Scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas have developed a new non-lethal weapon for the Marines and for police departments. It has been described as "slime." When the gooey substance is sprayed on any surface, it is impossible to travel on that surface. Cars can't drive on it. Their wheels just spin and spin. People can't walk on it. Their feet get stuck, they slip, they slide, and they fall. In other words, the Marines now have a weapon that could have been developed by Larry, Moe, and Curly, with a little help from Elmer Fudd.
Because the government is involved, this thing has a fancy name: the Mobility Denial System, or MDS. There are two methods to dispense this goop. It can be shot out of the cargo compartment of a "Humvee," or smaller units can be attached to a backpack. The latter was precisely the method used to dispense slime in "Ghostbusters," so we know it works. (There is no truth to the rumor that the Marines are testing the effectiveness of clicking boot heels together and saying, "There's no place like home" just because it worked in "The Wizard of Oz").
Marine Captain Andrew B. Warren at Quantico, Va. is in charge of the MDS project. Captain Warren says "riots, protests, noncombat evacuations, and sanctioned enforcement are just a few of the situations where this kind of tactical barrier would be most useful." He's absolutely right that those are only "a few." Other situations include if Wyl E. Coyote ever chases the military or if the police are ever confronted by a scary group of talking trees.
The invention of gunpowder, tanks, and nuclear weapons each changed the way wars and public policy were conducted. Now the invention of Really Sticky Stuff will begin a whole new chapter in military history. I won't be surprised if our tax dollars pay for a study examining the "Cartoon Law of Physics." That's the law that states that if a character jumps off a cliff, he doesn't start to fall until he looks down and realizes how high up he is. In the future, we may see men and women in uniform who seem to be trapped in a room get out by painting a door or a black hole through which they may escape. EIDs or Epidermal Irritation Devices, formerly known as "itching powder," may be standard issue. And will we really need an anti-missile defense system once we deploy recently waxed floors and pie throwing?
Captain Warren specifically referred to crowd control as a good use for MDS. If a crowd is, say, celebrating the victory of their favorite basketball team and getting ugly and unruly, all the police have to do is spray this stuff on the ground. Then, the hooligans will be stuck in slime and unable to move. And nobody will get hurt.
That's the part of this whole thing that I can't make fun of -- nobody gets hurt. As silly as this gooey weapon seems, I can't deny that I think there's something wonderful about a weapon that is designed to avoid hurting people. At first, I thought the one drawback of the system was that if the "bad guys" are stuck in goop, the "good guys" might find it so funny that both sides will end up laughing hysterically and be immobilized. Then I realized that wouldn't be so bad. There are worse ways to end a conflict than with laughter. It wouldn't be so terrible if sometimes our men and women in uniform were able to end their day by winking, smiling, and saying, "Th-that's All, Folks."
E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.size>
By Lloyd Garver