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I am back in a 'shrinking/being small is neato' phase, so I have been thinking about things at small scale.

enter image description here

Anyway, my question is what would be the best choice of weaponry for a 1 inch tall man that can be held or ported by a person in general, to fell a 'giant'/6 foot man(or woman if you had so liked)?

Of course, here is some clarification context:

  1. Any real/realistic(no fictional weapons) weapon type such as explosives, guns, or bladed weapons are allowed as long as an average 6 foot tall (shrunken)man can wield and lug it around.

  2. The target is asleep/unaware of his assassin's presence.

  3. The shrunken/small man is unaffected by the negative or positive ramifications of being that small. He has the same proportional strength and speed as when he was 6 feet tall. The weapon(s) also still works despite being shrunk.

So what would be the wisest weapon to use to slay the 'giant'?

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    $\begingroup$ A suggested Google search string for you > "most lethal insinuative poison" .. you're looking for something that requires very small quantities to be effective and can be applied to a sewing needle your miniature person can wield. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Apr 24, 2023 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Correct, except that a needle wouldn't work because the little man could not penetrate the skin with it. Because Conan says he lacks any square-cube scaling advantages, the little man can exert an amount of force similar to his weight, which is around 0.27g ("the weight of a bean" as Conan puts it). That's 0.00265N, whereas a needle needs around 5N to puncture skin, three orders of magnitude more. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 24, 2023 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ Note that comic books superheroes like Ant-Man cheat by "retaining their strength" when they shrink, so Ant-Man has the full strength of a man even when he's the size of an Ant. If Conan's shrunk man doesn't have this advantage, he should probably carry some kind of hydraulic weapon to gain extra strength and be able to pierce skin. $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Apr 25, 2023 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ Well, assuming every weapon he has magically scales down and still works albeit with scaled effects, you could go the Steven King route, and a small man-portable tactical nuke such as the Davy Crockett should be effective against a full sized man. $\endgroup$
    – Glen Yates
    Apr 25, 2023 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ Nah, you have to understand square-cube scaling laws as explained in the top answer. You can't do any of that. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Apr 25, 2023 at 21:35

11 Answers 11

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A poisoned needle

You only need to puncture the skin of your victim in order to deliver enough of the humanity's best poison to kill the target. And since a mosquito is a lot smaller than one inch and still does penetrate the skin, a scaled down human can do that too. Finally, the assassin does not need to apply their own force to the needle, just simulate that a mosquito has just landed on an open skin, and then the person would whack self there, hitting the poised needle. There, target eliminated.

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    $\begingroup$ humanity's best poison — I knew it. Humans are venomous. I must report to the mothership. Abort the invasion. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2023 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ As I understand OP's premise, the mosquito is far stronger for its size than the little man. Also, a mosquito does not simply stab its fascicle into the skin; it uses "microsaws" like sawing a tree. See this article. A syringe needs about 5N of force to pierce skin, much more than the little man can exert. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 25, 2023 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ @causative a Hypodermic needle saw filled with poison sounds like fun. $\endgroup$
    – Anketam
    Apr 25, 2023 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ @causative okay attach a vibrator to the needle, problem solved. Also a needle could be thinner than the one used in a syringe, as you only need to coat it in poison, not infuse through the cavity. And as I said, the victim could be fooled into using his own force which is more than 5N to push that needle into themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Apr 26, 2023 at 4:25
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    $\begingroup$ If they are asleep just position it to they roll over onto it. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 26, 2023 at 23:57
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The shrunken/small person is unaffected by the negative or positive ramifications of being that small. They have the same proportional strength and speed as when they were 6 feet tall.

By this, I think you're saying to ignore the square-cube scaling laws. That is, the small person does not have the high strength-to-weight ratio that a creature his size would normally have; their strength-to-weight ratio is the same as that of a full-size person. If a full size person can just barely carry a load, then the little person can just barely carry the same load scaled down to their dimensions. This is the same as saying that their muscle tissue is weaker per cross sectional area than a full-size human's.

