Seven Sci-Fi Weapons from Tomorrow Are Here Today

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by common_sense_seeker, Jun 17, 2010.

  1. Kernl Sandrs Registered Senior Member

    Ah. Very cool. I know X-rays are potentially deadly, but I doubt you could use that as a means of warfare. I imagine the Geneva Conventions have banned that particular weapon.
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  3. Echo3Romeo One man wolfpack Registered Senior Member

    Nitpick: you're thinking of the wrong treaty. The GCs only apply to treatment of civilians and enemy prisoners of war. The treaty relevant to a hypothetical X-ray weapon would be the CCWC, which already disallows laser weapons designed for "blinding". As an aside, this is one of the major reasons why battlefield lasers used for ranging, weapon guidance, etc. use "eye safe" wavelengths that are absorbed by the cornea without causing retinal damage.
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  5. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    In fact it is not X-ray vision. I suspect they are talking of Terahertz or T-ray wavelengths. 0.1 to 1 mm.

    These have been suggested as a means of detecting terrorist devices on outbound aircraft passengers without the people even knowing they were being scanned.

    The problem is that the T rays pass right through clothes and reveal the naked body underneath, as well as any potential terrorist device, and this is not currently acceptable to the population as a whole.

    To phlog.

    No, I am not naive. I am very aware of the history of warfare, which shows clearly that advances in military technology increase, rather than reduce battlefield casualties, and that such technology soon finds its way into the hands of the military on both sides of any conflict. Which means that fatalities increase on both sides. For this reason, 'advances' in military technology are unwelcome.

    For example : the first two machine guns (Gatling gun and Maxim machine gun) were invented by Americans. Yet when Americans fought in World War I, they were slaughtered in their thousands by the superior machine guns built and wielded by Germans. Even more died in WWII from German machine guns.

    The whole world would be better off if such technological advances never happened. They represent death and destruction. Let's use advances in technology for peaceful uses instead.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2010
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  7. phlogistician Banned Banned

    Exactly, and mutually assured destruction has kept us safe.

    WRT your point about gatling guns, now normalise those losses as a % of the human population.

    And you are naive, what happens in asymmetric warfare?
  8. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    It depends what you mean by "increase".
    Possibly true in overall numbers, but only because more men are fed into the battle.
    In fact casualty rates, % of troops engaged becoming casualties, has held steady or fallen as technology has increased.

    See also Numbers, Prediction, and War by T. N. Dupuy. (My copy's in storage at the moment, otherwise I'd quote it) but, from memory, he's graphed casualty rates against time (i.e. year through history) and found that as weapon lethality increases armies spread out and cover more ground, becoming harder to hit thus reducing the casualty rate.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2010
  9. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    You are, of course, correct in pointing out that casualties fall with the advance of civilisation. However, this is not related to advances in weapons technology, which actually does the reverse. A battle between two tribal groups which involves stone and wooden clubs, may result in a death toll of a few only.

    I have some knowledge of this, due to my association with the Polynesian Maori people of my own country, and also with the Melanesian Fijians, with whom I lived for several years. The history of recent tribal warfare within those groups, before the widespread introduction of firearms has been recorded.

    Sadly, there are also detailed records of casualty rates within those groups after firearms were introduced. Instead of two dead after a battle, it is 200.

    A similar set of tragic figures are available for the introduction of machine guns, and especially machine guns of more advanced design. The death toll after a battle increased dramatically. Of course, in time it fell again as strategists came more to grips with the implications of machine gun technology, and stupid actions such as charges against machine gun positions became less common. But overall, the increase in technology increased fatality rate in battle by a large amount.

    Fortunately, in the last 100 years, there has been another trend. This trend results in fewer war dead. Casualty reduction correlates with reduction in numbers of man/years of warfare. As humanity moved into the 20th and 21st Centuries, we have seen a dramatic reduction in isolationism.

    In old tribal situations, those who are considered friends are simply those who are part of the same tribe. Today, when we think of 'friends' (at least politically), we think of our whole nation, our allies, our trading partners, and all those with whom we cooperate. As a result of this, we have fewer enemies, and less need to do battle.

