Low tech still relevant today.... someday obsolete?


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leadcounsel
June 29, 2011, 10:56 AM
Occurred to me that in our fast pace world, there are few "low tech" items that are still relevant. In an age where items are quickly replaced with new and improved and many inventions come and go...

Forbes listed the rifle/gunpowder. as one of the top 10 inventions of all time, along with the wheel, wristwatch/time keeper, printing press, etc.

And despite technology, it will likely not be in my lifetime that the good ole' sidearm, rifle and shotgun are replaced by cheaper AND more effective tools.

Now, that could all change... imagine if defensive technology outsurpasses firearm technology. Imagine, for a moment, an era where personal etheral or invisible shield style armor (like an energy field) is widely and cheaply available for public consumption. Of course it is science fiction to some degree to believe that a shotgun slug or a .45 ACP could be deflected due to their kinetic energy... however it's not impossible that someone could come up with a design and improvements to the point where every-day people, or criminals, could carry a near weighless energy field which protects them from all sorts of injuries from fast moving dangers, such as cars, bullets, etc.

Would that make the firearm obsolete for self defense purposes...? An interesting thought...

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JoeMal
June 29, 2011, 11:02 AM
Sticking with firearms instead of shields, how about a plastic (CHEAP plastic...I know what you're all thinking Glock haters) 'gun' that shoots a regenerating laser of some sort? Maybe this laser could even be dialed up-down in power and diameter to mimic .22LR, 9mm, .45ACP, etc? Can still hit targets, can hunt, even self defense...just not using typical guns or ammunition.

sv51macross
June 29, 2011, 11:09 AM
A man-portable energy shield would still have to obey the laws of physics, and the wearer would still feel the net kinetic impact of the deflected or absorbed rounds.

I think that we'll still have projectile weapons for at least another 100 years, likely more. Laser and 'plasma' weaponry require such massive power storage that we will not get that kind of energy-dense batteries for awhile. Even then, we may still have projectile weapons for really long range stuff as lasers and plasma bolts would exponentially diffuse over distance. I think that for the most part, human weaponry will end-up looking like the weapons lineup from Halo. We'll have levitating ships and energy-reinforced armor before 'classic' directed-energy weapons.

Rail Driver
June 29, 2011, 11:15 AM
Sounds like the "shield belt" in the Dune series... fast moving objects (knives, bullets, etc) are stopped or deflected and slow ones get by. Personally I don't see a lot happening in those areas for the immediate future due to several things including power management and miniaturization technology. While it would be nice, we're simply not there yet. At the rate the computer/technology industry is evolving, I'd say we're at least a couple decades from flying cars and power armor.

HGUNHNTR
June 29, 2011, 11:20 AM
Of the inventions you listed, firearms and ammunition have difinitely undergone the least evolution...makes you wonder what is next.

wh!plash
June 29, 2011, 11:22 AM
Whether its more practical than a regular firearm or not is up for debate, but the pulse laser thing is definitely on its way.

For instance, this video. This one is fairly well-documented on the web. Home made, lightweight, handheld, and rechargeable battery powered. It already completely penetrates 8mm or 10mm plastic instantly. Its not hard to imagine a version in the future that could penetrate pretty far into soft tissue. Not to mention, lasers aren't exactly science fiction for things like welding and surgery.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUXXGbNS8oY

rodregier
June 29, 2011, 11:35 AM
An engineering tag line I've enjoyed over the years goes something like this:

They have minaturized many things, but they have yet to minaturize the watt.

Portable power sources are a serious constraint on some of the gee-whiz technogies that are evolving.

MacTech
June 29, 2011, 12:54 PM
Farscape had an interesting take on DE weaponry (directed energy, that is)…

Peacekeeper "Pulse" weapon technology uses a magazine filled with highly volatile vegetable oil (Chakkan oil, derived from the turnip-like Tannot root) pulse weapons fire superheated blobs of Chakkan oil, hot enough to glow yellow

"Freeze! or I'll fill you full of .....little....yellow....bolts....of light?!?"

As an interesting bit of scifi trivia, the Tannot plant is highly invasive, taking over entire ecosystems, and it's flesh is psychoactive, causing mental impairment and addiction, peacekeepers "donate" Tannots to developing cultures, get them addicted to it, and as the plant takes over the ecosystem, turn that developing race into a slave race for harvesting Tannot root, which they use to create Chakkan oil for their pulse weaponry

Using an oil based biofuel to create a DE weapon is certainly a novel way to look at it, and this technology would be within the realm of feasibility here…

True, technically a pulse weapon is still a kinetic energy weapon and not a true energy weapon, but it does kinda' solve the energy density issue with true DE weaponry

geekWithA.45
June 29, 2011, 02:11 PM
I think you have to qualify what you mean by "obsolete".

