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Star Wars Prequels Science

Physics Students Devise Concept For Star Wars-Style Deflector Shields 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the stay-on-target dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes in with good news for everyone worrying about the strength of their shields. "If you have often imagined yourself piloting your X-Wing fighter on an attack run on the Death Star, you'll be reassured that University of Leicester students have demonstrated that your shields could take whatever the Imperial fleet can throw at you. The only drawback is that you won't be able to see a thing outside of your starfighter. In anticipation of Star Wars Day on 4 May, three fourth-year Physics students at the University have proven that shields, such as those seen protecting spaceships in the Star Wars film series, would not only be scientifically feasible, they have also shown that the science behind the principle is already used here on Earth."
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Physics Students Devise Concept For Star Wars-Style Deflector Shields

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  • Good to know (Score:5, Informative)

    by AG the other (1169501) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:11PM (#46896193)

    Larry Niven will be glad to know that since he used opaque shields in "The Mote in God's Eye"

    • Re:Good to know (Score:5, Informative)

      by JBird (31996) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:18PM (#46896245) Homepage

      E.E. Doc Smith had a similar concept as well in his Skylark series published back in the 1930s. Known as a "Zone of Force". If you turned it on you were basically invulnerable but you couldn't see aything until you dropped it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "The Langston Field is a fictional device featured in the CoDominium series of science-fiction novels, initiated by SF writer Jerry Pournelle."

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Langston_Field

    • by CRCulver (715279)

      Larry Niven will be glad to know that since he used opaque shields in "The Mote in God's Eye"

      Even before that Niven had proposed a different opaque shielding device. The Slaver stasis field, introduced in World of Ptaavs in 1962, is a forcefield inside of which time doesn't move and which completely reflects all light shone on it (so any object encased in it looks like a mirror). Later, in Ringworld, the Slaver stasis field is automatically triggered to protect the passengers on a starship when under fire.

      • Minor technical quibble: it wasn't what was inside the field that shone like a mirror, it was the field itself.

        But here's the other thing that got me when I read the stories: it's all great that a stasis field would protect its contents from virtually anything... but there is no possible way to turn the field off from inside, since time does not pass.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Well, in one of the stories, you couldn't turn off the field from the inside. And in others, there was some sort of automatic mechanism. ISTR the field was powered by whatever it was protecting the occupants from.

          • field was powered by whatever it was protecting the occupants from

            that doesn't sound like a very good idea...sure you can't destroy them, but couldn't you indefinitely imprison your foe in their own shield by just keeping some sort of high powered laser shining on it? or put it inside a magnetic field and pump plasma into it...like the shields from the article...

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              that doesn't sound like a very good idea...sure you can't destroy them, but couldn't you indefinitely imprison your foe in their own shield by just keeping some sort of high powered laser shining on it?

              Yes, this is mentioned in one of the texts. Dropping a stasis ship into a sun with a long expiration date is a pretty long-term prison.

        • there is no possible way to turn the field off from inside, since time does not pass.

          Which is just as well. Because breathing and pooping.

          Eventually the batteries will run out. Or something.

      • Asimov did it first in "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeds_There_a_Man...%3F">Breeds There a Man...?</a>", published 1951.
    • by wjcofkc (964165)
      Jerry Pournelle co-wrote "The Mote in God's Eye." I am not trying to troll your post, but credit should be given where it's due. They also both wrote "The Gripping Hand." While Pournelle's daughter went solo writing "Outies."
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Forget that, I want a Wookie... Most of the fights you get into are close combat and wookies rule in that range.

    Anyway, you speak of the wrong fictional universe, I speak for all Anonymous Cowards when I say that the Star Trek universe is far more interesting... Who wants to deal with the Empire (aka your average over-bloated government) when you could be like beam me up Scottie and shit like that in a commie world of tomorrow, with replicators and off world exploration for fun... I mean, which one is more

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      which one is more realistic given our trajectory if we ever get past the lame phase of 3D printers?

      Evil empire? Check.
      Religious fundamentalist terrorists fighting the technologically superior empire, which also happens to be controlled by someone who holds strong religious beliefs? Check.
      Ridiculously expensive and often ineffective military hardware only used to fight a handful of Sand People? Check.

      The future doesn't look much Star Trekky to me.

    • You can beam up first. Personally, I'd be with McCoy in not wanting my atoms ripped apart so they could hopefully be reassembled somewhere else maybe glitch-free.

      Too many things could go wrong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW-NiGp1gys

  • Journalists have long imagined themselves piloting X-wing fighters to free the Universe of the Evil Empire. Today, journalists have collectively decided to just fucking give up altogether. Journalists have agreed to basically denounce, forsake, and abandon every last thin thread of reality that they may or may not have been holding onto in order to retain some sort of reason, professionalism, or sanity.