So, if they can just barely carry around a 100 kg object at 6 ft (182.9cm) tall, they can just barely carry around the proportionally shrunken object when they're 1 inch (2.54 cm) tall. The proportionally shrunken object weighs (2.54 / 182.9)^3 * 100 kg = 0.27 grams.

Also suppose they weigh roughly 0.27 grams themselves, based on 100kg weight for a muscular six-foot tall soldier.

This means they're a lot weaker than an insect of similar size.

With regard to mobility, say that when full size they could jump 0.5m, which is a good vertical jump. When shrunk therefore they can jump 0.7cm. They can't easily climb objects the way insects can.

  • Explosives? Possible, if circumstances are perfect. 0.27 grams of TNT will release 1130 J, a potentially fatal amount of energy if directed properly. It would be like a moderately large firework. Perhaps if they could glue the explosive to the target's temple before running away and detonating it, it would be fatal. However, climbing up to the target's temple while carrying their own body weight in explosive would be an impossible task if the target is standing up. This could only be possibly effective if the target is lying down. ("wedging" the explosive underneath is not possible with only 0.27 grams-weight of force).
  • A knife? No. 0.27 grams-weight of force is completely insufficient to drive a scalpel through skin.
  • Poison? Possible. 30 milligrams of tetrodotoxin is a potentially lethal dose if ingested, and to the shrunken person this would be like a 10kg weight, a bit heavy but easily carried. The difficulty would be administering it. Climbing the target's coffee cup would be a monumental task, probably not possible with a smooth cup, to say nothing of getting on the table to begin with. They cannot inject the poison, because they do not have the strength to penetrate skin with a needle. Perhaps they could use a small explosive charge to drive the poison under the skin of the victim's ankle. This would, of course, be a suicide mission, since the poison wouldn't work instantly, and the little person is too slow to escape retaliation.
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  • $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 27, 2023 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Your math is wrong! Strength varies by the square (the cross sectional area of the muscle), not the cube. That's why tiny ants can carry many many times their body weight. $\endgroup$
    – Bohemian
    Apr 27, 2023 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Bohemian See the discussion that was moved to chat. The point is the OP is asking for a little man "without the positive ramifications" of being that small, which I can only interpret as saying he should not have the high strength-to-bodyweight ratio a creature that size would normally have. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 27, 2023 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @causative Small organismes have high stength to weight. The universe obeys math and physics. It's not optional. $\endgroup$
    – Bohemian
    Apr 27, 2023 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Bohemian It is entirely optional that some creatures, such as our little guy, could have muscles that are weaker per cross sectional area than the muscles of other creatures. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 28, 2023 at 0:05
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Now, I think it might be possible for your tiny murderer to take down a regular sized human with bladed weapons, but it isn't going to be very nice. You're gonna be needing a rebreather, some hooks, some sharp cutting instruments, maybe a crowbar and a willingness to crawl into confined, hot, slimy spaces. And then you're going inflict traumatic brain surgery, by going in through the nose whilst the victim is sleeping. It's is going to take some time, the nose-owner is going to be trying hard to get you out, and it is possible they might be able to get surgical assistance before you actually inflict enough damage to kill them promptly, but it remains possible.

I can think of a couple of better options though.

First is poison. Injecting the poison is largely impractical because skin is thick and tough and you'll have a job driving a mini-hydrodermic through it, but there's some scope for ingested stuff if you can get it into the victim's food or drink. The right kind of chemicals can also work if instilled into the eyes, but perhaps the most straightforward approach would be to use a powerful neurotoxin that can seep through skin.

Chemical weapons like VX are perhaps the best known example of such a thing. Only a few tens of milligrams of the stuff can kill an adult human, it is effective on skin contact, and protecting the assassin from the stuff requires relatively well-established protocols and fairly easily available protective equipment. Squirt some of the nerve agent into the victim's ears, nose, eyes or mouth for best effect (but even an exposed ankle or toe might be enough), leave promptly. They might never notice.

