December 24, 2004

Antimatter Rules, Nukes Drool

Don't get us wrong: Nuclear weapons are great! You can kill a whole lot of people with nuclear weapons. Plus, nuclear weapons are plentiful. Here in the US, we have enough warheads to kill damn near every living thing on the face of the earth. Twice! Yeah, nuclear weapons sure are swell... but they are so 1980's.

People have been fearing nuclear apocalypse for so long, the threat of dying in a radioactive mushroom cloud just doesn't pack the punch that it used to. Back in the day, we worried that the Ruskies might suddenly decide to go all Wargames on our ass; Global Thermonuclear Warfare in all its terrifying glory! That's a doomsday scenario you can really sink your teeth into! These days, it's all about terrorists with their Dirty Bombs and their Suitcase Nukes. These are scary, I suppose - but small potatoes compared to the threat of World War III. In fact, thanks to some people we know and love, the very phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction" has become nothing more than the punchline to a late night monologue joke. That's just unacceptable.

This is the year 2004, and the people of Earth deserve - nay, they demand a bleeding edge, next generation doomsday technology. Fortunately for Earth, American military physicists have answered the call with a new spin on an old favorite: Antimatter!

Fans of science fiction are already familiar with the virtues of antimatter, an energy source that can be used to power everything from deathrays to cyber-dentalfloss (but not dental-cyberfloss, which can be only be powered by a time-space singularity or, alternately, a crystal containing the souls of a thousand Norwegian Druids). While sci-fi writers have conceived intriguing applications for antimatter, one of its more underrated properties is its capacity to DESTROY THE ENTIRE FREAKING UNIVERSE!

At the March 2004 Fellows meeting of the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts (NIAC), a guy named Kenneth Edwards was selected to give the keynote address. Edwards is the director of the Revolutionary Munitions subgroup of the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Airforce Base near Valparaiso, Florida. (Sounds a little like Kafka meets Tom Clancy, don't it?) The subject of this keynote address: the military applications of antimatter. A PDF file of Edward's presentation, entitled "Propulsion and Power with Positions" can be downloaded from the NIAC website... and it really has to be seen to be believed. For those of you too lazy (or afraid of infecting your computer with NSA Spyware) to download the file, here are a few highlights from this document.

Edwards' presentation begins with some suggestive quotes:

“Write the Vision. Make it plain upon tablets. So he may run that reads it. If it seems slow; wait for it will surely come. It will not delay.” --Habakkuk 2:2

“For where there is no vision, the people perish.” --Proverb 29:18

Ah yes, nothing sets the tone for a new doomsday technology like some biblical quotes about Vision and "the people" perishing. This may be Edward's attempt to update Oppenheimer's "I am become death, destroyer of worlds" quote (from the Bhagavad Gita) for a new generation. And hey, if you're inevitably going to be accused of "Playing God", you might as well take that ball and run with it!

Following these quotes is a simple, easy to follow graphic that illustrates the Air Force's positronic plans in a way anyone can understand.


What could be clearer!

Also, sprinkled throughout the PDF are some catchy phrases such as:

"24/7 Battlespace Dominance"
"Positron Energy Conversion Leaves No Nuclear Residue!"
"Graduation Exam for Humanity: Will we get out of the Gravity well or not."

Needless to say, once the media picked up this story, the Air Force put a gag order into place. For this reason, Circling the Square may not be able to report anything new about antimatter based weapon technology while it is in devolopment. Chances are, we won't hear a thing until the technology is actually used on someone. And when that happens... you'll know about it pretty quick. If, for instance, you suddenly find that you and everyone else you know have been vaporized - that's a solid indication the antimatter project has been successful.

Yes... it's an exciting time to be alive. And thanks to Ken Edwards, the US Airforce, and the budding field of Antimatter Research, it could be also an exciting time to die - instantaneously in a flash of unimaginable energy! I, for one, will sleep a little easier tonight, knowing that some of the top scientific minds in the country are working to make this happen.

Posted by scola at December 24, 2004 06:25 PM