The announcement this week of a weapons grade LASER being successfully tested adds yet another sci-fi weapon to the sci-fact side of the board. Here are 5 sci-fi weapons that are being developed as we speak.
1) Giant Death LASERs
Sci-Fi writers love writing about death lasers -- powerful beams of light that instantaneously zap their victims with pinpoint accuracy. Ever since the invention of the LASER, it has been a favorite theme of Sci-Fi writers.
This week the first ever test firing of a weapons grade LASER was carried out successfully. Eventually, this LASER will be small enough to fit on a tank or a plane, although the prototype unit is a little big for that. However, it may not be too long before they're mounted on the front of aircraft in place of machine guns, or turned into LASER pistols a'la Star Wars (then there's the Death Star, since we're on the topic of Star Wars).
2) Sonic Bullets and Sound Guns
Acoustic weapons use the power of sound to bring ones enemies to their knees. Weapons like these have graced the likes of many sci-fi tales, including Star Wars. Could sound be used to create "Mars Attacks!" style head implosion?
It turns out -- maybe. For now, these weapons are relegated to the "irritant, Non-lethal" category, often relying on parabolic dish reflectors and high-powered amplifiers to force the victim to their knees in pain (like walking under those listening dishes at Fry's and hearing a Yoko Ono CD).
However, the potential for these weapons is pretty enormous. Acoustic weapons of the future can attack enemies through walls, kill them under water, or even dissolve their tissue. These are all current applications of ultrasonic technology, whether intentional or inadvertant.
3) Weapons that leave no trace
It's the perfect murder weapon -- a bullet that leaves no trace of itself. Believe it or not, something very similar already exists today! In fact, Isreal has been accused of using it in the recent Gaza strip fighting.
The weapon used today is called DIME - Dense Inert Metal Explosive. The official reason for using DIME weapons is that they have a very short kill radius due to the fast burning metals used. It is this limited but devastating kill radius that can be effective in limiting collateral damage. While the use of the weapon can be determined by the types of injuries it inflicts, it is almost entirely untraceable except for the tiny shrapnel-sized burns in its victims.
It's being touted as the ultimate urban warfare grenade, as enemies in densely populated areas to be targed with minimal risk to bystanders. Since the metal burns out so quickly, people that are just outside of the kill zone you can remain uninjured.
This technology may also be used in small arms for close-range combat to prevent friendly fire incidents by limiting the range of a bullet. Bullets could be created that have a very specific range, allowing soldiers to shoot without worrying about what's behind their target.
4) Missiles that can shoot down other missiles
This is like trying to stop a bullet by shooting it with another bullet. While it may work in the "curve the bullet" world of Wanted, in reality it's a much more difficult task. Yet today we're very much on our way to having it -- the program is called the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI).
The KEI program aims to prevent missiles from hitting their intended targets by stopping them in mid-air with other missiles. The technology required to do this is state-of-the-art -- they can geolocate and track missiles from anywhere in the world, creating an intercept path, and launching at the appropriate time for intercept. Weapons systems like this could eventually diffuse inbound weapons in the sky, before they ever have a chance to do damage to their targets.
5) Active Camouflage
The predator had it. The Master Chief has it. Pretty soon, we may have it as well. Active camouflage is any number of techniques that allow one to appear as logically invisible. Many of these technologies involve taking a video of one side of something, and projecting that image on the other side.
However, some recent research has turned up a new material that has a negative index of refraction -- basically, rather than reflecting light at a certain angle and refracting it at others, this material effectively refracts at all angles, "bending" the light around itself. For now, this only seems to work with Microwave radiation. However, there is research being undertaken to change this, and someday soon we could be coating our tanks with a paint that makes them invisible.