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Star Wars Prequels Science

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

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 @10:11PM (#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 @10:18PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:22PM (#46896263)

    The concept of shields was first introduced in Star Trek: Voyager.

    The concept of shields was idealized permanently into mainstream SF culture in "Star Trek: The Original Series".

  • Re:Good to know (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:28PM (#46896299)

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

  • Re:Lore (Score:5, Informative)

    by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:32PM (#46896313)

    No, "deflectors" are definately mentioned in A New Hope.

    "red leader" specifically-- "bring your rear deflectors on; double front"

    source: []

  • by Y.A.A.P. ( 1252040 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @12:51AM (#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.

  • Re:Lore (Score:4, Informative)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:43AM (#46897031) Homepage Journal

    Considering Obi Wan gives props to the precision of Stormtrooper marksmanship, one has to assume they actually had damn good aim.

  • Re:Sorry but (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:37AM (#46897317) Homepage Journal

    Lasers? What lasers?

    Those things on SW aren't lasers. One, they travel too slow (you can actually see the gaps in the pulses) and, following on from that, you can see them when they're not travelling right towards your remaining eye.

    Also, lasers don't go "pyew pyew!" and even if they did you wouldn't be able to hear them through a vacuum.

    Finally, parsecs.

  • by hyperfine transition ( 869239 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @08:15AM (#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 ?

  • Re:Lore (Score:4, Informative)

    by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @10:20AM (#46898893)

    Nerd hat on...

    Photon torpedoes are from Star Trek, they are matter/anti-matter missile weapons fired from the ship in a torpedo casing. They have guidance and a warp sustainer engine so if fired at warp they can maintain warp speed for a short period of time. (Phasers are directed energy weapons and thus can't be used at warp)

    Proton torpedoes are from Star Wars, they also are a cased missile weapon, much smaller than photon torpedoes, the X-Wing carries 6 of them, 3 per launcher. They are anti-capital ship weapons, unable to target most fighters, they are designed to penetrate thick durasteel hulls and explode inside the ship.

  • Re:Sorry but (Score:5, Informative)

    by Prune ( 557140 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @12:16PM (#46900143)
    It turns out that rectifying 50 kV is easier for a hobbyist than you may think. I was also once in a situation where I needed to do rectify high voltage. I bought a 120 kV medical X-ray machine on eBay years ago, less a power supply. The seller sent me (free!) a quad of antique KR-9 kenotrons, very large oil-cooled rectifier tubes. I was planning to use them for a bridge rectifier with the 1:800 transformer I found (though X-ray tubes can operate in self-rectifying mode, it's only active during part of the AC cycle). Unfortunately, after an argument my ex broke all but one of the kenotrons (which I'm especially bitter about now, after seeing a single one go on ebay for ~$150). But onto the solution. You can get 12-15 kV solid state rectifiers online in bulk from Chinese manufacturers. I bought 100 of them for around $40, though I don't remember if it was alibaba or another of these sites. The ones I got are good for an amp or two. Make a series and/or parallel network as needed to get to the voltage and current rating you need, making sure to add an extra 30% for peak inverse voltage because the rectifiers won't be perfectly matched, even if they're from the same batch by the manufacturer (if you're really worrying about mismatches, add a resistor divider network in parallel, connected at each node, to even out the voltage across each diode--set the resistance for about 10% idle current--and your use case must be able to take that amount of reverse leakage into account). Now the most important part--avoiding arcing. Take a PVC pipe that will fit your network, and two end caps to which you add screws as end terminals, and epoxy them in place. Connect your rectifier chain to the end-caps, stuffing it into the pipe, then fill the pipe with pure paraffin wax before sealing the second end. You could use transformer or even regular mineral oil (I'd not recommend baby oil, though), but it's likely to leak and that shit's hard to clean up--I use it for the transformer and speak from experience.
  • Re:Lore (Score:4, Informative)

    by painandgreed ( 692585 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @12:24PM (#46900233)

    Those are long-service regulars. Later on in the movie they've had to resort to conscription.

    Shit, I can't believe I'm trying to make sense out of star Wars.

    If you really want to make sense of the movie, just realize that the scenes where they can't hit anything is where they are actively trying to let the rebel princess escape so they can get onto a ship with a tracking beacon to lead them to the rest base which they really want. That plan couldn't work if the stormtroopers actually hit and killed everybody. Even Leia said the escape had been too easy. face it, all those stormtroopers had orders to miss.

Air is water with holes in it.