There are two distinctly different types of obsolescence:

The first indicates something that is no longer effective in a modern environment. Examples: muzzle loading naval cannons vs aircraft/carriers, charging with edged weapons in formation, and so on.

The second indicates something for which there is a more effective alternative available for the cost.

For example, the derringer is obsolete as a defensive weapon. That doesn't mean you can't shoot a bad guy with it. What it means is that if you want to lug around a pound of stuff, you can have a lot more shots, a much better trigger, and a magazine style reload.

Similarly, my first computer still works fine, rendering wireframe drawings at speeds in which you can actually see individual pixels being plotted. My phone is a lot better at that sort of thing.

I think we're going to see a lot of the 2nd type of obsolescence, and not so much of the first.

Zoogster
June 29, 2011, 05:12 PM
leadcounsel said: Now, that could all change... imagine if defensive technology outsurpasses firearm technology.

We are already near that point already for civilian legal arms.


The implications are huge, the 2nd Amendment was meant to create balance by keeping all people vulnerable to one another. To deter tyranny, because the people themselves are a threat.
Once that is gone the intent of the 2nd Amendment is defeated.

This is why things like armor piercing projectile bans are so unconsitutional.

Throughout human history both weapons and armor intended to defeat them have been in a constant technology battle to keep pace.
From heavy cloth armor, to leather armor, to chain mail, to plate. The weapons that were best against bare tissue were less effective against those wearing certain armor, so they gave up some effectiveness to gain the ability to defeat armor. Weapons that could readily remove limbs, and inflict maximize damage to a torso, but could not defeat armor were replaced by arms that did less damage to bare tissue, but concentrated force to punch through armor.
You see different arms based on the armor of a given ancient culture.
Those with less armor were still using weapons that maximized soft tissue damage, while those that used a lot of armor were forced to move to things that concentrated force on an armor piercing point or relied on concussion.

Likewise firearms and body armor go through the same progress. As higher levels of body armor becomes standard, military forces that face other military forces wearing body armor will need to rely on weapons that defeat said body armor. Whether it is by punching through the armor, or relying on other incapacitating effects.

Laws intended to limit progress of one are a threat to the intent of the 2nd Amendment.


Currently armored exoskeletons are the most likely technology that will make most civilian small arms and civilian legal rounds ineffective.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powered_exoskeleton

They will allow someone to wear what would currently be prohibitive amounts of body armor, which weigh more than a regular person could wear.
When you consider that current level IV-V body armor that can be worn stops up to most battle rifle rounds, just imagine what armor too heavy to even wear can be created to stop.
Most civilian legal small arms using legal projectiles will be defeated.
This will allow the government to deploy people that can act with impunity, immune to most civilian legal small arms.
Currently the primary limiting feature is battery technology, which is constantly being improved (with huge amounts of money in researching better battery technology for the electric car market.)
So that limitation is temporary. Even with that limitation, short duration raids, paramilitary SWAT type raids and similar things can utilize such technology.
As it goes more mainstream it will also get cheaper, more parts of government will have them, retired models from the military will be given to police like they currently do with firearms, etc
While civilians will be stuck in the past, limited by the law to old small arm and projectile technology.

Here is some examples of such armor, now imagine most of its carrying capacity being used to support fully enclosing body armor.
Not only can they wear body armor, but it would allow the firing of weapons that currently have prohibitive recoil. Say a minigun for example, like the terminator:
http://youtu.be/EWIJOW1rnvc
Small mechs slightly larger than the human inside are going to used in the future.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7e/US_Army_powered_armor.jpg/250px-US_Army_powered_armor.jpg

Raytheon Sarcos:
http://youtu.be/S7HKD-FWKkE

Lockheed Martin HULC:
http://youtu.be/y1CeBOWm67A

And others...
They are coming.

Your puny civilian legal small arms and projectiles won't deter the tyrants of the future.

Cosmoline
June 29, 2011, 05:58 PM
As it goes more mainstream it will also get cheaper, more parts of government will have them, retired models from the military will be given to police like they currently do with firearms, etc
While civilians will be stuck in the past, limited by the law to old small arm and projectile technology.

I've been hearing this for many decades. You can easily find Popular Mechanics articles from fifty years back with soldiers flying around via jetpacks and such.

In reality, what we've seen is the high-tech military forced to fight low-tech wars over and over and over again. So instead of creating supersoldiers who are immune from ordinary small arms using 19th century technology, we end up with soldiers overloaded, overheated and with restricted mobility. These "mech" suits are really just attempts to permit a human to carry an absurd amount of gear. Lord help them if a bearing goes out, a pebble works into a joint or the power system quits. It would be better to reduce the gear. Or get a horse.

