Super Weapons

Super Weapons

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There are many ways to measure how advanced a  civilization is, by its feats of architecture   or art or philosophy or wisdom. “How big and  numerous their guns are?” probably is not the   best measure of things, but they might make a very  convincing case to those who feel otherwise.   So, welcome back to another Scifi Sunday here  on SFIA, where we explore the Science behind   Science Fiction and ask how realistic it is  and what real science paths might allow a given   scifi technology or something parallel. Today we’ll be examining super weapons,  

from those just a bit stronger than we have  now to those which might ruin worlds or even   wreck whole Universes, tearing at the fabric  of spacetime itself. We’ll explore the weapons   of the far future and those which might be  used to attack your enemies in the past. And   if that sounds like a fun topic, make sure  to hit those like and subscribe buttons.  

Now, a problem we often have in science fiction is  that a lot of the time, the weapons on display are   actually a good deal weaker and less effective  than modern ones. Frequently you’ll see a show   where they’ve got advanced lasers and phasers that  are all high-tech but weaker and less accurate   than modern sidearms. There’s also nothing  in between laser pistol and ‘blow up planet’,   not much in terms of tanks and artillery and  even assault rifles and shoulder-mounted rocket   launcher equivalents are pretty rare. In fairness  to TV shows, with classic scifi TV shows, you’re   often working with limited budgets and trying to  mimic the cowboy shoot-ups from Westerns, but with   Lasers. If that’s got existing audience appeal,  it saves you money, and lots of actors, directors,  

and production crews would be experienced with  making and filming that sort of scene already.   So that’s our acknowledgment that there are some  real limitations on showing mid-range gear, but it   nonetheless results in the bad guys way too often  having their massive and overwhelming military   demonstrated by “We have a doomsday device”.  On the other hand, that gives us a massive   arsenal of doomsday devices to discuss today. As we did devote an entire episode to Death  

Rays already, we can skip around that specific  class of weapon, and let’s instead consider just   bombs bigger than nukes for the moment. Though  we should note that a super weapon need not be   a singleton, like a big bomb or gun, but it  could be something like a self-replicating   swarm of death bots, which we’ll discuss later  today, or just something very clever like a   virus that makes everybody who catches it less  aggressive, or the computer kind that deletes   the secret bank accounts of everybody in power,  or dumps their dirty laundry on public display.   Now, in the classic film Dr. Strangelove, we  find out the Soviets have a doomsday super-bomb   designed to go off automatically if they’re  attacked but they didn’t tell the other side,   and the eponymous character chides the  Soviet Ambassador, “The whole point of   the Doomsday Machine is lost, if you keep it a  secret! Why didn’t you tell the world, eh?”   So, there’s always that question of why you  would build a megaweapon and whether or not   a total lunatic is going to need other people  helping on that project, any one of which could   opt to be both greedy and self-protective  by just leaving a vital component out.   You’ve no real reason to keep such a thing  secret and since it’s often hard to do so anyway,   you can use weapons tests to demonstrate  that you have got the megaweapon in   question and that it does actually work. Why you want it definitely plays a role in  

which options you pursue, because a deterrence  weapon needs to be safe to build and maintain   and not accidentally set off, which means  its needs failsafes and guardians, and those   guardians now get to vote in whether it gets used  and can potentially use it to threaten you too,   if it comes time to be asking about pay raises  and promotions, or changes in supreme leadership.   Big bombs aren’t cheap to build and maintain  but the real reason we never saw supernukes was   because the hard part about building a bigger bomb  is actually building a rocket able to deliver it,   as otherwise you’re detonating it in your  own territory. The biggest nuke ever set off,   the Tzar Bomba, was less than 50 megatons and  honestly served little point. Often in history  

we find the world record for something big  belongs less to a champion than a glorious   example of why people can do bigger but choose  not to. Any major power is capable of building   a bomb that is as big or even bigger again.  Without testing it is hard to know if a new   and bigger design will even work. Afterall,  untested prototypes have a fairly bad track   record for success even when the design team has  vast expertise and resources. But there’s nothing   obviously tricky about boosting nuke size up more  and indeed bigger is generally more efficient   when it comes to nukes or even reactors. But you hit a point of diminishing returns,  

