During the 1960s, the JASON group was asked by the federal government to research the possibility of Project SEESAW being successful in creating a particle beam weapon.
The group published their findings in February 1968, which outlined the overall research, the progress, and the setbacks that the project faced.
Interestingly enough, the panel of advisers did not automatically conclude that that particle beam weapons were impossible to build. The report seemed to infer that a particle beam weapon derived from Project Seesaw was entirely possible.
It seems that a weapon that was considered to be science fiction by the general public at the time, was actually thought to be possible by the United States’ greatest minds.
Project Seesaw was the earliest effort by the U.S. government to create a charged particle beam weapon. The idea was to create a directed energy weapon that could “fire” a high-energy beam of atomic or subatomic particles that could damage a target on the molecular level.
Energy Beams as Weapons
A staple of science fiction writing, researchers began studying the theory as early as the 1930s. However, such a weapon has never been created. The closest thing to come out of that research is the laser.
However, the laser is not a particle beam weapon. It is a directed-energy weapon that utilizes electromagnetic radiation (light) to destroy or deter.
In the 1960s, the JASONs believed that a particle beam could be built, because the theory was built upon sound scientific principles. Researchers believed that it was possible to shoot a stream of subatomic particles at nearly the speed of light.
This initial burst would be the result of applying an electric current to hydrogen gas. Once the stream of particles bombards the target, it does not destroy the target from the outside. Instead, the particles affect the target on the molecular level. The bombardment excites the target’s partials, causing it to heat from within.
Theoretically, the particle beam weapon is entirely possible. However, as the JASONs discovered in 1968, there were several obstacles that the Project Seesaw researchers had to overcome.
The report gets fairly technical with the descriptions of the obstacles; however, the major problem was with the overall streaming of the beam. Even though the researchers spent plenty of time and resources on the issue, it seems that by the time the JASONs had written the report, the researchers still could not work out the kinks.
Nevertheless, it appears that the JASONs were not deterred by the setback.
Particle Beam Research Continued
Though faced with a number of setbacks, the JASONs recommended that Project Seesaw continue their research.
According to the document, there was not enough information to discontinue the project in 1968. The reason was due to the fact that there was not enough scientific background work to show that a particle beam weapon could not be created out of Project Seesaw.
Though the researchers were experiencing problems, the science supported the idea of a particle beam weapon to the point that not only did the JASONs support the project; they further recommended that the project be given the highest priority.
Eventually, Project Seesaw fell out of favor with the military officials. It’s funding was pulled and given to another directed-energy weapon project that seemed to be more promising. This project was focused on using Lasers.
Though project Seesaw ceased, the Department of Defense is once again revisiting the idea of a particle beam weapon.
Currently, the obstacles researchers must overcome are millions of volts of electrical power required by the weapon design, and the need for powerful magnetic fields in order to direct the beam as well as long accelerating tunnels.
These attributes make the overall mechanism weigh hundreds of tons, creating an ineffective weapon. Even though the obstacles are great, the science behind particle beam weapons is sound, making such a weapon theoretically possible, and potentially quite deadly.
References & Image Credits:
3. Beyond Weird