You are here:

Physics/Photons

Advertisement


Question
Hello Dr. Nelson

I am a writer, I'm sure you hear that a lot. I have an item in my world and I'm wondering if I'm just having fun in my world or if it could be something to it.

A starship engineer likes to look over weapons databases of new species when they meet them. She found an item in human history an decided to tweak it.

She built a Photon Shotgun.

Would a weapon that projects a shotgun like blast of photons be a considerable weapon, if the tech to produce it existed.

Basically, can photons be weaponized?

Fun dialogue (I hope)
Admiral: What is this?
Ensign: It's Lt. Kimshie's photon shotgun, sir.
Admiral:That'll leave a mark.
Ensign: That's about all it does leave, sir. Please don't use it by any exterior bulkheads.

Answer
The military has a laser that can shoot down a drone or take out a fast boat mounted on a ship.  This already exists.  They have another that can cut into the engine block of a truck.  Both systems are recently demonstrated, but successful and getting deployed right now.

You want a shotgun.  Sometimes disruptive technology exists that can do things low-tech and simple that people tried for so long to do high-tech and complex/expensive.  Can I say that someone won't manage to manufacture a burst laser powered by an explosive shell's charge, with a split/spread beam path to make it more shotgun-like?  I cannot.  It might just work.  So it's entirely within the realm of sci-fi plausibility.  As a writer myself (my other degree is in English), I approve.  As a scientist, I don't disapprove.  There are plenty of historical examples of massive currents being generated for rail guns using capacitors coupled to explosives, I would start there...

Physics

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


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.

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

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.