as with big bombs being used on Earth, the loose  rule is that if you double the yield you only   increase radius of the explosion by about a third.  Or More energy goes into making the mushroom cloud   hotter, brighter, and taller; which looks awesome  but is basically just further vaporizing what’s   already vaporized. And if that’s not on a rocket,  it’s your homeland that’s getting more vaporized.   It’s why an asteroid impact or volcano can  have way more released energy than our entire   cold war nuclear stockpile and be thought of as  fairly destructive but not be truly apocalyptic.   Consider, a one megaton bomb might kill almost  everyone in a 2 mile or 3 kilometer radius,   with few survivors and many dead out to about  double that radius. But it would take about 8   megatons to double that radius, 4 miles or 6  kilometers, whereas an ICBM carrying several   smaller warheads could deploy that as a cluster  munition and get more damage done. Scifi is full  

of various bigger bombs than A-Bombs and H-Bombs,  often something like the D-Bomb or Omega Bomb,   and honestly it’s not bad to have a  bigger bomb, all things being equal,   but several smaller ones with a combined equal  or even lesser yield is generally more valuable.   It’s hard to estimate how much it would  take to serve as a true doomsday weapon,   as the asteroid impact we think killed-off  the dinosaurs was thought to be around 100   million megatons, or 2 million Tsar Bomba  equivalents. Humanity would survive that,   though most people might not, and civilization  might fall apart for several generations, which   is nothing in the grand scheme of time or even  humanity. But how much would kill us all off? And   what would it take to just blow the planet up? I think to start our conversation of super weapons   off, we would have to list modern Weapons of  Mass Destruction as essentially category 1,   and something able to wreck the whole observable  Universe as Category 10, though keeping in mind   that we can envision Multiverse-level weapons  or destruction so 10 is arbitrary, not maximum.  

I will semi-arbitrarily put anything that can  wipe all life off the surface of a planet as   Category 3 and actually obliterate a planet, death  star-style, as Category 4. Though exterminating   an entire solar system, in a classic space opera  case of multiple inhabited planets and potentially   hundreds of facilities on moons, asteroids,  and other space habitats, would be easier than   obliterating an entire planet, as we will discuss  in a second, an actual inhabited and developed   star system really can survive a massive beating. The amount of energy needed to vaporize a planet   the size and composition of your typical  Earth-Mass planet is going to be on an order   of 10^32 Joules, but unless you’re at war  with the lava people living in the core,   this is stupidly high overkill. Even  just peeling the crust off the planet,   which should take about 1% as much energy, should  do the job, indeed we think a big rock hitting   Earth in the deep past did exactly that and got  us our Moon. Though a single impact on one side  

of a planet might distribute energy to blow some  mantle off there and leave crust elsewhere, I’d   still have problems imagining anything surviving  that. Though folks with spaceships on the other   side of the planet might have some time to flee,  depending on how fast the shockwaves traveled.   Ultimately if you really want someone dead,  just remember the first rule of warfare:   there is no such thing as overkill. It works  well and so does using multiple techniques.   You blow everything up, gas the place, then send  in the murderbots. Then you pave the smoldering   embers over and build a giant monument to how  vengeful you are toward your enemies so that   nobody else decides to poke their head up and  take their chances at getting on your bad side.   So, something like 10^30 Joules of energy,  a million, trillion-trillion joules,   should do the job for any Earth-like planet. If  you had to buy that energy in real modern dollars,  

at something like a dollar for every 100  million joules, that’s going to cost you   10 Trillion-trillion dollars, or more than the  entire current global economy if it kept producing   at current rates for the rest of Earth’s lifetime  till the sun roasted us. The assumption is that   you have some cheaper or singular nuke-like power  source with super weapons, but never forget that   energy is originally and literally defined as the  measurement of how much work you can get done.   So, if you feel like you could get a lot better  results in terms of net destruction by keeping   modern humanity producing and working  on a problem for a few billion years,   then blowing all that energy on peeling the crust  off a world isn’t an effective use of juice. We   see something like this with the allied Cardassian  and Romulan Assault in Star Trek Deep Space 9 on   what they thought was the enemy’s homeworld, and  they talk of how many hours they’ll need to take   off the crust and mantle. This doesn’t seem  the cleverest use of weapons, but then again   it turned out to be a decoy planet and a trap. A Megaton of nuke is cheaper as a power source   but again, those cold war arsenals of hundreds,  if not thousands of megatons of nukes would have   barely scratched this planet’s surface, just  the life on it, and yet we’re still talking   generations worth of effort building those  bombs and trillions of cost in the building and   maintaining. Yes, vastly superior power production  or automation might make such an object cheaper,  

