Warning lots of text ahead.

The fluff:

The story uses a Catastrophe Inhibitor (CatIn) to stop nukes, orbital bombardment and other such weapons from being the go-to method of defeating everything on a planet's surface. Additionally it also mitigates the horror of having easily accessible commercial space ships become easy weapons of terror by using its powersource or simply using them as kinetic weapons. The final goal of the system is to give a logical explanation why people would prefer to land invasionforces even in situations where the stragetic value of keeping everything on the ground relatively intact isnt very high.

The mechanics:

How CatIn exactly works is irrelevant, what it finally does is relevant. CatIn creates a field that connects a type of Dark Matter to other types of matter (Dark Matter II because its different from the currently hypothesized Dark Matter). This in effect does nothing yet. When a certain threshold force (say 15 kiloton's of TNT explosion or higher) propagates through the matter within the field the Dark Matter II will suddenly form a temporary 4rth spatial dimension for the energy to escape in, diminishing the size of the blast. To control the maximum size of an explosion a 5th, 6th or even more dimensions could be added at other thresholds. Meaning that a deathstar laser could theoretically have the same AOE as the hiroshima nuclear bomb instead of destroying the planet.

The extra dimension(s) will remain in existance and propogate alongside the explosion until the energy in the blastwave and the debris that is thrown with it reaches 1/xth of the original explosion force where x is the amount of extra dimensions created, then they'll disappear. Should the resulting force still be above 15 kilotons TNT then CatIn will simply lose one dimension and keep functioning until the force is dissipated enough before all extra dimensions cease to exist.

  • to prevent people doing things like turning off suns on a whim, about 500 nuclear powerplant size CatIn stations are required to protect an earth-like planet.

  • CatIn works if a volume of 1 cubic meter has a sudden change in forces higher than 15 kilotons TNT to prevent small-scale events like chemical reactions being affected.

The actual question:

The exact numbers are irrelevant for this question, with the exception of the first threshold of 15 kilotons TNT (which I can adapt if necessary). I want to know if this system will cause problems for things other than nuclear explosions. I assumed for a short while that CatIn would slow down the planet it is on because the planet moves with a certain force, then realized that it is about the propagation of energy relative to each other. But there could still be similar problems with other physics or things that would happen like launching a space ship. Some things can be prevented by saying you can create CatIn free zone's inside structures, but this doesnt mean that CatIn could be more dangerous than the bombs it is supposed to protect against.

So the final question that needs answering: How dangerous is CatIn to the inhabitants and living style of a space-faring civilization?

I hope the answer is "none" so I can use this theory without people reading the story and going "but why dont they use things by doing x?".

The CatIn more dimensions to reduce power was inspired by this: https://youtu.be/3HYw6vPR9qU

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why do you state that things are irrelevant yet shortly after continue to detail them anyways? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Oct 3, 2019 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ Without kinetic weapons of mass destruction, folks engaging in warfare will adapt: Chemical and biological weapons, non-kinetic radiological weapons (like dirty bombs), and good ol' society-crippling force-on-force attrition slugfests. Nasty stuff, any way you want to peel it. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Oct 3, 2019 at 15:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 15 kiloton [equivalent TNT] is a measure of energy not of force. (Not to mention that is is puny. A medium-sized hurricane dissipates an energy equivalent to about one 2.5 megaton bomb per minute. Every day Earth receives from the Sun an energy equivalent to over 60 gigatons of TNT.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 3, 2019 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T because they seem like they fall under irrelevant but arent. I try to avoid the last time when I asked this question when people got stuck on irrelevant and illogical stuff, like thinking that because the source of a nuclear explosion is different from a kinetic impact causing an explosion suddenly something was wrong. I would rather deal with "why arent these irrelevant when you say they are" than with randomness I cant predict. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 3, 2019 at 15:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP a breeze across a plain holds a nuclear bomb worth of energy, but it is spread across the plain and time, rather than concentrated. 15 kilotons starting in a relative small area isnt as puny. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 3, 2019 at 15:57

5 Answers 5


15 kilonewtons is not very much. A Saturn V rocket had a thrust of 35,000 kN spread over an area of about 80 square metres. That’s about 400 kN per square metre. So you’ve effectively prevented rocket launches.

  • $\begingroup$ A quick google search said the hiroshima explosion was 15 kilonewton (thinking back it may have been 15 kiloTONS of newton force), so I put that up as a minimum but I should change it then. However while the explosion of the rocket will be dissipated quickly it would still offer 35000 kN of force to the rocket, minus one dimension where the force is swallowed. With the rocket equation that will probably still lead to rockets not being able to fly but there is a difference. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 3, 2019 at 15:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Demigan: It released the energy equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. For bomb energy purposes, one ton of TNT is 4.184 GJ. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 3, 2019 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP thanks I knew I was doing something wrong but couldnt put my finger on it. I'll change the quesrion accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 3, 2019 at 16:10

Let’s have a look at The Boom Table. http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/usefultables.php This table lists the Joules released by chemical and mechanical interactions from one photon up to total energy conversion of known universe.

TNT has a standardized per-gram Joule release, and the table is indexed. So everything above 15 kilotons is impacted.

Two weird impacts that jump out at me:

No Big Earthquakes

Nothing over about 6.5 Richter.

No Hurricanes

Hurricanes release massive amounts of energy per second. Your field seems likely to dissipate the wind speeds, but it depends on how your field works and how the math works out.

