project-navigation
Personal tools

Author Topic: Plasma and the Alien Minefield  (Read 3522 times)

Offline zapkitty

  • Rookie
  • ***
  • Posts: 56
    • View Profile
Plasma and the Alien Minefield
« on: March 08, 2010, 06:35:42 am »
Yep... actual plasma this time and deadly to boot.

To be more precise, a plasmoid: a self-supporting structure of plasma and magnetic fields that, like a smoke ring, can maintain itself for a limited period of time. These exist in real life in forms both natural and artificial.

The weapon concept is derived from the plasmoid hypothesis that has been put forward as a possible explanation for a certain natural phenomenon that is itself often incorrectly cited as an rationalization for using plasma as a projectile weapon... ball lightning.

Ball lightning- rare, intermittent, transitory and not well understood. If it is indeed a naturally-occurring plasmoid then perhaps it can give us an alien plasma weapon that burns, shocks and even explodes... not from the plasma itself so much but from the fact that plasmoids can carry one heck of a charge.

The damage types would be burn, electrical shock, EMP, and concussion.

Again: not a good projectile weapon. DARPA attempts to utilize the concept involved extreme compression of the plasmoid and then accelerating it to OMFG speeds in order to get it to the target before the plasma dispersed. (OMFG is a technical term referring to speeds between 200 and 3000 kilometers per second.)

(Then again... depending on the mass of the plasmoid the recoil from that might make a plasma pistol into a very deadly projectile weapon indeed... ;D )

*ahem* back to the subject...

So an alien minefield could generate plasmoids as an effective deterrent to ground troops because the generators would not be throwing the plasmoids anywhere... the humans would be forced to come to the generators.

And there are a variety of different ways of implementing this concept that could make life very interesting for those pesky humans... and perhaps very short.

For these concepts the generators consist of a base unit about 25 cm sq with three legs. It extends an antenna-like meter-high mast at the tip of which the plasmoid forms.

  • Hide and Seek Generators:
    The buried generator only sticks up a mast when a human moves into an adjacent square, and then retracts the mast after the plasmoid is loosed. And then it moves a square, alternating between burrowing directly to the new site and getting up, walking to the new square and then reburying itself.

  • Dances with Plasmoids:
    An array of generators keeps a plasmoid constantly aloft, with the ball drifting unpredictably from mast to mast as it is recharged. Great fun when combined with hide and seek generators.

  • Plasmoids as NPCs:
    A variant of Dances with Plasmoids where an array of generators collectively senses the nearest human(s) and generates plasmoids which then migrate to the edge of the minefield waiting for the humans to come near. As the humans move the plasmoids move with them. In this case the generators stay put, letting the plasmoids do the walking.


Other ideas?


Offline Captain Skill

  • Rookie
  • ***
  • Posts: 13
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma and the Alien Minefield
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2010, 02:29:58 am »
Honestly, given alien tech, they'd be much better off using deployable sentry guns for area denial purposes. Advantages include range, flexibility (particularly if designed so that it can accept any manportable weapon) lethality (highly accurate AI is doing the firing, and can engage autonomously in more situations), and reconnaissance (can 'spot' for the aliens, and generate alerts, silent or otherwise; granted mines can be purposed to do this as well).
« Last Edit: March 10, 2010, 02:33:07 am by Captain Skill »

Offline Zox613

  • Rookie
  • ***
  • Posts: 13
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma and the Alien Minefield
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2010, 03:10:31 pm »
I think in this type of war, both parts will use Minefields (we use its IRL)

carbonlife

  • Guest
Re: Plasma and the Alien Minefield
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2010, 05:25:40 am »
Zapkitty writes:

"Ball lightning- rare, intermittent, transitory and not well understood. If it is indeed a naturally-occurring plasmoid then perhaps it can give us an alien plasma weapon that burns, shocks and even explodes... not from the plasma itself so much but from the fact that plasmoids can carry one heck of a charge...  The damage types would be burn, electrical shock, EMP, and concussion.

Speaking as a physicist, you underestimate ball lightning as a game weapon.  It's not the electrostatic charge that gets you, nor the EMP.  The UFO-AI designers DID incorporate ball-lightning concepts as plasma splatter  --  little balls that burn their way into armor or tissue like incendiary droplets, as described in the game docs somewhere.   

That's what ball lightning actually did on early submarines, that used huge knife switches to suddenly interrupt very high battery currents to highly inductive motor loads.  The molten metal droplets didn't travel very far, but some of the metal ions became incorporated into plasmoid balls that could stick-and-burn from a distance, ricochet and so on, which molten metal droplets ( spalling ) generally couldn't.  A fearsome aspect of this was unpredictability  --  like an erratically bouncing grenade, but able to hover, jump suddenly in random directions, or even chase you.  Occasionally ball lightning would follow a curving corridor like a waveguide, even turn a corner, or go down a chimney and out the fireplace  --  or maybe blow up the chimney; no way of telling.  Even scarier, ball lightning sometimes seems 'attracted' to apertures  --  open windows or hatches, and dives through them.   