but remember that this will also apply to whoever  is building the defenses for the place you want to   attack. You need more like 100 trillion megatons  of nukes to peel a crust off a planet like Earth,   and a hundred times that to vaporize one,  though this varies a lot from world to world.   In terms of antimatter, it would take roughly a  trillion tons of antimatter to vaporize Earth,   and several billion to remove the surface layer,  but that feels a lot more plausible – assuming   you have the ability to produce and store  antimatter cheaply. Still a lot though,   just to rip the crust off a world means having  nearly a ton of antimatter per person living   on it, and while we could have a real paradigm  shift in costs and availability of antimatter,   that would feel like killing someone by  burying them under gold and diamonds.   This can tempt folks toward using asteroids as  a seemingly cheaper source of kinetic energy,   and indeed it would be, especially if you have the  space and math skills to find a big asteroid with   very little delta-v needed to change its course  to an impact trajectory, but you can still assume   that at best you’re saving a couple orders of  magnitude on energy cost – which is nothing to   be sneezed at of course – but it’s still a vast  energy need and there’s nothing subtle about this   massive use of energy. They’re gonna know you  just shoved a giant asteroid off course and the  

effort will be way more visible while ongoing  than that asteroid by itself is. You might not   care if they know as they may be powerless  to stop it and the dread of inevitable death   raining down upon them in a couple years might  merely be sweet sauce for your vengeful meal.   The alternative though, when dealing with a  spacefaring culture, is to do a “Colony Drop”   instead, which is where you substitute  dragging an asteroid onto a long trip   to an enemy world and instead grab any of their  larger space orbitals, like an O’Neill Cylinder,   and de-orbit it onto the world below. An O’Neill  Cylinder would generally mass several gigatons   and would come crashing downs with more than  its TNT equivalent, as TNT only has about 4   gigajoules of explosive energy per ton, while  a ton of matter falling from Earth’s orbit at   about 8 kilometers per second will have  more like 32, which is 8 times as much.   So, essentially you can convert something  falling from orbit as being several times   its actual mass in explosives, and in this case,  an O’Neill Cylinder would impact on some spot   below with a thousand times the energy of the Tsar  Bomba. Given that a civilization might have many   thousands of stations that size and larger in  orbit – and far more smaller ones – an attacker   might be able to set off a major Kessler  Syndrome event wrecking those orbitals and   dropping large chunks of them all over the world  below, dwarfing classic nuclear Armageddon.  

We see this in David Weber’s military  scifi series Honor Harrington, where a   big chunk of a three hundred thousand ton orbital  shipyard crashes onto a city, killing millions.   At a smaller scale, we see this done with  satellites, where in the Modern Fantasy series   the Dresden files they drop a decommissioned  satellite on an enemy villain's hometown, blowing   him and his goons up… plus civilians I assume. Before we leave the topic of more conventional   weapons, it should be noted that a superweapon  might save on power input required by taking   advantage of existing sources. For instance, we  explain the Butterfly Effect by noting that the   beating of a butterfly’s wings in China might  affect the course of an Atlantic Hurricane down   the road, and while an extreme case, a very good  knowledge of weather-modeling might let you use   very minimal and hard-to-detect efforts  to steer a future storm as it develops,   to ransack an enemy’s capital. On a grander scale  you could set off a storm on the Sun’s surface to   blow an immense coronal mass ejection out at the  right time and place to hit the target planet.   It’s a reminder that subtle and clever  use of force can be better than raw might,   though we must also remember that in any situation  where your enemy has rough parity of abilities,   they probably can monitor weather patterns and  sun storms fairly well, and also notice any heavy   effort to alter them. If you can be more subtle  than your enemy, you might be able to outfox them,  

