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Ivonia
04-19-2005, 05:54 AM
It seems most Sci-Fi stories have them, laser guns, if you will. I was just wondering, since I haven't read too many Sci-Fi books yet (outside of Star Wars anyway), do the stories ever attempt to explain how their energy weapons work? Or is it always "and the hero pulled out his laser gun and zapped the bad guy into oblivion?"

Not that it's terribly important, but I want to have at least some kind of rudimentary explanation. In my story, the energy weapons work on that wherever they hit, they damage or kill cells that are in the affected area. Get hit in the wrong areas (such as the head obviously), or hit too many times, and you can see how that's bad for the body and how it can kill (is this how any other story you've read based their energy weapons on? Or is it somewhat original?).

The stronger the energy blast (all the bigger guns will have a "charge" meter in case the shooter wants to do more damage), the more damage it does, but the more energy it uses too (I did originally want to have a charge meter on the ammo clip, to show how much energy the clip had left in it, but then the video game Star Wars: Republic Commando had that feature on their assault rifle, so now I have to come up with something else. Pretty fun game btw, my only real complaint is that it's way too short, and the ending is quite abrupt).

Ironically enough, my main hero prefers an old fashioned sword to all the high tech gear his friends use (blame my video game roots and Final Fantasy, where swords are somehow more powerful than guns hehe). However, I do have the hero explain why he prefers to use a sword as opposed to using a laser gun ("because swords don't jam and blades don't need reloading. Plus there's just something cool about having one" hehe. The fact that his uncle, who raised him, is also a swordmaster also helps).

And yes, he will have to "duel" with it later on, and for now it's the closest thing I can get to having a "lightsaber" (they can have "glowie" weapons, but only if they know how to cast it. And it doesn't glow persay, rather it emits a sort of holy aura around it. Yeah, all this in a story where they will mostly fight in spaceships and giant mechs hehe. In my story, you can't "deflect" shots, but with their magic, you won't need to either, as you can simply cast a shield if your powers are strong enough which will absorb the energy/blows).

And to validate having them carry weapons around, their world (at least the undeveloped areas) are chock full of monsters (similiar to orcs and what not, they don't use anything higher than bows, since they're too stupid to catch onto the technology. However, these monsters do have smarter brethren, although they are from a different world/dimension, who have been "keeping up with the times" in a way).

fallenangelwriter
04-19-2005, 06:01 AM
i don't think the concept of a charge meter is something that belongs ot those game makers. it's an idea, and not a very specific one. in any case, it's obvious enough that it shouldn't belong to anyone.i hesitate to offer advice form ym limited expertise, but ican't imagine getting in trouble for it. you could always say yuou got the idea from those batteries that you can see the charge on.

Ivonia
04-19-2005, 06:08 AM
Yeah, I suppose you're right on that part. However, I would like to come up with something original, so that peeps won't just say I just ripped off another story (and so far, although my story has some similiarities to Star Wars, I assure you that it's different enough that you'll see I came up with it myself. But I will admit that I was largely inspired by Star Wars).

preyer
04-19-2005, 12:10 PM
had you rephrased this question on a large star wars board, you'd be swamped with very intelligent (at least intelligent sounding) replies. being an old star wars MBer from the first day i logged onto the 'nut, i've seen similar questions a lot. i bet you wish i could remember part of them, don't you? me, too. lol.

basically, where you've got a blast of obvious heat coming out of a star wars blaster, there's really no need for it to contain any colour. nor is there a reason for one bit of recoil. it's just cool. :) seriously, from all what i've gathered over the years, there's really not a reason a blaster should do those things. nor is there any real reason why the enterprise can't fire a continuous beam of energy rather than the relatively short blasts it does. i'm sure there are a few out there who'd be more than happy to justify these things, though.

i think your idea for energy levels is good enough. true, like FA said, it's not a new idea. that doesn't mean you can't have it. actually, to me, it adds a sense of realism unless you want to re-invent the wheel with your weapondry. not to be offensive, but it seems that you're not doing much 'hard science' here, so i think that if you researched it to a reasonable degree the average reader offers a little give and take between the details and what would strictly happen in real life, like we accept TIE fighters screeching by the falcon.

just from what you described about the shot's effects, that would work for me. :) i don't get into 'hard science fiction,' too much detail about things i have absolutely no interest in. i'll be honest, though, i don't see much reason to have wildly exotic stuff shoot from a gun. actually, i wonder if bullets still wouldn't be used in most practical situations (can a lightsabre deflect a bullet? hm....). anyway, most of the SF i've ever read is more adventurous and light on the nuts-and-bolts of how everything works. i haven't read new SF in awhile, but i imagine it hasn't changed that way. but, sure, if i wrote it, i'd try to work in some general details along the way like showing the guy adjusting the power level.

not played that game yet. i've been forever playing 'battlefront,' which is not only my favourite game, but interesting to note that when reloading, there seems to be a cartridge system involved for even the blasters.

DaveKuzminski
04-19-2005, 04:19 PM
Okay, let's use some real world weapons to illustrate the problems that will occur with advanced weapons that are only in development at this time.

Modern machineguns have a rate of fire that is in the thousands of rounds per minute. However, many metals cannot handle the sustained fire because of the heat buildup. Consequently, the weapons with those high rates of fire usually get around the problem with multiple barrels that take turns firing.

Heat buildup is not a new problem. Even ancient firearms of all sizes had to deal with this problem, especially since their metallurgy and manufacturing processes weren't quite as advanced. Still, they knew that they had to swab out cannons where heat was first a really big problem. Later, when small arms advanced to more rapid fire, radiators were used to cool down the early machine guns or the gunners carried extra barrels to exchange whenever the barrel on the weapon became too hot.

With this in mind, it's easy to extrapolate that advanced weapons will similarly have problems with heat exchange. Therefore, just as today's soldiers are taught to use short bursts, both for preserving the weapon and to conserve ammo since you can only carry so much on your person, the weapon handlers of tomorrow's weapons will probably use similar solutions.

Also, don't limit yourself to thinking laser only. There can be weapons that produce shock waves. Sound can be also used and there are sonic cannons already available to the US military.

zizban
04-19-2005, 05:03 PM
I have never explained how an energy weapons work. Unless it is an important plot device (like the One Ring) there is no need to, I think. Its like describing how a sword works.

