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Physics/Particle weapons

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Question
Hi! I was playing a video game "Mass Effect 2" and in it there is this particle beam weapon which fires charged particles at incredible speeds. Would these charged particles have the same effect as a solid mass shot with the same kinetic energy of the particles being fired or how would for example a gigajoule kinetic energy projectile function differently from a gigajoule particle beam of charged particles?

Answer
Depends on the energy of the particles and how many...but in general no.  For a beam (meaning many, many particles) and a gigajoule (that's a lot of energy) it would do some cutting/burning and some pushing...again, depends on the particles and their mass and their number.  Without those parameters, you can make up a lot of fiction for a video game.  A beam of electrons?  A beam of iron nuclei?  Thousands of times the mass difference...

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson

Expertise

I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.

Experience

I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

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Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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