though trickery has a way of weaving webs  so tangled that you snare yourself in them.   In the end, a lot can be said for heavy and  direct use of force, that’s the first rule   of warfare after all, if Brute Force Isn’t  Working, You’re Just Not Using Enough Of It”   Still, we have another option that incorporates  both brute force and a modicum of stealth,   subtlety, and cleverness. Relativistic Kill  Missiles are the ultimate in raw kinetic   brute force, large missiles with simple guidance  packages launched from afar that need no explosive   warhead, not even a nuke or antimatter, because  their raw kinetic energy already exceeds what a   bomb – fission, fusion, or antimatter – would  hold. Though you may pack it with antimatter   to give it extra maneuverability, it  is a great and simple rocket fuel,   and it does add a little extra punch. Indeed, antimatter is the only known rocket   fuel besides kugelblitz black holes that can  actually accelerate a RKM. Typically we assume   that it will be pushed up to speed by a powerful  laser, which can push on the RKM for many days,   transfer all the beam’s energy over that time  into kinetic energy which the RKM now has and   which it can deliver in total in a mere instant by  ramming into something at near-lightspeed. Indeed,  

this is a better approach than just using a big  star-powered laser for interstellar attacks, or   a Nicoll-Dyson Beam or Stellaser, as you can skip  all the issue of focusing on a target light years   away and having to keep a beam on target for days,  in favor of putting that into individual RKMS.   Or multiple, which is where the RKM really  excels. It can break itself up into several   smaller projectiles right before impact  to spread itself around, but you can also   arrange for volleys of RKMs. For instance, if  I really want to hammer Earth, I want my RKMs   to arrive over at least a 12 hour period so it  rotates around to the undamaged side. But I can   arrange my RKMs to arrive together or strung out.  Consider, I can push one up to 97% of light speed,   the next to 98%, the next to 99%, or so on, so  that I’m using my pushing laser, matter beam, or   electromagnetic catapult over many weeks or even  years to sling projectiles that will all arrive   simultaneously or at a spacing of my choice,  and deliver all that energy in an instant.  

And while they coast through space,  having been accelerated lightyears away,   they aren’t actually invisible but they are  very tiny compared to an asteroid. They’re   now moving so fast that a radar that might pick  them up a light-hour away might give you less   than a minute between when you get the return  signal alerting you of the threat and when the   impact occurs. And trying to pick up some skinny  black metal mega-bullet maybe a few meters across   and several long, moving at 99% of light speed  through the vacuum of space is no easy trick.   One other advantage is you can abort an attack,  detonating them or moving them off course,   as you could have a forward observer or even  a small command ship trailing shortly behind   who could give an abort code. You can’t do that  with a laser. Once it is fired the light will   arrive and as fast as any warning signal you might  send, so RKMs allow some options for later mercy,   as well as coercion. Surrender or  die, the missiles arrive tomorrow.   Incidentally, for folks wondering about the  effectiveness of this super weapon against a   non-planet target like a Dyson Swarm, yes it  is diminished but at the same time the RKMs   can break apart sooner and spread out more  like a shotgun blast to the entire system,   potentially distributed over a year or  more, like some brutal relativistic kill   cloud. That sort of thing is going to cause a  navigational hazard like a cone spreading out  

from that system for a broad swath through  the galaxy, so like a lot of superweapons,   you need to contemplate unintended  collateral damage that might also   bring thus far unaligned empires into the fight  against you… or scare the cowards into line.   Needless to say this can be scaled up to wreck  whole galaxies, and since the main shot will be   moving far faster than the escape velocity of that  galaxy, it will pass through into the wider void,   leaving the place colonizable afterward. I will  call this a Category 7 Superweapon at this stage,   again fairly arbitrarily, but will say that  8 is a Galactic Group killer, 9 is a Galactic   Supercluster killer, and 10 is able to take out  a Hubble volume or the Observable Universe.   Jumping a bit ahead, but a Category 6 Superweapon  might be artificially setting off a supernova to   take out several neighboring systems. There are  any number of scifi settings that have used this  

trick, the two best-known being Star Trek,  where the plotline of the film Generations   features artificially blowing-up stars, and Star  Wars, with a number of supernova-based weapons   in the Legends setting, from Sith superpowers,  to the small spacecraft, the Sun Crusher. When   it comes to superweapons, few fictional  settings have as many as Star Wars does,   from Death Stars to Thought Bombs to Sith Lords  who can cause Coronal Mass Ejections to take out   enemy spaceships pursuing them. We see that trick  used by Worf in Star Trek the Next Generation too,   during the Klingon Civil War, and also against  the Borg later in the series. As is often the   case with this sort of weapon of opportunity, much  like dropping a boulder on someone in an ambush,   a lot depends on getting the person there. More  so with supernovae, as, while they are very fast   explosions, they are the final moment on a  process of fusion taking millions of years.  