Plus there are the enormous costs. The DOD is going to have a pretty violent wakeup call right soon on that front. Hopefully someone remembers how to pack a mule.

armoredman
June 29, 2011, 07:34 PM
Another trip back to science fiction, the great Sten series, where a Guards instructor muses about going after low tech natives with tracked fighting suits, and the natives discovering how to disable them, and inserting spears into waste vents to kill the soldier inside.
If our tech becomes so worthless as no pose no problems to the ruling elite, we'll make changes.

oneounceload
June 29, 2011, 08:07 PM
Sticking with firearms instead of shields, how about a plastic (CHEAP plastic...I know what you're all thinking Glock haters) 'gun' that shoots a regenerating laser of some sort? Maybe this laser could even be dialed up-down in power and diameter to mimic .22LR, 9mm, .45ACP, etc? Can still hit targets, can hunt, even self defense...just not using typical guns or ammunition.

Mr. Spock, set your phaser on "stun"..... :D

Manco
June 29, 2011, 09:41 PM
Occurred to me that in our fast pace world, there are few "low tech" items that are still relevant. In an age where items are quickly replaced with new and improved and many inventions come and go...

You may be over-generalizing here--whether "high-" or "low-" tech, things are what they are, and if something still gets the job done, then it doesn't matter when it was created or when it developed the fastest. The latter depends on whatever science happens to discover and how practical it turns out to be in the real world--there are tons of variables involved, and hardly everything can be developed at the same pace at any given time.

Forbes listed the rifle/gunpowder. as one of the top 10 inventions of all time, along with the wheel, wristwatch/time keeper, printing press, etc.

And despite technology,

Firearms are a technology--one that happens to still be effective a fair amount of time after its creation, but it's not a natural phenomenon, it's a technology. Actually, it's still a relatively new technology on the overall timescale of humanity's existence--some things get replaced quickly while others don't (which usually means that they can't be, at least for a while). We still use knives, for example, because they still work about as well for most purposes as anything newer or more elaborate.

I think what most people have in mind when thinking about "technology" is electronics, but that is a very specific field, and furthermore it involves information more than physical effects such as putting holes through people. The reason that advancements in things like electronics have been and continue to be so rapid is that there is so much relevant scientific knowledge waiting to be exploited by engineering and refining fabrication methods and things like that.

However, the same is not necessarily true of everything else, including high-energy applications such as putting holes through people. The main problem is that we're generally still limited, for practical reasons, to chemical energy, whether it's in the form of gasoline, smokeless powder, or electric batteries. In fact, many of the advancements in "technology" (i.e. electronics specifically) are made possible by reducing energy requirements, but that is not an option for something that would replace firearms entirely. Let's face it, explosions are an inherently efficient way to convert chemical energy into destructive force, which is why things like firearms and bombs remain useful. That's simply the way the universe is, and making things more complicated or "high-tech" isn't going to change the fact. The only way to justify future technologies replacing firearms is if they are either more effective (which would probably require something other than chemical energy) or more practical (such as being equally portable and effective but more quiet), and I think we're still a long way from achieving either of these goals, let alone both.

it will likely not be in my lifetime that the good ole' sidearm, rifle and shotgun are replaced by cheaper AND more effective tools.

That's right, cost is another consideration that I tend to lump under practicality. And you're almost certainly right that it won't happen anytime soon. It could happen someday, but we'd probably have to know a lot more, in terms of science and technology, than we do now. We could do virtually anything if we could only solve the energy supply problem in a practical way, but it's a difficult fundamental problem to solve (to say the least!).

Just ask NASA why after all these decades since Apollo we have yet to travel to the stars. The path that humanity took to the Moon was extremely rapid after we finally developed controlled atmospheric flight, but since then we've hit a proverbial "brick wall" because of the energy problem--we can only go so far with chemical-powered rockets, and all of the known alternatives are not yet practical in every way that we need. I've had this very discussion with some people who insist, without a shred of evidence, that sending astronauts to other planets should be easy and cheap by now due to the advance of "technology," but there is much more to the subject physically than the little electronic gadgets in their pockets (which may themselves hit a "brick wall" someday).

Would that make the firearm obsolete for self defense purposes...? An interesting thought...

World peace...DAAAA-HAA-HAA-HAAAAAAAA!!!! ;)

But seriously, one thing that probably would quickly lead to firearms becoming obsolete is an electric battery that is just as energy-dense and as capable of supplying power on demand--in a comparably compact package--as smokeless powder. That will take some doing and probably a lot more time (indeterminate at this point).

The Lone Haranguer
June 29, 2011, 09:52 PM
Other than materials and manufacturing methods, firearms have evolved very little for well over 100 years. Almost every one you can name uses operating principles or mechanisms developed around the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.

Maple_City_Woodsman
June 29, 2011, 10:01 PM
Maybe this laser could even be dialed up-down in power and diameter to mimic .22LR, 9mm, .45ACP, etc?

That's not really how lasers work.

Different 'diameters' probably wouldn't be any more or less effective unless the difference in size was extreme. Lasers don't 'poke holes' in things, they burn through them.

