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Would these work? this is just academic interest.

  1. Oct 15, 2007 #1
    I want to know/see how possible these things could be:

    -An electron shield
    -An aircraft(military) propelled by nuclear fusion/nuclear fuel.
    -Using pure electrons as a weapon.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 15, 2007 #2


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    Electron shield - anything solid, especially (but not necessarily) metal.
    Nuclear (fission) propelled airplane - there was a project in the 1960's to develop such an airplane (I did some peripheral work in the area), but the engineering problems related to safety, etc. were too big to be overcome. Nuclear fusion reactors have been under study for over forty years: until something is developed, the use for airplanes is too far in the future.
    Electrons as weapons - don't know, but it seems unlikely, since they are readily stopped. Lasers make better high tech weapons.
  4. Oct 15, 2007 #3
    Electrons as weapons? Well, here's an idea...

    If someone was to develop one, this is what I imagine it being like. It would consist of a photomultiplier tube, into which a laser of unspecified intesnity is fired, coupled to a chamber containing any material that would, in some configuration, induce electron-positron pair production from the photons. The resulting electrons and positrons would, by drift momentum, enter a mass-spectrometer like device coupled to the end of the "Bremmstrahlung Chamber" (as it might be called), and there the electrons and positrons would be diverted into opposing tubes, collimated and accelerated by magnetic guidance into tight, focused beams. The positron beam would be directed down a long barrel, almost like a miniature linear accelerator, until they would exit the barrel and hurtle towards their target at nearly the speed of light.

    The electrons, on the other hand, could travel down a much shorter tube into a confinement vessel, like a giant, shielded capacitor of sorts, for holding until they become needed.

    As long as the target (tank, personnel, aircraft, etc.) remains within range, the positrons will be deposited on its armor sufficiently to annihilate with electrons on its outer surface, slowly stripping the target of electrons and irradiating it with gamma ray photons. The target not only gets irradiated (possibly exposing any crew inside to lethal doses of gamma radiation), but also builds up a progressively more massive positive charge (provided it is sufficiently insulated from the ground, or provided the positron beam is of sufficient strength to rapidly strip the target of electrons) due to the lack of electrons and overabundance of protons.

    As if this step wasn't nasty enough, here's the kicker...

    The electrons stored in the weapon's electron chamber, or capacitor, are suddenly, either by switch or by disabling a magnetic containment field, deposited all at once on a bulbous probe positioned over the barrel where the positrons were fired from. I imagine it would look something like a giant Van de Graff. At this moment, if the range to the target has closed sufficiently, and the negative charge now released onto the bulb is sufficiently large (as well as the positive charge on the target), the electrons will leap across to the target in the form of artificial lightning! This effect could further damage the target by burning its surface or electrocuting the crew inside.

    You could call it "Thor's Hammer"...

    Gee, I'm glad not alot of other people think like I do... here's to weapons I hope never to ever see developed, much less fired!

    Fortunately, I think such a weapon would be hampered by design problems, and most likely the air would absorb most of the positrons before they reach any target. In any case, there's no guarantee that any target could get close enough for a bolt of "artificial lightning" to ever hit it. And of course, there's always the element of putting the attacking crew in more danger from their own weapon misfiring than the target could ever be in. All in all, this idea would probably never work out. Thank goodness...
  5. Oct 16, 2007 #4
    Lol - yea. now that you mentioned the above - I'd love to see it in action, but most of the positrons would be absorbed by the air anyways, like you said, nor would a target come that close, unless of course, they didn't know what it was , even then the technology would be advanced enough to allow them to see from far enough, assuming that the above mentioned "Thor's Hammer" is done in that time. It could be done if not now, in a couple of years, but then there would already be weapons far more deadlier, like the laser, or who knows? could be even hand held miniature nuke grenades ( Let's just pray that never happens.) And yeah - there aren't a lot of people who think like you do. I could've thought a million things BUT the idea you just gave above.
  6. Oct 16, 2007 #5
    Well, then, here's another sick idea... what if it is set up in the side of a hill to camoflage it? It could be especially effective if it is set up in mountainous terrain, particularly in a narrow mountain pass; seeings no army would want to go over the peak of a mountain, they would, of course, seek to find the most effective pass to go through the mountains. An unsuspecting army could begin to traverse a pass, just to realize it is a trap right before they all get fried! The far wall of the pass, away from the "Thor's Hammer" device, would be the target of the positron beam, and if this pass is sufficiently narrow then the artificial lightning would arc across, taking out everything in the pass with it. It would make a great booby-trap... albeit an expensive one...