DaveKuzminski
04-19-2005, 05:17 PM
Also, it's important to remember that modern weapons need a steady supply of power. Using a laser as an example, think of a laser like a flashlight. Keep it on at a steady rate and it will last only so long. However, use it intermittently and it will last much longer. Also, if it's on continuously, then much of the power is being wasted since it's not actually being used against a target. Intermittent use not only conserves power, but keeps the enemy guessing as to your ammunition supply and where you're aiming.

These problems should also apply to other weapons, including force fields and energy shields.

MadScientistMatt
04-19-2005, 05:25 PM
Yeah, I suppose you're right on that part. However, I would like to come up with something original, so that peeps won't just say I just ripped off another story (and so far, although my story has some similiarities to Star Wars, I assure you that it's different enough that you'll see I came up with it myself. But I will admit that I was largely inspired by Star Wars).

I wouldn't worry too much about originality. It's better to be concerned about how well the device works for the user. Imagine that you are a soldier brandishing a future weapon. What things on it would be most useful? Would the gauge be difficult to check in the heat of battle? If you haven't done any shooting with real guns, you might want to do this to get a feel for how functional weapons are held, fit your hand, and what sorts of things help aiming and what don't. There's a reason sniper rifles have telescopes and shotguns have only a single dot on the end to aim them. The first place to start ripping off ideas is real life. But don't be afraid to rip off any idea that looks like it would work well.

It depends on what you need to accomplish, but I'd suggest giving as little details as possible. If there isn't a need for the weapon to malfunction, all you really need to describe is how it is used and what effects it causes (And if it does malfunction often, you'll probably want to show your troops complaining about it). You don't even need to describe what it actually fires at its target if you don't want to. Remember, the less you describe how something, the less your readers can nitpick your science.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with having characters in a story 200 years in the future packing improved versions of modern submachine guns. After all, the ones we have right now are pretty good at killing enemies dead. Any replacement will need some sort of major advantage that you can't easily do with bullets, rockets, and grenades.

MadScientistMatt
04-19-2005, 05:44 PM
Also, it's important to remember that modern weapons need a steady supply of power. Using a laser as an example, think of a laser like a flashlight. Keep it on at a steady rate and it will last only so long. However, use it intermittently and it will last much longer. Also, if it's on continuously, then much of the power is being wasted since it's not actually being used against a target. Intermittent use not only conserves power, but keeps the enemy guessing as to your ammunition supply and where you're aiming.

These problems should also apply to other weapons, including force fields and energy shields.

Great point, Dave. I work with metal cutting lasers, and the energy those things draw is horrendous. If you want to cut inch thick steel, that is typically done with a 4 kilowatt CO2 laser. That can punch through an inch of steel in a couple seconds. That's the energy of the laser beam alone. The laser actually needs about 55 kilowats of electrical power. That's over 70 horsepower just to drive the laser. Takes a cable with four wires, each about as thick as my thumb, to deliver it. And the laser also needs a powered cooling system, too. Worse, this is a fairly small amount compared to a gun-type weapon because this uses a lens to concentrate the power in a small point - projecting that power at long range would mean you cannot use the lens and will need considerably more than 4 kilowatts of light.

There are some new laser systems that are far more efficient. Switching frequencies can also drop the amount of output power you need by picking a "color" (most industrial lasers are actually infrared) that the target reflects less. But a laser weapon will still need as much power as a motorcycle engine to drive it - the question being whether it's enough power for a Hayabusa or a little Honda CB250. Pulsing can mean your power supply may not need to produce this power continuously. But you will need to make this power for a second or so if you're going to knock a hole in a piece of armor.

DaveKuzminski
04-19-2005, 08:14 PM
In my Rust Bucket series, I deliberately had a character re-introduce the idea of using projectile weapons and gave him a suitable opponent on which it was the only viable weapon choice. That then gave him additional credibility with his peers and helped set the stage for him to become their leader.

Also, it's useful to remember that imposing a limit on futuristic weapons can give you story opportunities in which your characters either have to improvise new weapons or deal with shortages realistically. Resupply (or logistics) becomes critical in winning at that point as it is in many major battles and wars. Tactics may win battles, but logistics wins wars.

preyer
04-19-2005, 09:43 PM
there are also bullets with computer chips in them being developed to explode inside a person. i'd see a show about ammunition where they what looked like a large box filled with metal tubes. the tubes were packed with bullets that fired without needing a hammer, or whatever the technical term may be. they simply just fired very, very, very quickly.

'blasters' in star wars have vents on the side of the rifles, which really makes little sense. like DK said, barrels get hot, but from a result of *friction*, which suggests that the 'laser' shot from a star wars blaster has some kind of solid element to it that dissipates when it hits something. the only thing my limited brain can think of that would be a catch-all to cover most of the issues for a star wars blaster would be using some form of plasma. not quite sure that would work out in real life. at the same time, the 'blasters' used in the movies are mostly real weapons modified to change their look. but any appreciable heat build-up that needs venting or cooling or changing barrels go hand-in-hand with guns with high rates of fire, and the stormtrooper rifles just didn't fire fast enough for that, it seems, assuming there's at least a semi-solid 'bullet' to create friction. (the more i think about it, the energy emitted from a blaster could be a highly concentrated chemical that comes in pellet form. then 'triggered' by firing, essentially unleashing the concentrated stuff, there could be an explosion (think gas in a car's cylinder), and the energy is directed down the barrel. for any recoil, there has to be some kind of explosion in the chamber.)

something else i always find amusing it that lazer blasts are always these impressively thick and long shots, whereas a real hand-held lazer weapon designed to kill another person would probably be far smaller. i don't know, there're a lot of technical issues there for someone to delve into if they wanted. for instance, your 'laser' obviously has to penetrate their body to cause damage, but what happens to the 'shot' then? is it a through-and-through shot, coming out the back of the target? does a laser dissipate within a certain range? in the end, i can't see why even a star wars blaster *doesn't* have adjustable levels of energy. (i should amend the recoil thing: not all their shots have a recoil to them, but certainly the 'hero guns' generally do. i chalk up the non-recoil to just not being able to use recoil to practical effect in every possible scene with extras who may not know when exactly their 'bullet' would be firing. however, in most close-ups where recoil would be noticable, there usually is one. the 'extras' in the new trilogy all have a recoil effect, though it's been programmed into the computer generated character.) then there's the sound a blaster makes. cool, but what's the point?