Methods for setting one off have been proposed.  You could launch two large iron slugs, at least   large asteroid mass, from different directions,  timed to intersect at that star’s core. Hot   as stars are, they actually take quite a while  to melt large objects, and planets might orbit   inside red giants for very long times before  being burned up. So the slugs would intersect   in the center giving a large initiating blast  while poisoning the fusion reaction with iron   and initiating the blast. This trick is used in  the Bobiverse book series by Dennis E. Taylor,  

and should work on lower mass stars. This is easier in some ways with white dwarfs,   which can go supernova when sufficient new  matter is added, though of course, adding 1%   to some near-supernova white dwarf’s mass still  means hundreds of Earth’s worth of new matter,   not exactly easy to move. We might also really  scale this effect up by reigniting Active Galactic   Nuclei or dumping whole stars into a galaxy’s  central black hole, potentially releasing   galaxy-sterilizing levels of radiation in a big  blast; rolling out at light speed from the core.   Larry Niven’s known space series features  that event, and the well-known Ringworld   megastructure comes from that setting, and was  built as something like a Galactic Noah’s Ark.   Smaller Scale events using various regular  or medium sized black holec of several solar   masses to several thousand, pumped with several  solar masses of rapidly in-falling new matter,   could be used to create Hypernova able to  wreck large pockets of interstellar space   in a sphere around the target or as polar jets,  striking out as long cones but even further.  

This is where we can start talking about  edge-of-science options, as you might be   able to dump matter into a star by a wormhole, or  on the flip side, you dump one mouth of a wormhole   in orbit of a star or even in one, and use the  other mouth as a portable flamethrower to torch   planets or propel ships as its rocket thrust, such  as moving and maneuvering the weapon’s platform   itself. This is a superweapon used to take out a  meeting of a powerful galaxy-spanning faction in   the novel House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds,  which also shows us supernova defense methods,   like ringing a star in a cluster of tilted  and perfectly reflective thin ringworlds.   We could also dump a neutron star into a gas  giant, after all, a wormhole mouth only needs   to be a handful of kilometers wide to suck in  a neutron star, as opposed to many thousands   or million for white dwarfs or normal stars. As we saw in our episode Weaponizing Black Holes,   shooting a black hole into something isn’t the  superweapon scifi often shows us, a micro black   hole mostly wouldn’t do anything to a star for  instance, but a neutron star certainly would,   if we could dump either through a wormhole.  Or any other version of teleportation,   and a superweapon might be a fairly mundane  transporter like we see in Star Trek, just   one able to beam nuclear bombs from your magazines  into an enemy ship or bunker, the Asgard use this   trick against the Wraith in Stargate Atlantis. And anything that just ignores armor or shields   is arguably a superweapon even if the payload  is very mundane, after all, a simple stone   arrowhead teleported into your supreme leader’s  head works wonders for changing his mind.  

So too, Brainwashing machines represent a type  of superweapon, as do any other contagious or   self-replicating devices, one could even argue  bits of propaganda or philosophy are superweapons.   Though, a giant weaponized pulsar, blowing jets  of plasma or gamma rays out for lightyears seems   a better example, and any neutron star could be  turned back into a pulsar and probably aimed.   You can do parallel tricks with black  holes and white dwarfs too, and we already   discussed various star-weaponizing options. Getting back to our neutron star example,   that’s also not really how wormholes under  classic Einstein-Rosen Bridge version works,   they are expected to collapse if you put a  lot of matter through one, which a neutron   star would certainly qualify as, but we’ll assume  the more classic scifi wormhole portal opening.   Sticking a neutron star in the middle of a gas  giant should cause a detonation, not a refurbished   star, as we see in the Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga  of Seven Suns, which, while a little loose with  

its science, but does have a nice mix of space  opera classic and big-scale superweapons.   One of those is automated murderous robots that  can be mass-manufactured, and when they can also   replicate themselves or make factories to do  so, we call this a Berserker. Lots of machines,   automated spacecraft of varying intelligence,  out to kill stuff. A variant of what we call  

