Hivemind research question



I need something that is mildly convincing to explain the following scenario (mildly only, it’s far future and I can fudge quite a bit as the tech isn’t the main point): a combat drone incapacitates its targets through some kind of electromagnetic frequency that burns away specific areas of the brain. I need my targets to be upright and more or less mobile by the end, which is why I don’t want to fry away the entire brain/the body. Target can be as stationary as needed; drone can be assumed to have all kinds of nifty equipments that will enable it to generate any kind of wavelength (we’ll worry about miniaturisation later).

Basically, I need pointers, because I don’t really know how to start researching this…

Thanks in advance!


  1. To expand on my tweet; for me, what immediately springs to mind is stereotactic radio surgery (SRS). This requires a great deal of precision but in theory your far-future drone can align itself so tightly to the head movements of the target that even a mobile target would not be a problem. The only issue is that you need multiple sources to do this, or else a single source but significant time as it needs to keep relocating to avoid damaging the wrong parts of the brain. See the CyberKnife or Gamma Knife for more details of what I’m talking about here. I think it’s eminently hardware able as a development of those techniques.

  2. Argh! For “hardware able” read “handwaveable” – autocorrect got me before I spotted it.

  3. I have linked to this on facebook – I know several doctors!

    (Zornhau from LJ)

  4. My psychiatrist friend (i.e. qualified medical doctor and more) says:
    Sounds a bit like Frank Herbert’s stoneburner radiation,’with its peculiar affinity for eye tissue’. Problem is that neurones are pretty much the same physically. Solutions are either the real-life zombie one, namely drugs or toxins which bind to particular receptors thereby giving some specificity as to which systems are targeted, or taking advantage of head structure to burn away superficial ie cortical brain layers through skull with very short range particles (eg alpha) or very deep destruction eg a rotating microwave source which could destroy deep structures with little damage to superficial (similar techniques are used with radiotherapy to fry tumours with preservation of other tissues). I suspect that the former approach would suit plot better.

  5. If your radiation was aimed at the frontal lobes, could be arranged that targets would look at drone when it made some sort of spectacular display, which could be only visible to a target in a small zone. Then some sort of wave with a short penetrating distance could ‘fry’ only the brain area at the front. The result would be a mobile target but with little higher level cognition.

  6. @Brian: awesome, thank you!
    @M Harold Page: thank you so much to you and your friend. I don’t really mind frying extra neurons on the way; it doesn’t have to be really subtle (it’s a war weapon after all…).
    @Gordon: nicely horrific, thanks 🙂 Not quite what I’m looking for unfortunately (target has side effects which I need to handwave away). But it does help to know what kind of areas I should be targeting.

  7. Ok Aliette, I was not quite getting what you were looking for. You might be better looking for something similar to transcranial magnetic stimulation, which can temporarily knock out parts of the brain. Currently it needs a magnet next to the skull, but you could imagine an electromagnetic pulse that would do that. How long do you want it to last? I could imagine though that even a temporary knocking out of the frontal lobes could cause a effective confusion of the target for quite a while. You could easily adjust this to the required length.

  8. @Gordon: basically permanent but not horrific, it’s more of a long term weapon…

  9. Wow. That’s rather… interesting links, thanks! Will save them for later, since I opted to go around the problem with massive handwaving 🙂

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