good points. bullets are pretty damn effective for what you want 'em to do. in a battlefield situation, i'd assume that my relatively simplistic mechanical bullet-spewer will be more reliable than a complicated laser thing once it's been rained on, goes from the heat of a day to the cold of night, gets jostled and dropped, gets mud jammed in it, etc..

for an adventure story, no one really cares how it works. i just assume the technology behind it is naturally more advanced than we have, or if it's based specifically on real science that there's enough advancement that happened to make the technical issues not be a consideration, like some portable power source strong enough to produce a beam.

hm, cool weapons, eh? well, something that could be very subtle is a kind of weapon that triggers a kind of cancer that rapidly deteriorates a soldier's body. something like that can be better than killing a soldier outright. for starters, once you wound a soldier, it takes supplies and additional personel to attend him. something that rots you away visibly would likely have a devastating affect on the enemy's morale. that weapon would be akin to mass poisoning. hey, it's no less realistic than a blaster, lol.

i've seen swords in SF/F that shoot their blades or some fireball or energy or spell. no one really has to justify swords, they're just cool and have an implied tradition behind them that practically speaks for itself. true, swords would probably, as they are now, more for ceremony than actual fighting, but, yeah, depending on what your character is doing, swords have advantages. if nothing else, learning the sword is a form of discipline, and a mighty cool one at that.

MadScientistMatt
04-20-2005, 12:16 AM
I guess this is the sort of thread I just can't stay away from as it's so similar to my day job.


'blasters' in star wars have vents on the side of the rifles, which really makes little sense. like DK said, barrels get hot, but from a result of *friction*, which suggests that the 'laser' shot from a star wars blaster has some kind of solid element to it that dissipates when it hits something. the only thing my limited brain can think of that would be a catch-all to cover most of the issues for a star wars blaster would be using some form of plasma. not quite sure that would work out in real life.

Actually, weapons that convert energy from one form to another would build up heat from inefficiencies in the conversion process. The 4 kW laser I mentioned earlier puts out about as much heat as a dozen home kitchen ovens, and needs an external cooling unit about the size as a small car. An energy weapon of the future, which one would hope is more efficient and less in need of cooling, may have its cooling device built into the barrel.


something else i always find amusing it that lazer blasts are always these impressively thick and long shots, whereas a real hand-held lazer weapon designed to kill another person would probably be far smaller. i don't know, there're a lot of technical issues there for someone to delve into if they wanted.

Current real world lasers with enough power to cut metal often have a beam about an inch or two in diameter. The blast would probably extend clear from the gun to the target unless you have a very short pulse, too quick to even see - if you see something that sends out a discreet pulse of glowing something in a movie, you can be sure it isn't a laser. Another note is that a laser need not operate in the visible light range. It's sometimes eerie when doing maintenance to watch a hole suddenly melt into a block of plastic for no apparent reason - or if you aren't careful, watching the fumes catch fire!


for instance, your 'laser' obviously has to penetrate their body to cause damage, but what happens to the 'shot' then? is it a through-and-through shot, coming out the back of the target? does a laser dissipate within a certain range?

Depends on how much power you put in. The target will absorb at least part of the beam, and may also reflect some of it. It may only partially penetrate the target and leave a hole that does not go all the way through, or it may come out at reduced strength. In most cases, the remaining beam will just keep on going, out to the practical end of the laser's range. This can help build tension in a battle:


Qin crouched behind the only cover he could find, the wooden crate. He hoped that the GID agent's laser would not be powerful enough to penetrate whatever was inside. Suddenly, he smelled burning wood and felt a searing pain against his right arm. He looked in horror at the charred black circle on his sleeve. If that pulse were any stronger, it would have gone through me like it went through the crate, he thought.

In theory, a laser could have infinite range, and be as deadly in space at a light year away as at point-blank. In practice, the beam is not perfectly parallel and fades gradually with distance.


in the end, i can't see why even a star wars blaster *doesn't* have adjustable levels of energy.

I think they did use this in one or two scenes, such as when the storm troopers capture Leia alive.


good points. bullets are pretty damn effective for what you want 'em to do. in a battlefield situation, i'd assume that my relatively simplistic mechanical bullet-spewer will be more reliable than a complicated laser thing once it's been rained on, goes from the heat of a day to the cold of night, gets jostled and dropped, gets mud jammed in it, etc..

I definitely wouldn't want to do that to a gas laser! It typically takes half a day to align the mirrors in one of those suckers if it gets damaged. You'd probably break the crystal core of the older solid state lasers too. Some of the new lasers are based on optical fibers and it might be possible to design one to stand up to this kind of abuse.


hm, cool weapons, eh? well, something that could be very subtle is a kind of weapon that triggers a kind of cancer that rapidly deteriorates a soldier's body. something like that can be better than killing a soldier outright. for starters, once you wound a soldier, it takes supplies and additional personel to attend him. something that rots you away visibly would likely have a devastating affect on the enemy's morale. that weapon would be akin to mass poisoning. hey, it's no less realistic than a blaster, lol.

That's an interesting idea. Most SF weapons may be completely fantastic, but still do the same sort of damage that we normally understand. Giving future weapons totally unexpected effects is a great idea.

Ivonia
04-20-2005, 08:07 AM
Hehe, nice posts. Yeah, I didn't plan on explaining it too much, probably nothing more than what an average soldier would probably hear (such as "just point this at the enemy and shoot!")

The reason why this is important is because I want to show futuristic weapons and weapon systems (the space fighters and mechs have even bigger guns for example), to show that the story is pretty advanced technology-wise.

Strangely enough, the bad guys use some rather primitive forms of weapons too. Primitive in the sense that they send tons of transport ships that slam into the good guy's ships, then monsters in the transports exit and kill the crew (is this somewhat original, or did I just rip it off another story? Yes, the monsters are vital to the plot, and the good guys will also wonder how the heck the bad guys got that many monsters under their control, since those monsters are wild on their planet).

The good guy's counter to that is they send Marines aboard enemy ships, who then plant explosives at key points, and then blow it up from the inside, although if the ship is small or important enough, they just take it over ala futuristic pirating by killing the crewmembers and taking control of the ship back to the good guys (and I have space pirates who become privateers too in my story. Yeah, trying to cover all aspects hehe).

