On the lighter side of biological warfare

The Arms Race Gets Dirty: Russian Scientist Files Patent For New Biological Weapon
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
September 13, 2012

Just a few short months after U.S. President Barack Obama indicated a willingness to negotiate with Russia on making further cuts to the two countries’ respective nuclear arsenals, it now seems that Moscow could be well placed to open up a new front in the arms race.

That’s because St. Petersburg scientist Aleksandr Semenov has reportedly filed a patent for a terrifying new "biological" weapon that could strike fear into the heart of any enemy.

According to the plans he submitted for review in Russia, Semenov wants to design a tank shell whose explosive payload would also include the solid waste produced by the armored vehicle’s crew. (As the above diagram clearly illustrates, crew members would simply deposit the waste into a shell compartment directly, before sealing it and firing it at the enemy.)

Semenov appears convinced that the weapon could signify a major advance in the history of conventional warfare (see a video interview of Semenov in Russian here).

"Nuclear weapons are history," the Czech news website Aktualne.cz quotes him as saying. "They are absolute and destroy everything around them. The same applies to bacteriological and chemical weapons. We are proposing alternative armaments, which are not lethal. They are humane and they do not breach any UN conventions."

According to Marc Abrahams, who received an English translation of the patent documentation and wrote about it in "The Guardian," this innovative new weapons system would be ideal for use under battle conditions, where tank crews often spend long periods trapped in the confined space of their armored vehicles.

Not only would it have a "psychological positive effect" on the tank crew by sparing them from having to endure the stench of their own feces, it would undoubtedly have "additional military-psychological and military-political effects" on any combatant who was unfortunate enough to be in the line of fire.

The use of such missiles may also conceivably put a damper on the much-vaunted use of "shock-and-awe" tactics in modern warfare, as any combatant who tried to use them to scare the s**t out of their enemy could find such an approach counterproductive.



Researcher invents weapons of waste destruction
A patent has been granted for an invention by which soldiers sealed inside vehicles during combat can dispose of their biological waste by firing it at the enemy
Marc Abrahams
guardian.co.uk, Monday 3 September 2012

Aleksandr Georgievich Semenov patented an efficiently disgusting weapon system. Using his method, soldiers inside an armoured tank, under battle conditions, can dispose of their biological waste products in an unwasteful way: encasing those materials, together with explosives, in artillery shells that they then fire at the enemy.

Semenov, residing in St Petersburg, can and does brag of having Russian patent #2399858, granted in 2009, officially titled Method of Biowaste Removal From Isolated Dwelling Compartment of Military Facility And Device or Its Implementation.

As patents go, it’s of modest length: 12 pages, with only two technical drawings. The original document is mostly in Russian. The prolific inventor (he has about 200 other patents), sent me a full translation into English.

Figure 2 seems, at a glance, unremarkable: a cutaway side view of an artillery shell in its cartridge, tipped with a screw-in "nose cone". There’s a large charge to (in Semenov’s description) "burst" the shell, and a small charge to trigger that burst. The shell itself contains – indeed is mostly – a compartment for the payload.

Figure 1 is larger and more complex, showing the entire tank in cutaway side view. A single crewman perches inside. Beneath him, an empty shell collects the waste that emerges from his anus.

Here’s how the patent describes the scene, with numbers referring to specific items in the drawing:

"A military man (3) puts the wastes (8) into the capacity (7) directly (fig.1) or in two steps. After it’s complete or, if it is necessary, incomplete filling the capacity is tightly sealed by the cover."

The key action is in one sentence: "The gun charged with special projectile is targeted on a safety zone or on any enemy target which is worth for catching it."

As the projectile leaves the tank, it removes what would eventually have become a source of stinking misery for the poor soldiers who, in combat, could be forced to remain sealed inside their vehicle for several days.

That misery transfers directly, forcefully away through the air, smacking into and dabbing onto the enemy.

This method of warfare aims to kill the enemy’s spirit and psyche. The patent conveys this fact in spirited, if not belletristic, language:

"Except damaging factors, significance of which is secondary in this case, the military psychological positive effect takes place: comprehension of the facts of ‘delivering’ and distribution on enemy territory (on equipment and uniform of an enemy) by the staff as well as the opportunity of informing other soldiers and the enemy about it. As a result, in addition to the basic purpose reaching (full wastes removal) additional military-psychological and military-political effects are achieved."

• Marc Abrahams is editor of the bimonthly Annals of Improbable Research and organiser of the Ig Nobel prize


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