Saturday, December 24, 2005

Scientist's Luck Turns Cold on Heat Ray

Did Archimedes ever build a death ray? Well maybe, although a group of scientists had no luck recently trying to recreate one, according to USA Today and the Discovery Channel. That doesn't close the door on the concept though.

Archimedes, the great geometer, scientist, and mathematician of ancient Greece invented much technology that serves as the foundation for Technology Underground projects. Among his inventions: the "ship shaker"( a device for lifting and overturning enemy boats and ships); the archimedian screw; and various catapulta.

Along these lines, a friend of mine speculates that terrorists equipped with concave mirrors could wreak silent havoc on a city by burning holes with concentrated sunlight in water towers, bridge supports and so forth. He thinks they could simply aim their mirrors at the same spot on a target, and given enough people with mirrors, they could melt through anything if the day was hot and sunny. How that could happen

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

the TV show MYTH BUSTERS took this on
Failed
worth a look at the process though!

Bill Beaty said...

Terrorists with concave mirrors? Nah, flat mirrors work great, especially at hundred-yard distances. I myself realized this version of mayhem while working on a solar energy museum exhibit in 1986, but was told it was an old idea: an earlier science fiction short story involved the crowds at a soccer stadium being given small mirrors so they could flash sun in the eyes of the ref when they made a bad call. Sunny day. First bad call, and FLAMMO! There was also an Ecotopia-style hippy book "Mirror Wars" where during a huge anti-war demonstration some people start handing out mirrors to the crowd, then drive up a van with "Aim Here" arrows painted on the sides. The van gets incinerated, and then growing crowds get the idea and run home to get more mirrors. Also, during the 1970s I saw (perhaps in Mother Earth News) a guy who had glued several hundred 3"x4" glass "makeup mirrors" to small wood blocks screwed to a tilted 4x8 plywood sheet laying on the ground. It looked like a cut-in-half version of the "Solar Death Ray", but much larger. Everything old is new again, eh?

Anonymous said...

FYI, MIT apparently succeeded in implementing an Archimedean Death Ray: http://web.mit.edu/2.009/www/lectures/10_ArchimedesResult.html