Individual balls wouldn't be that scary, but imagine a bunch of them suddenly erupting from a plasmoid cluster-shell or cluster-mine near aliens behind cover.  More intriguing, ball plasma might be attracted to MOVING aliens or to conductive alien armor  --  there's not much real-world data on outdoor ball lightning in still air, because it usually shows up in turbulent stormy air  --   so it may be following air currents / ventilation currents through windows / down corridors.  So if aliens open a door from or into a positive-pressure environment and set off a plasma-ball booby trap  --  or booby-trap UFO entrances where your squad has gathered to storm the vestibule, ouch !!

More interestingly, real-world artificial ball lightning can be made to TUNNEL through glass or conductive non-conductors under remote control, leaving only a tiny scorched pinhole.  The ball reforms on the other side within a fraction of a second, basically following a microwave beam that sustains it.  If one of these things tunnels through your faceplate, or through your ceramic armor insert, it doesn't NEED much explosive power in a confined space.

The game concept of plasma "softening up" armor developed on the forums from the sound physics of the armor itself  --  an inner superconducting layer to conduct away localized burn-heat, covered by a protective layer of woven superpolymer to protect the not-very-durable superconductor.  That way, you can't cook the wearer unless you can heat up the ENTIRE suit.  The outer superpolymer armor was necessary because room-temperature superconductivity can be disrupted by anything that heats it above the critical superconducting temperature  --  so you put superpolymer over it to 'sacrificially' slow the influx of heat to what the superconductor can handle.  Superconductivity can also be disrupted by heavy photon bombardment from, say, a UV laser rifle  --  or by heavy UV from a plasma burst.  You blend the superpolymer to be somewhat ablative, like space-shuttle heat tiles, to char without conducting heat, and to 'degrade gracefully' while you shield a civilian, or while you sucker enemies into unloading their plasma pistols from beyond effective range.

This is where SMALL ball plasmas come in, if they can burn through or pinhole through the superpolymer armor  --  same principle as laser rifles that can 'poke small holes' in armor.   If you destroy armor's integrity, incapacitating gas can get in, electricity can get in etc.  Even more intriguing would be 'string-of-beads' plasma balls that could follow-the-leader through the SAME pinhole.

"Pinhole tunneling" plasma balls could also restore a lost capability of X-COM  --  the ability to kill unarmored aliens through a UFO window.  Also, it'd be nice to turn the tables on those cinematic alien abductor mechanisms that pulse-and-glow while circling your house, then come in under a crack in the door or through the ventilators.  Another nice feature of microwave-beam-guided plasma balls is that you can bounce the beam off any flat metal surface  --  a limited version of X-COM's way-point blaster bombs and fusion missiles.  You MIGHT even be able to control where the plasma ball explodes by suddenly turning off the beam that's feeding it  --  OR, maybe the suddenly-energy-starved ball would make a beeline for the UFO's power reactor.   X-COM always had some nice tricks you could learn, that followed perfectly from the technology.

Real-world ball lightning generally DOESN'T carry "a heck of an [electrostatic] charge, which would pull them to the ground  --  you want the thing to float and be drawn to targets, like a charged balloon attracted to walls or people.  A "heck of a charge" would create an equal and opposite 'mirror charge' in the ground  --  or in light poles, parked cars whatever. 

A plasma ball's destructive energy comes from the very sudden recombination of charges carried within it.  By definition, a plasma consists of atoms stripped of some or all of their electrons, usually by extreme heat ( plasma is basically fire, the 4'th state of matter ).  The stripped electrons hover around near the stripped atoms, waiting to recombine when the plasma cools sufficiently, or when a triggering event occurs.  Since the plasma is transparent, it doesn't radiate away its heat like a black-body radiator, until it has 'loitered' awhile.

The 'burn energy' is far greater than the surface electrostatic charge, which would be too easily grounded ( like the magician who can shoot lightning bolts from inside a 'Faraday cage' suit-and-gloves.   The amount of surface charge you can put on a ball is limited ( by atmospheric breakdown ) to roughly the same charge as you can fit on a Van De Graff generator's ball.  My college had a big generator in the basement, and all you had to do to walk up to it safely was hold a grounded welding rod out in front of you.  One guy at another school forgot to attach the grounding cable and still wasn't killed, though his only protection was a lab coat  --  took him awhile to regain consciousness.

"The damage types would be burn, electrical shock, EMP, and concussion."

If you want electroshock, don't use ball plasma  --  make it donut shape carrying high CURRENT, not charge  --  it's the current in a stun weapon that gets you, not the voltage.  EMP would be very potent very short range ( a meter at best ), by sudden collapse of the plasma donut's magnetic field.   Magnetic pulse is much harder to shield against than electrostatic pulse, but has much shorter range since magnetic fields loop back to the source.

