Interesting question, isn’t it? Especially if one imagines that we humans could conceivably be on the receiving end of said weapons. Of course, we’d have to meet the aliens first (or they’d have to discover us) and the relationship between our two species would have to be one where aggression made sense. That last is probably the most realistic assumption, considering our inability to get along with each other.
Our historical tendency towards international (possibly interstellar in the future) aggression and our distrust of those who are not members of our own self-identified group is actually the motivating point of my Gaea Ascendant trilogy. It starts with a sneaky alien invasion, works through multiple attacks, and ends with an attempt to structure a way for humans and two allied alien species to co-exist peacefully in an interdependent manner.
In the process, my hero, Declan Dunham, asks one of the Sunnys (a non-aggressive species that provides a lot of the advanced technology to the fledgling confederacy) how one of their primary weapons, an anti-matter projector, works. Below is a section from “Confederation”, the third book in the trilogy, wherein Frazzle attempts to explain the weapon. You’ll notice that Frazzle’s command of English is only fair. Humans cannot speak the Sunny language at all due to their use of whistles and supersonics that are beyond our capacity to reproduce. As an aside, Frazzle and Red are a mated pair and Dec has interrupted them in the middle of a moment of alien romantic cuddling.
Here’s the section:
Frazzle let his shoulders droop and I knew that he was upset, but Red suddenly gave him a hard shove. “Get over dat!” she said. “You and me both know dat there be plenty of need for the shooters. Tell Dec what he need to know.”
Frazzle sort of shook himself and then asked, “Whats you want to know. I can talk about the technology an I tries not to think about the use.”
I considered how best to ask. “What I want to know is a simple explanation of how they work and what could go wrong with them unexpectedly. I don’t want to be surprised at a critical moment.”
He seemed to be thinking it over, so I added, “I’d also like to know about their limitations and true capabilities. I feel like I’ve been lucky so far and I need to know more.”
He drew a breath and began to explain, “Making de anti-matter particles normally takes much energy, but we cheats. The weapon creates a field that gathers positively charged virtual particles from the sub-field of space – ”
Here I interrupted, “What’s that mean?”
He continued, “You call it de quantum plenum. It’s full of particles of all sorts coming and going, so there plenty of anti-particles to grab with the weapon field. The power of the weapon, the little power packs for the hand weapons and the ship power for the big gun first are used to grab these particles. All sizes of guns work the same, just the smaller ones can’t grab as much particles.”
He paused for breath and I interrupted again, “What happens to the particles once they’re captured by this field?”
He smiled; a closed-lip tightening of his cheek muscles, and looked aside at Red. She nodded her head.
“Dat a good question and it’s the next thing that the power pack does. It powers a circular field that uses the strong magnet force. The positive particles pulled from the virtual plenum become real here and are trapped in the circle field. When the shoot button is pushed, the field opens and the particles, whoosh – ” waving his hand wildly, “fly out. The direction tube (by which I thought he meant the barrel) has magnetic field that keeps the particles in the tube and away from the sides. That field also makes the particles to go faster. It uses electric force to make them accelerate to close to light speed. An you know what happens when anti-particles hit regular matter. Fswhoosh!” He threw both paws up in a gesture intended to represent the resulting annihilation.
“Okay. That sort of explains how the things work,” I said, thinking about what he’d just told me. “What can go wrong with the system? Does it wear out or break?”
“De direction tube and the place where the circle field is can sometimes get eroded by leaking particles. This happens most when the power pack is low and the magnetic field not strong enough. So, we put limiter on the weapon. It won’t work if not enough power. The hand held ones have flashing red light when power packs get too low. But this not a problem for the big shooter attached to ship-power. It not run out of shots and power is enough to keep erosion very low.”
He scratched his nose and then continued slowly, “De only problem you have with the big ones is that regular atoms in air or space dust get dissolved and thin anti-matter pulse down. If too much dust, or try to shoot through too much air, the pulse gets used up and no damage to the target happen. Same happens to small guns if try to shoot too far.”
“Frazzle, I’ve always thought that anti-matter reacting with regular matter would create an explosion. Why doesn’t that happen?”
“The shooters project a long burst of particles. Not much hit at once, though very fast. Difference like dripping water on dirt compared to dumping whole bucket at once on dirt pile. Best I can ‘splain,” he shrugged in a very human-like gesture.
Our, or maybe I should say, my grasp of physics wasn’t up to much more than this anyway, so I went on to my next question, “How far and how fast do the big ship cannons shoot?”
“De direction tube on the big ones use lot of energy with each pulse. By time the pulse reach the end of tube, it going nearly light speed. That gives very fast shot. Distance determined by matter in between like I ‘splain. Only thing is shooting at long, long distance, pulse take a while to get there, so target can move,” he answered, waving his finger in the air with an attitude of admonition.
“Okay, so keep the targets fairly close. The atmosphere must not be too much of a problem for the big gun. It had no problem burning a wide path through the middle of the Pug-bears position from space.”
“Dat’s correct. It more a problem for the hand-held weapons. They’re not nearly as powerful. But when we shooted Boulder to get the Pugs, I boosted power in the gun so the circle magnetic field built up much more particles than normal. Can’t do that much and it take some time. Try too often and erosions becomes a problem,” he answered.
I judged that I’d gotten about as much information as I could understand. “Thank you! I’m going to go talk to Rudy. You two continue where you left off.”
They laughed as I turned to the transporter. I was still smiling myself when I came back into the bridge.
That’s the section. Now, should you be so disposed, I’d be quite interested to read critiques of the piece, particularly the implied science.
BTW – Here are the links to the series on Kindle:
Note that I’m about to re-release The Time of the Cat. It is my first fiction novel and it is self-edited. I’ve now got an editor and we’re working to make the story an easier read. The new edition should be out by 5/1/2016.