Also, I guess that using bullets in spaceships would be a bad idea unless the hulls were super strong. Stronger lasers from ships can penetrate the hulls (after the shields are gone), but the small arms are too weak to penetrate the hull (would this work as a plot device/explanation? I do have scenes where the good guys send infantry in to examine one of their ships and get its data, only to find out that the monsters aboard are still on board).

And yeah, although it's strange laser weapons have recoil in Star Wars (the biggest example would be the AT-AT walkers in Empire Strikes Back), but you have to admit, it does look cool too. I will probably have recoil on my weapons, and try some rudimentary explanation on it (such as the cooling system interupts it or something, which is also why they can't just hold down the trigger for a stream shot, in addition to eating up the energy).

As a real life example, the M-16A1 rifle that the US Army issued to soldiers in Vietnam did have automatic fire. However, it burned up the ammo in the magazines at an insanely fast rate (having just shot like crazy via pulling the trigger on one during some field excercises, I can attest that the M-16 can "shoot fast" if you need it too. Of course you probably won't hit anything either hehe), and they were a pain to maintain (there was an old joke that if you looked at the M-16 funny, it wouldn't fire, and that's true, they demand a lot of maintenance to fire well. I've spent upwards of 4-6 hours cleaning one after only firing about maybe 80-90 bullets at a firing range).

Then they came out with the M16A2, which has burst instead of auto, meaning it fires 3 shots per trigger squeeze (still good for suppressive fire, and doesn't just eat through the magazines). The new rifle the US Army is coming out with (the XM-8 I believe it's called) seems to be pretty cool too, in that it has interchangeable parts (so you can switch barrels and turn it into a sniper rifle or a machine gun).

I have shot real guns before, so I am somewhat familiar with them (and when I can't get access, Nerf guns aren't half bad. They're also good in a way because I want my weapons to resemble something like a Nerf gun more than a real weapon).

I'll probably keep some explosive weapons in my story, such as rockets (actually, the good guys have missiles, and the hero puts them to very good use in one fight, via towing them with his ship and then letting them loose, letting the missile arm while it's spinning towards the bad guy's ships).

Also, I could probably use that "lasers lose power as their range increases" to put a limit to how far away they can be. Otherwise space battles would be super far away, and would be rather boring (imagine if the battle of Endor on Return of the Jedi involved them fighting the Star Destroyers from say 1000km away. They'd be rather small and the fight wouldn't be very fun to watch. Yeah, like you didn't like the scenes where the Rebel ships passed by the Star Destroyers and they exchanged fire from broadside).

Yeah, I know, technically speaking you'd want to kill the enemy as far away as possible. But this is just a story, and I'm sure people would want to read about traditional fights where two forces collide with each other (and I'm a sucker for cool fleet on fleet battles). The only real exception to that would be planetary bombardment, where orbiting ships unleash their weapons from above onto the ground (and the bad guys use this quite often in my story).

Ivonia
04-20-2005, 08:18 AM
Oh, and going OT here, but what about using high pressure water to cut metal? I saw a documentary on that once, the water was moving at like Mach 3, and was able to cut through metal as well, but I imagine it must take a lot of energy to do that? And I guess that the effective range for that is like a few inches?

Would actually make for an interesting weapon actually, using high pressure water to cut through armor or just disembowel in a horror story.

preyer
04-20-2005, 11:20 AM
my wife used to make dashboards (we used to work together) that used water jets to cut vinyl with, and apparently it created a terrible mess. i don't know what kind of mess it makes with metal, though. water as a 'bullet' reminds me of the old conspiracy theory of ice bullets used to assassinate people: the bullet would melt, leaving behind no evidence. anyone who's ever watched 'mythbusters' (kick asss show, btw) might remember them trying this and disproved it.

the reason i suspect the vents are solely for the barrel was because of the recoil, which to me seemed as if there was at least some semi-solid gunk coming out the business end. otherwise i'd agree 100% that it's just some kind of cooling system built into the thing. it seems even the handguns have vents to them, though not necessarily on the barrel. too, there doesn't seem to be much point in having a laser *rifle* over a handgun as the former doesn't seem to cause much more damage than the latter, nor seems to fire faster or have any more accuracy, which is the reason guns have long barrels in the first place, eh? i almost pointed out the leia being stunned scene, though since the light on that was blue and not red, i'm inclined to think it's not a different power level rather than an entirely different setting. i'm sure one of the SW technical manuals explains it. 'laser' is a convenient term for us to use, though i don't recall any character ever mentioning it as such.

wouldn't pirates paint their spaceships black? makes sense to me. sure, it may not be invisibility, but it might be a poor man's cloaking device. it might at least not draw a casual observer's attention. pirates liked to attack at night and by surprise, after all, as the 'enemy' ship itself was one of the main prizes particularly if they were trying to build a pirate fleet.

i can't recall any specific story where what you describe, ivonia, took place, though i'm sure it has. i've learned to approach my stories with the assumption that what i'm doing has been done already, somewhere, by somebody (a sad fact proven many a time, lol).

in space, i reckon there are plenty of ways to render an unsuspecting ship impotent. as they're totally defenseless, appear out of nowhere and give them your terms. once an accord has been struck, there'd still be the tricky and dangerous proposition of actually boarding the ship. bear in mind, too, that pirates really, really, really liked to prey on merchant ships, and i figure that that wouldn't necessarily change. star pirates would, i think, flee before opening up broadsides unless that was their only option or the odds were overwhelmingly in their favour. that is, of course, they were the kind who had short careers. :)

i once wrote about a space battle that took place a galaxy apart, two huge ships firing at one another. it was basically a race against time and luck, and there (i hope) was the suspense.

i love broadside battles so much that i once ended a story with the disgraced FBI agent concocting her revenge in such a way that the mafia army and FBI agents engaged in a broadsides conflict between two buildings. actually, they were two hotels in las vegas, shooting at one another with bazookas and heavy machine guns and such. the problem was i couldn't find two actual hotels in vegas which that could happen, so i got stuck on that, lol. i still love the idea, though, and plan to use it and some variations in other stories.

