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Old 03-01-2017, 10:15 AM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Sci Fi tools/weapons with useful designs.

The one that I sometimes think about how useful it would be to have is Vernor Vinge's bobbler. For those unfamiliar with it, a bobbler creates a perfectly spherical, perfectly reflective shell. At the time of its creation, the lifetime of the shell is determined, and it is absolutely impervious and immutable until that time has passed. Also, time stops entirely for whatever is inside the shell. This has many peaceful uses--protection during vehicle crashes and other dangerous situations, preservation of fresh foods, storage of artifacts, one-way travel into the future, etc. It can also be used as a weapon--if you want someone out of the picture, you can bobble them up for a hundred years (or a hundred thousand, or a hundred million) and they are effectively dead form your POV. Or if you wanted them really dead, just bobble their head, heart, or such. You could crash airplanes by creating a number of small baubles just in front of their jet engines. Or you could just bobble it (or a tank, or an aircraft carrier) into a thousand spherical pieces.

(I also imagine something like an anti-bobble, where time passes at an arbitrarily high rate inside the shell. You could use this to turn any radioactive ore into a nuclear bomb--simple anti-bobble it and allow a few billion or trillion years to pass inside. When the shell pops, all the energy from the decaying atoms is released at once.)

So, favorite tools/weapons/technologies from science fiction? Never mind for the moment if the technology violates laws of physics or not.
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Old 03-01-2017, 10:20 AM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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The ainsible, allowing for FTL communication.
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Old 03-01-2017, 06:40 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I think I mentioned this in the other thread, as a counterpoint to the bat'leth, but the Mimbari ceremonial melee weapon was basically just a quarterstaff. Good old Big Stick. Except that they applied their Old One-level technology to improve it: Not making it a Laser Stick or a Stasis Stick or Psi Stick or anything silly like that: Just making it fold up to fit conveniently in a pocket.
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Old 03-01-2017, 06:49 PM
snfaulkner snfaulkner is offline
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  #5  
Old 03-02-2017, 04:20 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is online now
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Lazy Guns - Banks, Against A Dark Background - the Infinite Improbabilty Drive of person-portable WMDs - random effects with a barbed sense of humour
Possible Sword - Miéville, The Scar - a one-person sword storm with a clockwork motor.
  #6  
Old 03-02-2017, 05:31 AM
Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove is offline
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Sort of a different anti-bobbler:

The hypometric weapons from the Revelation Space series. They cut out a variable-sized spherical chunk of space and... disappear it. It's not clear where the sphere goes, but it's probably a billion years in the future or a billion light-years thataway or something.

It's of course useful for disabling enemy ships by removing their engines. One might do this in a more or less catastrophic fashion, depending on if you wanted the occupants to survive. One can use it defensively as well, by subtracting out that incoming missile.

But you could, in principle, also use it for more mundane uses, like not having to get up to take a shit. Just watch your aim.
  #7  
Old 03-02-2017, 07:10 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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I always liked Larry Niven's Variable Sword -- a piece of wire enclosed in a stasis field. You can make it longer or shorter by unspooling different lengths before applying the field. It's ultra-thin and can't be deflected, so it cuts through anything. It's absurd as a weapon in long-range fighting, since anyone with a gun (futuristic or not) can just shot you, but it has an impeccable Cool Factor.

There was nothing like it, until Star Wars came out and gave us the Light Saber. I've always felt that the Variable Sword was the closest thing to the light Saber in actual fiction pre-SW, and have wondered how a duel between fighters wielding each weapon would play out. Variable Swords don't cauterize like Light Sabers do.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 03-02-2017 at 07:10 AM.
  #8  
Old 03-02-2017, 07:35 AM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
I always liked Larry Niven's Variable Sword -- a piece of wire enclosed in a stasis field.

..

