5
$\begingroup$

I am writing the end of a scene, but I have some trouble making the set up believable.

My character is looking for a way to stop a machine that will explode to destroy life on (the) earth. She is helped by a scientist that study the plans of the machine in order to defuse it. He discovers that this machine uses a chain reaction, that can trigger [a gamma-ray burst] that will destroy all life on earth. One solution to stop the reaction is to [heat it], in order to [change the phase state of the water (one of the components of the reaction) from liquid to gas]. She only has the possibility to produce [heat] with her weapon. When trying to [heat] the component in the machine, she is stopped by the antagonist, then uses another piece of technology to teleport the machine instantly into orbit (little beyond the orbit of the ISS). Once into space, the water presented to the temperature and pressure of space [change its state from liquid to gas] instantly

All the parts in [ ] can be changed to improve the quality of the resolution of the scene. My problem is that water is not exotic enough (I mean, for a chemical reaction capable of such destruction), and when put straight into space, some of the water turn into gas and the rest turn into ice, which might seem a little odd for a non scientific spectator. Maybe with another liquid, that would go from liquid in [ambient] temperature, to solid into space, that might be a better fit.

$\endgroup$
12
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ chemical reactions do not produce gamma ray. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Dec 1 '21 at 16:53
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ There are no known chemical reactions that would produce enough gamma rays to destroy the earth (given that they generally produce no gamma rays). Even if you had a different mechanism of explosion, chemical bonds simply don't store enough energy to cause destruction on that scale. If you were using TNT (a very energetic compound) to obliterate the earth, a back of the envelope calculation estimates you would need about 10 times the mass of the Earth of TNT. If you re-write the question to permit nuclear or more exotic reactions, then this may be doable, but otherwise, it's just not possible. $\endgroup$ Dec 1 '21 at 17:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ If you're positing a fictional reaction that will break the laws of physics. You can make up whatever fictional material you want to power it. As a result your question is little more than an ask about what to name your handwavium. Such questions are entirely opinion based and no a good fit for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Dec 1 '21 at 18:01
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The phrase "Gamma ray burst" makes me think you may be labouring under a misconception. Gamma Ray Bursts as frequently mentioned in science fiction, are assumed to be stellar collapse events. If you're not compressing a star, you're not going to be sterilizing any planets. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Dec 1 '21 at 22:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could a biological weapon replace the chemical? It's easy to argue that teleportation to space will destroy the virus/bacterium and a small amount is potentially world-threatening. Anything chemical is unlikely to be the dangerous material itself, there is just not enough of it. $\endgroup$
    – ooak
    Dec 2 '21 at 6:59
11
$\begingroup$

The death machine is using coolant:

Your supervillain has a giant machine that will trigger (insert physics effect here). But the machine itself needs coolant or the whole thing shuts down. They tried to overheat the machine by heating the coolant with their attack, but the villain stopped them. So instead, they teleported the coolant into space, where it can't cool the machine. The machine on the planet overheats and shuts down. World saved ( or can the machine be restarted with more coolant? Sounds like a sequel)

$\endgroup$
3
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ may i suggest ammonia as a coolant. it has historical uses. is one of the best coolants. and the villain stops the protagonist because if it explodes out of the pressurised tank it is in it would kill everyone in the room. $\endgroup$ Dec 1 '21 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ My character can't teleport only the coolant into space, she actually have to take the entire machine and herself with it, but the coolant thing could be a great idea Could a coolant be heated on earth to stop the machine, and once into space the coolant would instantly evaporate due to 0 pressure ? (also, no sequels for this movie since 100% of the caracters of the movie are dead at the end) $\endgroup$
    – Raphy
    Dec 2 '21 at 13:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Raphy if the coolant system were teleported from standard pressure to vacuum, it couldn't radiate heat externally, but more importantly would likely burst it's containment in low pressure and spray all over. The coolant would likely be very hot and pressurized. Also, micro-accelerations cancelled on Earth would make it twist & tear itself apart at the seams. Or PART of the coolant system could teleport. Leaving leaking pipes. Coolant choice is interesting, too, from H2O to liquidized metals, all will play out a bit different depending on your desired effect. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Dec 2 '21 at 16:54
6
$\begingroup$

One approach being taken (tried) is that of positronium in liquid helium.