a Hegemonizing Swarm, borrowing the term  from Iain M. Banks and his Culture series,   another scifi gem that doesn’t hesitate to  show us massive scales and stellar engineering.   Banks never really details the specifics here  but the implication is somewhere between the   Borg from Star Trek and a Paperclip Maximizer or  Optimizer, something that pretty much goes through   space turning every free bit of matter into more  of itself or its desired end state, like turning   everything into paperclips. Or taking every  rock apart into its constituent elements to make  

everything into huge collections of sorted metal  ingots awaiting usage. You could do that to stars   too, not just planets. Or directly, something  more useful, like war machines or space habitats.   One can make the argument that any interstellar  species moving out from its homeworld is basically   acting as a Hegemonizing Swarm, just with various  tightness to its curve of standardization and   accepted outliers, or mutant peoples and cultures.  Of course, one can also argue the ultimate  

superweapon is intelligence itself, and that  while converting an entire star into a massive   war engine able to rain RKMs and mega-laser  across the galaxy, converting a star into   a single massive computer mind, what we call a  Matrioshka Brain, is actually way more dangerous.   We don’t know what the hard limits on physics  are, but odds are good that such a mind would   quickly find them, and that might give it access  to not only some reality-bending weapons, but the   brains to utilize them to terrifying effect. Those  might include surprising options like being able   to play with fundamental physical forces, locally  altering them to be stronger or weaker, or even   turning them off. Even a fairly small increase in  the Gravitational Constant of the Universe would   cause stars to implode very quickly or cause gas  giants like Jupiter to become second suns, which   would be both a magnificent tool for building  great wonders or a weapon for wrecking them.   A sudden decrease in gravitational strength could  circumvent the energy requirements for vaporizing   planets too, causing existing ones with molten  cores to fall apart, or causing stars to explode   under their own immense heat, no longer restrained  by gravity. Indeed we might imagine a ‘bomb’   that caused a target star to supernova by higher  gravity and used the energy from that to power a   galaxy-wide drop or increase in the gravitational  constant, taking a whole galaxy apart. Or the  

equivalent of a bomb-pumped laser, which  normally is when we set off a nuke and use it   to power a fast laser blast inside a cavity in the  microseconds before it vaporizes it. In this case   being aimed at a distant target star or galaxy. We could do similar with alterations to other   forces and fields, such as shutting  down electromagnetism and the forces   that bind neighboring atoms to hold together as  molecules, like the Molecular Disruptor Device,   or MD, or Little Doctor, from Orson  Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game,   which uses that effect to further power itself,  making it weak against small objects but can   chain react if ships in a fleet get too close,  and can blow up entire planets just as easily.   Shutting off the Nuclear Forces, like the  gluons which hold atomic nuclei together,   could be even more devastating, and the ability  to play with that might not just allow one to   mass produce antimatter or even convert matter  directly into energy or other types of matter,   but could risk, for lack of a better word,  a puncture in the False Vacuum of Reality.  

It is the current view of physics, or most  physicists anyway, that normal space, even when   empty of matter and radiation, still bubbles and  seethes with various waves and particles popping   in and out of existence constantly. These last for  only the tiniest increments of time – literally,   they can be viewed as almost an accounting error  of the universe – but the basic effect of so many   of them doing it constantly adds just a tiny – or  maybe not so tiny – constant energy to an area,   making it not a true vacuum, or false vacuum.  The ability to manipulate that and derive power   from it is the basic concept of Vacuum Energy  or Zero-Point energy, and we’ve discussed that   more elsewhere, but it would make for  a potent power source and weapon too.   And If you could shut that off or suppress  it, you would then have a true vacuum,   and potentially an expanding collapse of the false  vacuum. We think that would essentially delete the   Universe there in an expanding sphere, but one  thankfully that would move at the Speed of Light,   so while the perpetrator’s civilization is toast,  neighboring galaxies have millions of years,   and most of the Universe would be outside of  its spread, much as light emitted from any place   nowadays will not reach any of the places where  Hubble Expansion has already reached light speed   or greater, the Cosmological Event Horizon. Something like that could also have the opposite  

