Not So Run of the Mill Science Fiction
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Want feedback on realistic sci-fi worldbuilding?

Eager to know what authors are the best muses if you’re writing a space opera?

Interested in learning what people think the most underrated “trope” in the genre is?

Curious about if androids really do dream of electric sheep?

Then come here, to the Sci-Fi Q&A, where all such inquiries are welcome. Here you can ask any question pertaining to science fiction that pops into your head and see how other people respond. Great for getting valuable info for your story or just starting up a food-for-thought dialogue.

11/12/2008 #1
Phantom of the Library

Food For Thought: The Blaster Rifle

I’ve been kicking around this idea for a while, and I felt the need to post it. What has been a reoccurring theme in just about every Space Opera and Science Fantasy? That’s right, the Blaster Rifle. We all know the types; small guns shooting flashes of light, never reloading or running out of ammo. But, how do we turn them into Hard Science? Well, we explain them.

The Science

(Warning: Extreme Nerd Talk.)

What do you know about Fusion Reactions? Nothing? Ok, lets start from there.

A Fusion reaction occurs when two small molecules collide at high speeds, combining into a larger molecule and releasing energy. Now, what scientists want to do is harness this energy that is released, and use it to boil water. Yes, boil water. Like all current power plants, the whole goal is to generate a force to spin a turbine; so the excess energy created in the reaction is used to heat water to a boil, which creates steam, which then using pressure spins a turbine creating electricity. Simple stuff? Yeah, I thought so.

Now, to combine two molecules you have to overcome the “electrostatic force” that is generated by all molecules. (Think magnets: Opposites attract, likes push apart.) So, the easiest way to do this is to heat the atoms, which strips the electrons from the atoms and leaving them as bare nuclei. In most experiments the nuclei and electrons are left in a fluid known as a Plasma. (Note: This is actually the scientific name.)

The temperatures required to provide the nuclei with enough energy to overcome the opposing forces is directly related to the total charge of the molecule. So hydrogen, which has the smallest nuclear charge, reacts at the lowest temperature and it‘s isotopes deuterium and tritium are favoured for the reaction. Helium has an extremely low mass per nucleon, and is favoured as a fusion product.

Now, aside from a new molecule being formed, energy is also released from this reaction, which follows the Theory of Special Relativity, which heats the water. Anyway, I fear I have gotten off track, we’re just interested in the Plasma.

The Theory

The idea of a Blaster Rifle, or more appropriately known as the Plasma Rifle, is that inside the gun is a small Fusion reactor inside that produces Plasma. So, how do we fire it at some guys head? As I said earlier, you can use magnetic fields to contain, and control, Plasma particles. So inside the gun you have two things: a magnetic field generator, and a small microprocessor that uses a predetermined equation which tells the field generator to push the plasma out of the gun, and in a direct path afterwards.

But, why use Plasma instead of bullets? Well, the advantage of a Fusion reactor is that it generates more energy than it uses. So residual energy created can be used to heat more Plasma; it’s like firing a bullet without the black powder. (This is of course aside from looking really bad a**.) And, it can melt through armour plating with ease.

Pick Your Poison

Have you ever noticed that there is generally two types of Plasma weapons? There’s one type that has to charge each shot individually, (Think Spartan Laser if you play Halo,) and the types that have rapid fire capability, but will overheat and no longer be able to fire if used in too long of a burst. We can explain this phenomenon, too.

The first gun, which we’re just going to call the Spartan Laser, stays “Cold” between each shot. This means that if the gun is not firing, then no Plasma is being produced inside of it. That’s why it has a charge time for each shot; the gun has to get the Plasma moving.

The second type, which we’ll just call the Assault Rifle, stays “Hot” between shots, which obviously means it keeps producing Plasma when not firing. This allows for rapid fire shots. But, the gun will overheat much quicker, and when it gets to dangerous levels the gun goes through a cool down period where all Plasma production stops and it cannot fire. (The best example of this type of gun I can think of is the Commando Pistol from Star Wars: Battlefront.)

Anyway, I just felt like writing out my theory for this, and if you want to use it go right ahead. Just remember to put me in the credits. ;)


12/12/2008 #2

Genius. We have the science to do it, but not the technology. But in any Sci-fi story, the time can be anywhere from two years, to two thousand millinums into the future.

The theory is very inviting to use, and I noticed that somewhere you said the magnetic force is adjustable, therefore, making the shots more accurate by compensating for any recoil the gun may possibly have (although I doubt recoil will happen in such a gun), and also for human's lack of percise shooting. (IE, if you always aim a little to the left, adjust the magnet to be stronger on the left side to push the 'bullet' more to the right. But, that depends on how large the barrel is, assuming we still use a barrel in the future.)

6/13/2009 #3
Zeal of 1200BC

Here's one of my ideas:

The Lightwave

The Lightwave, essentially, is my version of a Star Trek transporter- a means to go from ship to ship and ship to surface without a shuttle. It's built on the fact the light is a type of radiation that has particles. Off the top of my head, here's an explanation:

The object is placed on a glass platform with a powerful light source underneathe. A field makes the object's atoms unstable, but creates sort of an "Atomic Memory", meaning the atoms can only rematerialize in the exact positions they were in before transmission. After exposure for a few seconds, the light is turned on and the object is swept up in a "Light Wind", which then exits the terminal and out into space. Since light can only curve from extreme gravitaional forces, a series of sattellites in orbit around the planet relay the beam of light to the target location.

Once the object arrives, another glass platform keeps the object's atoms from going with the light back down to the emitter. Another field is placed around the area that makes the atoms react in such a way that they rematerialize with the same neighbors that they had before the object was transmitted. The field is active as long as it takes for the object to reform, which varies depending on the size and mass of the object. The one limitation is that it needs two corrosponding terminals to work.

Now, in space there is alot of radiation; the atoms of an object are spaced far enough apart that there is a very slim chance that they will be hit.

Pretty complex for a 13-year-old, huh?

2/16/2010 #4
Jeremy R Walker

Sage of mirrors

it would have to have a short range because of 2 things 1 light has a tendency to spread out just take a laser pointer and aim it across a gym 2 there is the problem of the inverse square law the further light (or any other electromagnetic energy) travels the less energy it has

1/25/2011 #5
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