Researchers probing mysterious ailments afflicting more than three dozen diplomats and their families in Cuba and China believe they may be the victims of unconventional microwave weapons.
People affected claim they heard intense high-pitched sounds before falling ill with nausea, dizziness and severe headaches. Doctors said they exhibited symptoms of concussion.
Now it seems doctors are investigating whether the mysterious ailments may have their roots in Cold War technology that once sparked fears scientists were developing mind control weapons.
Until now experts suggested the affected diplomats may have been targeted with sonic weapons and a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association made no mention of microwaves as a possible cause.
But the lead author of that paper, Douglas Smith, the director of the Centre for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times that microwave weapons were now the main suspect and that his team is increasingly certain the diplomats suffered brain injury.
“Everybody was relatively sceptical at first,” he said, “and everyone now agrees there’s something there.”
He added that researchers and diplomats joke about the ailments as the “immaculate concussion” because the cause remains so elusive.
Problems first emerged in Cuba in 2016. The US recalled more than half its staff from the recently established embassy and accused Havana of failing to protect American personnel.
Cuba, for its part, denied any knowledge of the incidents.
The latest theory will revive interest in the use of microwaves as weapons, something both the US and the Soviet Union researched during the Cold War.
It built upon the Frey effect – named for Allan Frey, an American scientist who found that the brain can be tricked by microwaves into perceiving phantom sounds, spawning an entire industry of mind control conspiracy theories.
Some applications attempted to beam comprehensible language into a target’s head while US Navy researchers explored how to use sounds powerful enough to cause pain or immobilise the subject.
While some efforts may sound far-fetched, the idea of false sensations tallies with the accounts of diplomats who reporting hearing loud buzzing and grinding sounds with no apparent external cause.
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