Humans have dreamed of weaponised lasers since HG Wells first mooted them. Should we be careful what we wish for?
You can thank HG Wells for the idea of a ray gun. Weaponised lasers, microwave beams, particle beams and so on ... Wells’s Martian death rays in 1897’s War of the Worlds sparked the concept.
Twenty years later one Albert Einstein offered a proof of concept in 1917, and then Charles Townes finally made one (OK, a laser) in 1951. Star Trek injected further vim to the fantasy of handheld zappers with its phasers, followed by the blasters of Star Wars – enough appetite to stimulate real military research – remember Ronald “Ray gun” and his Star Wars programme?
Military research into so-called directed energy weapons (Dew), continues to this day. So why, in the 21st century, are we still hurling bits of hot metal about? Where’s my ray gun?
Compared with conventional weapons, a laser could be deadly accurate, silent, light speed, cheap to use and would never run out of ammo. But so far, the chemical reactions in guns and artillery are just heaps more efficient.