    In the old tribal days, battles were common, and pretty much every healthy male was engaged in war, usually many times. In spite of the fact that each battle killed few people, because there were so many battles, the chances of being killed in battle was very high. In the Yanomomo people of the Amazon, who are still tribal hunter/gatherers, and very warlike, the death toll from male on male violence is 20% to 80% of the entire male population. Imagine what would happen there if they had guns!

    The point I am making is that, in recent years, the death toll from war has been dropping - a very good thing - due to the simple fact that there are fewer wars. However, increased military technology still kills more people per battle.

    Reduction in numbers of wars comes from reduced isolation (having more political friends), and from diplomacy. Having more potent weapons means more deaths per battle in those wars that still, tragically, do happen.
  10. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Yet that contention is contradicted by the quote given, and Dupuy.

    Because more people tend to be involved in a rifle-armed battle than a sword fight. But as a % of of overall numbers the casualties are lower. The rise in casualties (actual numbers, as opposed to %) is more to do with organisation and industrialisation (releasing men for warfare as opposed to farming etc.) than technology (especially military technology).

    Again: this is due to increased numbers being involved.

    The quote in my post contradicts this. WWII for example had very few formations that approached anything like 80% (and not that many got to 20%) casualties (per formation). Just as an example the Battle of the Bulge gave ~10% Allied casualties (KIA, WIA,,MIA & POW) and ~23% German (depending on which figures you use: could be as high as ~50% or as low as ~13%). I have seen, somewhere (but I can't locate it) that the Napoleonic Wars had greater casualty rates than any other, before or since.

    Yet to be proven: again, as technology increased numbers of participants also increased (a trend which is shifting rapidly with the deployment of more and more "special forces").
  11. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    To Dy

    I think you may have misunderstood some of my previous post.

    For example : when I said the Yanomomo tribe suffered 20% to 80% fatalities from male on male aggression, I did not mean in a single battle. This is the lifetime percentage. Each tribesman might be involved in literally dozens of minor battles, and survive pretty much all of them. The lifetime average is still 20% to 80% fatality from this type of aggression.

    We had the case here in New Zealand where a Maori guy called Hongi Hika managed to lay his hands on a lot of muskets and ammunition. (How he did that is another story - but he was a smart guy, if ruthless.) With those in his possession, he and his fellow tribesmen set off on a campaign of slaughter, in which more Maori were killed in warfare than any time in anyone's memory. For Hongi Hika, the muskets were a major technological advance in weaponry, and his opponents were helpless. They died in their thousands. A series of such campaigns, called the Musket Wars, led to the total extinction of some tribes.

    The principle is simple. Primitive peoples fought a lot more wars. The total death rate per battle was small, due to the relatively ineffectual weaponry. But over a lifetime of many battles, the percentage of fatalities overall was great. And pretty much every adult male fights.

    Today, only a tiny percentage of the population ever fights in a war. But, due to the highly advanced nature of the weaponry, the number of fatalities per battle is very much greater. Bear in mind that WWII killed 55 million people. About half that was disease, starvation etc. But that still leaves 25 million plus killed by weapons. That kind of number would have been unheard of even a hundred years earlier, with the relatively primitive weaponry.

    Advances in military technology mean more dead people. They give a temporary advantage to one side or the other. In time, the other side will catch up. And then thousands more die on both sides.

    The world is much better off if military technology remains relatively primitive. I know this will not happen, because there are large numbers of extremely nasty people in all militaries who are desperate to gain even a small temporary advantage, and billions will continue to be spent on that evil effort.

    However, even knowing that, I feel abhorrence for those who glory in such technology.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  12. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    And how many "modern" wars (or "technological people") suffer that rate?

    How many people were involved?
    We're back, again. to how do you define casualty rates?
    As a % of those involved or in pure numbers?
    For example:
    France - 1.35%
    UK - 0.94%
    USSR - 14.18%
    Figures from here.

    Advances in technology? Like guided bombs as opposed to mass drops? Improved aiming systems? Discrimination systems?

    Bearing in mind that advances in military technology are also largely responsible for advances in medecine that's a rather short-sighted wish.