Pthom
04-20-2005, 01:55 PM
...water as a 'bullet' reminds me of the old conspiracy theory of ice bullets used to assassinate people: the bullet would melt, leaving behind no evidence. anyone who's ever watched 'mythbusters' (kick asss show, btw) might remember them trying this and disproved it.

Ice as a bullet, yeah. But consider this: using a weapon that fires projectiles of any kind is a generally bad idea inside a space ship. (Of course, the Maytag Hull Repair Man may giggle with glee to see a 9mm Glock come aboard ;) )

In a story I wrote, I needed some kind of weapon that could be used against personell without killing them outright, could be used inside a space station, and that wouldn't deliver something that could be returned against the user of the weapon (such as a spear).

I researched sonic weapons; they seemed just the ticket. Then it occured to me: inside a space vessel, sound waves powerful enough to put down an enemy would reverberate and put down the cop as well. Doesn't seem to matter where the frequencies are, super-sonic or sub-sonic. Sigh. Light weapons (lasers, phasers and etc.) have potentially the same problem depending on the reflectivity of the space ship's surfaces. (Ever notice that there are NO ricochet light beams from ray guns? Hmm. Must be why no one uses mirrors as defensive shielding.)

But there IS a projectile weapon that is interesting, at least. Preyer, you touched on it with your mention of a disease-causing weapon. It's relatively easy to convert a mist of liquid into ice crystals, specifically in the shape of ice needles (small ice bullets, if you will). This can be done by a rapid decompression of a compressed vapor. Think of the air from the can you (should) use frequently to clean dust outta your computer. Hold down the button too long and you get frost over everything. Now if that liquid were a toxin...anesthesia... well you get the drift. Spray your enemy with a cloud of hypodermic needles that self-inject, but the 'bullets' that miss the target melt harmlessly away. Sure, only good at close range, but in a space ship is anyone ever NOT at close range?

DaveKuzminski
04-20-2005, 04:26 PM
Okay, some of you need to do some research into weapons because you're proposing some things that already exist.

They already make special bullets that won't penetrate the thin skins of aircraft but that can penetrate flesh for use against air piracy.

The original M16 used to break down so frequently because the bean-counters decided that it was too expensive to coat the breech with a particular metal because they thought it was there just for looks. When the designers learned later that it was missing, the coating was added back to the weapons coming out of the manufacturing process and most of the jams and breakdowns ceased to occur.

I'm not aware that any weapon deliberately fires a short burst. However, if one does, I'll guarantee you that I don't want that weapon. I don't want a weapon that limits my use of automatic fire when I feel I have a need for it since one of the purposes is for fire suppression. I want a lot of bullets going out from part of my team in order to keep the enemy's heads down so they're not firing at my side. Then the rest of my forces can advance.

A sonic weapon richochet might not have any effect on you since it would have to cross back through the same waves. Sound waves of equal size, if I recall correctly, will cancel each other out. You could always postulate that the sonic weapon vents out suppression waves through side ports on the barrel. Then your reader should have more acceptance of the technology.

Vents on a barrel aren't always for heat dissipation. The gyrojet weapons of the early 1960s used vents for flash and gas dissipation because it fired a miniature rocket that could reach something like Mach 3 within two inches of exiting the barrel because the projectile was producing more and more gas pressure behind it rather than depending upon a single explosion so it was necessary to vent off some of the gas to prevent the barrel from exploding.

A number of military weapons do not arm themselves until after they are a set distance away from the firing weapon so that those won't go off prematurely. Many relied upon simple propellers that usually were turned by pressure as the projectile traveled through the water or air. When the propeller reached the end of the screw, the trigger shield was retracted and the weapon was armed. In space, it's probable that such a device will have to be purely electronic since there won't be any air or water to force a propeller to turn. This can give you opportunities for live round jamming devices and other problems.

MadScientistMatt
04-20-2005, 05:56 PM
Oh, and going OT here, but what about using high pressure water to cut metal? I saw a documentary on that once, the water was moving at like Mach 3, and was able to cut through metal as well, but I imagine it must take a lot of energy to do that? And I guess that the effective range for that is like a few inches?

Would actually make for an interesting weapon actually, using high pressure water to cut through armor or just disembowel in a horror story.

Most waterjet cutters can also mix tiny grains of sand or garnet in with the water, which is necessary to cut hard materials. I've heard of them cutting material up to 10" thick, but this is not something that would work well at a distance. Air slows down and spreads out the water column, while the vacuum of space would make it flash into steam. The amount of energy needed is about as much as running a CO2 laser.

The tactic you've been thinking of is pretty much a standard boarding tactic, only set in space and using monsters instead of sailers. This sort of thing probably started when one caveman jumped into another caveman's canoe and hit him with a rock. But don't worry too much about originality. The real question is whether you can make it work in your world. It can be the oldest trick in the book (and almost certainly is, when it comes to ship to ship warfare), but that does not make it something you cannot use well in your own story.

Whether this works will depend on how your spaceships' firepower compare to their armor. Will a spaceship ever get close enough to an enemy ship to allow boarding? Or will a boarding ship get blown to smithereens before it can come within ten kilometers of its target? This could work if you have heavily armored or shielded ships with weak guns (in which case, your boarding parties should be able to blast away with machine guns without worrying). But if you have spaceships made of giant balloons (don't laugh, some people have seriously considered building these (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5437710/)) and armed with antimatter cannons, this isn't going to seem very believable. I'd rather see a tactic that is consistant with how your ships work than an original one for the sake of originality.

I think you might be able to pull off exciting long range battles, too. Submarine movies often succeed in showing tense battles when ships are not even in visual range of each other thanks to the murky water. It may help to focus on the crew's reactions to how the ship is taking damage and wonder if it will hold together. You also have options such as having your good guys blow up an enemy ship with lasers, only to realize that they managed to launch a huge spread of heat-seaking missiles before their ship exploded, and the missiles are going to arrive any minute...

