Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Armory of the Daleks 2: Electric Bungaloo

A while ago I made a post about my ten favorite weapons from video games. Naturally, there's more I could mention, but that'll have to wait for another day. Now, it's time for the seven greatest weapons from media that isn't video games.

Lock and load ladies...

7. The Heat-Ray

Perhaps one of the earliest examples of a Directed-Energy Weapon, the Heat-Ray carried by the Martians in The War of the Worlds was, and still is an extremely devastating weapon, that, if it were to exist, would be nothing short of a Doomsday Device.

The book describes the weapon as "able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity". The beam of destructive energy is reflected off a a parabolic mirror like a warship's searchlight. This heat, in the form of an invisible beam of light is able to melt glass, turn water into boiling steam, incinerate anything flammable for miles around and even melt lead like a hot knife through butter. We can only assume that it can toast bread a nice golden brown.

Later depictions of the Heat-Ray get even better as understanding of atomic physics improved. In the 1955 movie, the Heat-Ray is replaced with globs of glowing green energy that disables the interactions of gluons, "the atomic glue that holds matter together". This version turns everything it touches a sickly green before it fades out of existance, becoming immaterial energy "stuff".

Probably one of the only good things about the 2005 version of the movie, the Heat-Ray completely dehydrates it's victims, leaving behind nothing but gray dust and tattered clothing. Interestingly, this version looks and sounds like it's more electrical in nature then previous versions. This actually makes sense, and explains why people's clothing drifts away as if it was weightless, it's the effects of static electricity and an extreme lack of moisture.

6. The Zorg ZF-1

The Fifth Element was a very silly movie, but for all the right reasons. Probably one of the silliest aspects (besides Chris Tucker) is Gary Oldman's walnut of death up there. In the movie, he equips his alien henchmen with the Zorg ZF-1, an "all in one" weapon that puts Batman to shame in terms of sheer multipurpose utility. In it's introductory scene we're shown that it's a high-powered assault rifle that comes with a flamethrower, poison darts, a missile launcher and a freeze feature. Plus, it has a homing device that automatically directs the bullets towards the target, but only after they've been shot...which actually sounds kind of pointless. If the target's already riddled with bullets why go through the trouble to automatically project more bullets at them? Also, that big red button? That's the trigger for the self-destruct mechanism that destroys the gun and it's user in an enormous fireball.

Again, this was a silly movie.

5. The M41A Pulse Rifle

Aliens was a very different movie from Alien, much more action-packed. Good thing too, one movie is more then enough to explore all the hideous Freudian aspects of the Alien's life cycle.

The gun is actually a Thompson sub-machine gun prettied up to look futuristic. It features a handy little display to show how many bullets are left in the magazine and a nifty under-slung grenade launcher made from the foregrip of an SPAS 12 shotgun.

Interestingly enough, the name "Pulse Rifle" seems to indicate that the weapon uses electromagnetism to propel bullets, similar to real-world experimental coil guns and rail guns. They're said to fire caseless ammunition, only adding more weight to this little theory.

That's all fine and good, but what's really great is the sound the gun makes.

Skip to around 3:10. It's that wonderful change of pitch when it fires, it just sounds so futuristic.

Also, I apologize for Private Hudson's language, shame on him.

4. The Auto-9

I've only recently seen RoboCop all the way through. Naturally, I'm ashamed of myself for missing this incredible movie until now. There's plenty to love about it, not the least of which is the creepy-cool ED-209 robot, animated in stop motion, making it look very out of place in the rest of the movie, but in a cool "Oh God, this robot is going to leap off the screen to kill me." kind of way.

Anyhow, RoboCop's main weapon throughout the movie is the Auto-9 machine pistol, in actuality a a Beretta 93R dressed up to look like the silly-huge cannon in the movie. Apparently, RoboCop's gun was originally going to be a Desert Eagle, which is already unnecessarily huge for any pistol. But the gun actually looked too small when Peter Weller held it in the RoboCop costume. So they actually had to make a new even bigger gun to look appropriately menacing in his hand. I can only imagine what a regular person looks like waving that giant metal brick around. Pretty silly I imagine.

When he's not using it (which isn't often), the gun fits in a small compartment in RoboCop's thigh for convenient storage.

3. Ice-Nine

Ice-Nine is less "giant gun" and more "innocuous looking doomsday device", basically the Heat-Ray's evil opposite. First appearing in Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Ice-Nine is a special polymer of ice. It's an ordinary ice crystal, except that it's physical structure forces water it comes in contact with to adhere to it's shape, becoming more Ice-Nine. Instead of melting at 0 degrees Celsius it melts at a staggering 45.8 degrees (114.4 degrees Fahrenheit). I assume you can see how this would be a problem.

I really don't want to give away details about the book, so let's just say that it would be a very very bad idea to drop a cube of Ice-Nine in the ocean.

Thankfully, no polymer of ice has anywhere near the same properties as Ice-9. In fact, the real Ice IX polymer can only exist at very low temperatures and high pressure. However, the idea of self-replicating crystals, called seed crystals do have basis in reality. In fact, some malformed proteins called prions can replicate themselves like this. Prions, of course, are the culprits behind Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.

2. The Langford Basilisk

First appearing in the short story BLIT by David Langford, a basilisk, or "Medusa Weapon" is an image or sensation that is fatal to Human beings, usually in a fractal pattern. This is similar to the concept of a "brown note" or other mematic hazards, they're dangerous simply because the Human brain cannot process the information it's presented with without tearing itself apart. This is similar to what happens when people see Cthulhu, it's so mind-bogglingly horrible that the brain shuts down at the sight of it.

On the subject of basilisks, Langford has this to say:

"...the human mind as a formal, deterministic computational system -- a system that, as predicted by a variant of Gödel's Theorem in mathematics, can be crashed by thoughts which the mind is physically or logically incapable of thinking. The Logical Imaging Technique presents such a thought in purely visual form as a basilisk image which our optic nerves can't help but accept. The result is disastrous, like a software stealth-virus smuggled into the brain."

Terrifying! Of course, I'd never have an image of a real basilisk here, that would be irrespon-

1. The Dalek Gunstick

The ultimate weapon, the egg whisk of death: The Dalek Death Ray.

I'll be honest with you people, I know very little about Doctor Who outside of what immediately concerns the Daleks. If they made a show just about the Daleks, I'd watch it. I'd totally watch it, even if, nay, especially if, it was just them shouting "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!!!" for an hour.

Probably the best part of the Daleks, besides the voices and the plunger arm and the light bulb ears and the everything, is of course the Death Ray. Sources are vague on exactly how the Death Ray works, but from what I understand it's been claimed in Expanded Universe novels that it liquefies the internal organs of it's victims. Hideous! We're told in these same novels that the Daleks actually dial down the power on their weapons so it takes longer for their victims to die and even as I type that I am disgusted by the Daleks, shame on them!

Apparently, the beam can be deflected by a sufficiently reflective surface. Also, the gunstick is made from a metal called Silcronian which is heat-resistant and can repel laser rays or ruby heat which the Daleks used as ammunition...which doesn't really make sense.

Like the M41A, the Death Ray has a very distinctive sound which I can only describe as an ear-shattering shriek, like the sound of glass breaking, ran through a synthesizer and mixed with the scare cord in a horror movie soundtrack.

And that is why it is #1.

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