    The italicised portion is not only incorrect it's also a slanderous slur.
    I'm done with you.
  13. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Dy said :

    "And how many "modern" wars (or "technological people") suffer that rate?"

    A very tiny number. I do not have the reference now, but read the data some time ago. As I recall, and this might not be 100% accurate, the percentage of the population of a modern western nation that actually experience fighting is about 0.1%.

    How do I define casualty rates? In the context of my reference to WWII, that is absolute numbers of dead people. I thought that was made abundantly clear by my wording.

    Military technology is not responsible for most medical breakthroughs. It is responsible for a very small number of such. The vast bulk comes from research organisations, and particularly by pharmaceutical companies, who are in it to make money.

    I stand by my statement about the very nasty people in the military who push for more military technology. They are defined as nasty because they are experts in their field, and therefore are totally aware that more military technology means more people being killed or maimed. A little like tobacco company executives who do their damnedest to get more people hooked on nicotine in spite of their clear knowledge of the lethal consequences. I define such people as evil.

    I am delighted by the fact that the number of wars is reducing over the past 50 odd years. I am seriously unhappy about those who push for more military spending or more military technology.

    The number of wars is down, but there are still a number of conflicts that are quite unnecessary, and which are promulgated for unworthy motives. This means a lot of human suffering and death for no good reason.
  14. krazedkat IQ of "Highly Gifted"-"Genius" Registered Senior Member

    The Bigdog looks so awesome!
  15. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    I note you fail to read (or reply to) what I actually wrote. And show an ignorance of history.
    A large portion of our medical knowledge (particularly surgical procedures) derives from warfare and the military.

    ALL companies are "in it" to make money.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    It's not wise to stand by erroneous statements.

    I see you're still also ignoring completely the data I have given.

    Average number of wars per year for the period 1482-1939: 0.67.

    Wars currently ongoing: 25.

    Maybe you mean major wars.
  16. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    On medical advances, I note you have changed your claim from largely responsible for advances in medecine to the much more accurate A large portion of our medical knowledge (particularly surgical procedures) which is a statement I can live with. Still not totally accurate, but who's counting?

    Your stats about numbers of wars are not a valid comparison. The two numbers refer to quite different things. You cannot run a comparison back so far, anyway, since local conflicts in much of the world were not even documented back in the 15th Century. If you included tribal conflicts in primitive societies, the number of 'wars' would be in the thousands during those early years.

    I also note that the list of current wars you posted includes such things as drug wars. I would consider them to be non wars. More like police activity, since there is no clash between different nations.

    If you want to post data, try please to compare apples with apples in future.

    However, let me rephrase this so as to avoid a protracted argument. The number of people killed in wars over the past 100 odd years is getting less. This trend is clear from the beginning of the 20th century. The table in the reference below shows this clearly, with far more killed 1900 to 1950 than after.

    This trend is due to a reduction in isolationism. The trend towards the 'global village' reduces the tendency to willingness to attack and kill your neighbour. This trend is one I am very pleased to see.
  17. superstring01 Moderator

    Rail guns rock. I didn't realize their propinquity. I remember being interested in them since Aliens.

  18. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    You don't consider something that is a large portion to be largely responsible? Strange...

    Ah right. So as military technology improves the numbers of deaths drop?
    Isn't that counter to your original contention?

    Except that table lists only the biggest wars of the century.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  19. Actual Facts Banned Banned

    I find seven historical weapons from the past that aren't yet here today to be far more scary.

    In the Hindu epic the Mahabharata the following celestial weapons are described.

    1. The Brahmasira (a peerless weapon so powerful it could burn the whole universe).

    "The son [Drona] of Bharadwaja then addressed the illustrious and mighty car-warrior Arjuna and said, 'Accept, O thou of mighty arms, this very superior and irresistible weapon called Brahmasira with the methods of hurling and recalling it. Thou must not, however, ever use it against any human foe, for if hurled at any foe endued with inferior energy, it might burn the whole universe. It is said, O child, that this weapon hath not a peer in the three worlds." -- Mahabharata, Book I: Adi Parva, Section CXXXV, 8th century B.C.

    2. The Pasuputa (a mind activated, sight activated, and voice activated weapon so powerful it could destroy the whole universe).