There was nothing like it, until Star Wars came out and gave us the Light Saber.
In the only SW EU novels that I've read, Timothy Zahn's Thrawne trilogy, Zahn explained lightsabers as being exactly like a variable sword. It was only later writers that made up the whole mystical, magical crystal explanation.
  #9  
Old 03-02-2017, 08:00 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
In the only SW EU novels that I've read, Timothy Zahn's Thrawne trilogy, Zahn explained lightsabers as being exactly like a variable sword. It was only later writers that made up the whole mystical, magical crystal explanation.
In the films (which are all that count, I submit -- anything in the novels can be tossed out by things done later in the films*) no explanation is given, and the name "light saber" suggests that this is some weird electromagnetic effect. Zahn, I suggest, read the Niven books, as I did. Dunno about the Magical Mystery Tour Crystal thing, never having read those novels.



*It's happened before, more than once. In the first Star Wars novel by Alan Dean ... uhhhh, George Lucas, Senator Palpatine is a weak-minded fool used as a puppet by the Dark Forces of the Empire, not the mastermind himself.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 03-02-2017 at 08:02 AM.
  #10  
Old 03-02-2017, 08:17 AM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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Dunno about the Magical Mystery Tour Crystal thing, never having read those novels.
Give this a glance. You'll learn far more than you would ever want to know.
  #11  
Old 03-02-2017, 09:43 AM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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The Power Holster from Deathworld.
When you absolutely need a gun in your hand right now!

The Tricorder - clearly a prescient design, our smartphones are still trying to emulate it’s functionality.

Sinclair Molecule Chain- who couldn’t use a thread that could hoist a battleship?
  #12  
Old 03-02-2017, 03:26 PM
mbh mbh is offline
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Larry Niven had a couple of separate ideas, that combine well.

His version of a disintegrator ray breaks the bonds between atoms, shredding the target into a cloud of monatomic gas.

In The Ringworld Engineers, he mentions a filtration system that can separate element from element, and even isotope from isotope.

Combine the two, and mining and recycling become easy and cheap.
  #13  
Old 03-02-2017, 03:40 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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In The Ringworld Engineers, he mentions a filtration system that can separate element from element, and even isotope from isotope.
That works with Puppeteer stepping discs, too. (Which are themselves a very useful technology.)
  #14  
Old 03-02-2017, 03:52 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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As far as being useful as a weapon, the Long Guns from Schlock Mercenary are quite effective. With nothing but the coordinates of your target location, you can project a blast roughly equivalent to a small nuke from anywhere to anywhere... including from a hidden outpost at a random location in the Galaxy, to a point of your choosing inside your enemy's shields and armor.

At least, that's the version wielded by the protagonists, who currently have control of a few hundred of them. But LOTA has one that works on the same principle, except instead of being equivalent to a small nuke, it's powerful enough to turn a decent-sized asteroid into a rubble field.
  #15  
Old 03-02-2017, 03:54 PM
Intergalactic Gladiator Intergalactic Gladiator is online now
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Damn me for reading L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth but I thought his depiction of the galactic ruler's castle was interesting. It was offset in time so if an enemy tried to attack it, the time variance would cause the assault to miss.
  #16  
Old 03-02-2017, 06:01 PM
AncientHumanoid AncientHumanoid is offline
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Psychic Paper. Not an ultraweapon/tool, but very useful to have just when you need to get past the police blockade and back to your TARDIS.

Never much cared for the magic wand use of the Sonic Screwdriver, tho.

Babel Fish. Yes, it was designed. Proof that God doesn't exist.

Another type of really useful magic tech is the Star Trek universe viewscreens. Magic I say because of the way they're shown to be used. In ST-IV:TVH, Gillian summed it up well: Lots of stuff about whales and whaling and flying and stuff. "Captain, I have the whales." "On screen!" "You can do that?!"
  #17  
Old 03-03-2017, 04:53 PM
JHBoom JHBoom is offline
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The hand-held welding/cutting torches in Aliens.
  #18  
Old 03-03-2017, 05:40 PM
thirdname thirdname is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbh View Post
Larry Niven had a couple of separate ideas, that combine well.

His version of a disintegrator ray breaks the bonds between atoms, shredding the target into a cloud of monatomic gas.

In The Ringworld Engineers, he mentions a filtration system that can separate element from element, and even isotope from isotope.