Thus such a weapon would likely cauterize the wound, as we see today with the use of current laser scalpels and medical Co2 lasers, which are currently used to cauterize blood vessels in some types of procedures.

In a sense, there would be even less room for error in shot placement with a laser pistol. Such a weapon would have no secondary damage from projectile expansion or energy transfer, as well as little or no loss of blood pressure to help incapacitate the wound-e... NOW account for the fact that even a powerful laser would likely take significantly longer to penetrate than even a 'slow' round like a 45, and you may have trouble getting nice clean penetrating wounds.

Basically, lasers suck as anti-personnel weapons unless they are just obscenely powerful or surgically placed.

A FAR better way of improving on current weapons IMO would be to improve projectile design with high-tech materials, and boost propellent performance with new chemicals:

I imagine something like a 'smart' plastic which could be used as a bullet core, allowing a bullet to expand far more than possible with lead and copper, and expand at the appropriate time, after achieving good penetration. This would allow smaller and lighter bullets to achieve far larger wound channels than conventional bullets of the same diameter, while still reaching adequate penetration - Less recoil for the same would cavity volume.

Powders could be tailored to achieve delayed, or profiled expansion with new chemicals - allowing more gas volume, and higher velocity, for the same chamber pressures. Imagine a two-part powder that burns at a conventional rate until the bullet has jumped a few inches, and then flares producing a large volume of gas - the pressure would be abated by the additional volume.

With those kinds of advances, even 'weak' cartridges like the 32NAA or the 5.7 FN could become very very potent, ushering in a world of low recoil, flat shooting cartridges that still packed a huge punch.

IMO firearms just work too well to abandon the concept anytime soon. Maybe something 'better' will be possible in 1,000 years, but in the next few hundred I would expect to see development of better and more lethal cartridges.

I could also see some kind of electrical weapon, like a sooped-up taser becoming available in the distant future, but inventors would need to extend the range substantially AND make it wireless AND repeating without reloading. But as another poster said, such a weapon would require a battery so small and so potent that it is nothing more than a distant pipe dream here in the 21'st century.

SFsc616171
June 29, 2011, 10:09 PM
In the light of SF, even in the original movie production of "Dune", with their energy shield protection ... "Take note! The slow blade penetrates the shield!" Old-tech Fairbairn-Sykes blades still rule!

Zoogster
June 29, 2011, 10:14 PM
Just ask NASA why after all these decades since Apollo we have yet to travel to the stars. The path that humanity took to the Moon was extremely rapid after we finally developed controlled atmospheric flight, but since then we've hit a proverbial "brick wall" because of the energy problem--we can only go so far with chemical-powered rockets


The primary reason for a lack of travel is the massive expense.
The moon mission and related expenses were justified, during the Cold War. Much of the same technology was applied to ICBMs, so every advancement in going to the moon was in fact a part of the arms race. It was essentially a program that helped to perfect ICBMs, but because it was interesting and captured the imagination of the nation, the public supported the massive required cost to go to the moon.

They have had the space station for along time, and at any point they could have sent several separate rockets carrying a spare rocket.
Assembling a rocket or other vehicle in space, that never had to use most of its payload getting out of earth's gravitational pull.
Once in space fuel goes a lot further, because there is no atmosphere to fight and limited gravity to overcome. Long periods of time require no fuel, just using momentum. They have done such things with exploration vehicles, using gravitational pull of other planets to loop around and gain whatever speed they want.

Such a thing could easily go anywhere within our solar system.
The largest challenge would be supplies and the length of time. Creating an environment where they can grow more food, and recycle most things. With only limited consumable resources. But with a bunch of healthy people put in isolation for months ahead of time who have a team of doctors looking for any problem, taking blood, insuring no disease, they have many options.

Any problem the crew could not solve during their multi year journey would also lead to their death as they would not be able to return, which could sour the public to the concept.
But they could easily take a manned flight to Mars or anyplace else. The funding required would simply be tremendous.
A significant portion of the economy aka GDP would go towards such projects. That means a lot of peoples' taxes would not be reinvested into things in country, but would be launched out into space.
That is what cannot be justified, launching a large portion of the budget out into space instead of spending it on the nation. But space travel anywhere in the galaxy has been entirely feasible for awhile.

Vaarok
June 29, 2011, 10:26 PM
Just throwing it out, a laser in the proper wavelength would theoretically produce one hell of a steam explosion.

The whole debate of firearm tech falls into the principle of "if it's stupid and it works, it isn't stupid"- there presently isn't a better way of transferring kinetic energy from point to point to inflict harm. Used to be you hit somebody with a rock, then a sword, then an arrow, now a bullet.

As for packing a mule, Big Dog...