Other things like ricin, botulinium toxin, radiotoxins like polonium-210 and perhaps some biological weapons are even more dangerous but present significant difficulties when administering the stuff, and protecting your assassin from their dangerous effects. Wearing a hazmat suit and wielding a squirt-gun with some low-vapor-pressure neurotoxin seems much safer and more reliable.

The second is demolition.

You can't really treat something that's 72 times taller than you as an opponent you're going to fight with... its a large, complex, pretty solid structure that can nonetheless be damaged in some critical areas. Humans have been making military and industrial demolition charges using shaped exposives for decades now, mostly for use against tough things like rock, reinforced concrete or metal. A human target, being made largely of meat, seems likely to be easier to attack this way.

Consider something like the M150 "Penetrating Augmented Munition", intended to be a device that can be deployed by a single soldier capable of disabling a hard target. With a bit of careful design, a shrunken shaped charge might be made that's capable of being attached to the right spot on the scalp of the target and blasting through to the brain stem. Maybe several such charges would be needed to be certain, but a team working together could be fairly certain of killing a target with the right demolition charges.

Or, as Glen Yates said in the comments above, just nuke your way to success. You've already extended the middle finger of authorial fiat to the laws of physics, so of course your mini-nuke will work as expected. A shrunken Davy Crockett might just be powerful enough, with the scaled yield of 56g of TNT, the same as a hand grenade. For a bigger punch, the Special Atomic Demolitions Munition could deliver 10-1000 tonnes of TNT-equivalent in a single-person-portable form, and even when scaled down that's the equivalent of a couple of kilos of regular-scale TNT... much more than enough to kill a human. In either case, the amount of prompt radiation released by the nuclear reaction should be enough to inflict lethal damage to a nearby human even if the blast didn't. Even larger warheads can be brought in and still potentially deployed by a single person, eg. W82, etc. As luck would have it, there was another question about scaled nuclear weapons recently, so you can read my answer to that one, if you were interested, though it wasn't concerned with human-portable devices.

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  • $\begingroup$ Am vaguely disappointed you didn't mention the possibility of inserting the poison through the ear :-) shakespearelives.org/poisons-potions/…,' $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ @SarahMesser it was mentioned in passing ;-) "Squirt some of the nerve agent into the victim's ears, nose, eyes or mouth for best effect" $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for nuking the victim $\endgroup$
    – Seggan
    Apr 27, 2023 at 1:33
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Based on your requirements - you are realistically limited to ingested poisons.

Your 1 inch human lacks the ability to puncture the skin using any bladed weapons - and any projectile weapons would have a projectile so light and tiny, it wouldn't be able to do any critical damage.

Since you can't reliably puncture the skin, Venoms and Toxins are out, which leads to ingested poison. Something like Cyanide or similar that can be Lethal in small amounts.

Even then, it's debatable whether our 1 inch human could carry enough poison to reliably kill a human.

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  • $\begingroup$ A nerve agent will be powerful enough many times over. Botulin would be ok too. Cyanide, as you point out,is marginal. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 27, 2023 at 3:39
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In Dungeons & Dragons, the sprites (very small flying people) have weapons that do only 1 damage (due to their diminutive size), but they use poison on them to do more damage. This would probably be your best bet here.

I would suggest using the poison of a poison dart frog, perhaps dripped from a vial or stabbed with a dagger-like weapon. It is a good choice because even small doses ─ as small as one microgram, according to sciencedirect.com ─ can cause muscle paralysis/convulsions or death. Your theoretical inch-tall person, being around 1/70th the size of a human, thus has 1/343,000 the muscular capacity of humans (because muscles are three-dimensional), and could (with work) carry over 100,000 micrograms of things, easily allowing enough to drip the poison on the person.