Combine the two, and mining and recycling become easy and cheap.
If you turn your target into a monoatomic gas, they will explode and kill you if you're at normal pistol-style raygun range. Doesn't sound very useful.
  #19  
Old 03-04-2017, 06:11 PM
mbh mbh is offline
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If you turn your target into a monoatomic gas, they will explode and kill you if you're at normal pistol-style raygun range. Doesn't sound very useful.
Niven's disintegrators tended to work more slowly than the Hollywood version, gradually peeling layers off of the surface of the target. They were used against fixed objects more often than people.

In an industrial application, you obviously don't want to disintegrate your raw materials faster than your refinery can process them. When you drive a car, you don't burn the entire tankful of gasoline all at once. You control the input, in order to produce the desired output.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Darren Garrison View Post
That works with Puppeteer stepping discs, too. (Which are themselves a very useful technology.)
Niven's best invention was the teleportation system in World Out Of Time. The most sophisticated version was a medical device that could remove plaque from your arteries, or toxins from your cells, without damaging the cells. On a more mundane level, it was used to create a waterless, self-cleaning toilet with a self-cleaning xylospongium. That, my friends, would be a great boon to humanity!

Last edited by mbh; 03-04-2017 at 06:15 PM.
  #20  
Old 03-04-2017, 06:23 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Of course, if you did want to use your disintegrator to maximum destructive effect, you'd use two beams, one set to suppress the electron charge and one set to suppress the proton charge, aimed at two slightly separated points, with the effect that, in Nessus' words, "a current would flow".

This version of the disintegrator is the reason why one of the contested worlds in the Man-Kzin Wars ended up being renamed "Canyon".
  #21  
Old 03-04-2017, 07:27 PM
Raguleader Raguleader is online now
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
I think I mentioned this in the other thread, as a counterpoint to the bat'leth, but the Mimbari ceremonial melee weapon was basically just a quarterstaff. Good old Big Stick. Except that they applied their Old One-level technology to improve it: Not making it a Laser Stick or a Stasis Stick or Psi Stick or anything silly like that: Just making it fold up to fit conveniently in a pocket.
And doubles as a handy medical scanner. Just look into the hole at the end and give it a good shake...

From the same show, Babylon 5's data crystals are a handy method of transporting data around, working as an analogue to thumb drives a few years before thumb drives became a thing. I believe Star Trek had little technicolor rectangles they could use the exact same way back in the 60s.

I also appreciated the relatively practical design of the human starfighters on the show, the Starfury. Basically a cockpit with weapons under it, and the engines at the end of the wings. The ships maneuvered by firing their engines in various directions, allowing the Starfury to go forward, backward, up, down, sideways, and any number of combination by having the engines fire in coordination with each other. More than a couple of dogfights would feature a Starfury doing a 180 so they could fire at a pursuer while accelerating away.

In later seasons, they introduced a forklift version. Fewer engines, no weapons, and a set of robot arms to move stuff around in space.
  #22  
Old 03-04-2017, 07:54 PM
Kamino Neko Kamino Neko is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raguleader View Post
From the same show, Babylon 5's data crystals are a handy method of transporting data around, working as an analogue to thumb drives a few years before thumb drives became a thing. I believe Star Trek had little technicolor rectangles they could use the exact same way back in the 60s.
They were replaced with isolinear chips and rods by the TNG/DS9/VOY era, which are even more USB-ish. (Actually, closer to SD cards, now that I think about it.)

Last edited by Kamino Neko; 03-04-2017 at 07:55 PM.
  #23  
Old 03-05-2017, 11:19 AM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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The versatility of the Star Trek phaser makes it a nice tool as well as a weapon.

Absurd as it is, the Universal Translator is a joy (especially to the scriptwriter.)

The force field from Haldeman's Forever War could be very useful: it limits the top speed of objects. Sort of like being in a big bowl of honey. Bullets slow to a crawl...and so do people. You fight with swords. Slowly.

(It would provide safety in, say, an industrial shop. Less concern for flying scraps or splinters of metal.)

The genetically engineered/specialized dragons in Jack Vance's The Dragon Masters were a nifty premise-concept.
  #24  
Old 03-05-2017, 12:00 PM
Raguleader Raguleader is online now
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Dune had shields that worked somewhat similarly. Specifically, anything moving above a certain relatively slow speed would get deflected. So you were immune to bullets and most other projectiles, but still vulnerable to slow moving darts or relatively slow blades or grapple attacks.