One other interesting note. Visible or near-infrared lasers will shoot straight through glass, but ones further into the infrared range will not go through glass. Firing a CO2 laser at a sheet of glass produces some interesting effects. First, the entire piece of glass will light up with a kind of pale blue-white light. If you also are blowing a jet of compressed gas at it, as is the case with laser cutting machines, fibers of glass looking like cotton candy will whip away from where the beam hits the glass. And usually the entire sheet will begin to crack.

preyer
04-21-2005, 01:10 AM
the most interesting SF weapon i've seen in a long time was in the movie 'minority report,' where it's a non-lethal giant fist to the body. you 'reload' by spinning the gun around an axis, or something like that, presumably to recharge it.

inside a spaceship, horribly lethal and fast-acting poisonous dart guns would work to kill people yet cause no damage to the ship. as mentioned, most inside fighting is fairly close-range (assuming it's not a massive warehouse-size hold you're battling in or some endless hangar), so accuracy should be good enough. gas grenades instead of the exploding variety. indeed, with an unsuspecting enemy, gas attacks may work best of all provided the attackers are equiped with masks and fancy vision systems. were i a bloodthirsty pirate, i'd go in for a knock-out gas and hold the crew for ransom. those not worth the effort i'd just round-up and shoot into space. i'd wave at them from the porthole, saying, 'see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya.' chances are i'd only honour maybe half the ransoms paid anyway, minimizing my effort and chances to get caught in a trap while at the same time making it to where the ransom payers still feel it worthwhile to pay.

i'd spend my money on fancy weapons, grog and loose women.

i'd be a great pirate.

Pthom
04-22-2005, 04:55 AM
They already make special bullets that won't penetrate the thin skins of aircraft but that can penetrate flesh for use against air piracy.Sure. But my complaint was the too-often-seen 9mm hand weapon or sniper rifle used inside a space craft.


The original M16 used to break down so frequently because the bean-counters decided that it was too expensive to coat the breech with a particular metal because they thought it was there just for looks.They assigned me one of those to qualify with. The weapon can empty a 13 round magazine in under a second, yet in an hour on the rifle range, my weapon got out just three. So they sent me to artillery.


I'm not aware that any weapon deliberately fires a short burst. However, if one does, I'll guarantee you that I don't want that weapon. I don't want a weapon that limits my use of automatic fire when I feel I have a need for it since one of the purposes is for fire suppression. I want a lot of bullets going out from part of my team in order to keep the enemy's heads down so they're not firing at my side. Then the rest of my forces can advance.The old 50 CAL machine gun (the one you used to see John Wayne and Sly Stallone shooting from the hip--an impossibility), when fired continuously would get so hot as to deform the barrel. The result of this of course was lack of accuracy--just before the thing jammed and blew up the operator.


A sonic weapon richochet might not have any effect on you since it would have to cross back through the same waves. Sound waves of equal size, if I recall correctly, will cancel each other out. You could always postulate that the sonic weapon vents out suppression waves through side ports on the barrel. Then your reader should have more acceptance of the technology.True, in a perfect (and controlled) situation, sonic waves (or any other kind) reflected from a perfect reflector (and at the correct angle) will cancel one another. The companionways, control rooms, storage bays, etc., in spacecraft have surfaces far too complex to be considered perfect reflectors. Just as you don't want a weapon limited in its firing rate, I don't want to be inside a room with a sonic weapon without some VERY good acoustic shielding.


Vents on a barrel aren't always for heat dissipation. The gyrojet weapons of the early 1960s used vents for flash and gas dissipation because it fired a miniature rocket that could reach something like Mach 3 within two inches of exiting the barrel because the projectile was producing more and more gas pressure behind it rather than depending upon a single explosion so it was necessary to vent off some of the gas to prevent the barrel from exploding.The vents at the muzzle of standard military rifles (M14, M16, AK-47, etc) are there primarily to stabilize the weapon during rapid fire. The vents are arranged so that escaping gas helps prevent the weapon from climbing.

_________________________________________________

All very interesting stuff, these weapons of war. But consider this scenario: A generation ship sent to colonize a new-found planet in another solar system. The occupants are selected for various skills needed in settling their new home.

Questions for discussion: Is there a military component included in the skills list? Or is there merely a constabulatory? Once they arrive on the planet, they might want weapons to defend themselves against the unknown, but during the journey there is no need for weapons, right? Everyone is there with the same goal, right? ;)

A lot would depend on if the settlers were in cold sleep, or if they were truely a generation ship where those who settle the planet are not the same individuals who began the journey. Assume a journey of several centuries. How much is remembered about the original intent and how much is forgotten? And who does the remembering, and how is it passed down to succeeding generations?

DaveKuzminski
04-22-2005, 07:06 AM
In the one movie in which I acted as an extra, I noticed that the director often settled for whatever was available so long as it was realistic enough. Didn't matter that it was a .45 instead of a 9mm. He needed it then and couldn't wait because there were expenses taking place that couldn't be halted. I suspect that happens on a lot of sets.

Prior to going overseas into combat, I qualified with the M16. I didn't have any problem with it or the rate of fire. However, they didn't have enough for all of the units, so I ended up with an M14E2 when I reached my unit. I found it to be very effective. I was also the point man for a good part of the time, so I was given an M60 machinegun. However, I was unwilling to give up my rifle, so we rigged up both weapons with slings so I could carry one on each hip at the level so I could fire one or both at the same time. I wouldn't have wanted to carry a .50 caliber machinegun. Just the barrel was heavy enough to make that impractical. I used to operate one on an M60A1 MBT as a tank commander, so I know about installing those and taking those apart.

I'm glad you remembered the other use for the vents in preventing the weapon from climbing. That's one of the best reasons for it even though I didn't encounter it since I usually fired in short bursts.

Pthom
04-22-2005, 08:50 AM
The primary weapon of the unit I was assigned to was the 8" self-propelled howitzer. Louder than a rifle, but deadly accurate. However, my personal favorite weapon was the Mamiya C220. ;)





(Okay, for those who're wondering, it's a twin lens reflex camera; I was in the public information office, took photos of ... stuff.)

Ordinary_Guy
04-25-2007, 05:47 AM
A recent and understandably skeptical post on Wired.com (http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/04/httphomebusines.html) notes a still-living program for an old-school form of Directed Energy Weapon.

Lightning Gunners Strike Twice, Get Navy Millions

Give the real-life lightning-gun makers at Ionatron some credit. Despite all the shady stock deals, IP theft allegations, and canceled contracts, the company always finds a way to get another bundle of cash from the military. The latest: a nearly $10 million award from the Navy.