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    $\begingroup$ Source for the "one microgram is lethal"? I found a source saying 2-3 micrograms per kilogram for an injected dose of poison dart frog venom is an LD50. But that would be 200-300 micrograms for a 50% chance of lethal dose to a 100kg person, and again this is assuming it is injected, not dripped on their skin. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 25, 2023 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ @causative source is in the question. But even if you need hundreds of micrograms, it's not beyond the lifting capacity of this small person. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2023 at 0:40
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    $\begingroup$ You mean in the answer? You just linked to the sciencedirect main page. Anyway, yes, it's not beyond the person's lifting capacity, but it's not completely trivial either. Especially if you are giving an oral rather than intravenous dose. I could not find the exact oral ld50 for poison dart frog venom, but based on tetrodotoxin the oral dose might be 50x higher than the intravenous dose. And then multiply that by two or three to be more sure of a kill and a single lethal dose could be in the area of 20mg-45mg, somewhat heavy for the 270mg killer to carry. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 25, 2023 at 0:52
  • $\begingroup$ Speaking of D&D / Pathfinder, higher level rogue with a needle can still deal 10d6 of sneak attack :-) $\endgroup$
    – Edheldil
    Apr 25, 2023 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @causative Well, go ahead and use a needle for an intravenous dose. $\endgroup$ Apr 25, 2023 at 14:47
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A rocket-propelled grenade with a batrachotoxin- botulotoxin- or something-injection warhead should do the trick. The injection warhead would have to be custom-designed, but well within physical laws.

Best used from a vicinity of a mouse hole for bonus to own survival.

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If we're operating in the realms of realism as much as possible, the best way might actually be to use something like fentanyl, or a derivative of it.

It's something that you could realistically find in just about any town or city simple by looking in the obvious places, and it only takes a very small amount of it to render someone unconscious, or even dead.

It can be injected, put in food or drink, or even administered directly such as through the ear or eyes.

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Since it's sci-fi, I'd go antimatter.

I gram of antimatter, is "like one nuclear bomb".

Our 1-inch guy can only carry 1/4 gram of anything, so, he can in theory have an antimatter bomb that is powerful enough to easily kill one human, or say small building.

How he delivers it, I have no idea. He's far to weak to throw, climb, etc.

I guess, some sort of micro-mine-like device, a timed bomb. He attaches it and runs.

Again, the ONLY thing (in the universe) with any power at the scale of a tenth of a gram, is anti-matter.

AIM - Antimatter inch man!

Maybe there's some sort of plot twist where indeed he himself "is made of" antimatter. In some unimaginable way, he does NOT just immediately self-destruct. But when he say spits, pees or defecates, in some way ("quantum!") enough time passes for him to clear the area, and then the left-behind item becomes un-encased (or whatever) and there's a matter-anti-matter annihilation event - destroying the enemy.

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  • $\begingroup$ you need a lot more than a gram of matter to contain a quarter gram of antimatter. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 27, 2023 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ John, for sure. But "note also that we can't transform humans to being 1 inch tall" :). It's very much a "sci-fi hand-wave solution". Fact: the ONLY thing (in the universe) with any power relevant to the discussion, at the scale of a tenth of a gram, is anti-matter $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Apr 27, 2023 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Your fact is very wrong. There are many poisons were far less thana tenth of gram are enough. the ld50 for ricin inhalation is less than a hundredth of a gram for a 300lb human. a quarter of a gram could kill the target several hundred times over. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 27, 2023 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ @John , great point on poisons - my mistake, I assumed the question was more about physical-damage-type ewpons .. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Apr 28, 2023 at 10:40
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If you aren't using poison

High explosives

Insert into ear cavity. Or put on temples. Etc

A sharpened telescopic pole

Insert up nostril or into ear of sleeping victim.

Electricity

This will take a little setup, but while the victim is asleep, wire mains electricity to them. A circuit without an RCD, or a cable on a 2 pin plug will be required.

Hypersonic rocket

This basically becomes a conventional bullet.