    We should have the technology now to create such a nasty thing, and I don't think I've seen any other ideas that would be nearly as grizly or ghastly.

    I don't think anyone will ever consider making a nuclear hand grenade; the attacker would never clear the blast zone, and if he could then it wouldn't be any deadlier than a conventional grenade (although it would be "dirty" in the sense of radioactivity). No, I think we shall never see a nuclear hand grenade, unless trigger-happy terrorists with a death wish are thinking about it.

    I'll take that as a complement... :biggrin:
  7. Oct 17, 2007 #6
    "Briefcase" nuclear weapons have been around for awhile, and there is considerable concern about that specific "missing inventory" in the former Soviet Union.
    I can only hope that these devices have not made it into the hands of suicidal/extremists terrorists.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2007
  8. Oct 17, 2007 #7
    These days, much is considerd regarding nuclear payload "delivery"; missiles and such.
    However, the entire nuclear payload itself can be quite small, less than the size of a grapefruit. From a small neighborhood to a small city, the effects of these 'low-yield" weapons are still very devistating.
    It's not a matter of if, but when, deviated individuals will exploit this "convienience"
  9. Oct 17, 2007 #8
    I totally agree. I thought I would point out, though, that no state that hopes to sustain an army will ever likely arm their soldiers with such an item as a "nuclear" hand grenade... but you are right to say that this is not far off from what terrorists or people who want to make a statement and don't care for their own lives might do. But I still don't think they would make the thing look like a grenade; the "briefcase" idea is much more subtle and low-profile. If many such devices were launched in coordinated, small-scale attacks in numerous small communities scattered across the nation, the effects would indeed be devastating. I also believe it is inevitable, but if we don't try to stop it, it will only happen sooner and much worse.
  10. Oct 17, 2007 #9
    It is safest to "assume" that the missing inventory is already in the hands of terrorists. From this assumption we place ourselves in a position where we may now be willing to prepare for the worst-case scenario. In the 1950's, a certain physicist was working with the Department of the Navy to develop particle accelerators that could be used to detect nuclear materials on board incoming transport ships in harbors; the same design could also be used, supposedly, to blunt the explosive potential of incoming nuclear bombs or missiles. Sadly, by 1958, this work was forgotten and abandoned, and the physicist who had done the initial work claimed that he could not let his device be built because he could not live with the thought of it on his conscience.

    I wish they had followed through on that one (at least the port scanning part), I would feel alot safer if they could screen cargo at ports that way.
  11. Oct 18, 2007 #10
    Okay - First of all, how about this:

    1) Yup. the idea of a trap in the mountains is damn excellent. Lets add something to it. If we're going to situate it in the mountains. let's dismantle the engine, and connect it to camoed wires running along and through the area in suspect, i.e- where the opponent army is going to cross.

    2) You might not necessarily have to throw the hand grenades - we could have a grenade launcher. The info about missing nukes from Russia doesn't surprise me at all. Since Russia is a poor country, they probably secretly sold it for money and reported them as missing. To whom? not likely terrorists. Most probably either Iran(NOT TERRORISTS- let's remember that all countries have the right to have nuclear programs, just because an Arabian crackhead called Osama Bin Laden attacked the USA, it doesn't mean that all Muslim nations are going to do the same. Idiots like Osama were taught in Mosques about radical beliefs, misinterpretations of the Quran, which made him forge his organizations and terrorize. If anything should be the target of the USA, it should be the bastards who "misinterpret" or misinterpret their religious books and make people do crazy stuff like Osama did .)or China.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2007
  12. Oct 18, 2007 #11


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    I will caution everyone involved with this thread to stick to the physics and move your politics/etc discussion to the appropriate forum.

