Kinkajou : This is a really new concept. Something I don’t think we really do much if at all. Most of our shields are made of physical matter. Armour so to speak.
Erasmus :There is however such a thing as energy shielding. For example, fusion reactors use electromagnetic flux to create a bottle in which the fusion reaction can occur. Unfortunately, these types of shields have “sign”, which somewhat limits their ability to shield. A shield that is positive will push protons into the centre of the flux bottle, but will attract electrons. So you can’t have it both ways. You can either push or pull against positive or negative charges, but you cannot do both at the same time.
Electromagnetic Field Shield Principle
Energy shields are otherwise one technology that I always thought was pure bullshit. I have lost count of the number of Sci Fi books where the spaceship is protected by shields. “Shields of what”, I always thought. I could not see my way through to where such a thing was even vaguely conceivable.
There is no way to deflect rocks , nonmagnetic projectiles, non-charged particles or streams of photons with the only forces that humans had at their disposal i.e. electromagnetic forces, gravity, (strong and weak nuclear bonding forces).
Erasmus :Then I read a book called “Halo”, based on the Xbox game of that name. Suddenly perhaps such a thing may be possible. The basis for shields relies on the fact that the universe actually has 11-13 dimensions. It may be possible to deflect incoming energy or matter into these dimensions or to alter some facet of the vibrating nature of their strings” so as to change the ability or projectile or particles or forces to do damage.
I became quite excited when I read the “Halo” book. Perhaps human beings could exploit some facet of this technology not to shield a spaceship, but at least to shield a nuclear reactor core or to control, contain deflect or direct particles: atomic or subatomic.
It still brings us no closer to seeing if there could be a reality in this proposal. Still, now there is at least some sort of vague theory that suggests that it may in fact be at least “possible”.
Alien Covenant Trooper (Halo)
Kinkajou : Any other perspectives on shielding from say the Quantum world?
Erasmus :Quantum theory suggests another possible solution. All matter effectively exists in all places in the universe at all times. (In effect, the dimension of space does not exist in the quantum world). It may be possible to displace matter to somewhere else using a quantum displacement model, effectively creating a shield.
This would make an immense difference to our ability to achieve many tasks. Fusion reactor cores, antimatter reactors or antimatter drive chambers and military shielding are all possible applications.
Kinkajou : We don’t even know if these things have a sound theoretical basis or are even possible.
Erasmus :True. At this point in time, humans are not even close to anything even looking vaguely like a shield. Still, if we go back a century we were just starting to wrestle with radio waves and radar. Now we routinely generate these same waves, for communication, in electrical current generation, in cooking (microwaves) and in shielding for fusion reactors and particle colliders.
Electromagnetic theory is important in understanding the impedance, reactance and capacitance of electronic circuits. Electronic circuit chips such as computer CPUs push the envelope of performance in terms of managing electromagnetic fields. So in an incredibly short time we have come a long way with electromagnetism.
Erasmus :Time and the future will tell where we go in the next 100 years.
What Has Real Life Suggested as Energy Shields?
Kinkajou : So how have people imagined force fields or energy shields?
Erasmus : These shields or fields are often known by a number of names. Common names include: plasma shield, force field, energy shield, deflector shield. The concept suggests a force present in space of sufficient magnitude to affect physical objects or matter or energy passing through space.
A force field, sometimes known as an energy shield, force shield, or deflector shield is a concept of a field tightly bounded and of significant magnitude so that objects affected by the particular force relating to the field are unable to pass through the central axis of the field and reach the other side
Kinkajou : Do we actually use anything of the sort?
Erasmus :Yes, we actually do but only in very specific applications. Humanity is capable of generating very strong magnetic fields.
- These fields are used in magnetic resonance imaging MRI, and cyclotrons and linear accelerators for isotope production or research predominantly.
- We have generated extremely strong electromagnetic fields as containment fields for proposed fusion reactors.
- We have used electromagnetic fields to levitate antihydrogen atoms in micro-balls at absolute zero.
- Technically a laser is an electromagnetic field made up of electromagnetic particles or photons. So any application utilising a laser is strictly using electromagnetic fields or shields.
- Faraday cages are routine but are predominantly isolating or defensive in application. They rely on the principle that when the exiting EMF wave has a wavelength greater than the hole through which it trying to pass, the EMF wave creates induction currents in the encircling mesh / material, resulting in the absorption of the EMF wave. Big wavelength EMF photons can’t pass through small holes.
- Magnetic shielding is an important consideration for earth orbit spaceships to deflect high energy alpha particles and their impact related secondary radiation cascades. Earth may well be a fairly uninhabited place were it not for the magnetic shielding provided by its Van Allen Magnetic field.
