1. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Particle cannons, laser beams and flashy stuff! Fire!

    Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Meteor, Apr 6, 2015.

    Hello everyone and thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Hey guys! I'm back and I have sort of a generic question I guess. What do you feel about being able to see beam weapons in sci fi? I'll go ahead and assume we've all seen Star Wars here or some super spacey anime, if you're into that like myself, to save time. I personally think its awesome and also know you can't actually see beams and what have you in real life. Unless you're on an atmosphere where the beam's particles collide with particles in the air. I think that's the jist of it at least. Curse you physics! Anyway! What might your opinion be? I look forward to your answers. :)
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    They both (but especially particle beams) require vast quantities of power and direct LOS with the target. They also take time to alter the state of the particles in the target. In conclusion, I'd stick with conventional weapons, which have none of these disadvantages and the same destructive capabilities.
     
  3. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    To be honest, I don't think this would really be a problem for novels. If you're creating a movie, comic or video game, then you kind of want some degree of feedback on the lasers, otherwise it can be kind of confusing if people are dying around you with no indication of who is shooting them. For a book, not really a problem.
    Also, this. I don't doubt that in the future weapons will have changed, and we will almost certainly be seeing (or technically, not seeing) lasers used for specific purposes, but I don't believe that projectile weapons will be supplanted by energy weapons any time soon. What's especially silly is the way that these weapons are often inferior to modern technology even without hand-waving how they work. Seriously, those blasters in Star Wars are completely useless compared with currently military weaponry. Not only do they immediately reveal the exact trajectory of every shot, they also crawl through the air at a speed that would make it difficult to hit distant and moving targets, and they seem to have a terrible rate of fire. It seems like our current weapons would be far more deadly, against infantry at least.
     
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  4. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    :eek: I was under the impression that the more power a beam had the less time it took to alter the object under its effect. I guess it makes more sense though that it would take to long versus conventional weapons. I've always liked the idea of crazy laser weapons despite the extreme likelihood they wouldn't be very useful. I've always figured kinetic weaponry would never stop being used though simply because of its clear effectiveness, even in space. Same goes for explosive weapons.
     
  5. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sort of. It is interesting that you use the term kinetic weaponry to describe conventional weapons, since laser and beam weapons would work by altering the kinetic energy of the particles in the target. But regardless of the power used they will almost always be slower than a bloody great explosion.

    I think their biggest flaw is the issue of LOS. It means you can't fire energy weapons over the horizon or from a concealed position, or into a concealed position, or around an obstacle, or alter their "flight path". It is a major, major flaw in any weapon system.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
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  6. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    I agree with LOS being the big flaw in beam weapons. Can't hit what you can't see. I guess the only way to really utilize beam weapons would be from an overhead perspective where LOS is concerned. As far as the kinetic thing, I guess its because I've played a bit too much EVE in recent years. They have weapons designated in a particular way. They have thermal, kinetic, explosive and electromagnetic designators. Every projectile weapons has some kind of kinetic damage modifier and occasionally they have electromagnetic modifiers or explosive modifiers. Beams and particles all have thermal with electromagnetic on them. So that's where I get that from.
     
  7. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Unless you want to put a focus on weaponry, it is not like you have to really put that much effort into it. I am a fan of space operas, and they never really mention the color of the beam. You know that the enemy is about to fire using your ship's sensors, and you know you got hit by your shaking or explosion. The beam colors in the TV shows are probably more so you can tell who is shooting at whom.

    If you are writing sci-fi, you can easily invent an energy source with enough juice to power a beam that can punch through most materials instantly, and it is not like you have to invent super powerful energy sources. Beams get their power from the concentration of energy, like a magnifying glass, so you can get away with a lot.

    Contrary to some people's beliefs, I believe kinetic weapons will almost certainly become less prominent in the future. Kinetic weapons require mass production. Once you run out, you have to stop and consume more resources to make more. If you run out in a fight, you are screwed. They would require extra storage space, and since more mass equals more KE, they will probably weigh a lot. They also move slower than beams, so they are easier to intercept. They will have their uses for sure, but beams will probably take the role of primary weaponry. Line of sight is not as big of an issue since computers can correct for it.