I can't recall how it played out in the books (read them a couple of decades ago in high school), but in the movie, a lot of fights ended up being grapples with both parties trying to work a blade in on each other. They don't address the potential uses of shields as industrial protection equipment; I get the impression they were rather expensive and only the most important people could afford them.

The transporters, as used on Star Trek, Stargate, and similar shows, have some very obvious uses as quick and effective means to move things large distances very quickly, even if they are limited in circumstances where they can be used (the Star Trek transporters are vulnerable to EM interference, and one style of Stargate transporters requires a clear line of sight or a matched set of transporters, with the other style also being vulnerable to interference). Besides being able to get your main characters in and out of scenes without needing a shuttle, such technology would be hugely useful for transporting and transferring cargo and such.

Another fun one, from Old Man's War, is SmartBlood™, a nanobot replacement for human blood which carries out all of the normal duties of blood (and doing so rather better), as well as having multiple other handy uses (though it needs to be paired with a BrainPal™ neural computer to be useful for anything). One character figures out that you can trigger your SmartBlood™ to self-ignite, which when combined with biting your own tongue, means you can now spit fire at anyone within a foot or two of you.

Aside from the fun potential of being able to spit napalm at people you dislike, SmartBlood™ lets you go up to twenty minutes without needing to draw breath, and can clot instantly when needed, which comes in handy for the super soldiers it was designed for. The BrainPal™ meanwhile has wireless networking capability, allowing users to have private conversations from anywhere as long as they have a network connection between them, as well as being able to control compatible equipment.

Main downside presented for the BrainPal™ in the books was that it was possible to jam the wireless signals, which could be bad if you planned to use some piece of wirelessly controlled equipment in the next few moments or needed to communicate with someone outside of shouting distance.
  #25  
Old 03-05-2017, 12:58 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post

The force field from Haldeman's Forever War could be very useful: it limits the top speed of objects. Sort of like being in a big bowl of honey. Bullets slow to a crawl...and so do people. You fight with swords. Slowly.
I don't recall the force field. Please bring me up to date.
  #26  
Old 03-05-2017, 05:54 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Niven's story Flatlander had a wine glass with a tiny teleportation receiver in the base, hidden from view by light distortion caused by the glass. Result: a never-empty glass of wine. The protagonist suspected that technology had lured a number of people into alcoholism.

War of Omission had an interesting device called a TISSER; a Time/Space Separation device. It was a handheld box with three adjustable antennas sticking out of the front; when activated, it excised a cubical segment of spacetime as defined by the antennas from existence. Not only did everything in that volume, but everyone forgot that whatever or whoever was in that volume ever existed.

Light of Other Days had slow glass; a type of glass though which light travels very slowly. So for example people buy "ten year thick" panes of glass that were left in a gorgeous location for that long, so they have ten years of gorgeous scenery to look at. And streetlights are replaced with 12-hour panes of slow glass that radiate daylight at night.

The wormhole sword from Implied Spaces; a sword that instead of a normal edge, has an "edge" composed of thousands of microscopic wormholes that just sucked in anything they hit.

The betydelse from the Matador series;a high-speed input-output device that used video, voice commands, and two separate command languages - one for each hand - to allow for very fast multichannel communication with computer systems. It takes a lot of training to use and the people who can use it can usually manage it for only short periods.

The Exponential Field from Superiority.

Quote:
It seems very difficult to explain the operation of the Field to the layman. According to the technical description, it "produces an exponential condition of space, so that a finite distance in normal, linear space may become infinite in pseudo-space." Norden gave an analogy which some of us found useful. It was as if one took a flat disk of rubber - representing a region of normal space - and then pulled its center out to infinity. The circumference of the disk would be unaltered - but its "diameter" would be infinite. That was the sort of thing the generator of the Field did to the space around it.

