot of work that is done that nobody ever hears about working on defensive and offensive weapon systems many of which are never used.

  35. WKetel
    September 25, 2013

    If somebody does shoot down a drone, and is not so dumb that they brag about it, how would they ever get caught? And it is not that hard to wear a disguise. It would be hard to hide, but to be unrecognizable to a camera is not that hard. And a gun with a video camera on the sight could be operated by remote control and it would be really hard to spot the operator inside a shelter, and that technology was mature in the 1960s. So that part is not new.

    And it certainly should be possible to damage a drone's cameras with a laser pair. First, illuminate the drone with the low powered red laser, then switch on the higher powered one that is beam-sighted with the tracking laser. 1970s technology, except a lot cheaper now.

    OR, just usena “fairly strong” air cannon to launch a big net and trap the drone. If they get too close that would be quite simple to do. And an air cannon like that converts back into a stack of plumbing in about two minutes.

  36. PZman
    September 27, 2013

    Just remember something can be illegal, an action, a plan or a weapon. But what you do is not illegal until you so proved in a court of law. Being suspect can still be a jail term, GPS braclet or other confinement. Here is quote from “The Point” by Harry Nilsson.

    Rockman talking to Oblio:

    Have you ever been to Beirut?

    Ob: no

    Rock,an: Have you ever been to New Delhi?

    Ob: no

    Rockman: There, you hear what you want to hear & you see what you want to see.


  37. WKetel
    September 28, 2013

    @PZ, I was not describing a plan of mine, just pointing out that the drones are not very secure. And even worse, I just heard today that some genious has developed a force field that can bring down a drone, and there is no defense against it. Of course the obvious way to keep that from happening more than once would be to booby-trap a drone with an atomic device having a thousand yard kill range. That would both protect drone technology and hopefully tend to discourage the bad guys. Of course, there does exist the possibility of such a device being used against us by the bad guys, so using it more than one time could be a poor choice. There are probably other options, but that one would tend to get their attention.

  38. fasmicro
    October 4, 2013

    >>  But I'll stand by the statement that there is a lot of work that is done that nobody ever hears about working on defensive and offensive weapon systems many of which are never used.

    Sure – when I got to the industry, I discoverred that the best ideas are neve published. Google boys might have gotten 2000 citations on their PAGE Algorithm had they stayed in Stanford and published it. I think the path they chose is better. Why arm your competitor especially when it is not patentable? 

  39. fasmicro
    October 4, 2013

    >> But what you do is not illegal until you so proved in a court of law.

    That is true but here in America, you may not recover even after the court aquital. They maul you with cameras just after being accussed. The smartest thing is to avoid being in trouble to start with because when vindicated the press has moved on and no one will remember to write that story.

  40. PZman
    October 4, 2013

    I have to disagree with you on the News issue, using terms such as maul, etc. can provoke the news people. Most news people are honest, hardworking and non-judgemental. If they come across a story about a corporation doing something wrong, then not releasing information to the public & the press and actually claiming that they are a victim when it maybe the other way around; then people are happy to have the news there. (I have twenty years of engineering work at various news operations, I don't ask the questions but I get to see what happens in the few minutes before the live report starts. Still I don't want to go to jail and the courtroom is not my usual hangout.

  41. fasmicro
    October 14, 2013

    @PZMan, I do not understand the point you are making. Here in America, if you are accused of a crime, it is likely the job is lost before the person has the right to defend. So the smartest thing is to avoid so. The IMF boss was all over the world for a crime that turned out to be a “crime” but he has lost his job already. In some countries, you cannot parade a suspect before cameras, only a convict.

  42. PZman
    October 15, 2013

    Also remember that Whitey Bulger was not convicted of all charges and he has been in the news for years. Here in the Boston area, Bulger appeared at least three times a day on every channel.  I believe that our method of press access & trial is safe. I see more people in trial situations come out without jail time. In some countries you arrested, proven guilty & jailed before you get to a judge.The news is going to cover high profile situations, where the suspected individual is typically tried in the open. “Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time.”  Baretta (Robert Blake)

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