Ionatron's specialty is generating laser pulses, less than a ten-trillionth of a second long, which carve conductive channels of ionized oxygen in the air. Those channels act like "virtual wire[s]," through which Ionatron can send "man-made lightning" to a given spot, zapping whatever (or whoever) happens to be there.

In 2005 and 2006, the Arizona company built for the Defense Department about a dozen golf cart-esque vehicles, equipped with lightning guns, and seemingly ready for rapid deployment to Iraq -- only to have the things sent back.

Now, the military seems to be taking a back-to-basics approach. The two-year, $9.9 million deal with the Naval Surface Warfare Center calls for the "development of a 'pre-packaged brass board' of an Ultra Short Pulsed (USP) laser, which shall be transportable and suitable for use in exploring USP laser applications at a number of laboratories and test sites."

Once the prototype, relatively low-powered laser (one to 5 kilowatts, on average) has been built and studied, there will be a report, suggesting "a roadmap for scaling to higher... power."

Ionatron isn't the only company getting Navy cash for the quick-pulse lasers. Back in the fall, Orlando's Raydiance, Inc. got a $4 million contract to build a "brass board" blaster of its own.
Check out the original blog post for a plethora of embedded links, including Navy and contractor links.

Lightning... Using a golf cart like the Arc of the Covenant...
Neat.

Dave.C.Robinson
04-26-2007, 03:31 AM
The most important information about the energy weapon in your story is what it does, not how it does it.

Does it transfer thermal energy or kinetic energy. What kind of wounds does it inflict? What's its range and rate of fire. Answer these questions and you'll be better able to understand what it does in your story.

benbradley
04-26-2007, 04:05 AM
In my Rust Bucket series, I deliberately had a character re-introduce the idea of using projectile weapons and gave him a suitable opponent on which it was the only viable weapon choice. That then gave him additional credibility with his peers and helped set the stage for him to become their leader.
One important point is that unlike "energy" such as light, projectiles must be accelerated, and they go slower than lightspeed, so that could be a problem if it takes a significant amount of time for the projectile to get to the target.

Furthermore, A gun design (whether chemical explosion expansion, electromagnetic mass driver or however it's powered) is going to have recoil, unless the projectile is a rocket and launched from an open tube, as in a bazooka, where the "recoil" force goes into the exhaust gases.

Popeyesays
04-26-2007, 05:10 AM
"All very interesting stuff, these weapons of war. But consider this scenario: A generation ship sent to colonize a new-found planet in another solar system. The occupants are selected for various skills needed in settling their new home.

Questions for discussion: Is there a military component included in the skills list? Or is there merely a constabulatory? Once they arrive on the planet, they might want weapons to defend themselves against the unknown, but during the journey there is no need for weapons, right? Everyone is there with the same goal, right?

A lot would depend on if the settlers were in cold sleep, or if they were truely a generation ship where those who settle the planet are not the same individuals who began the journey. Assume a journey of several centuries. How much is remembered about the original intent and how much is forgotten? And who does the remembering, and how is it passed down to succeeding generations?"

Legacy of Heorot and Children of Beowulf, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes. Deals with just that premise. If you haven't read 'em, get 'em.

Regards,
Scott

Pthom
04-26-2007, 06:32 AM
Questions for discussion: Is there a military component included in the skills list? Or is there merely a constabulatory? Once they arrive on the planet, they might want weapons to defend themselves against the unknown, but during the journey there is no need for weapons, right? Everyone is there with the same goal, right?
...
Legacy of Heorot and Children of Beowulf, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes. Deals with just that premise. If you haven't read 'em, get 'em.At the risk of hijacking this thread, I concur (but it's Beowulf's Children). Also, read Niven's Destiny's Road for a story along the same lines.

Popeyesays
04-26-2007, 08:03 AM
At the risk of hijacking this thread, I concur (but it's Beowulf's Children). Also, read Niven's Destiny's Road for a story along the same lines.

Quite right, Destiny's road is even a companion book since it tells the story of the second national Geographic generation ship to another star system.

Regards,
Scott

Michael Dracon
04-26-2007, 01:20 PM
For another take on it check out Babylon 5's PPG gun: http://www.b5tech.com/misctech/weapons/handheldweapons/ppgpistol.html

It fires helium plasma that burns through flesh and bone.


Another interesting one is the 'Zat' in Stargate. No damage on this one, but a rather interesting incemental effect:
Shoot once: stun
Shoot twice (within a certain time): kill
Shoot three times: disintegrate (though this one they have slowly written out of the series due to it being a way too easy sollution for certain problems)


Check out http://www.gateworld.net/omnipedia/index.shtml for more Stargate stuff.

Pthom
04-27-2007, 12:09 AM
For another take on it check out Babylon 5's PPG gun: http://www.b5tech.com/misctech/weapons/handheldweapons/ppgpistol.html

It fires helium plasma that burns through flesh and bone.It's nice when you get all your bolognium to work in one compact package, isn't it?

:D

Michael Dracon
04-27-2007, 01:39 AM
It's nice when you get all your bolognium to work in one compact package, isn't it?

:D


The 'helium plasma' bit already made me snicker. But the rest around it makes it very much complete, yes.

Dave.C.Robinson
04-27-2007, 04:08 AM
My bolognium has a first name...

Popeyesays
04-27-2007, 06:01 AM
The 'helium plasma' bit already made me snicker. But the rest around it makes it very much complete, yes.

helium of course, is a major damper to fusion which means you're not gonna get a lot of plasma out of it.

In a hydrogen bomb, the tritium has to be filtered and purified every few years to keep it from being a damper to igniting the fusion element of the bomb.

When a fusion device is dampered by the presence of helium, it's called a "fizzle".

Regards,
Scott

Pthom
04-27-2007, 10:35 AM
Just the thought of holding a fusion device in my hand gives me shudders. Then I chuckle: if it's small and weak enough to be safe in my hand, how could it generate enough power to ... never mind. It's the bolognium...first name: David.

brer
04-27-2007, 11:19 AM
It seems most Sci-Fi stories have them, laser guns, if you will. I was just wondering, since I haven't read too many Sci-Fi books yet (outside of Star Wars anyway), do the stories ever attempt to explain how their energy weapons work? Or is it always "and the hero pulled out his laser gun and zapped the bad guy into oblivion?"

