10.02.12

Evidence of a military-grade Pokémon-inspired seizure gun

In 1998 the US Army was trying to think of non-lethal ways to incapacitate enemy soldiers. One of these ideas was to induce seizures in them. Spencer Ackerman at i09 gets down to the details:

The [Army's analysis] cautioned that the effectiveness of incapacitating a human nervous system with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) "has not been tested." But the analysis speculated that "50 to 100 kV/m free field of very sharp pulses" would likely be "sufficient to trigger neurons or make them more susceptible to firing." And a weapon that harnessed an EMP-induced seizure could conceivably work from "hundreds of miles" away. The idea might as well have been stamped "As Seen on TV."

"The photic-induced seizure phenomenon was borne out demonstrably on December 16, 1997 on Japanese television when hundreds of viewers of a popular cartoon were treated, inadvertently, to photic seizure induction," the analysis noted. That cartoon was Pokemon, and the incident received worldwide attention. About 700 viewers showed symptoms of epilepsy — mostly vomiting — an occasional, if strange, occurrence with TV shows and videogames due to rapid, flashing lights.