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How effective would a charged weapon be on a medieval sea

Alright, so imagine we have a barge — a city barge, similar to some of Technochtitlan raft farms. Due to (magicly caused) climate conditions including lots of lightning, and (magical) electricity storage, our raft-dwellers have access to massive amounts of electrical power.

Now, let's say this raft city is attacked by some medieval flotilla, similar in development to the british navy during the Napoleonic era. The rafters have long cords of metal wire, which they bought from traders for anchoring there rafts, near-infinite sources of electricity, and ballistas.

How effective would a conductive (let's say copper) wire tied to a conductive (a ballista bolt with a copper tip and copper wire running though it) attached to a battery containing the electrical power of lightning? The wire does for a circuit, as it goes both ways. Also, there's a switch to turn on and off the circuit.

If the rafters were to fire the ballista, have it hit the enemy vessel, and turn on the lightning, would it be any more effective then a normal ballista, and if so, how?

If it isn't, what other ways can these rafters utilize the lightning batteries as weapons with their current level of technology?

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  • $\begingroup$ The Napoleonic wars began about 250 years after the Middle Ages ended in the region where the wars were fought. (That is a time span about the same length as the entire history of the United States of America, for example.) The British fleet of the Napoleonic wars was a Modern fleet (not even Early Modern, just plain Modern.) (As for the Electrical Engineering question, please ask it using Electrical Engineering units of measurement. How much power is the battery capable of delivering? At what voltage? What is the energy storage capacity of the batteries?) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 20, 2021 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Are those wires electrically insulated by magic? (lightning like) high voltage have the quite bad habit of finding discharge channels that aren't necessary the intended ones. $\endgroup$ Oct 21, 2021 at 2:52

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would it be any more effective then a normal ballista, and if so, how?

Well, if the goal were to board the target vessel then having a live wire attached to them would certainly discourage attempts to remove the bolt. If it were wet enough (and you could see how that might happen), things nearby to the impact point would become hazards, too.

I'm not sure you'd have much luck setting the ship on fire by zapping it, but I could be wrong.

If it isn't, what other ways can these rafters utilize the lightning batteries as weapons with their current level of technology?

Me, I'd build electric fences to discourage boarders, possibly with wires dangling down the side into the sea to discourage swimmers if you're fighting people who swim (which you probably aren't, given your scenario). Firing live nets of wire at short range might work well too... lots of scope for weaponry that doesn't need to be long ranged or accurate but can be extremely effective especially against people who aren't familiar with it.

medieval flotilla, similar in development to the british navy during the Napoleonic era

As AlexP pointed out, this doesn't really help at all.

If you were trying to fight a Napoleonic-era navy, you'll probably find that a good broadside or two from a ship of the line is likely to reduce you, your ballista and your magic power source to flotsam in fairly short order.

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Unless you have a special type of copper wire then I doubt it would be that useful; because if it's too thin, then the current would melt/vaporise the wire: and if it is too thick it would start to significantly affect the range of the ballista.

As an alternative weapon you could use a rail gun type weapon as they are relatively simple to build and the technical problem with them is that they need a lot of electrical power in a short in a small time, to fire (the energy of a lightning bolt would be more than enough). They are made by having two parallel conductive rails, then placing a conductive projectile across the rails electrically connecting them. Then a large current is fed through the rails and the projectile is launch along the rails, because of physics (can elaborate more if required).

If you also have access to high voltages (like those found in lightning bolts) then you could make a plasma railgun. With this type of railgun instead of a conductive projectile you have a higher voltage that causes an arc between the rails; Since the arc is made of plasma and plasma is conductive so then the plasma is launched from the gun. It would look a bit like a Jacobs ladder, shown below, except if would move a lot faster.

enter image description here

The American army was looking into making one (the rails where slightly different, a thin one in the middle of a outer on shaped like a drum, so that it fired almost a vortex ring of plasma), it fired a bit of plasma at 3% of the speed of light and when it impacted it had the destructive power of ~2Kg of TNT and produce electrical effects when it hit. the power source it used could get charged more than a 1000 times from the energy of one normal lightning bolt.

So it would be a weapon that gets lighting feed into it, then it fires a bright glowing ball of what looks like lightning, and travels faster than the speed of sound, that then tears massive holes in ships.

hopefully that helps

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