    Nevertheless, it matters the setting. Probably not a good idea to use beam weapons in a cloud of volatile gas, for example, and kinetic weapons, like a mass driver, would be more effective in planetary bombardment.
     
  8. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I'm of the opposite opinion. Beam weapons can be rendered ineffective through the use of clouds (steam, frost, etc), causing the beam to be dispersed or simple LOS.

    LOS is still an issue. You can't fire through a mountain and beams don't have arcing trajectories.

    You can still run out of energy in the cell and you're still without a means to fire.


    No, you're wrong here. Since the round doesn't require a self-carrying propellant, all you'll have is the mass that does the punching. Also, a bullet is a tiny thing, but it can punch through cars, flesh, trash bins, etc.

    When was the last time someone intercepted a round from an artillery gun? A small arms rifle?

    Having been on a nighttime firing range in basic training, I saw the bullets move really fast.

    Maybe, if they can counteract Newton's second law, but since the object would be accelerating, you would also need to overcome burn-up from friction. Still, with proper insulation, it may be possible and not require so much energy to propel it since gravity will help. The most important part would be guidance to the target.
     
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  9. Meteor
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    I agree with Robert in the sense that kinetic weaponry will always be used and on the fact that they wouldn't require a ton of storage space. Consider rail guns for example. Launching an object at those speeds wouldn't require a ton of weight to cause immense damage. I can also vouch for the power of our current weaponry as I was also in basic training once upon a time. I could see someone intercepting missiles but, not standard projectiles like those we have now. I do think that a mass driver would be more effective for bombardment though as denser materials will burn up less I would think. Take tungsten for example. Very heavy, great heat resistance and the perfect substance for orbital bombardment thanks to those two factors. Space shuttles re-enter Earth atmo close to 20K MPH and I think its due to the way they're designed that they survive entry. Something with the way their hulls distribute heat I think. I've always imagined it as something like a slightly smaller tactical nuke going off.

    Anyway I'm not fully sure I agree with the cloud dispersion idea for lasers and what have you. Wouldn't a highly focused, high energy beam just rip right through whatever was in its way?
     
  10. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even a normal laser 'rips' through clouds, the dispersion allows you to see the otherwise invisible beam of light, which does weaken the strength of the laser. I wonder what the math here is, because it doesn't seem like it's upper power would be effected greatly by clouds.
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Remember that there is no limit to the power we can put into a laser, because a laser conceivably use a hydrogen bomb for it's catalyst. We have theoretical lasers that wouldn't just "rip" through clouds, but would actually set them on fire.
     
  12. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    lasers that go past the theoretical limit of the highest temperatures.. Yes... Now we are talking.

    I have something like a lightsaber in my WIP, although it tries a little harder to follow the laws of physics. It uses an advanced battery pack. A flying robot at the end of it, receives the power flying out of the hilt, then send it back through the laser and into the hilt again, cycling the power. The robot can fly further away from the hilt to create a longer blade.

    Still fairly fantastical, but it hides behind the common sense, and forgoes most of the specific science behind it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ummm. No, no, and no. There are limits to lasers, because either you have a material to pump, or a cavity with reflectors at either end. Either way, some proportion of the energy is lost as heat, and excess heat will destroy the pump. Also, the pump relies upon energy state transitions between quantum levels, inherently limited by the quantity of atoms and available transition states.

    There is no "catalyst" in a laser.

    A powerful enough laser would superheat the water particles in a cloud, converting them to transparent superheated steam. Yes, you would punch a hole in the cloud, but no combustion.

    Thermal dissipation is the most critical factor.

    As for the principal thread question, dust particles or gases can "sparkle" in the beam, allowing some visibility from the side. this would be increased if such dust and debris were at increased density due to destroyed targets in the vicinity.

    Frankly, I like the idea of a ship wandering into the path of a beam it's crew cannot see. The attacker aims at where they predict the ship to be when the beam arrives (finite speed of light can introduce uncertainty), and the target ship can only rely on random course changes to avoid the beam, because it can't detect the beam until it intersects something.

    Also, the targeting can be off by thousandths of a degree and therefore miss by many kilometers, and the attacker won't know how close or in what direction the shot is off target.
     
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  14. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Michio Kaku disagrees with you.
    That's online, he outlines his theories more in Physics of the Impossible. I'll post the pages if you want. Catalyst was a poor choice of words, and I apologize for that.