"So an alien minefield could generate plasmoids as an effective deterrent to ground troops because the generators would not be throwing the plasmoids anywhere... the humans would be forced to come to the generators."
Plus, you could sustain the 'loitering' plasmas with standing-wave microwave fields  --  your squad could sneak in, plant a few field generators around a perimeter, and trigger them remotely later after 'herding' the aliens toward them.  Or, you could simply create a situation where the aliens have only one logical place to hide from view after their end-of-turn.  Inactive field generators probably wouldn't register on alien super-senses. 

"For these concepts the generators consist of a base unit about 25 cm sq with three legs. It extends an antenna-like meter-high mast at the tip of which the plasmoid forms."

Reasonable  --  but I suggest a time limit due to the high power consumption.  Since the microwave fields are line-of-sight, they'd be fairly resistant to EMP jamming.

"The buried generator only sticks up a mast when a human moves into an adjacent square, and then retracts the mast after the plasmoid is loosed. And then it moves a square, alternating between burrowing directly to the new site and getting up, walking to the new square and then reburying itself."

In that case I'd suggest it emit several short-lived balls ( no loiter time ).   That way you could bury a 'picket line' of, say, 3 generators that'd deny access for, say, 2 turns max., to ensure that once you clear an area of pesky humans, it stays clear.

"An array of generators keeps a plasmoid constantly aloft, with the ball drifting unpredictably from mast to mast."
They needn't come to a mast to recharge.  Artificial balls just 'bask' in a microwave beam.  Naturally occurring ones probably feed from a lightning streamer ( invisible ), which perhaps acts as a microwave antenna for ambient EMP.

"A variant of Dances with Plasmoids where an array of generators collectively senses the nearest human(s) and generates plasmoids which then migrate to the edge of the minefield waiting for the humans to come near. As the humans move the plasmoids move with them. In this case the generators stay put, letting the plasmoids do the walking."

You want to warn humans they're about to get killed, instead of ambushing them?   Seems un-alien somehow :)
"The weapon concept is derived from the plasmoid hypothesis...  often incorrectly cited as an rationalization for using plasma as a projectile weapon... "

I pointed out awhile back that plasma projectiles are unrealistic  --  much easier to generate the plasma at point-of-use, or fire a half-matter, half-energy 'torpedo'.   I like the newer Star Wars concept of nasty little flying bots that jump on your armor and eat into it with plasma cutters  --  so you'd need a second soldier to shoot it off you.

"Again: not a good projectile weapon. DARPA attempts to utilize the concept involved extreme compression of the plasmoid and then accelerating it to OMFG speeds...  between 200 and 3000 kilometers per second.)"

Right...  which was impractical in atmosphere and too slow in space  --  a target 5,000 km away would have ample time to dodge, and a high-energy plasma radiates way too much to be stealthy.
Then again... depending on the mass of the plasmoid the recoil from that might make a plasma pistol into a very deadly projectile weapon indeed... )

The mass is negligible  --  at 50,000+ C, even a highly compressed plasma has low density.  Plasma rifle recoil would come mainly from the blow-back of displaced air creating the plasma.

I suggest at least ONE kind-of-weapon with realistic physics, so that the MIT genius types would be tempted to contribute game-physics algorithms, and maybe even interface UFO-AI to their game-engine supercomputers, so we could play against highly adaptive artificial intelligences.  In most strategy games against the computer, the aliens don't adapt, so the game designers 'accidentally' provide the aliens with ways to cheat  --  e.g. aliens don't pay maintenance, or they can magically appear in absurd numbers on any square you haven't explored.

I suspect that by the time UFO-AI has a consistent set of strategy elements that don't keep disappearing ( like smoke grenades and flashbangs ), real-world weaponry will exist to put the 'real' in realism.  For example, the largest real-world particle beams can melt a hole through a 30-ft. thickness of copper.  That requires a kilometer-scale particle accelerator at present, but great strides have been made in tabletop particle accelerators using laser excitation of plasmas, once you've got powerful enough lasers --  which are compactly powerful enough now to fit on a 747 and melt holes in a launch vehicle a couple of hundred km away if the target is above most of the atmosphere.  That's nice because you end up with 3 kinds of weapons  --  ground-based, edge-of-space, and in-space.  Plus, you can't automatically assume that ground-based destructive-power generation will be stronger than space-based power-generation, since lots of conceivable power reactions are too dangerous to initiate on your home planet.

Offline val

  • Rookie
  • ***
  • Posts: 39
    • View Profile
Re: Plasma and the Alien Minefield
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2010, 06:36:16 am »
Got a better idea.( I like what I'm hearing though, has alien menace to it.)

Why not have a single visible generator and underground plasmoids.  The plasmoids move around underground slowly but randomly, and when the generator sees someone over a plasmoid, it triggers a molten rock/plasma ERUPTION!  Plasmoids should show little to no signs of presence in any particular area, but will instantly dissipate upon the generator's destruction.

Probably should have a PHALAX weapon similar to that(spider mines linked to a small sensor tower.)