Firstly, positronium is a very light form of matter, a little like hydrogen, but instead of a proton/electron pair that the atom would usually be made of, it consists of an electron/positron pair, effectively making it a tiny matter/antimatter bomb.

Normally this would self-annihilate pretty quickly, but when placed in super-cooled liquid helium it can form "bubbles" of a condensate-like matter which is stable for extended periods.

The interactions of these positronium atoms in the condensate state produces gamma rays and can (it is hoped) be induced to LASE. Whilst not strictly a chemical reaction, more of a set of properties of an exotic form of matter in the way it changes energy states, it would if "beamed into space" disperse harmlessly. (Sadly not turn solid as per the hope of your question).

$\endgroup$
4
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This is not really a chain reaction, but it was what i was going to talk about. Maybe a systematic containment breach to initiate the bomb could be the chain reaction. Once in space, the reaction between matter/antimatter would be so dispersed, that it would not have very much destructive power. it will release the same amount of energy in the form of gammas, just over a very long period of time $\endgroup$
    – Sonvar
    Dec 1 '21 at 19:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wouldn't heating the liquid helium make the bomb explode? $\endgroup$
    – Bergi
    Dec 2 '21 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ Better hope that space is in the shade or that teleportation can put it far enough away then. @Bergi $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 4:34
  • $\begingroup$ A LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) operates as a chain reaction: you 'charge' the lasing medium, and once a photon of the right wavelength is in there, each interaction of a photon and the "charged medium" doubles that photon. $\endgroup$
    – AI0867
    Dec 2 '21 at 12:32
3
$\begingroup$

Nuclear fusion.

Nuclear fusion bombs can produce massive amounts of energy. The public knows about these sort of things from the MCU with the STARK reactor, and Dr Otto's tritium powered fusion reaction.

To complete your scene-

My character is looking for a way to stop a machine that will explode to destroy life on (the) earth. She is helped by a scientist that study the plans of the machine in order to defuse it. He discovers that this machine uses a chain reaction, that can trigger nuclear fusion bomb that will destroy all life on earth. One solution to stop the reaction is to heat the deuterium or tritium water fuel tanks, in order to change the mater state of the water (one of the components of the reaction) from liquid to gas. She only has the possibility to produce heat with her weapon, which can bypass the bullet hardened but transparent tanks of the machine. When trying to heat the component in the machine, she is stopped by the antagonist, then uses another piece of technology to teleport the machine instantly into orbit (little beyond the orbit of the ISS). Once into space, the deuterium and tritium water presented to the temperature and pressure of space change its state from liquid to gas instantly, stopping the flow of fuel into the fusion engine.

Tritium and Deuterium are just isotopes of hydrogen, so you can still have water tanks. Say whatever machine processes the raw Tritium Dioxide and Deuterium Dioxide water tanks into Tritium and Deuterium for fusion.

$\endgroup$
10
  • $\begingroup$ Fusion bombs generally do not use Deuterium or Tritium in a liquid state. They use deuterium in a non-liquid compound, and they "breed" the tritium during the reaction. I believe storing the fuel as heavy-water is too low density to work. I know of only one early test that used liquid fuel, but they were stored in a cryostat, which would be airtight, and perfectly fine in space. The only part that might not work in space is the cooling system for the cryostat, as presumably it was designed to rely on atmospheric convection for some of the cooling. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ Have you a lot of experience in being a mad scientist making fusion bombs that can explode the entire world? Do you know for sure there's absolutely no set up where liquid deuterium and tritium could be used effectively? Just because the conventional science says not to do it, doesn't mean this random scientist has to do it. Exploding the world is illegal, they don't need to follow normal scientific regulations. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Dec 2 '21 at 10:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Scientific regulations"? I not convinced you understand what those words mean. This is not a matter of some sort of legal process that must be followed. From a purely nuclear physics perspective, a bomb that uses heavy water is going to have a very poor yield. To claim it would be capable of global destruction is to make up fantasy physics. If you want make stuff up, then go right ahead. If you want to propose an accurate approach, it can be done with some modifications to your answer. Your choice. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 12:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm afraid it won't. Fusion fuel is not some sort of super-powered TNT. You can't just "add more fuel" to make a bigger explosion. The process is extremely non-linear. Due to density, equation of state, and parasitic reactions, it is doubtful that fuel in the state of heavy water can be made to ignite at all, no matter how much there is, and any fusion gain factor on the primary will be <<1.0. I think you may be better clarifying that this is a "science fantasy" approach, rather than an attempt at real physics. $\endgroup$ Dec 2 '21 at 12:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In which case, @NepeneNep, moving it to space doesn't really help. It's like saying "I can prevent a grain silo from exploding by removing the grain before it becomes dust". Technically true, but useless from a storytelling or worldbuilding perspective. (Also, having to electrolyse or chemically separate a bunch of water before your bomb works is a really cumbersome way of going about it.) Also also, Stark's reactor is an ARC reactor, which doesn't use fusion, and Doc Ock's reactor bears as much resemblance to real fusion as Cap's shield does to real physics. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:01
3
$\begingroup$