Electromagnetic Flux Fieldlines
I think that when we talk about force fields and shields we’re talking about military applications of fields and this is a very different area to our current commercial and industrial uses of fields.
Kinkajou : What about electromagnetism? Any new ideas?
Erasmus :Again when we’re thinking of energy shields, we think about military applications. Using matter to shield against EMP pulse or electromagnetic pulse requires large thick slabs of conducting material such as metals. It is much more effective apparently to use internally generated electromagnetic fields to push away incident electromagnetic pulse energy. So electromagnetic shielding works best through the generation of electromagnetic fields.
The best way to shield against magnetism is with magnetism. (Magnetic force is based on very very very long wavelength photons, hence the predominance of field properties, versus particle like properties for higher energy photons.
Because we currently have few weapons which use this type of technology, we really have not learned to defend against incident electromagnetic (i.e. emphasise magnetic) energy.
Kinkajou : Back to the magnetic shielding example, “where might this be used in spaceships?”
Erasmus :Scientists in Britain and the USA have invented a “mini-magnetosphere” to protect astronauts during solar storms. NASA has developed a mini magnetosphere shield for a Mars mission. It turns out that prototypes guarantee almost total protection against high energy solar particles / ions (especially alpha particles), such as commonly appear in solar magnetic storms.
One developed system that uses energy equivalent to the output of an electric kettle to create two mini magnetospheres within two mini satellites outside of the spaceship. In the event of an increase of solar wind flux or approaching cloud of energetic particles from a flare or a coronal mass projection (CME), the magnetosphere device can be switched on, resulting in a deflection of solar irons, namely protons and electrons away from the spacecraft.
“Solar storms or winds are one of the greatest dangers of deep space travel. If you got hit by one not only would it take out the electronics of a ship but the astronauts would soon take on the appearance of an overcooked pizza.
Spaceship Energy Shield
Kinkajou : You’ve talked about shielding magnetism. Tell us about shielding higher frequency photons.
Erasmus :Shielding from RF (radio frequency) electromagnetic photons is a much simpler process. A simple sheet of aluminium will reflect much of this energy even at very high incident energy levels. Since many of our military craft are constructed from metals, there is a significant amount of inherent in a shielding already.
(CENSORED)CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”.
No military devices of the “shield” kind currently exist in a practical form, although some are exploring possibilities.
- It has been proposed to encase satellites in a plasma "bubble", contained by wire mesh or electromagnetism, to vaporize debris before it can damage the satellite within.
- The possibility of Solid Light also fits the criteria. However, one known flaw of the plasma "bubble" would be that it isn't designed to protect any specific subject. As a result, the bubble would overheat and incinerate the occupant of the bubble since it is made out of charged, superheated gas that would rapidly gain heat as damage was received.
- Another possibility in principle for some form of shielding would be a combination of technologies, such as combining certain nanotech techniques like carbon nanotubes, a "wall" of lasers, and a thin layer of superheated plasma above it.
The carbon nanotubes would be constructed and arrayed into a lattice structure conforming to the shape of the object, and would be capable of withstanding considerable impact, due to the nanotube's great strength. It would also be invisible due to its nanoscale structure, while the grid of lasers would help vaporize incoming objects that the plasma sheath did not absorb.
- Though the shield would work against solid impacts and particle weapons, it would not be able to stop lasers. It would need an ability called Photochromism, which is an ability in some materials to absorb certain parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as that possessed by sunglasses to deal with UV light. Though carbon nanotubes do not currently possess this ability, it may be possible to give them this capability.
This shield would visually match the typical depictions of shields in science fiction. However, issues of flexibility, weight, energy requirements, heat dissipation, and similar considerations would make this far beyond most foreseeable technologies, though it is not impossible in principle. It should be noted that photochromism isn't an instantaneous process, it takes time to complete, during which enough radiation can penetrate successfully to accomplish the objective.
In science fiction, military application of force fields or energy shields abound.
Plasma Bubble in Space Shield
Kinkajou : So any other ideas for the real world?
Erasmus :Well yes there are some very obvious other prospects we have not mentioned. The most obvious arises from the generation of gravity. This is a very important in fact critical field for humanity to learn to generate. If we can generate gravity we can:
- Use gravity to drive spaceships
- Use gravity to deflect gas dust and micrometeorites present in space which may impact on our spaceships at substantial relativistic speeds.
- Use gravity to deflect incoming matter such as missiles and even electromagnetic waves such as photons (after all energy equals mass so photons are affected by gravity).
- Use gravity for reaction chamber shielding for fusion reactors or antimatter drives / reactors
- Use gravity perhaps in the science fiction picture of a space bound “aircraft carrier” loading and unloading fighters or bombers or shuttlecraft without a physical barrier to the vacuum of space, using fields, namely the gravity field, to maintain atmospheric integrity.