I think the bigger, scarier thing in warfare should be drones. Meat's going to be obsolete simply in terms of reaction time. Every time I see Terminator or a Cylon Centurion or whatever blazing away and missing wildly, I cringe. Imagine an aimbot with insta-gib. With good target-recognition software, hitting the target is just math, and machines do math far quicker and better than meat.

blindhari
June 29, 2011, 10:31 PM
A group was organised by Heinlien, then in the Navy, to predict Navy needs after WWII. The report was given to Nimitz.
Nuclear Navy
Nuclear submarines with IBM submersible misssle
Nuclear aircraft carriers
Navy pilots must lead way to space (check where astonauts mostly came from)
All missle fighters
Ship to surface, subsurface, ship to ship missles
Group consisted of Lester Del Ray, L Sprague DeCamp, Rober Heinlien, Issac Asimov as I remember.

Guess what Nimitz did with the list.
Try reading Starship Troopers by Heinlien with an open mind

blindhari

Zoogster
June 29, 2011, 10:36 PM
Other than materials and manufacturing methods, firearms have evolved very little for well over 100 years. Almost every one you can name uses operating principles or mechanisms developed around the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.


Because of the law primarily.
Since civilians do not have widespread access to full auto and similar concepts the speed of progress to new technology has been limited.
Since only the military has use for a lot of the potential improvements, and they only adopt a small number of things, it is not an area that sees a lot of technological improvement. Who are you going to sell the technology to if the military has no use for it?
Concepts like the KRISS (which has had plenty of problems, but I mean the concept and technology) removing recoil from full auto fire for example are slow to emerge.
You are unlikely to make money on patents inventing new things, because you cannot sell them to many people. (And if you do try to make it for the US military for example, and they decide they don't want it, ITAR will often keep you from then selling it to another military. So you end up with a worthless patent.)

There is laws against various projectiles types. No exploding rounds, no chemical or toxic rounds, etc etc
Then technology tried to improve projectiles for handguns, overcome limitations of small amounts of energy to accomplish more, laws turned them into cop killer bullets, subsequently banned. So the progress in that field slowed to a military trickle.


Most of the reasons firearms are not that different from those 100 years ago is because civilians cannot even use all the technology that was created over 100 years ago.
Areas where civilians are not limited on the other hand have had major breakthroughs and improvements. Like optics for example, which in turn has benefits civilians and the military tremendously.


100 years ago the field was wide open to invention. Any guy in their garage or shop was free to work on the cutting edge of firearm technology.
People like John Moses Browning could grow up tinkering, full auto, semi-auto they could just alter and change as they went. I recall reading about his tinkering with some sort of action when he was young and less experienced, one of his early automatic actions, and it was originally fully automatic before he got it to work semi-automatic.
They were not committing felonies here, needing permission slips there, needing a license, having to consult the ATF before chopping to X length, or altering the action.
You didn't have to be an expert already in the field to experiment, anyone could.
The red tape as well as the potential market limited by legal restrictions has caused most people to simply stick with what already works for the last 100 years. Slowing progress in the typically much more productive civilian economy, and limiting it to minor improvements here and there during various wars.

In the civilian economy technology can stay alive and grow. Someone can sell a few hundred here, some thousands there. Improve it some more years later. Sell a few thousand more.
But that environment no longer exists for most cutting edge technology in firearms because of legal restrictions. It is either all or nothing, to the military. If the technology goes unused the person sells almost nothing, the profit is nothing, and the idea dies before it even sees the improvements it would have in the civilian market, so what may have become great remains mediocre and fades into history.

NMGonzo
June 30, 2011, 08:38 PM
If I want my phaser to stun, I just pull my .380.

Cryogaijin
June 30, 2011, 09:19 PM
There would need to be an absolute revolution in energy storage technology before slug-gun replacement energy weapons are introduced.

The actual lasers are around now, the issue is powering them. Take a look at this list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density and note where the electrical systems come in comparison to the chemical systems.

Despite having a big inert chunk of metal at the tip, and a big inert chunk of metal wrapping all the way around it, your typical metallic cart has a couple times greater energy density than even the best lithium battery on the market.

In addition, the nice brass/steel/aluminum case acts as a very efficient heatsink, getting rid of the waste-heat of the action. Modern 1-3 watt diode lasers already need heatsinks, imagine what they'll need when you really start dialing up the wattage.

Manco
June 30, 2011, 09:49 PM
Other than materials and manufacturing methods, firearms have evolved very little for well over 100 years. Almost every one you can name uses operating principles or mechanisms developed around the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.

Pretty much the same goes for automobile engines even though alternative technologies have existed for just as long or even longer (including electric motors). The main reason is that so-called "fossil fuels" have been cheap for so long, and now the main reason other technologies are finally being seriously developed is--guess what--the rising cost of dug-up fuel (and other things like environmental concerns); otherwise the internal-combustion-powered automobile would probably stay more or less the same for another few hundred years because it works.

