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Ok, so here’s a disclaimer: my works are actually a fan spin on the mainstream entries of the Ultraman Series by Tsuburaya Productions. That said, there is worldbuilding involved, as I’ve incorporated many of my own characters and settings into my stories.

Anyway, a species known collectively as Ultras, who are giant humanoids that serve as the driving force and protagonists of many of my works (and are the namesake of the Ultraman Series), has the power to fire highly powerful energy blasts from their arms by putting their arms together in a variety of different formations.

While most Ultras have their own versions of these energy blasts, which are collectively known as Ultra Beams, the most basic and most widely-used version is called the “Specium Ray”.

Now, seeing as this is a science-based question, I had to come up with what the Specium Ray actually is. But first, do note that understanding what the Specium Ray is is fundamental to understanding all other versions of the Ultra Beam.

With that out of the way, the Specium Ray and all other Ultra Beams are a hybrid beam. In the case of the Specium Ray specifically, it is a typical laser electrically connected to plasma particles. Additionally, the photons in the laser part of the Specium Ray are constantly shifting between different frequencies, similar to a phaser from Star Trek. These frequencies adhere to the Inner Light, a unique matrix of frequencies, of the individual Ultra who fires the attack.

As such, the reason the Specium Ray is the most basic Ultra Beam is less because of the signature and more because of the application. Essentially, all Ultra Beams are based on Specium, but some Ultra Beams would be less focused on the laser part of the attack and more focused on the plasma part, or vice versa, etc. but the beams themselves are still mostly composed of Specium. In other words, the Specium Ray is the most basic application/combination of the parts of an Ultra Beam.

Edit #1: The question, as said in the title, is what units could be used to measure the power output of an Ultra Beam. In other words, what units would be most fitting for how destructive an Ultra Beam?

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    $\begingroup$ Can you clarify what your actual question is? There's a lot of background about your different beam weapons but... not really anything about what you want us to do with that knowledge. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jan 11, 2023 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ (a) We prohibit questions about 3rd party or commercial worlds. Fan fiction doesn't circumvent that rule. You're building on someone else's world. We don't allow that here. Thus, VTC for violating a Stack policy. (b) If you cannot use joules or watts (which is how destructive force is measured in Real Life, complying with the science-based tag), then you need to explain why they don't work for you without using the phrase, "I want something different and cool." $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jan 11, 2023 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ Good to know that fanfics are considered other people’s worlds… I disagree with that somewhat, but I have no place here if that’s this community’s view. In that case, do you know of any communities that would allow me to ask worldbuilding questions that aren’t restricted to worlds other than fanfiction? $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2023 at 0:00
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    $\begingroup$ The question "how do you measure the destructive power of a beam weapon" would be on-topic, and I don't think there would be any objection to it if you removed the background. (Does it matter where your beam weapons come from? Not really. You could measure many types of weapon in a similar way.) To avoid being opinion-based, it would also help to specify what criterion makes for the "most fitting" measurement. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jan 12, 2023 at 0:26
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    $\begingroup$ @GodzillaLouise don't worry about the "no third party" rule... it is trivial to work around. Just don't say you are making fanfic, or mention anything from the setting you're writing about. Additionally, your question has a lot of pseudoscience technobabble fluff... you can edit that all right down. You're writing about things that use huge energy beam weapons, presumably power enough to blow up a tank. What's a good unit to describe the power/performance/sparkliness of the beam? Done. No need to mention ultraman at all. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2023 at 11:38

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Joules/Second

Technically this is a watt. But, in my experience in writing, joules/second sounds more "sciencey". It also allows you to express the total energy delivered more readily, by abandoning "/second" and expressing the value simply in joules.

Most of the context of your question isn't necessary; you're asking for energy delivered to a target, and that is expressed in joules/second (for the time that the beam is active) or simply joules (when the attack is over).

You could also go the David Weber route and express it in kilotons or megatons/second, where a kiloton is approximately $4.18 \times 10^{12}\,\text{J}$. This would make it sound more nuclear-exchange-like.

