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So imagine a gun that fires a high-voltage charge through the air so that it looks like it fired a lightning bolt at the target. Is there a way for this to be possible?

I know Timothy Zahn in his Cobra Trilogy had a similar device that created an ionized path of air and then shot electricity across it. But that requires some form of laser and is not what I'm looking for.

I'm talking about a gun that straight-up fires lightning at the target with no previous step other than "powering up" the gun itself.

If it helps, imagine that there is a way to contain near-infinite energy within the gun itself without being too bulky.

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    $\begingroup$ Never heard of tasers? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 2, 2020 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ The reason I've voted to close this as a duplicate is that this scenario has the identical problems as that one and won't work for the same reasons. In fact, the answer I gave to that duplicate question is the very same answer I'd post here. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 2, 2020 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH false. A spaceship is not grounded, and directing a lightning beam through vacuum at it is impossible, But this poster asked for atmospheric use. Lightning loves to move through air. The target would be grounded, either weakly if an airborne target, or strongly if ground target. The only real problem is the poster's requirement of not needing the establishment of an ionized pathway to the target first. That exact question deserves an answer of "sorry, but you will need a guideway for the lightning", not the abrupt redirect that LIghtning is impossible as a space weapon, so forget about it $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Dec 2, 2020 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH vote to reopen, as your answer in the supposed duplicate is specifically for space and not on Earth. Question is likely duplicate, but not from that particular question. PcMan explains more. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Dec 2, 2020 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ If your character has curly hair, a plastic brush will do the job (it's kinda painful though). $\endgroup$ Dec 2, 2020 at 17:07

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Super fun stuff:

The range is short, but a high-powered squirt gun with a conductive electrolyte solution allows you to conduct electricity, certainly enough to stun or, with appropriate settings, shock a heart to stop. Nasty is combined with chemical weapons to assure death and/or incapacitation.

Don't dismiss a laser creating a stream of ionized gas because it doesn't need to be terribly big, and such things are currently being developed.

Otherwise there a host of fun toys on wikipedia, including a shotgun shell with a battery, basically a projectile stun gun.

If the visual is what you're looking for, people have made some crazy stuff with tesla coils that visually shoot lightning. I'm not sure how useful it would be as a weapon, since I'm not an electrical expert. I'm guessing that something with Tesla coils is probably your best bet. I don't think anyone has made a weapon of it. However, Nicolai Tesla claimed to have made a lethal weapon with Tesla coils, although his description sounds more like a particle beam.

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  • $\begingroup$ "I'm guessing that something with Tesla coils is probably your best bet" No, it isn't. See my answer adapted from the answer given to the question used as a reference to close this question as a duplicate. What the OP is looking for is an electron beam. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 2, 2020 at 17:49
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No

Your gun is simply a portable Tesla coil.

Tesla coil arcs, like all expressions of electricity, needs somewhere to go. The electric arcs they produce aren't aimed, they're attracted to a ground.

Theoretically, if the opposing ship target were at a significantly lower electrical potential than your own and all the surrounding ground, that would attract the arc (as long as something else wasn't lower still, like every inch of ground between you and your target). However, that's a bit of a gamble, and as soon as your enemy realized what was going on, they'd charge their hulls in the same way that horse fences are charged step under a tree, or onto a higher point of ground, or near a river or wet area, to ensure anything else is a better ground than they are. The result is that your ship attracts the arcs your lightning will hit anywhere other than them.

Finally, electrical arcs weaken substantially (or require tremendous amounts of energy) as distance increases. Most arcs fired from a hand-held weapon would want to be measured in a distance of fractions of a meter meters in a space ground battle where distances are likely to be more along the lines of kilometers (or thousands of kilometers). It's not a particularly efficient weapon.

Please note that the arcs tesla coils produce are not electron beams, which is a directed form of electricity. Check that out — it might be more what you're looking for.


Reproduced and modified for this question from my answer to "Tesla coils as spaceship weaponry - would they work?" because non-electical-engineers actually think there's an intrinsic difference between space and a planet when it comes to "shooting electricity."

The simple reality is this: Electricity follows the shortest path to a lower charge potential. The higher the resistance between the electrical source and the charge potential, the lower that charge potential must be to attract the electricity. The Earth is a fairly low charge potential and human skin is fairly high resistance. When people are struck by lightning, it's not because the lightning struck them (they were NOT the lowest potential), it was because they were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the lightning passed through them to get to a low enough potential that the electricity didn't care about the resistance of human skin.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're being belligerent, @Trioxidane. If you can't prove my answer is materially wrong, I'll flag your comment as abusive. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 2, 2020 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ 'Electricity follows the shortest path to a lower charge potential." More accurately, electricity proportionately follows the path of lower resistance to a lower charge potential. Lightning is not a single 'bolt', it is multiple streamers, the largest perhaps following the least resistant path to the lowest potential, but others follow paths to not-as-lower-charge-potential spots. The only rule is that they do not go to a HIGHER charge potential. That makes 'targeting' even more difficult. But yes a charge differential has to be established, unless one is talking about a plasma. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2020 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ Recomended edit, instead of: 'step under a tree, or onto a higher point of ground, or near a river or wet area,' I suggest 'Flatten yourself to the lowest spot of ground, or in an enclosed structure, so there are better conductors to ground closer to the source than you.' Best place to be would be inside a faraday cage or behind a lightning rod, or have a very wet area between you and the shooter. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2020 at 4:26
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Oh, I have a character named after Zeus in my story. His superhuman ability is electrokinesis. Lightning is just static electricity, or a difference in charges interacting, just on a massive scale. The idea is to make the electrons flow from the weapon to the target, which could work by concentrating electrons into the weapon, and letting them fly after the positively-charged particles in the target. Our bodies contain cations and anions, so the lightning gun is theoretically possible with our current model of physics.

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  • $\begingroup$ -1 for saying "theoretically possible with our current model of physics" without first actually understanding our current model of physics. The reason people are so rarely struck by lightning is that all those "positively-charged particles in the target" don't exist the way you're thinking. Human skin is very high resistance and in the vast majority of cases, everything around the human is a lower potential than the human itself. We're not walking uncharged batteries. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 2, 2020 at 17:34

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