effect, instead setting off a new Big Bang in an  area, blowing its way into the Universe at light   speed and wrecking everything in its wake with a  mix of superfast matter and crunched up spacetime.   The ability to warp spacetime is also very potent,  as a star suddenly taking up half the volume it   used to is going to blow itself to bits, and the  effect on planets or people would be fatal too.   Ripping spacetime up or increasing the rate  of Dark Energy, possibly setting off a Big   Rip Scenario locally or universe-wide, would  definitely all qualify as super weapons. So   would the ability to create Closed-Timelike  Curves, which are a restrained and less   paradox-prone version of time travel, where  you can – conceptually – build a machine that   lets you reset back to when you turned it  on the first time, there are a lot of ways   to use that to your advantage, not least of  which is infinite save-states, so to speak.   Of course, if time travel is on the table,  it might mean the ability to go arbitrarily   far back in time, and we looked at the possible  consequences and results of that in our episode   Time Wars and more in its recent sequel  Multiverse Warfare and Quantum Mania.  

But just the ability to send one single atom back  in time, or crush one Planck Volume of space,   can potentially delete entire civilizations, or  entire superclusters if you managed to hit early   enough, back during or before the Inflationary  Epoch moments after the Big Bang. Great power   source too, if you can do the portal trick we  discussed with wormholes earlier, only to an early   and energy-dense era of the Universe rather than  opening a portal into a star. That primal energy   back when the Universe was denser than an atomic  nuclei can definitely feed some serious engines,   for pushing ships, powering empires, or blowing  them to smithereens, and of course unless that   is coming from a younger alternate universe, not  your own, that empire blown to smithereens might   be yours, or all of them in your universe,  while you drain the past dry of energy and   utterly wreck your timeline from moment zero. One could imagine that as a pretty good way to   start a war between Universes though, tapping them  for power and tearing up their timelines, or the   same for Multiverse Branes in String Theory. We  see something like that in Isaac Asimov’s epic   novel The Gods Themselves, and when it comes to  superweapons of this sort of scale, that might be   a very appropriate name for both the wielder  and target of such immense superweapons.   So it’s Scifi Sunday here on SFIA, on  youtube and most of our other platforms,   but on Nebula we just had our episode, Life on  Giant Moons come out, early like all our episodes   on Nebula. Which you can join if you don’t want to  wait till Thursday. But we also often have bonus  

content there, from extended editions to entire  to exclusive short or even full length episodes,   and we just had one come out a couple days ago,  Colonizing Binary Stars. So if you want to catch   exclusive content like that, along with seeing  all our episodes a few days early and ad free,   including no sponsors reads, you can  click the link in the episode description, That lets you see all those exclusives like   Colonizing Binary Stars, or full length episodes  like Planets vs Megastructures or our entire   Coexistence with Alien series. And again it’s all  early and uninterrupted by ads, so you can enjoy   the episodes as intended. Nebula is a streaming  service started by creators for creators and their   audiences, and has grown to be the largest  creator owned streaming service. No Youtube  

algorithms penalizing content or dumping badly  matched commercials on you, and using my link and   discount it’s available now for just over $2.50 a  month, less than the price of the drink or snack   you might have been enjoying during the episode,  and it goes to supporting new content from myself   and other creators, like our new feature,  Nebula Classes, so its 2 for the price of 1.   When you sign up at my link, and use my code,  

isaacarthur, you not only get access to all of  the great stuff Nebula offers plus now Classes,   you’ll also be directly supporting this  show. Again, to see SFIA early, ad free,   and with all the exclusive content,  go   So that will wrap us up for today but we’ll be  back in a few days with our look at Life on Giant   Moons, ones nearly as big as Earth itself or even  larger, and how life might arise on such worlds   and how we might colonize them. And a week from  now we’ll be having our monthly livestream Q&A,   Sunday, April 23rd at 4pm Eastern time. Then we’ll  be returning to Earth and the near future to talk   about Smart Cities and the future of automation  in urban environments and how that will change   them. Then we’ll jump into May with a return  to the Fermi Paradox, to discuss Dysonian SETI,   and how we might find Kardashev 2 civilizations. If you’d like to get alerts when those and other  

episodes come out, make sure to hit the like,  subscribe, and notification buttons. You can   also help support the show on Patreon, and  if you want to donate and help in other ways,   you can see those options by visiting our website, You can also catch all of SFIA’s   episodes early and ad free on our streaming  service, Nebula, at   As always, thanks for watching,  and have a Great Week!

2023-04-22 16:09

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