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    $\begingroup$ "Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range" $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2023 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ It's not somehow “technically” the Watt, it's very much the definition of the Watt. The unit of measure of energy transferred per unit of time, a.k.a. power. $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2023 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ For megatons/s, how about 4.18 PW? $\endgroup$ Jan 12, 2023 at 12:03
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    $\begingroup$ agreed with @kkm this just is a watt. Using joules/second isn't technically wrong, but it will frustrate anyone with a decent understanding of SI units because they'll spend the whole time wondering why you didn't just use watts. Besides, if the value's large enough you can stick the relevant prefix on the front which'll make it sound much more sciencey. As catsteevens points out, if you're outputting megatons in a second you're in the petawatt range which ought to sound sciencey enough $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Jan 12, 2023 at 14:13
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Quantify destruction by testing destruction

Units are meant to be used to easily understand how powerful something is with a few words. While using some fancy, science-related unit to measure the power of those beams, the users (or the ones facing those users) of the beams will most likely want to have a more practical way of knowing "Oh yeah, this guy's beam is bad news".

That's also the reason why many works of fiction use power rankings or power levels. For the standard soldier, saying "this beam is 15000 [insert energy unit here] power" is much less useful than something like "this beam is A-grade in destruction power", which will allow the soldier to directly understand how much destructive power we're talking about.

As a matter of fact, this kind of ranking is used for lasers in the real world, which are classified in classes from 1 to 4, which basically go from harmless to very dangerous (thanks to @BBeast for pointing that out).

I gave the example of ranking categories, but if you want more granularity, you could also use something much more visual : measuring destruction with destruction. For instance, how much damage will the beam do to a specific material over a few seconds? I doubt people would have trouble understanding the power of a weapon if you tell them "this beam can penetrate 20cm of steel over 1 second".

With this kind of unit, the person reading/watching the story easily understands the kind of destructive power we're talking about. It also serves as a simple way to scale power between beams ("My beam's power is 15cm/s! Your 5cm/s beam is nothing in comparison!") and can be estimated simply by witnessing the beam's destructiveness, especially if you create your scale based on a material used often to defend against those beams.

Since this is effectively a new unit, you can name it however you'd like. Bonus points if the unit also has an acronym or nickname, which could be used by most people to not have to say the entire name of the unit every time.

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    $\begingroup$ You can add a real-world example: lasers are categorised into classes from 1 to 4 based on how dangerous they are to the human eye. This class is determined by laser power. You'd use a different system for weapon effectiveness, of course, but it's supporting evidence. $\endgroup$
    – BBeast
    Jan 12, 2023 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ @BBeast thanks for the information, I'll add that to the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Matthieu
    Jan 12, 2023 at 12:48
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Tons of TNT

If you're looking to emphasize destructive power, use the unit we normally use for destructive power. We use (mega)tons to measure the strength of nukes, asteroids and volcanic eruptions which seems to be the kind of scale you want for giants throwing around energy beams.

If needed, you can always say "per second" for continuous output. That being said, a single ton of TNT is approximately 4.184 gigajoules, so even 1 ton per second is a massive amount of power.

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You quantify destructiveness by what you can destroy.

That sounds really circular, but it cuts right to the point you need, which is: if I point this at an enemy, will it die?

Take guns, for instance. The standard way to express the penetrating power of, say, a tank gun is in how much "standard" armor it can punch through, often in terms of rolled homogeneous steel (which is basically just a solid block of metal, obsolete as armor for over a century but very handy for plopping down on a test stand to take potshots at) so that the results of different tests can be compared to each other. Armor likewise gets rated by how thick the equivalent "standard" armor would have to be.

So I might feel pretty secure in 10cm of my new wonder alloy, which provides protection equivalent to 350cm of RHS, watching your shells rated at only 300cm plink off. But if you bring out a new gun that's rated at 400cm, I'd better start running!

In the field of measurements and calibrations, it's common to have these ad-hoc units without any real concern for what they "really" represent, physically speaking. It used to be common (I have no idea if it still is) to measure the shock-sensitivity of rocket propellants by how much buffer material was needed to keep them from detonating when exposed to a particular quantity of a particular explosive. The unit here was technically "inches of acetate" but the point was, it worked to establish a scale. Back when lasers were huge laboratory-filling experiments, the power of a laser pulse was described in terms of how many Gillette razor blades it could burn through.

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