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View Full Version : The disintegrator - a prop of SciFi



Hans
2008-Oct-16, 02:25 AM
In the early science fiction literature this weapon was always around. In our modern world are we anywhere near having such a thing?

megrfl
2008-Oct-16, 02:32 AM
In the early science fiction literature this weapon was always around. In our modern world are we anywhere near having such a thing?

I don't know, but the microwave can do some damage.

kleindoofy
2008-Oct-16, 02:40 AM
@Hans

If the LHC finds a way to cancel out the Higgs Boson, disintegrating death ray here we come. ;)

01101001
2008-Oct-16, 03:01 AM
Green laser pointers!

Warning: do not look into green laser pointer with remaining good eye.

thorkil2
2008-Oct-16, 06:31 AM
Green laser pointers!

Warning: do not look into green laser pointer with remaining good eye.

And that on double-A batteries. Just think what would be possible.... :)

thorkil2
2008-Oct-16, 06:51 AM
I did have a friend once (decades ago) who had hopes. He was a serious--no, SERIOUS Trekkie, and managed to lay his hands on what would have been one of the last over-the-counter ruby crystals before their sale was somewhat restricted to people who actually had legitimate reason to be buying them. He planned to build it into a phaser replica, and spoke seriously of taking on anyone who gave him a hard time. Last I saw of him, he had been unable to fit the necessary capacitors into the phaser shell, so was redesigning for a phaser "rifle". It just might have been able to "disintegrate" neat cylindrical holes if he ever got it working. Mike G, if you're out there, wave or something, if you're still able.

Anders Starmark
2008-Oct-16, 10:31 AM
@Hans

If the LHC finds a way to cancel out the Higgs Boson, disintegrating death ray here we come. ;)

Not really. The Higgs Boson gives particles mass. What you'd need is some kind of way to neutralize either the electromagnetic or (preferrably) the strong force. If you neutralized the strong force selectively, all nuclei with more than one proton would undergo instant fission.

That would be kind of cool, but don't expect it in the near future.

Swift
2008-Oct-16, 12:44 PM
In the early science fiction literature this weapon was always around. In our modern world are we anywhere near having such a thing?
No, not even close. Heck, we are not close to hand held lasers that are anywhere close to science fiction ones.

LotusExcelle
2008-Oct-16, 12:52 PM
My preferred disintigrator is the Dr.Device from Ender's Game.

JustAFriend
2008-Oct-16, 02:11 PM
They're going to build a trash processing facility here that uses plasma arcs to disintigrate (vaporize) garbage:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-09-09-fla-county-trash_x.htm

Not exactly a portable weapon but it fits the description....

John Mendenhall
2008-Oct-16, 02:53 PM
There was some work on a microwave 'death ray'. I haven't heard anything about it for years.

Swift
2008-Oct-16, 03:18 PM
There was some work on a microwave 'death ray'. I haven't heard anything about it for years.
There is this microwave weapon (http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18725095.600) that the military has been working on, but it is non-lethal and it is truck-mounted. I don't know of any other microwave weapons.

LotusExcelle
2008-Oct-16, 03:19 PM
There is this microwave weapon (http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18725095.600) that the military has been working on, but it is non-lethal and it is truck-mounted. I don't know of any other microwave weapons.

Banquet Fried Chicken Meal.

tdvance
2008-Oct-16, 05:39 PM
Niven's fictional "slaver digging tool" suppresses the charge on an electron, effectively making it a disintegrator. The closest we have today would probably be laboratory devices for producing very high temperatures (to test fusion ideas), which would break up most molecules and turn them into vapor. The hard part is to get the enemy to come into the lab and get inside that machine....

Hans
2008-Oct-16, 06:57 PM
This is all very interesting. Yep those old stories babbled about atomic charges and such. I would guess a disintegrator would do as you guys say, somehow break the force that holds atoms together - rather outside our ability at the moment. It would appear that intense heat (energy) remains the best way to "disintegrate" something.

Thanks for the interesting thoughts

Swift
2008-Oct-16, 07:49 PM
One of the biggest problems I've had with how science fiction, particularly TV and movies, depicts this, is how the effect stops. For example. Star Trek security officier fires phaser at bad guy, bad guy completely disappears in a bright flash, carpet the bad guy was standing on isn't even marked. Why did the disintergration effect travel completely through the persons body, but stop at the bottom of their shoes?

LotusExcelle
2008-Oct-16, 08:10 PM
Swift - the Dr. Device in Ender's Game covers that issue quite... well.

Van Rijn
2008-Oct-16, 11:13 PM
One of the biggest problems I've had with how science fiction, particularly TV and movies, depicts this, is how the effect stops. For example. Star Trek security officier fires phaser at bad guy, bad guy completely disappears in a bright flash, carpet the bad guy was standing on isn't even marked. Why did the disintergration effect travel completely through the persons body, but stop at the bottom of their shoes?