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  • $\begingroup$ the pole won't work, the scale human cant generate enough force to do anything lethal, and they won't be able to move an electric cord that can carry enough current ot matter. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 26, 2023 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ @John The pole will work, and the little guy can generate enough force. See the problem with just stating conclusions? Btw: You only need a couple of copper strands to deliver a fatal zap. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 26, 2023 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ but you need the equiilent of a mile of those strands, and those copper strands will weigh more than heavy bridge cable to the little guy. he needs to move the equivalent of multiple tons of cable across extremely rugged terrain. As others have pointed out the guy can generate less than a gram of force, that is not enough force to puncture skin with a hypodermic needle which takes hundreds of grams. skin and tissue is remarkably tough. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 27, 2023 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ Linear distance only scales linearly. 2m = the equivalent of 150m. And no, it's more like a cable the thickness of your arm for an 0.25mm^2, or considerably less for a fine strand or two. Perfectly normal for commercial and industrial electricians. A big job, but then this is the 'do it the hard way' answer. A hypodermic will be much less sharp than the sort of sharpness this guy can achieve, and he's aiming for soft tissue, not skin. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 27, 2023 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ except he does not need a strand he needs two that can carry enough current to actually kill a human from skin contact without electrocuting him while carrying it or melting before it can deliver a lethal shock. also there is no soft tissue he can reach that half an inch of penetration by something as narrow as a hypodermic needle will be lethal. the only places capable of reaching anything lethal have skin in the way. sticking someone in the eye or ear may be painful but they are far from lethal. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 27, 2023 at 23:18
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Miniature sized self inflating raft

Assuming the target is asleep, wait until their mouth is open, and then drop into their throat and deploy the self-inflating raft. This will clog their airway and unless someone is nearby to perform a tracheotomy or the Heimlich maneuver this should be relatively effective. As an added bonus, after the target has expired, the raft can be deflated and removed, leaving little evidence of the cause of death (aside from asphyxiation).

Seriously though, poison is probably the right answer as basically everyone else has pointed out.

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The most obvious response would be "poison", but that may be exactly the reason to not use poison. If it's so obvious, then it won't be nearly so interesting. So there are a few other options.

As a tiny person, they actually have a distinct advantage. One major reason we cannot make objects any sharper than a fine razor is because we are big and our machines are big. A tiny person with a tiny file could easily make something sharper than a razor, so much more if they have a proper whetstone. A blade this sharp would easily open softer flesh, and being such a small, thin blade, it would be almost painless. Moreover, the tiny person may even be able to see the smaller nerves, so they could avoid startling the giant.

Option 2 is infection of bacteria, fungi, or parasites. Note that this is a slower, more subtle approach. To a person 1 inch tall, a standard 2-micrometer germ will look about 1/7th of a millimeter. Now that might be tiny, but it's big enough for a tiny person to collect the microorganisms on a tiny razorblade and deposit them wherever needed.

Option 3 is fireworks. Readily available, and often far too powerful. It only takes 1 well-placed spark to set it off, and if a tightly held firecracker can take off your hand, what will it do up your nose or down your throat?

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    $\begingroup$ we can make things single atom sharp, we don't because they won't last. eye surgery scalpels have monoatomic cutting edges and can be used for exactly one surgery. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 27, 2023 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, we can. But it could be said that the reason they don't stay sharp is the same reason a sword wouldn't stay sharp if it was used as a lawnmower blade. The lawnmower, or in this case our medical equipment, does not possess enough finesse to make cuts without damaging the edge. Maybe a tiny person would fare better. $\endgroup$
    – Blue Dev
    Jun 6, 2023 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ A sword would not stay sharp as a lawnmower blade because it is making literally thousands of cuts a minute, lawnmower blades get dull because they are cutting a lot of a durable abrasive material (grass is full of glass crystals called phytoliths) finesse is not the issue, the durability of the material is. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 6, 2023 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ Poor example, then. Let's say an axe. Either way, finesse is still an issue; I once had a double-bit axe that I kept sharp enough to shave, and I could easily carve with it. As long as I used it like a knife, it would stay that sharp for months. But if I used it to cut down a single tree, it would have a hard time shaving any hair afterward. So while the durability is an issue, the durability is LESS of an issue if more finesse is applied. $\endgroup$
    – Blue Dev
    Jun 16, 2023 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Which is not a measure of finesse but durability, No matter how prefect your alignment of the blade with the direction of force, it will wear more chopping wood than carving. chopping across millions of fibers is a more difficult task. A monomolecular edged axe also wears incredibly fast just because there are fewer atomic bones to spread the force across. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:50

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