Friday, May 6, 2011

Fictional Future Friday: Space Wars

My finger seems to have healed enough for me to type at about 75% of my old speed, so I will tackle a subject I have been thinking about for over 30 years or so. The weapons that used in Science Fiction shows like Star Trek and Star Wars.

Star Trek's Photon Torpedo: In The Original Series (TOS) the photon torpedo was just a glowing ball that could have any energy range, later in Star Trek 6 they were a canister of anti-matter. The smallest Photon Torpedo held 1.5 kilos of anti-matter, but they could be scaled up easily. For easy calculations that canister looked like it could hold at least 100 kilos. 100 kilos of anti-matter is 1.8 X 10^19 joule of energy, or very close to a 5 Gigaton bomb.

The largest nuclear bomb ever designed was 100 Megaton and it was never built as the Russians couldn't figure out a way to safely test it. The blast would level everything within a 60 kilometer radius, and throw the entire atmosphere of that blast zone out into space. It would cause 3rd degree burns out to a radius of 170 kilometers, roughly the size of West Germany.

So a Photon Torpedo would have a blast zone of roughly 300 kilometers and if detonated on the surface, or used the momentum of traveling near the speed of light to penetrate the surface, it would make a crater roughly 30 kilometers deep. In most places that is deep enough to blow off the Earth's crust and expose the mantle.

The Earth's mantle is what the tectonic plates ride on and is made rock that is near melting point so it yields to shockwaves very easily. A 5 Gigaton explosion would send a low velocity compression wave throughout the mantle which would be felt on the surface as earthquakes. This would trigger any unstable regions and start more earthquakes on the edges of the tectonic plate that was hit.

On the bright side this explosion would hit the area where diamonds are made bringing them to the surface.

That is the damage done by one photon torpedo. Using 10 photon torpedoes on strategic areas across the globe would make for a bad day for the inhabitants of the planet. So as far as having enemy ships coming in and attacking planets destroying bases and cities the scale is just wrong. A single warship could easily take out an entire planet, or at the very least leave it uninhabitable for generations.

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