Not that it's terribly important, but I want to have at least some kind of rudimentary explanation. In my story, the energy weapons work on that wherever they hit, they damage or kill cells that are in the affected area. Get hit in the wrong areas (such as the head obviously), or hit too many times, and you can see how that's bad for the body and how it can kill (is this how any other story you've read based their energy weapons on? Or is it somewhat original?).

The stronger the energy blast (all the bigger guns will have a "charge" meter in case the shooter wants to do more damage), the more damage it does, but the more energy it uses too (I did originally want to have a charge meter on the ammo clip, to show how much energy the clip had left in it, but then the video game Star Wars: Republic Commando had that feature on their assault rifle, so now I have to come up with something else. Pretty fun game btw, my only real complaint is that it's way too short, and the ending is quite abrupt).

Ironically enough, my main hero prefers an old fashioned sword to all the high tech gear his friends use (blame my video game roots and Final Fantasy, where swords are somehow more powerful than guns hehe). However, I do have the hero explain why he prefers to use a sword as opposed to using a laser gun ("because swords don't jam and blades don't need reloading. Plus there's just something cool about having one" hehe. The fact that his uncle, who raised him, is also a swordmaster also helps).

And yes, he will have to "duel" with it later on, and for now it's the closest thing I can get to having a "lightsaber" (they can have "glowie" weapons, but only if they know how to cast it. And it doesn't glow persay, rather it emits a sort of holy aura around it. Yeah, all this in a story where they will mostly fight in spaceships and giant mechs hehe. In my story, you can't "deflect" shots, but with their magic, you won't need to either, as you can simply cast a shield if your powers are strong enough which will absorb the energy/blows).

And to validate having them carry weapons around, their world (at least the undeveloped areas) are chock full of monsters (similiar to orcs and what not, they don't use anything higher than bows, since they're too stupid to catch onto the technology. However, these monsters do have smarter brethren, although they are from a different world/dimension, who have been "keeping up with the times" in a way).

I can easily see a future world, which does most of its battles with laser-like weapons, to also use swords and knifes. I can see the use of swords in that culture for:

1.) Status. The gentlemen of Europe, during the times of a couple of centuries ago or so, would wear swords as to identify themselves as being of importance. During their time, swords were expensive, so that kind of made sense. So why not, in this future world, couldn't the wearing of cool expensive swords be a mark of class and/or wealth. And gentlemen and officers (of the same rank) can duel each other to settle disputes (like they did in the 1800s).

2.) In the future, I'd expect that defensive clothing, like stuff to blockade laser-like beams, might end up being vulnerable to a slow, old-fashion, blade weapon. So there could very well be a use for different technology type weapons in the future, just like we need them today, and in the past. Depending on the terrain and opponents, sometimes light infantry is superior to heavy infantry or chariots. Okay, that example is several thousand of years back, but there have been similar situations in rather recent wars/police-actions.
(e.g., like the "modern" bunker buster is basically nothing more than a real heavy rock getting dropped from a high distance, and that is the best type of weapon against the latest modern bunkers. (Yeah, yeah, I know the latest version of a bunker buster is a missle/bomb that has a hard point and a delayed explosion, or two.) Sometimes, low technology is superior to high technology; sort of like the rock/sissor/paper game.)


But, I would find it hard to believe that a laser-like weapon to be able to "stun" the opponent by use of a lower intensity beam. Err, like when a beam of energy hits flesh, ... the energy gets absorbed by the tissue, and the tissue ends up getting damaged or destroyed. Sort of like warming up the family pet by putting it in the microwave for a short time (people have done that, by the way). :(

I can also see the need for "time-out" periods so that a super-duper weapon can "recharge." Actually, I'd expect that. If you can make a superweapon, then I'd think you can make a super-duper weapon by sort of using capacitors to ramp up the voltage, and thus, get a bigger shot or a longer shot, but then the capacitors will have to get recharged. And the low-voltage capacitors probably get recharged by the exercise wheels of gerbils, so you got to keep them gerbils fed. The Empire depends on them gerbils. :)

Ahh, it's way too late at night for me . ...

Lhun
04-27-2007, 12:03 PM
helium of course, is a major damper to fusion which means you're not gonna get a lot of plasma out of it.

In a hydrogen bomb, the tritium has to be filtered and purified every few years to keep it from being a damper to igniting the fusion element of the bomb.

When a fusion device is dampered by the presence of helium, it's called a "fizzle".

Regards,
Scott

There's nothing wrong with helium plasma, you don't need fusion to get plasma. In fact, the two have almost nothing todo with another (except that gases that are hot enough to initiate fusion are easily hot enough to be plasma)
Helium isn't exactly the best choice if you need a material to produce plasma for a gun (mercury is way better) but you can create helium plasma easily if you want to.

On another note, the helium that's unwanted in a thermonuclear bomb is dampening the fission chain reaction (by capturing neutrons) not the fusion. Given enough temperature the helium itself could actually undergo fusion though the conditions for that are harder to get than tritium deuterium fusion. In fact, the energy balance for any fusion reaction up to iron is positive, i.e. a fusion that results in iron or lighter elements will have a positive energy output, one that results in heavier elements will absorb energy. That nuclear weapons as well as fusion reactor research concentrates on hydrogen fusion is merely because that's the easiest to start. (Even though for electricity production boron fusion would be a far better choice)

Lhun
04-27-2007, 03:54 PM
Oh another note to add:
There's not really a need to worry about personal weapons puncturing a hull. In a scenario where space combat occurs you usually have spaceships shooting each other, which means a measly 9mm won't put a scratch in a hull that is armored well enough to withstand big caliber fire.
Even setting that aside, the only reason today's space station are so weak is because it's dang expensive to get material into orbit (and further). In the usual S-F scenario lifting mass from a planet isn't that difficult anymore and then there's no reason not to armor even civilian space structures with at least a few centimetres of steel on the outside. It'd be mainly against micrometeorites and space junk and not against gunfire, but then again, those have usually far greater energy than any bullet a hand-held gun can fire.

Michael Dracon
04-27-2007, 04:22 PM
helium of course, is a major damper to fusion which means you're not gonna get a lot of plasma out of it.


I know, that's why it made me snicker. I've done quite a lot of chemestry at High School and even half a year at University level. So I know full well that that in itself quite difficult to do.