A FAR better way of improving on current weapons IMO would be to improve projectile design with high-tech materials, and boost propellent performance with new chemicals:

Your suggestions would still just be refinements of existing concepts, namely putting bits of dense materials into people and things at high velocity using explosives. This doesn't contradict anything you've said by any means--I'm just emphasizing the fact.

Another way to look at this whole topic is that human beings happened to discover one of the best ways to inflict serious damage on one another at a decent range early on. We got a head start by the accidental discovery of chemical reactions that we really didn't understand until much later, and as a consequence personal weapons reached an early pinnacle in terms of development, which is why they haven't changed much in a while. Bear in mind that a lot of things are the way they are because of happenstance, which can and often does include the way the Universe happens to work in conjunction with the limits of our scientific knowledge regarding the aspects of physics that happen to be relevant to a particular application.

I imagine something like a 'smart' plastic which could be used as a bullet core, allowing a bullet to expand far more than possible with lead and copper, and expand at the appropriate time, after achieving good penetration. This would allow smaller and lighter bullets to achieve far larger wound channels than conventional bullets of the same diameter, while still reaching adequate penetration - Less recoil for the same would cavity volume.

Errr...creating larger wound channels requires greater energy and/or momentum, which smaller and lighter bullets have a harder time doing, no matter how fancy they may be. You could make them faster to compensate, but then they'd dump more energy into a minor temporary stretch cavity, making them less efficient. Precisely controlling expansion can have its advantages, but if taken to the extreme, the wound channel would be quite narrow for much of its length, which would mean a smaller overall wound channel.

Powders could be tailored to achieve delayed, or profiled expansion with new chemicals - allowing more gas volume, and higher velocity, for the same chamber pressures. Imagine a two-part powder that burns at a conventional rate until the bullet has jumped a few inches, and then flares producing a large volume of gas - the pressure would be abated by the additional volume.

That's how many hot loads are made today, but for the most part simpler, cheaper, conventional loads get the job done just fine. I'm not against progress, mind you, but practicality is usually the best way to go, and cost will always be an issue.

The primary reason for a lack of travel is the massive expense.

Expense has always had the capability of making things impractical, and the reason for the massive expense in the case of space travel is the energy problem. The only usable technology we currently have is chemical rockets, and that's a huge limitation due to its impact on cost if nothing else.

The moon mission and related expenses were justified, during the Cold War. Much of the same technology was applied to ICBMs, so every advancement in going to the moon was in fact a part of the arms race. It was essentially a program that helped to perfect ICBMs, but because it was interesting and captured the imagination of the nation, the public supported the massive required cost to go to the moon.

I don't want to go too deeply off-topic just for an analogy, so I'll keep it brief. What I had in mind was not just travel within the Solar System but interstellar and intergalactic travel, both of which are currently impractical for many fundamental reasons. We've hit a scientific and technological "brick wall" there that no amount of money alone could overcome (it will take time and massive intellectual effort, assuming that the human mind is capable of discovering what is needed and that there are usable things to discover in the first place).

But space travel anywhere in the galaxy has been entirely feasible for awhile.

Galaxy?! :eek: If we could do that in any feasible, practical sense, then believe me, we already would have without hesitation. But in case you hadn't noticed, interstellar space is VAST--the Milky Way alone is approximately 100,000 light-years across, and light, in terms of our common experience, is pretty fast. :scrutiny: It may be off-topic, but I'd really like to see how you'd attempt to justify such a wildly fantastic claim. ;)

Because of the law primarily.
Since civilians do not have widespread access to full auto and similar concepts the speed of progress to new technology has been limited.

This concerns refinements of existing technologies, but regarding truly novel and different technologies (i.e. something other than exploding chemicals and kinetic projectiles), there is still that nagging energy problem to contend with.

100 years ago the field was wide open to invention.

True, but it didn't take long to come up with designs that are still practical today, especially since a particularly gifted inventor (or three) just happened to be working on firearms at the time, as well.

In the civilian economy technology can stay alive and grow. Someone can sell a few hundred here, some thousands there. Improve it some more years later. Sell a few thousand more.
But that environment no longer exists for most cutting edge technology in firearms because of legal restrictions.

Firearms development could still never come anywhere close to electronics--which most people have in mind when thinking about "technology"--with regard to speed and potential because there is such a mother lode of scientific knowledge (they're even using quantum mechanics in processor designs these days) to be mined for the latter while the former is physically constrained. Even with no legal restrictions whatsoever, I do not think, in analogy, that it would be possible to double the destructiveness of a firearm every year without increasing recoil and the size of the firearm and its ammo--no such technology could be quickly developed as so little relevant scientific knowledge exists (i.e. that mine has been tapped out). And while the following may be a "dangerous" statement to make because one never quite knows when a major scientific breakthrough may occur, perhaps there isn't as much that can potentially be done simply because the Universe says so.