Using the simplest math, hurricanes wouldn't be affected. Area of hurricane: 2.03e10 sq meters (radius of 50 miles for hurricane strength winds). Boom Table lists average energy output at 6.0e14 Joules. Dividing down... that's just 30e3 per sq meter, so no, hurricane wouldn't be affected. BUT the energy of a hurricane is not remotely equally distributed: it not only spikes in the inner core in non-linear way, and it also is released in surges. I believe the answer hinges on the whipping that happens in the upper atmosphere of the eyewall and the gusting of the winds. My handwavy calculations suggest the hurricanes wouldn't be able to form a stable eye because they'd spike over your field's threshold, but I'm sufficiently shaky on the math, I'm not even going to share those numbers. I'm just going to tell you that my numbers suggest it is possible, so you should find a meteorologist to give you a more precise answer.

Extrasolar Incoming Energy Extinction Event

Your field might also protect Earth from extinction in the event of a local Gamma Ray Burst. The incoming energy is well in excess of your field's threshold. Also, might protect Earth if a black hole's relativistic jets happened to sweep across our planet

You can explore the Boom Table for other effects.

  • $\begingroup$ Is a hurricane unleashing 15 kilotons of energy in an area the size of 1 square meter? $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 6, 2019 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @demigan I added details to the hurricane section $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Oct 7, 2019 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan And updated it for two additional threats that your field might protect us from. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Oct 7, 2019 at 3:52

I'm afraid it might be useless. Smart attackers will simply tailor their attacks into 'cluster bombs' with a large number of submunitions below whatever threshold you set.

Instead of a 1 megaton-attack they will split it into a million one-ton attacks which will be more effective and can even hit targeted on the same spot in quick succession to hit hardened and deeply buried targets.

Or they might use more energy-efficient forms of attack (virus, EMP, swarm of killer drones etc).

And it would not stop our biggest ongoing catastrophe, climate change...

  • $\begingroup$ The question isn't about if it's useful or not. The question is if this will cause problems with other things where you do want to have a lot of energy in a small area. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 6, 2019 at 15:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The question asks for effects... this answer suggests the main effect is that it will shift warfare and quickly be worked around. @demigan $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Oct 6, 2019 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM it asks what effects CatIn itself has for its users, not what effects it has for enemy tactics. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Oct 6, 2019 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ It's is extremely dangerous to them because it does not provide effective protection $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2019 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Climate change happens. Yes, some is human-caused, and thus execrable, but most is natural. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2020 at 11:54

The main drawback of such inhibitor would be problems with power generation and super-heavy rockets. Nuclear (or, I hope, near-future thermonuclear) reactors, huge hydrodams may exceed nuclear explosion in terms of mean power. Space launches would also be limited - rocket engines power, like it was written in KSP: "may exceed power generation of a small nation".

And I recomend you to clarify you definition on form of max allowed denisity of energy in time (i.e. power) and space - peak an mean (they may greatly vary)

During 15Kt nuclear explosion peak power is of order 10-100GW GW/m^3, average ("constant", i.e. power if explosion itself, not nuclear reacton) - 100 MW/m^3, and peak energy denisity is of order 10 PJ/m^3 (1E16). While peak energy production is high enough, average is quite limiting for a civilazation able to do space-drops.

  • $\begingroup$ it's "peak", a pike is a stick. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Lu
    Jun 8, 2020 at 18:34
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenLu, thanks for correction! $\endgroup$
    – ksbes
    Jun 9, 2020 at 8:54

Your field would provide protection against explosives. But there is also slash and burn and poison and ai weapons, and those are easily more dangerous when combined with totally unleashed high tec autonomous development and a terrorist mindset.

Your machine basically forces this, when thought over long time scales.

I guess that's what you want for your story right?

Just to mention it, your field might stop big power plants. If that's ok for you, ok. Take a wind turbine, it more or less concentrates the wind power from the rotor span into the center, where it is transformed to electricity. Check out the values for a today's 200m rotor, adapt into the future with a 500m 5-blade rotor or something even bigger and see if it would still work. Every time you think it would have to rotate too fast you add some blades to make it slower so that it works again. Somewhere there you will hit the imposed energy limit.

Same for other machines. Just extrapolate handwavy until you hit your limit, explore your story limitations that way. It might lead to a different technological world all together, very interesting. Given a certain size, it might even inhibit the use of big transformators in the electric grid - I didn't do the numbers but you should, just to make sure.

self contradiction?

There might be a problem of self-contradictory technology here. Your inhibitor could be used with different settings, in different combinations, as a weapon. Worse, each use as weapon could be prevented only by making the generators bigger and more expensive in your story, so that terrorists have no access. At some point, the field will start to inhibit it's own power generator's function.

1. Earth cooling

You apply your field to the earth, it sucks up earth' liquid metal core heat, the magnetic field stops, continental drift grinds to a halt... worse climate than ever, earth shrinkage due to less heat inside, super-bad earthquakes around the world. Ok, let's handwave this: The inhibitor works only on the surface sphere.

2. People cooling

If it can be tuned to not allow more than 500°C then it can certainly be tuned not to allow more than -10°C in an area. You can use it to shock-freeze the enemy troops to death.

3. Weapons inhibition

If it can be tuned to detect and stop heat in one cubic meter, you can do so in smaller volumes. Depending on how fine you can get, you can stop cannons, handheld weapons and diesel motors from working without outright killing the soldiers. Back to sword warfare. It doesn't inhibit blade robots, though. Tough times for soldiers. The development never stops, so keep this in mind for the second half of the book.

Alien attacks

If it is a defense against a space faring alien civilization and that civilization is willing to kill off humanity and is willing to bombard the surface with nukes, it apparently doesn't care for the state of earth after the war is over. So this is a holocaust-like war and not an invasion for living space. Your aliens could do the grey goo scenario, send killer robots, start deathly pandemics, all at once. No high energy needed. The protection doesn't work here.

cool the sun's radiation

Well you can sink heat into another dimension? Could you make an sheet of shield bubbles in space, shielding earth from sun with this, sucking the sun's energy away? That's a ice age death scenario for earth.


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