  • I look forward to angling them while you make the calculations for the jump to light speed.
  • Posting to undo weird mismoderation.
  • Ah, yes. The Ionisphere. Been using some of the layers for decades. Also, you might want to check out what Maximum Useable Frequency or MUF means.
    • by Dantoo (176555)

      Yes but every time the sun blasts us with extra rays of energy my mufs get depressed. Never a happy time. :)

  • by Dereck1701 (1922824) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:42PM (#46896365)

    This is hardly new, scientists have been playing around with plasma windows & fields for quite some time. They're currently only a few inches in size but could be scaled up to larger dimensions, the problem is power and the pretty powerful magnetic & electrical fields needed to create them.

  • Have been talking about this for years, I understand they're working with Howard on a prototype but it's a secret so don't tell anyone.

  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:46PM (#46896645)
    Would be easier just to "polarize the hull plating"
    • by Y.A.A.P. (1252040) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @11:51PM (#46896865)

      Sadly, considering where that originates from, it's true.

      Channeling a magnetic field through a ferromagnetic metallic "skin" (hull plating) will deflect or scatter charged particle weapons or hazards.

      Similarly, one could "paint" one of the various forms of materials whose optical properties can be altered by passing electrical current through it. It could be made to be 100% optically absorbent (the same as using two polarized optical filters set at a 90 degree rotation with respect to each other) in order to prevent you being spotted when you're in space. If someone sees you (since you just passed in-between a light source and them), and they shoot lasers at you, you change the polarization to make the material 100% optically reflective, thereby bouncing the laser off your ship.

      Any laser much higher or lower in frequency than the visible spectrum (as in beyond IR and UV, which could also be affected by a very small subset of the materials which handles the visible light frequencies) is fairly difficult and inefficient to produce, therefore making it extraordinarily unlikely to be used as a weapon.

    • Polarized hull plating could be effective against anything with a charge, like electron beams, positron beams or black holes that are charged so they can be electrically accelerated (this is the realm of science fiction).
      However, cannonballs do not have charge. Lasers do not have charge. They ignore the hull polarization.

      • So, more or less like any enemies they encountered in Enterprise, then ;-)

        Seriously, it seemed like the hull plating could only ever take one hit without depolarizing.

    • by Ecuador (740021)
      I'd go with increasing the hull integrity field...
  • by hyperfine transition (869239) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:15AM (#46898029)

    The paper is a one pager of introductory plasma physics. It isn't a serious calculation and it wasn't meant to be. Anyway ...

    Their model is as follows. A plasma will reflect all electromagnetic radiation below a certain frequency, determined by its density. The plasma exerts a pressure like a gas and they then assume confinement of the plasma with a magnetic field, balancing the plasma pressure with the 'pressure' that a magnetic field exerts on charged particles. They then say that we can make magnetic fields in the range up to 100 T and working back, estimate the plasma frequency, which turns out to be in the UV. So great, you can deflect lasers into the UV with a modest confining field.

    You need to look at some of the other numbers though.
    First, what sort of plasma density do you need to reflect UV ? The answer is something like 10^28 per cubic m. This is enormous - fusion plasmas are about a million times less dense). It's getting close to solid state density eg if a solid has atoms 0.2 nm apart this is 10^29 atoms per cubic m. That is not going to be easy .... The other problem is that at such a high density, the collision frequency is very high so that a magnetic field is not very effective at producing confinement. Probably useless in fact.

    The other thing to look at is the required plasma temperature. They assume a temperature of 1000 K, Unfortunately, the density of a plasma at 1000 K at thermal equilibrium is extremely low unless the background pressure is huge. So it has to be a lot hotter, in particular, comparable with the ionization energy which is roughly 100 000 K. And really, we need a fully ionized plasma because the magnetic field is not going to confine the neutral gas that we are using to make the plasma so that means we need a 100 000 K plasma. This means that the required magnetic field goes up by a factor of 10.

    Would somebody else like to estimate how much power you need to dump into the plasma ?

  • shields, such as those seen protecting spaceships in the Star Wars film series

    won't be able to see a thing outside of your starfighter.

    These two statements are incompatible.

  • Star Wars didn't even remotely do this first... in fact, it wasn't even the first in major media, seeing as how this was the whole point of the "deflector dish" in Star Trek.

    Also, they've "proven" or "demonstrated" precisely nothing, as they have tested - and derived results from - precisely nothing.

    Finally, the feasibility of this was demonstrated long ago by an "odd" occurrence in a 3M plant making polypropylene film [amasci.com], not to mention the high-strength electro-magnetic fields (or "bottles") currently in

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