- Use gravity to make ships able to dive into the depths of the oceans, into the depths of gas giant planets or even perhaps into the sun. By generating our own gravity pushing outwards, we can counteract pressure pushing inwards. Our ships are no longer constrained by the strength of matter but are reinforced by the strengths of fields.
Gravity is a distinct advantage over EMF shielding as it acts on inert as well as charged matter equally. In short, it acts on all matter.
So the critical technology to enable us to use energy field energy shields is development of the generation of gravity. (CENSORED) CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”.
Plasma Bubble Energy In Space
Kinkajou : Any thoughts for the future?
Erasmus : In the future: perhaps we can use strong and weak nuclear forces to provide a conduit for energies to different dimensions. This is something I think no one has imagined much. Also the quantum world beckons us with possibilities. So where we end up, nobody knows.
What Has Fiction Suggested as Energy Shields?
Kinkajou : Tell us what people have imagined energy shields being like.
Erasmus :Uses of Shields in Fiction and Video through the ages
- E.E. 'Doc' Smith: Lensman and Skylark series: the series make significant use of shields and spaceships in space conflict.
- Star Trek universe), energy shields can stop, or mitigate the effects of, both energy and particle weapons (e.g. phasers) and normal projectiles, both natural and artificial.
In the various series, shields function primarily as a defensive measure against weapons fire from other ships; these shields also generally block the use of transporters while active. Also, inside ships, force field generators can seal off ship atmosphere from the vacuum of space, as in the case of a hull breach caused by an attack or explosion.
Later versions have the windows in the spaceship made of force fields, not of matter. Makes you worry about what might happen if the power runs out.
Photon Plasma Bubble fired from spaceship
- Stargate: personal shields are carried by some of the Goa’uld.
- Star Wars universe: deflector shields are standard issue on most ships
- Some video games that employ the concept of force fields include the
- Command & Conquer
- Mass Effect trilogy,
- StarCraft (series),
- And the Halo franchise.
- In Frank Herbert's Dune series, shields are predominantly used on vessels and on an individual basis by people. Personal shields have been deployed that can stop objects with high kinetic energy.
As well, when struck by an energy weapon, the subsequent violent reaction makes both the shield and emitter explode. In response to this, many have returned to using melee weapons, slowed before strike to penetrate the shield. On Arrakis shield technology is avoided, as it tends to attract the local fauna (sandworms) and drive them into a killing frenzy.
Dune -Shielding - the Atreides and other people used shielding- advantages but also dangers in its interaction with lasgun energies.
- In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, the characters often comment on the Empire Science able to make a force field to protect a city, but not a person. In the Foundation universe, personal shields have been developed by scientists specializing in the miniaturization of planet-based shields. As they are primarily used by Foundation Traders, most other inhabitants in the Galactic Empire do not know about this technology.
Kinkajou : Tell about the energy shielding proposed in the Halo Series. I think most kids today would be aware of the Halo technology.
Erasmus :Energy shielding is an important piece of technology that protects users from harm. The use of shields is well expounded in the Halo series of video games. Shields may be integrated into different armour systems such as the MJOLNIR or the Sangheili armour or may be used as personal shields by soldiers such as the Covenant Jackals. Shields of this sort are also useful in electronic camouflage systems and infrared diffusion camouflage.
The Covenant uses energy shielding.
Unlike humans, the Covenant has a very extensive knowledge of shielding equipment and its uses. Examples of this excellent understanding are everywhere. Elite Personal Energy Shields, Jackal Point Defence Gauntlets, Brute Power Armour, Stationary Shield Generators, Portable Shield Generators, Shield Doors, and Starship Shields are just some of the basic examples.
The greatest example of the Covenant's understanding is in the use of body shielding, for all Elites, with the exception of Stealth Elites in Halo. Nearly all Covenant vessels are protected by a highly resistant energy shield that can recharge over time.
The only known flaw of Starship shields is that when the vessel fires its Plasma weapons, the ship needs to drop a section of its shields for a fraction of a second. Otherwise, the Plasma Torpedo would detonate on the inside of the shields.
Energy Sword Halo
The ability to create a force field is a popular superpower in
- Invisible Woman
- Green Lantern's,
- Jean Grey's telekinesis, and
- Magneto's manipulation of electromagnetic fields.
Energy Shields Operation
Kinkajou : So what do you think Goo?
I think it’s very obvious the most critical field we need to be able to generate is gravity. Gravity is a field. Gravity is a shield.
There is room for considerable development in magnetic and RF shielding. (CENSORED) CENSORED "ref ...................." by order of “Frobisher” authorised by “The Commandant”.