  13. Oct 18, 2007 #12
    (shrugs) I went off track, my bad, I'm sorry. We'll stick to the discussion I started.
  14. Oct 18, 2007 #13
    Good point from ZapperZ... is there a way that we can keep the thread here intact, but link it to a new thread in the "Politics and World Affairs" section? There is a particle physics idea that initiated this thread, but perhaps the trailing discussion has now become more appropriate for the "Politics and World Affairs" heading. If this is acceptable to the original poster, then I think we may try it if it is possible for admin to set up such a link. Any thoughts from anyone? Is this a plausible idea? If so, do we need to create a new thread in "Politics and World Affairs" first? And if so, would the original poster (PhysiksFreak) like to do the honor of creating the new thread in "Politics and World Affairs" for us?
  15. Oct 19, 2007 #14
    Alright - will do.
  16. Oct 19, 2007 #15


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    You are forgetting American military 'thinking' in the 50s.

    The Davy Crocket was a 120mm grenade launcher nuke with a maximum range of about 2km but radiation was deadly about 500m from the the blast, leaving a fairly small margin of error ( or the ability to run away rather quickly ).
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2007
  17. Oct 19, 2007 #16
    well, thats a scary thought... at least it could heave the thing 2km, I was earlier referring to the hand-thrown variety. I can see the launcher version being more plausible, but I dare say still by no means desirable.
  18. Oct 20, 2007 #17


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    It had a minimum arming range of 1000ft (300m) so if you set the dials wrong you could be in trouble !
  19. Oct 20, 2007 #18
  20. Dec 3, 2007 #19
    Hehehe... more like "lack thereof"

    Oops... well I just realized I already replied to this comment, but I just reviewed it (on page one, without remembering there was also a page 2) and it kind of struck me again...

    Sounds like they would still have been inside the 50% lethality range anyway. It's so hard to believe anyone would consider such closeness to "non-survival" for the payload deliverer, but given the political attitude of the time...

    I would so much rather spend my time and effort working on experimental and theoretical physics. Weapons development, in a general sense, I feel to be a wasteful use of one's time, unless there is a most dire threat to life or liberty. I hope to never design a weapon based on any of my particle physics knowledge, as the thought of it alone scares the bigeezees out of me!
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2007
  21. Dec 4, 2007 #20


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    Regarding electrons as weapon or armor; that's basically what we use today, in a way. When a bullit passes through a human body, it is the electron shells around the atoms in the bullit and the tissues that repel each other. Same with a bullit hitting a vest. If there were some way to contain the electrons and fashion them into groups with the desired shapes, they would behave like physical objects of similar rigitity but virtually no mass. In fact, the density of electrons could be greatly increased without the presence of nuclei around which they must occupy prescribed orbitals.

    For armor, this would mean a vest that repels bullits like the densest metals, but weighs next to nothing. But for ammo, I suppose it would mean bullits that bounce off of everything with little or no effect.

    Additional thoughts on "Thor's Hammer"; as electrons are removed from the target, ionic and covalent bonds are released, and the remaining postively-charged nuclei repell one another. The skin of the target becomes the explosive that destroys the target.
  22. Dec 8, 2007 #21
    This is true... Essentially, the armor would become so strong, and the projectiles so weak, that any chance of harming an opponent would be entirely dependent on quantum tunnelling alone (in other words, war weapons would become useless).

    Hmmm... I had not anticipated that effect. That is kind of scary, in a very disgusting way. The target self destructs by default... but that would take alot of positrons to do. Might not be very likely. The idea of this thing, as a whole, is not very likely to ever come to fruition...

    Hey, does that mean I can apply the phrase, "plausible, but unlikely"? HaHaHa
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