Death Rays

From: Alex Heard (
Date: Fri Oct 27 2000 - 19:52:45 MDT


This is Alex Heard at Wired, requesting some help.

I'm doing research for a possible story on "death rays." What I have
in mind would be sort of funny but also reported, asking the
question: Why is it exactly that we don't have a Death Ray? You'd
think that with all our scientific capabilities, we could easily
produce a big futuristic gizmo that could zap soldiers into smoking
piles of ash.

I'd survey the concept from sci-fi origins to reputed attempts to
build one - by Nikola Tesla, for example. For this to work, though,
I'd need to do two things that ground this more in reality than
sci-fi: find out if the US government (or any government) ever spent
much time researching the concept. (Presumably it came up in the Star
Wars context.) And figure out, by talking to scientists now, if it
would be possible to build a "good" death ray today, if we only had
the will!

Can you think of anybody who might know something about any of this?
I'd also appreciate any thoughts about Death Raydom's colorful past -
seminal novels where death rays come up, other people like Tesla who
supposedly tried to build one, etc.

Reply here or off this list at:

Thanks for your help,

Alex Heard

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