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Energy Based Weaponry Kevin Prasad Throughout human history, there have been many attempts to make some

sort of energy based weaponry. The basis for these weapons has been experiments in creating something to do damage harnessing the power of heat or other forms of radiation. Traditionally, weapons have been made of a propellant which forces a projectile out with a lot of force, such as a bow, a gun, cannons, etc. Directedenergy weapons, as theyre called, attempt to bypass this traditional requirement in order to do as much damage as possible without a projectile. Lasers are the most well recognized style of this weapon, but multiple other forms exist. Historically, the most well known directed energy weapon is Archimedes Death Ray. Archimedes was a well known mathematician in the times of Ancient Greece. He was born in 287 BCE, and there is relatively little information known of his private life. The most widely known discovery of Archimedes, aside from the Death Ray, was Archimedes's Principle, a method for determining volume of an irregular object. Placing the object inside of a container filled with water, then measuring the volume of displacement give you the volume of the irregular object. The death ray however, remains his most famous invention, especially because it seems so crazy. The story goes that during the Siege of Syracuse, happening around 214-212 BCE, Archimedes destroyed ships using a heat ray that shot fire. The idea behind Archimedess weapon is focused sunlight. The methodology however, is something that is still in relative debate. One theory currently is that the weapon consisted of an array of copper mirrors, made out

of highly polished shields, were set so that they would all reflect sunlight to a single focal point, thereby causing a lot of energy in a small amount of space. This would lead to ignition of the enemy sails, and causing much loss of life. The weapon has been tested multiple times, most famously by the Mythbusters, a group who, as their namesake states, bust myths by testing historical and contemporary stories with a healthy dose of skepticism. During this trial on Mythbusters, the Death Ray failed to live up to its name and was unable to cause any sort of flame on the ships. The Death Ray was more likely used for disorientation of the enemy through the use of bright lights rather than causing damage, as other forms of ignition, such as flaming arrows, would have been much more effective and efficient. The Death Ray used a property of mirrors in a parabolic shape, which allowed the mirrors to focus on a specific point, and this theory was proven to work, just not in the same way as the story. While a failure, Archimedes Death Ray was the original energy weapon, and set a proper precedent for the future. Quite possibly the most famous form of an energy weapon however, is the laser. Laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In 1917, Albert Einstein established the theoretical premise for the laser in stimulated emission, which essentially just means forced radiation. In 1953, scientists created the first microwave amplifier, similar to the laser, but instead of using infrared or visible light, used a different frequency radiation in the form of microwaves. Later, lasers came into being with a myriad of scientists figuring out ways to create beams of light in the infrared and visible spectrum, including using helium and neon, along with a synthetic ruby. In the present day, we use lasers all the time, not in the same way as science fiction books, where lasers are

used to vaporize enemies and kill aliens, but for much more mundane uses, along with even more exciting uses. Laser pointers are something most people have used, and these are the weakest commercially available lasers, requiring 1-5 mW for continuous operation. We tend to use these for their express purpose, pointing at things, but they have many inherent dangers as well. They can transmit light over very far distances, able to interact with airplanes for example, and putting even these extremely weak lasers to a persons eye can cause blindness. Stepping up in the scale slightly, there are CD and DVD lasers, anywhere from 5-10 mW of power needed. These are more powerful, because they need to be able to read the creases in a CD that store data. CD and DVD burners however, are many orders of magnitude stronger than this, requiring 250 -400 mW of power, and these can be incredibly dangerous if misused. They can cut through thin materials, such as paper and even thin clothing, and were getting much closer to the style of laser in science fiction. Laser cutting in industrial manufacturing industry uses power outputs of 100-3000 W, around 100 times stronger than DVD burners. This is because industrial lasers have to cut through plates of steel rather than engrave information onto millimeter thin coatings of

aluminum. Right now, the most widely used form of laser is the laser cutter, capable of doing
damage, but used for precision cuts in metal, rather than precision cuts in flesh. As a weaponized instrument however, lasers are nowhere near the point they are in science fiction movies. Laser based weaponry is currently in the experimental stage, and the idea behind the weaponized laser is that brief, extremely powerful bursts of light cause the target to expand and the rapid evaporation of the target causes overwhelming damage to the target. Lasers do however have a weaponized purpose

outside of cutting and blowing up, non-lethal incapacitation in the form of causing blindness. All lasers, including the lowest power ones, are capable of causing blindness, simply because our eyes are so thin and flimsy, and its a warning label affixed to every little pocket laser we purchase. In 2009 however, Northrop Grumman, an American aerospace and defense agency, claimed to have developed a laser that can produce a 100 kW beam, around a thousand times stronger than the cutting lasers. This kind of power is enough to destroy a typical aircraft in the present day, but the efficiency of a weapon like this is called into question because of the alternatives we have available, such as bombs and personnel rifles. We are constantly developing more advanced lasers however, and its only a matter of time before we can actually cause damage with one through a pistol-like device carried in the palm of your hand. One style of directed energy weapon that is in use, albeit in a limited fashion, are the sonic weapons. These weapons use sound waves to incapacitate or otherwise harm the target. Sonic weaponry has been in use for quite a while and is designed to be a non-lethal crowd control mechanism. This works by manipulating properties of sound waves, such as frequency, in order to turn the weapon into something capable of destroying a persons eardrums and this is usually significant incapacitation, and more than enough damage for crowd control. One of the more common style of sonic weaponry is the LRAD, or long range acoustic device. This device exists for the crowd control and even anti-piracy measures that a non-lethal weapon is more useful for than a lethal one. These systems are capable of outputting a 2.5 kHz sound wave, at the upper cusp of human hearing, and these sounds are capable of

outputting damage. The most prevalent use of the LRAD is with crowd control, especially during protests and riots. It has a relatively high usage rate in the Navy as well, for use against pirate vessels, because of its non-lethality and ease of deployment. The usefulness of the weapon as compared to other possible weapons have been called into question, but sonic technology has shown itself to be a crowd control tool that works exceptionally well, and has been put in place for the Olympics and other major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, in order to better protect against riots and the like. Directed energy weapons are a field that tends to be explored greatly in science fiction, but these weapons have a use outside of stories. The Archimedes Death Ray, though a flop, is the first recorded weaponized use of indirect energy, as opposed to fire, and it has been a staple in the knowledge of many people regarding weaponizing energy. Lasers are an incredibly useful tool that has been developed over the course of the last 50 years to extraordinary lengths, but a pistol that fires laser beams is still quite a ways off, as were only able to create really powerful beams from really large diodes. Sonic weaponry is constantly being developed and its function is put to the test quite often, as it continues to be improved upon, crowd control measures will continue to become advanced in terms of efficiency and non-lethality. Directed energy weapons may not be the future of warfare, but as these weapons get more and more research done on them, we expand our scientific knowledge and are able to create incredibly useful tools for humanitys sake.