How to Build a Laser Death Ray

Ionizing Radiation

Ionizing radiation is what scares us about nuclear energy - invisible, silent, deadly. At low doses, it is insideous, causing cancer and birth defects. At high doses, it acts like a poison, causing sickness and possibly a miserable death. There are many types of ionizing radiation, we are concerned with those types that can be used to make death rays.

Gamma rays, x-rays, extreme ultraviolet, vacuum ultraviolet, and much of the near ultraviolet can be classified as ionizing radiation. Of this, the soft x-rays, extreme ultraviolet, vacuum ultraviolet, and near ultraviolet have insufficient penetrating power to expose the whole body. They only expose the surface (typically skin, but also eyes, mucous membranes, and the exposed flesh of any wound created by the death ray), producing sunburns, tanning, and an increased risk of skin cancer.

Beams of hard x-rays and gamma rays, however, are made up of radiation that can penetrate deep into the body to produce all the icky effects of radiation we have been warned about by the anti-nuclear lobby. This is of particular concern because any beam of x-rays of gamma rays traveling through matter will scatter. This will irradiate everything around the beam. The amount of scatter depends on the density of what is hit and the type of material. Anyone directly illuminated by an x or gamma ray laser of sufficient intensity to cause material damage will also take an immediate lethal dose of radiation. Death from acute radiation sickness will occur within minutes to weeks, depending on the beam energy. Even being nearby something that was direcly illuminated by a radiation beam can cause radiation sickness and an increased risk of cancer and birth defects. The passage of the beam through the air will also cause some scattering. This will not necessarily lead to radiation sickness if a beam or two flashes nearby, but if a lot of radiation beams are criss-crossing the area, you will want to be behind shielding. One result of this is that no one in their right mind will use a man-portable hard x-ray or gamma ray laser - the radiation from the beams the weapon fired would sicken and possibly kill the gunner.

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