My last post covered some of the extraordinary advancements in science that we are already starting to see come from science fiction stories. I thought I would continue that this week with a news story about two men trying to create a science fiction weapon at home. It seems to be a staple of science fiction to explore the idea of scientific advancements being exploited and weaponized (frequently by the military) despite the noble intentions of the creator. However, sometimes a creation is only ever meant to be destructive. This was the case with a mechanic from General Electric named Glendon Scott Crawford, and another man named Eric J. Feight. These men tried to build a real-life death ray.
The death ray was intended to aim a, “high-energy lethal beam of radioactivity at human targets,” ensuring that those affected by the weapon would slowly die from radiation poisoning over the next few days.The FBI arrested the men after an extensive undercover operation that lasted nearly 14 months, and included monitoring Crawford’s calls, texts, and email messages, and sending an undercover agent to sell X-ray parts to him. Crawford’s plan was to build, "a radiation emitting device that could be placed in the back of a van to covertly emit ionizing radiation strong enough to bring about radiation sickness or death against Crawford's enemies," according to an FBI agent connected to the investigation. There was never any true danger, however, because the undercover agent that Crawford met with sold him defective parts.
The idea of creating your own science fiction device at home is hardly a new one. There was a movie recently about reporters investigating a man trying to build his own time travel machine. The movie, Safety Not Guaranteed, even involved the main character breaking into businesses to steal the more rare components he needed for his machine. Government agents were also investigating him for suspected terrorism because of the materials he was acquiring.
Crawford planned to sell his death ray to terrorist groups after, I assume, he took care of his own enemies. It seems like an overly complicated plot though, if his only intention was terrorism. Sadly, instructions for creating homemade bombs can be found easily on the Internet. Inventing a brand-new, science fiction death ray to secretly kill your enemies feels more like a plan from Dr. Horrible, not militant extremists. But I suppose in today’s world of big box office superheroes, that many people want to consider themselves either the hero, or the super villain.