    And while the water vapor in the cloud wouldn't combust, the theoretical laser would just set the nitrogen and oxygen in the air on fire instead.
     
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Didn't see this earlier. Kaku again puts some thought into the light saber. Because it's possible to give plasma an electrical charge you could have a plasma feild of several thousand degrees maintained in a magnetic envelope.
     
  16. Robert_S
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    They have heat shielding. Remember Columbia? It burned up on re-entry because it lost a panel of its heat shielding.

    Yeah it wouldn't be a permanent solution, something that would require re-applications, but before it got through, it would be reduced to something harmless.
     
  17. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Those lasers are not of the...hmmm...high energy needed to cut through metal.

    Also, lasers are not truly beams. They are cones. So, as they get more distant, they spread out. Add some material (ice crystals, chaff, mirror crystals, etc) and you've reduced its potency and often, all it is about is reducing the potency.
     
  18. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    The angle of re-entry also has a lot to do with it. The problem with Columbia was that the shielding that broke off caused the wing to become unstable. The shuttle broke apart because of that. Less burning up, more flat spin.
     
  19. Meteor
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    :eek: I feel like I'm in school here sometimes because I learn a lot of stuff just through simple questions. To answer your question Robert yes I remember Shuttle Columbia. I saw it on the news as it was coming down, sad day indeed. I wasn't aware the angle had anything to do with it though. So with that could you theoretically shield a mass driver round so the majority of the object survived?

    At any rate back to the main point here! Lasers and flashy stuff! Basically what I've learned is that such energy weapons could be considered situational in nature? Where as projectiles may be more commonly used even in future warfare?
     
  20. Nilfiry
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    LOS and obstacles like clouds would affect kinetic weaponry too. It is hard to aim at what you cannot see. Even heat and motion seeking missiles can be easily fooled, but apparently, you can cut through clouds with strong enough beams.

    I was thinking more of ship cannons, but you do have a point in pocket arms. Nevertheless, it is probably lighter to carry energy cells than a bunch of bullets for small arms. It is sci-fi, so it would be natural to have light yet powerful batteries. Lithium vs NiCad for example?

    I was still thinking in terms of larger ships. The physical bullets themselves would need to be manufactured and carried along, and as mentioned above, they would probably weight more, especially when shooting at other ships. To take out large enemy vessels, you would need larger bullets with more density, which all translates to weight. Also, cannot use bullets for much else besides shooting things, whereas energy cells and power generators can serve a plethora of other uses without too much modification. In long distance or long term travel, it is simply not as economical or efficient.

    Again, we are thinking on different scales and settings. If we are talking foot soldiers here, then it does not really matter if you choose to use a katana. In ship battles, there would probably be a large distance between the ships.

    Over all, what matters most is the kind of setting and technology that exists in one's sci-fi. Modern science is not exactly an expert on all forms of particle science.
     
  21. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks Jack Asher, you gave me the power source for my WIP. Nanotube batteries in 50 years or so, I bet it won't take that long. With that kind of power source I think the old "fight or flight" would make flight a better option, by the time any targeting system could lock on to your craft you would be down the street, say Saturn.
     
  22. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Um, ever hear of tracking systems? Radar? Artillery with forward observers?

    That's one thing that has always bothered my about Star Trek and Star Wars. It's like tracking systems, seat restraints and air bags became a lost technology.
     
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  23. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    It works in favor of beams too. If you know where you are and you can detect your target, you can easily draw a straight line between the two, as long as your beam can punch through and potential obstacles.

    You know, those shows do not usually specify what king of tracking systems that they use, but they obviously do use them because they know where their torpedoes are and its distance from targets. Air bags are questionable, but I suppose some seat restraints would make sense considering they are always falling out of them.
     
  24. Robert_S
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    Except you still can't arc a beam over a mountain, but you can arc an artillery shell or a missile.

    And if you can punch through mountains, you've got a world destroyer.
     
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  25. Meteor
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    Once upon a time a very long time ago I was told that when there was contact in space there wouldn't be any shaking on impact from enemy weapons. I don't know though since I you kinda of need to consider kinetic weaponry here. I was also told that we've been able to bend light as well via the theory of relativity. So wouldn't we technically be able to arc a beam over a mountain?
     

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