As an example, suppose that a ship carrying the generator was surrounded by a ring of hostile machines. If it switched on the Field, each of the enemy ships would think that it - and the ships on the far side of the circle - had suddenly receded into nothingness. Yet the circumference of the circle would be the same as before: only the journey to the center would be of infinite duration, for as one proceeded, distances would appear to become greater and greater as the "scale" of space altered.
  #27  
Old 03-05-2017, 06:25 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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I don't recall the force field. Please bring me up to date.
That's pretty much it: in Haldeman's Forever War, there were force-fields that slowed things down.

Darn good book! It was a rebuttal, of sorts, to Heinlein's Starship Troopers.
  #28  
Old 03-06-2017, 08:49 AM
Raguleader Raguleader is online now
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That's pretty much it: in Haldeman's Forever War, there were force-fields that slowed things down.

Darn good book! It was a rebuttal, of sorts, to Heinlein's Starship Troopers.
As an aside, if you're in for that thing, check out Old Man's War. Sort of a combination Deconstruction/Love Letter to Starship Troopers as well. First book sets the stage, second and third book do a pretty solid job of chasing down the moral and political implications. Later books basically proceed from there with a fairly standard plot of everyone having to deal with the rather messy universe that ensues from this setup.
  #29  
Old 03-06-2017, 01:49 PM
gnoitall gnoitall is offline
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Another Niven invention, possibly superior to almost other weapon ever invented.

The tasp. Non-contact stimulation of brain pleasure centers. Stop an attacker in mid-stride with an utterly disabling burst of physical pleasure. Use it repeatedly to condition a victim. Use it for longer still to enslave them, by making them psychologically dependent on periodic hits and refusing them if they don't behave.

A nasty weapon of dubious ethicality, like all the best weapons are. Completely physically non-harmful (in all demonstrated examples), but utterly effective as a disabling weapon.

(Handwave the difficulty of the weapon being able to stimulate the pleasure centers of every known brain type in every known species in Known Space. That's quite a stretch, but suspend disbelief if you can.)

Last edited by gnoitall; 03-06-2017 at 01:50 PM.
  #30  
Old 03-06-2017, 02:04 PM
Pushkin Pushkin is offline
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Also, time stops entirely for whatever is inside the shell
I remember something similar in a Peter Hamilton novel, a little pod you can step in that effectively stops time for you. One character goes on holidays using them, steps inside, comes out decades later to see what's going on and works up enough money to get back inside. Another character is so terrified by the ongoing events that he asks to be placed in one till everything blows over.

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They don't address the potential uses of shields as industrial protection equipment; I get the impression they were rather expensive and only the most important people could afford them
They address the interaction between these shields and their contemporary energy weaponry in Dune. If you shoot at a shield, both it and the weapon blow up with tremendous force. When the Atreides arrive on Arrakis, I think it was their mentat who worries about someone out in the desert trying that on them.

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Babel Fish. Yes, it was designed. Proof that God doesn't exist
Is that not the thing that, by removing all barriers to communication, starts more and bloodier wars than anything else in history?
  #31  
Old 03-07-2017, 01:27 AM
TYphoonSignal8 TYphoonSignal8 is offline
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Does "tools" include vehicles?

1. Aliens cargo exoskeleton. Or, perhaps easier to use by reason of its size, the exoskeleton from Edge of Tomorrow.

2. the one-man rocket from Robert Heinlein's "If This Goes on - ", nimble enough for "polo" (rocket polo?) and which is sent out to its doom at sea as a distraction.

3. the beautiful luxury car from William Gibson's Count Zero which carts Marly Krushkhova and Virek's assistant Paco about.
  #32  
Old 03-07-2017, 02:21 AM
Asuka Asuka is offline
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I always liked the Metal Gear RAY's from Metal Gear Solid 2, the only bipedal mechs that really made sense. They were meant to operate from the sea/waterways and acted like fast patrol boats with submersible capabilities, then could jump from the water into bipedal mode and support ground operations. It was pretty slow while moving on the ground but it never really seemed like it was meant to move long distances using it's legs. Plus their primary weapon system was a large waterjet and could pierce metal very easily from a couple of hundred feet away, not that long-ranged but it also had 20mm cannons and various missile launchers to combat anything it couldn't reach physically.
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