    "Bhava replied, 'O powerful one [Arjuna]. I will give to thee that favourite weapon of mine called the Pasuputa. O son of Pandu, thou art capable of holding, hurling, and withdrawing it. Neither the chief himself of the gods, nor Yama, nor the king of the Yakshas, nor Varuna, nor Vayu, knoweth it. How could men know anything of it? But, O son of Pritha, this weapon should not be hurled without adequate cause; for if hurled at any foe of little might it may destroy the whole universe. In the three worlds with all their mobile and immobile creatures, there is none who is incapable of being slain by this weapon. And it may be hurled by the mind, by the eye, by words, and by the bow.'" -- Vaisampayana, Mahabharata, Book III: Vana Parva, Section XL, 8th century B.C.

    3. The Praswapa (a weapon so powerful the extraterrestrial gods forbade it's use).

    "Yonder, O Kauravya, stay the gods in the sky! Even they are forbidding thee today! Do not aim the Praswapa weapon!" -- Narada, Mahabharata, Book V: Udyoga Parva, Section CLXXXVIII, 8th century B.C.

    4. Metal U.F.O.'s with cloaking devices and sound seeking missiles.

    "But as that car of costly metals was in the sky, full two miles off, it could not, O Bharata, be seen by my troops. They could therefore only remaining on the field of battle look on like spectators in a place of amusement, cheering me on by shouts loud as the roar of the lion, and also by the sound of their clapping. And the tinted arrows shot by the fore-part of hand penetrated into the bodies of the Danavas like biting insects. And then arose cries in the car of precious metals from those that were dying of wounds by those sharp arrows and falling into the waters of the mighty ocean. And the Danavas deprived of their arms, necks, and wearing the form of Kavandhas,--fell, sending up tremendous roars. And as they fell they were devoured by animals living in the waters of the ocean." -- Vasudeva, Mahabharata, Book III: Vana Parva, Section XX, 8th century B.C.

    "And, O perpetuator of the Kuru race, I could not then see the car of costly metals, for it had vanished, through illusion! I was then filled with wonder! That host of Danavas then, O Bharata, of frightful visages and hair, set up a loud howl while I was waiting for it. In that fierce battle. I then, with the object of destroying them, fixed on my bow-string the weapon capable of piercing the foes if but his sound was inaudible. Upon this, their shouts ceased. But those Danavas that had sent up that shout were all slain by those shafts of mine blazing as the Sun himself, and capable of striking at the perception of sound alone. And after the shout had ceased at one place, O mighty king, another yell proceeded from another quarter. Thitherto also I sent my shafts. In this way, O Bharata, the Asuras began to send up yells in all the ten quarters above and across. These were all slain by me, viz., those that were in the skies and that were invisible, with arrows of diverse forms, and celestial weapons inspired with mantras. Then, O hero, that car of precious metals capable of going anywhere at will, bewildering my eyes, reappeared at Pragjyotisha!" -- Vasudeva, Mahabharata, Book III: Vana Parva, Section XXII, 8th century B.C.

    5. The Brahmastra

    "This weapon can slay any being within the three worlds, including Indra and Rudra." -- Mahabharata, 8th century B.C.

    6. The Saiva

    "I know also the science of human affairs. I am acquainted also with the Saiva weapon, and diverse other species of weapons." -- Drona, Mahabharata, Book VII: Drona Parva, Section VII, 8th century B.C.

    7. Celestial weapons of great force.

    "And thus between those mighty warriors there came about an encounter of celestial weapons of great force, at which the three worlds with their mobile and immobile creatures were sorely distressed." -- Markandeya, rishi, Mahabharata, Book III: Vana Parva, Section CCLXXXIII, 8th century B.C.

    Let's hope there's no technology leap backwards.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2010
  20. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Um, historical?
  21. Actual Facts Banned Banned

    The Mahabharata was written in the ancient past. Thus it is a historical document.

    Do you imagine it was written in the future?
  22. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    The document may be historical, that doesn't mean the items mentioned in that document are.
    Try fictional for the adjective.
  23. krazedkat IQ of "Highly Gifted"-"Genius" Registered Senior Member

    AN Historical document.

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