To put things in perspective, someday we'll approach the limits of what we can do with information technology--which is still in its infancy, relatively speaking--as well, and people will wonder why electronic gadgets aren't being developed as rapidly as warp drives, for example. :rolleyes: Right now, we happen to be living at a time when electronics can and are being developed quickly, and many of us unrealistically expect that everything else could be developed just as quickly if we only tried hard enough, but in reality that is not the case.

Loosedhorse
June 30, 2011, 09:57 PM
Just last night, for the first time, I disassembled a SAA clone. G-d, I love simplicity. Reassembled, and it works--on the very first try!

The Glock is similarly simple.

They will be obsolete when infallible personal force-fields are issued to all at birth--not sooner.

(BTW, the most important invented mechanical devices were the A-bomb and the printing press. Maybe in that order.)

Walkalong
July 1, 2011, 09:50 PM
No matter how high tech we get, low tech will never go out of style, or become irrelevant.

goon
July 1, 2011, 11:55 PM
I am reminded of a quote I read once that went something like "no weapon is ever completely obsolete: Ask anyone who's been hit with a rock lately."

Snowdog
July 2, 2011, 07:22 AM
I really don't think it's possible to accurately predict the weapons of the not-too-near future without knowing of the monumental discoveries that will occur in the meantime.

I'm not particularly convinced that weapons of the future will even be something we would readily recognize as a weapon today and may completely circumvent the "here to there" projectile/beam route that we're currently familiar with. For example, the ability to manipulate gravity may prove quite useful as a weapon and who knows, perhaps future discoveries may enable that.

I try to keep an open mind to out of the box concepts if for nothing more than preventing cerebral stagnation (and hell, it's fun).
I believe there certainly will be enhanced forms of personal shielding available in the future and I believe rapid regeneration may also be on the table, working in tandem with the "ounce of prevention" philosophy of shielding.

I also strongly suspect that regardless how advance we may become, a ball of lead from a matchlock will always be considered quite hazardous until the end of (flesh & blood human-form) mankind.

Plan2Live
July 2, 2011, 07:35 AM
Because this question has one foot planted firmly in the real of sci-fi or speculation, I'm presume you are suggesting we survive 2012 and/or Global Warming. Oh and to play off your screen name, assuming we surive attorneys. :neener:

LibShooter
July 2, 2011, 08:51 AM
Chemical fuels are a great way to store energy in a portable device. That's why we use them to go to space, the store and poke holes in our enemies from a distance.

I'm not sure lasers or directed energy will ever be suitable for hand held weapons. Just getting rid of the wasted heat could make them dangerous to the wielder.

Besides, any kind of personal force field armor would likely be more effective against radiation than kinetic energy. Gunpowder and lead will be around for a while.

armoredman
July 2, 2011, 04:43 PM
SciFi isn't ALWAYS what to look at - Star Trek VI had a phaser fired at a pot of mashed potatoes that vaporized the metal pot but left the potatoes intact, yet Star Trek II had Captain Terrel shoot himself in the chest with his phaser and vaporize, when it should have just left him naked. :)
Directed energy will have it's place, but precision placed metal will have a place until we develop a disruptor or force beam ;)

Nuclear
July 3, 2011, 12:15 PM
If you could come up with a device that would interfere with the CNS at a distance (imagine a "Taser field generator" you could aim at an individual) then you might have something that would make slugs of metal traveling at high velocities obsolete. Until then you are just playing around the edges. Although I agree that we would be much farther along if you could market new select fire and suppressor/silencer designs to the entire world market sans severe government regulations.

Oh, and if IEDs can cause problems for armored vehicles, think what would happen to armored soldiers, even in high tech armor.

armoredman
July 3, 2011, 12:57 PM
There is a Taser shotgun slug on the market, no idea how well it works.

FIVETWOSEVEN
July 3, 2011, 01:24 PM
Don't phase me bro!

Hamilton Felix
July 3, 2011, 05:35 PM
I've seen video of the 12 gauge "cordless taser" round. I'm sure it will remain scarce, expensive and effectively "Big Brother Only" for some time yet. Even the police style "wired" taser requires a lot of money and a lot of paperwork for Joe Ordinary to have -- and practice is not going to be cheap. Ordinary mortals will have to settle for handheld "contact stunners" for now.

Soft body armor has improved a bit. And it's being built into decent clothing. I know that's not Sci-Fi shield technology, but it may be worth acquiring.

Until power supply/battery technology makes another leap, and maybe a few other things happen - like affordable room temperature superconductors, I don't see laser personal sidearms becoming common. I love the idea. How can one not love a weapon with speed-of-light velocity, negligible recoil and totally flat trajectory?

There have been some advances in projectile design - and some "vanished" as quickly (anyone recall the French "Arcane" ammo?) as they appeared. Many years ago, I had a friend who experimented with compressed wax paper bullets. He felt he could make a cartridge/projectile that would be lethal at 25 feet, but harmless at 125 feet. He wanted to make a PDW about the size of a pack of cigarettes, effective up close but no risk to more distant bystanders.