And what is the effect of the material they just vaporized? One time they use a phaser to heat a rock just too keep them warm. Another time they vaporize part of a thick wall and walk through it. I'd think the vaporized former wall would be just a bit hot, and not good for the skin, let alone the lungs.

Anders Starmark
2008-Oct-17, 09:13 AM
And what is the effect of the material they just vaporized? One time they use a phaser to heat a rock just too keep them warm. Another time they vaporize part of a thick wall and walk through it. I'd think the vaporized former wall would be just a bit hot, and not good for the skin, let alone the lungs.

You may be putting too much thought into this.

Swift
2008-Oct-17, 12:36 PM
You may be putting too much thought into this.
We're science fiction geeks, over thinking fictional science is what we do. :D

PraedSt
2008-Oct-17, 12:59 PM
In the early science fiction literature this weapon was always around. In our modern world are we anywhere near having such a thing?

Well... I'd seen something on TV a while back, but I couldn't remember what or where. Now I have: Future Weapons on the Discovery Channel. It was an US/Israeli system called the THEL. A quick wiki search later:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THEL
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIRACL
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Star
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_YAL-1
and an overview:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directed_energy_weapons

Oddly, funding and research for many of these systems seems to have stopped. Cue CT... :rolleyes:

Swift
2008-Oct-17, 03:42 PM
Oddly, funding and research for many of these systems seems to have stopped. Cue CT... :rolleyes:
I'm not familar with the ground based systems, but, as far as I know, research on the airborne laser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airborne_laser) still continues.

But none of these are "disintegrators". I believe all they do is heat the target up, to the point that the incoming missile's electronics and other systems become damaged. And they are most certainly not man-packed.

They also point out the fundamental challenge, energy. The energy required for even human-carried laser are just too great for the energy storage systems we currently have. That's why these laser systems are chemical lasers (using very exothermic reactions), rather than more convential electrically powered lasers.

If I could get access to Star Trek technology, I wouldn't want a phaser, I'd want to get the phaser's power cell!

mugaliens
2008-Oct-17, 08:10 PM
If you neutralized the strong force selectively, all nuclei with more than one proton would undergo instant fission.

That would be kind of cool, but don't expect it in the near future.

Wouldn't that be hot, rather than cool?

Who needs photon torpedos when you can turn your opponent's entire ship into an a-bomb?

PraedSt
2008-Oct-17, 08:30 PM
But none of these are "disintegrators"...
If I could get access to Star Trek technology, I wouldn't want a phaser, I'd want to get the phaser's power cell!

Disintegrators: Yeah, you're right. I think you'd need that strong force neutraliser zapper Anders mentioned. One step at a time though :)

Power cell: Right behind you. Hmm..er..actually, no... I'll probably try and get in front and grab it first :whistle:

Noclevername
2008-Oct-18, 01:13 AM
And what is the effect of the material they just vaporized? One time they use a phaser to heat a rock just too keep them warm. Another time they vaporize part of a thick wall and walk through it. I'd think the vaporized former wall would be just a bit hot, and not good for the skin, let alone the lungs.

The "disintegrate" setting on a phaser isn't vaporising the matter, it converts it into some "handwavium" particle which then dissipates harmlessly into subspace. No vapor, no heat (or very little), no health problems.

cjameshuff
2008-Oct-18, 01:38 AM
The "disintegrate" setting on a phaser isn't vaporising the matter, it converts it into some "handwavium" particle which then dissipates harmlessly into subspace. No vapor, no heat (or very little), no health problems.

Yeah, but how does it know when to stop converting stuff? Anything they're wearing or holding goes, but things they're just standing on or leaning against are untouched...

I do fuzzily recall one episode where some remains burned into a floor plate were used as forensic evidence, which would be an improvement if they were at all consistent with it. And at least one instance where the weapon involved was specifically stated to be lasers.

mugaliens
2008-Oct-19, 10:32 AM
And yet it took a hand phasor several minutes to burn through the duritanium door aboard the first Enterprise...

PraedSt
2008-Oct-19, 10:34 AM
Yeah, but how does it know when to stop converting stuff? Anything they're wearing or holding goes, but things they're just standing on or leaning against are untouched...

Intelligent design. ;)

mugaliens
2008-Oct-19, 05:13 PM
Intelligent design. ;)

(gives dark, disgusted look)

Remember all those burned spots where Kirk would simply look at them and say, "Jones and Johnson?" and Uhura, Spock, Bones, Scotty, or Chekov would spit out, "They never had a chance!"

Well, so it didn't affect the surrounding tritanium very much.

I suppose it's akin to the different results one gets when roasting a pig over an open fire vs roasting a defueled SR-71 over an open fire.