So, it seems that I will always be asking about the feasibility of semi-scifi weapons to the real world, now, as a trend.

I have looked for weapons that operate under "exotic physics", shown here: https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/create-science-fiction-weapons-based-on-exotic-physics.11280/

Most of the weapon suggestions sound like utter handwavium, until I saw a certain set of weapons, known as Particle Decouplers.

There are three kinds mentioned inside the forum, and are well-elaborated on what they can do: Higgs Decouplers, Gluon Decouplers, and Photon Decouplers.

Effect of Higgs Decouplers: Momentarily seperates the particles that make up your body from the Higgs field, meaning they have zero mass, causing a /0 error in the universe as ever quark in you is immediately scattered at the speed of light since energy and momentum cannot be removed from the system - until it leaves the field of effect of the gun and regains its mass, then stops. Because it never gained any momentum. The effect is instant vapourisation.

Effect of Gluon Decouplers: The target would explode from the strong force being canceled and all atomic nuclei becoming intensely unstable.

Effect of Photon Decouplers: The target would explode and implode simultaneously, from their atomic nuclei collapsing (as there is nothing canceling out the strong force) and their electrons flying off (as there is nothing binding them to your atoms anymore). It would also instantly cancel all of the chemical reactions needed to live, but this would take longer to notice.

Thus, I firstly ask if these effects are real, and if they can be created, at least their effects replicated to an extent.


4 Answers 4


Thus, I firstly ask if these effects are real

Not even slightly.

and if they can be created,

Nope. One can't simply selectively turn off bits of reality without the aid of magic.

at least their effects replicated to an extent.

Rendering something massless is clearly nonsense, but you could try converting something to energy instead, perhaps by annihilating it with a generous quantity of antimatter. Boom, same mass-energy, no coupling to the Higgs field, everything shoots off at the speed of light. Getting it to turn back into matter afterwards is left as an exercise to the reader.

Cancelling the strong force also can't be done, but if you heat things up to a couple of trillion degrees quarks can become deconfined all by themselves. The effect is obviously exciting, though not because of the free quarks themselves, per se. Once it cools back down, the quarks wil conveniently reconfine themselves in baryons

Cancelling the electromagnetic force is also impractical. If you squish something down to the point where it can no longer stand up against its own electro degeneracy pressure, all the electrons will get captured by the protons they're bound to and you'll get a load of gamma rays and neutrons, which I guess is a bit like what you were after?

In any case, you won't get any weird kind of "nucleus implosion", because the strong nuclear force is powerfully repelling at distances less than .7fm, and neutron degeneracy is also a thing. It isn't proton repulsion that keeps nuclei at the density we see.

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    $\begingroup$ This, absolutely. If you could do those things, then you would have no need to - you'd have much more effective weapons at greatly reduced costs. Just a few billions of degrees should be enough to handle your average opponent, without resorting to trillions :-) $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Dec 1, 2019 at 15:06

When exploring the practicality of psudoscience weapons, the answer is typically "it depends." There's enough freedom there to solve literally any problem you can come up with.

However, you often wish to chain yourself to some laws of physics for believably purposes (Sanderson's First Law works in science fiction too!). One of the most important of these is conservation of energy. While we do not believe energy is conserved at the cosmological scale (there's terms like the expansion of the universe that matter), at local scales we have found nothing that meaningfully violates that law.

Take the Portal gun, from the Portal game series. Put a portal on one wall, put a portal on the other, push an object through one portal, it comes out the other with the same momentum. Great game mechanic. Lets you fling objects all over. But it always feels a little quirky because it doesn't conserve energy. I can gain energy merely by putting the outlet portal higher than the inlet portal.

So is that a fundamental problem? It turns out not. Some physicists with too much time on their hands actually put together some math to make this work. Their approach was simple. During the creation of the portal, adjust the topology of the gravitational field of the universe such that there are no loops. They proved that for any topology of portals, this could be done. Thus, if you put one portal at the bottom of the sea floor and one on the surface, you would still find no gravitational forces pulling the water through the portal because they were equal on both sides.

The price? A gargantuan amount of energy. If I want to conserve energy here, I need to pay the price for adjusting the gravitational potential of every body in the universe as I stitch things together (practically speaking, the closer it is to the portal, the more important this is). In many cases, the amount of energy required was measured on the scale of stellar powers, suggesting there are more efficient ways to move water from the bottom of the ocean.

If you wished to conserve energy, you would need to do the same. You would need enough energy to raise the object out of its own potential wells and free it. And if you did so, you could potentially make a Higgs gun without violating the conservation of energy.

Of course, the efficiency is literally as bad as it possibly could ever be. For the most part, you really didn't care that their particles flew of in this strange massless form. If you're okay with not doing anything hokey, a stick of dynamite causes particles to fly off as well, with a substantially lower energy expenditure. A directed-energy weapon would too, if you want something that acts a lot like a beam weapon.

Then again, there's something satisfying about considering the conservation of energy, and then simply looking the other way:

Delta-P comic from XKCD


Thus, I firstly ask if these effects are real, and if they can be created, at least their effects replicated to an extent

Yes and no. You can have similar effects at sufficient energies. For example you can "decouple" Higgs bosons (sort of) at energies beyond some 125 GeV.

But there are practicalities to consider.

The problem here is that to achieve those energies in a useable volume of space, you would need frightful amounts of energy (usually kinetic energy from accelerating particles at relativistic speeds). We do that with current technology, in microscopic volumes only, and we don't even directly observe the effects; rather we sift through the smoking ruins of the event and try to figure out what happened from the position, condition and behaviour of said ruins and related shrapnel.

In real life scale, a gluon decoupler would consist in surrounding the target with a massive layer of carefully positioned high-yield large fusion bombs, then triggering them in micro-staggered sequence until the center volume became a zone similar to the focus of the ATLAS experiment. Actually it is likely not even that would be enough, since "real life" conditions are way less favourable than those at the CERN accelerators' target core.

And, in practice, since all that you probably want or need to do is to obliterate the target, you would have done so much more simply and more economically by placing and detonating just one of those bombs. If you have the technology to decouple Higgs bosons, then you don't need that as a weapon. You already have much better, for sure.

The real question would then be, is there a practical way to nullify Higgs coupling at little cost, from a safe distance and with next to no side effects (like shattering the planet wholesale)? -- and the answer to that is, nothing makes us think it is even remotely possible. We would need some completely new physics. As Starfish Prime very correctly said, you'd just as well be talking about magic.

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    $\begingroup$ There's a sort of secondary issue that I can't quite articulate... basically, if it were energetically efficient to turn off bits of reality like that, it suggests that our universe as it currently exists is a bit precarious, and you're only one "hold my beer" away from triggering something that's about as welcome as a false vacuum collapse. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2019 at 15:13

What you are reading is just fancy techno babble to describe a particle accelerator.

If you want to observe particles like gluons and bosons, you just need to put enough energy in a suitable bullet and, once it hits the target, among the impact scattering, you will observe them.

The amount of energy you need to put into the bullet is insane, but that's what particle physicists do every day at places like CERN, Tevatron and the like.


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