How to Build a Death Ray

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

As anyone who has ever used a magnifying glass can tell you, light can be focused and directed for destruction. For thousands of years the world's finest minds have wondered if this can be done with larger objects. The BBC's Factomania takes a look at some of the more famous attempts.

The Death Ray is a Science Fiction staple (although probably a cliche or Discredited Trope by now). Usually it looks like a Ray Gun, but the difference is that whatever it hits dies. This may be via disintegration, draining of the victim's life force, rapid calcination or something else. It's the most evil of the retro Science Fiction weapons, much more than a hero's clean chrome Ray Gun.

Nikola Tesla teased his "teleforce" weapon for decades, promising it could shoot down airplanes from 250 miles away. The hype really took off in the run-up to World War II, as the Nazis gathered a fearsome air force. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that the ray worked, and even if it did, the intensity of a beam aimed at the Earth diminishes exponentially over distance.

Nevertheless, the idea of a ranged energy weapon continues to attract inventors and dreamers. One recent attempt is the scalar generator. It uses a laser-like technology that creates extremely high-intensity electromagnetic fields that cause a target to disintegrate. It's not the death ray, but it can kill people and destroy buildings.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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