It doesn't matter, the world is saved

You are teleporting an object into space. As some people know, space isn't about going high up, its about going fast. And the newly high-up death machine isn't fast, its just up there. It's not orbiting, it's just falling down, at high speed. So as long as there is no radioactive or poisonous material in it, the world is saved, the death ray will disintegrate on the way down

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Gamma radiation is just radiation, not a magic beam

Dream on, this "death machine" of yours emitting gamma radiation is not going to work. You'll need to launch a lot of them to be disabled in space, not a single device.

On the planet surface, oxygen and nitrogen atoms will absorb x-rays and gamma rays. Deployed on the surface (or even in flight) the gamma weapon would have a rather small range. A single source will not be able to cover the earth. To get an idea of the range: when coming from outer space, even the most energetic gamma rays penetrate only 40km (about half) of Earth's atmosphere. Below that, the radiation has been absorbed in the thermosphere. On the planet surface, you would need 10,000's of gamma lasers scanning around, to destroy all life on the planet..

https://www.nap.edu/html/oneuniverse/energy_130-131.html

https://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/cgro/epo/vu/overview/whatare/whatare.html

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

For something small to threaten the entire world, you need something that would initiate an open-ended chain reaction or phase change. A great example would be Vonnegut's ice-nine (which is, in fact, water!) A common sci-fi trope that would fit the bill is homogenizing nanomachines ("grey-goo"). You just need something similar; since you're already making up new physics with your teleportation, you've got quite a bit of latitude.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ Alternatively, something that requires something ambient to operate that isn't there in space. For example, some magical fuel that can bind 1000 times it's own mass in oxygen - if you disperse it in the atmosphere, it will quickly cause massive damage (and deplete oxygen), but with no oxidation agent to react with, it's harmless. Or a container with a huge amount of antimatter - extremely dangerous on a planet, where it will tend to find something to react with pretty quickly, mostly harmless in space (especially if put on an escape trajectory). Of course, you'll need a lot :D $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Dec 2 '21 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan 1kg of antimatter annihilating 1kg of matter produces a bit less boom than the Tsar Bomba. Producing and storing 1kg of antimatter would be hideously expensive, but that at least gives you an idea of how much "a lot" needs to be: not much on a macro scale. $\endgroup$
    – Martin
    Dec 2 '21 at 19:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Martin Hard to beat antimatter for self-contained bang-for-buck (or rather bang-for-gram) but even a Tsar Bomba class explosion is just a pinprick when it comes to threatening all of Earth. You're going to need something more akin to the Chicxulub impactor, which would take... 100 million times the energy according to Wikipedia, so 100 kilotons of antimatter. That's a lot. $\endgroup$
    – Gene
    Dec 3 '21 at 6:16
1
$\begingroup$

A device which produces and stores stranglets would answer your need, either as a weapon or a research device. Stranglets are hypothetical particles consisting of Up, Down and Strange quarks in equal numbers. They would have the unfortunate property of converting any other matter they encounter into copies of themselves, releasing huge amounts of radiation in the process.

Strangelets, if they exist, will be highly unstable (there are caveats to this) meaning that the chain reaction caused by strangelets converting matter to yet more strangelets will end in the absence of sufficiently dense matter; i.e, space. So, a great weapon for destroying even the largest planet without the inconvenience of destroying the universe as well.

This would require a bit of a re-write and I would recommend some decent research, but this is a credible Doomsday scenario (one that was considered by Cern, which might produce some) which would be averted by your transporter.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .