Leadership

Video: Why bullets are better than laser cannons

Look, we all know that there's very little science behind our favorite movie and TV sci-fi space battles but, as this video explains, one of the great sins may be the use of laser weapons instead of good, old-fashioned projectile cannons.

Look, we all know that there's very little science behind our favorite movie and TV sci-fi space battles but, as this video explains, one of the great sins may be the use of laser weapons instead of good, old-fashioned projectile cannons. Who says physics isn't useful?

(Found via SFSignal.)

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

10 comments
NickNielsen
NickNielsen

A ten-minute video to remind the "new toy" phreaks that older may be better. Thanks, Jay, I loved it. :)

seanferd
seanferd

The plane would move slowly in some random direction dictated by the the uneven torque of the counter-rotating propeller and plane. This is assuming that the rubber band has not melted or frozen. Iron has the densest nucleus. My shoes are untied!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Work this airplane one out.After the rubber band stops in one direction will it reverse wind?Then what will happen.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

What is the velocity of NASA's flame.NASA has thrust to escape velocity to inertia.Would a wind up rubber band balsa wood airplane accelerate to the velocity of light in a matter of moments in gravity free space?

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

In the node of neutron space my lasers are infinitely big!

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

A number of military science fiction writers, David Drake (Hammer's Slammers tanks use a particle beam weapon), Scott Westerfield (The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds that has all kinds of interesting uses of kinetic weapons, including sand of all things!), Larry Niven (famed for his X-Ray lasers powered by hudrogen bombs, which if set off to close to you can really ruin your space trip) have all discussed the kinds of weapons that could be used by future war machines. UCLA has some excellent papers http://pbpl.physics.ucla.edu/ on the use of lasers as a guide for a particle beams, as they experience dispersion issues when encountering molecules and lose power. Since a colored laser is obviously easier to see than a particle beam, I am quite sure visible light lasers will be used to assist in targeting, just like tracers are currently used to assist in aiming machine gun and automatic cannon fire. Thanks for the great ideas for another Geekend article, oh master of Geekiness!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Because they work. Yes, the author of the video made some unfortunate word choices. Yes, Special Relativity applies to projectiles moving at or near light speed. Yes, every one of your objections is valid (even if, IMO, nitpicky). The cannon shell or missile is still a kinetic weapon; if the warhead fails to detonate, the energy released on impact is still substantial, even if not on the same order as the chemical or nuclear blast. My silly-arsed question: What do you use as the energy source to create a beam weapon with energy equivalent to a kinetic projectile? For example, the cannon on the M-1 tank imparts energy to the shell by initiating a chemical reaction in the firing chamber. Is there an [u]equally portable[/u] power source capable of putting that much energy into a light beam? On second thought, is there [b]any[/b] power source capable of putting that much energy into a light beam?

Leon Tribe
Leon Tribe

Essentially any kind of space weapon (other than dropping rocks onto a planet) makes the assumption of a near limitless supply of energy (which we currently do not have). The line of logic normally goes 'if we can travel between the stars we MUST have the technology for storing large amounts of energy easily'. Whether we are accelerating a rock or emitting radiation, we need an energy source to make it happen. The energy source for a kinetic weapon or an energy beam in space can be the same. My primary arguments against kinetic weapons in space are they are difficult to aim/course correct and they introduce finite ammunition. A light beam travels at the speed of light, can deliver just as much power to the target as a big rock and has no inertial considerations when the target moves. If we have the technology to make a powerful beam of death, to me, it makes much more sense than throwing stuff.

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