Every so often, we hear about caseless ammunition. (Seems to me the original 19th century Volcanic was an effort in that direction.) I'm not holding my breath until it's affordable and common. And many of us handload. Handloading caseless ammo might be a bit too high-tech for DIY.

I can see room for improvement in muzzle brake design. I'd like a nearly recoilless pistol. But with the ridiculous sound suppressor laws in the U.S. I'd expect any such gun to be horribly loud.

I supposed the trend toward tiny, light pistols in substantial calibers can be taken a little bit further, but we're about at the limit of human tolerance now. Sure, I want something the size of a Baby Browning .25 that hits like a .44 magnum, but I also want to be able to control it.

We still haven't seen a tiny cartridge that hits like a big one. The only way I can see to do that is VELOCITY. Materials and propellants limit what we can do. And the shooter still has to be able to control it. And it should not deafen him.

The new Kel Tec PMR-30 (improved Grendel) is a step in that direction, and it's an attempt to carry enough rounds that there's not much need to reload or carry spare magazines. But the .22 WMR in a 4.3" pistol barrel isn't all that super a stopper. I did consider one of these for a MIL who isn't a shooter -- give 'em a couple of years to achieve reliability, then buy MIL a "house gun" that she can simply pick up and go bang - 30 times.

I agree completely with the comments that our overregulation totalitarian society has stifled individual creativity. I hate to say it, but the next great advances in personal weapons technology are not likely to come from North America.

And as my Beloved Wife reminds me, knives don't run out of ammo, are very effective at contact distance, and they have a psychological effect. As she puts it, "You can see it in your opponent's eyes. A gun says, 'I'm going to kill you.' A knife says, 'it's going to hurt a lot while I kill you.'"

So I'll go on daydreaming about the "Noisy Cricket" from MIB, but in the immediate future I still see chemically powered cartridge pistols and fine steel knives as useful, regardless of how "low tech" they seem to some.

SimplyChad
July 3, 2011, 11:32 PM
Goon may I steal that quote? I think I found my new signature.

armoredman
July 4, 2011, 12:56 AM
Even the police style "wired" taser requires a lot of money and a lot of paperwork for Joe Ordinary to have
Saw an older Taser M26 at a pawn shop last year for $300 or so. There are civilian models all over the place, blister pacs hanging on the racks at Sports Authority last time I looked.

Zoogster
July 4, 2011, 01:04 AM
Galaxy?!

Oops, I meant solar system and was thinking solar system when I was writing it. Somehow galaxy ended up written.
We have had the technology to go to the planets and other areas within the solar system for awhile, but the cost is prohibitive.

Manco
July 4, 2011, 02:52 AM
Oops, I meant solar system and was thinking solar system when I was writing it. Somehow galaxy ended up written.
We have had the technology to go to the planets and other areas within the solar system for awhile, but the cost is prohibitive.

Oh, I should have realized that, especially since you were just talking about travel within the Solar System right above. :o The word "galaxy" just stuck out so much to me that I got tunnel vision. :) Having read so many of your posts, I did find it rather difficult to believe you'd be THAT far off! ;)

Yes, I agree that we could travel anywhere within the Solar System if we wanted to badly enough, but the costs--in many different ways--are far too high for the return we'd likely get (even the Moon is highly questionable in today's economic climate). Cost is indeed important, but while it can often be an impediment to technological progress in a narrow sense, in a broader sense it is also a fundamental parameter of engineering--sometimes progress can actually be driven forward by the goal of reducing cost (not talking about cutting corners here), so it's not inherently bad in the grand scheme of things.

Cryogaijin
July 4, 2011, 09:55 AM
Yes, I agree that we could travel anywhere within the Solar System if we wanted to badly enough, but the costs--in many different ways--are far too high for the return we'd likely get (even the Moon is highly questionable in today's economic climate). Cost is indeed important, and while it can often be an impediment to technological progress in a narrow sense, in a broader sense it is also a fundamental parameter of engineering--sometimes progress can actually be driven forward by the goal of reducing cost (not talking about cutting corners here), so it's not inherently bad in the grand scheme of things. With an Orion we could get just about anywhere in the solar system for fairly cheap. The problem is that we simply don't have the WILL to launch an Orion.

Hamilton Felix
July 4, 2011, 11:41 AM
posted by armoredman: Saw an older Taser M26 at a pawn shop last year for $300 or so. There are civilian models all over the place, blister pacs hanging on the racks at Sports Authority last time I looked.


Would that be the "pistol" taser that uses a small charge to shoot the darts? If so, do you have any idea what a few practice rounds would cost? Does "older" still mean you can get reloads for it?

It was my impression that many jurisdictions ban or restrict them for ordinary mortals, but the cops have them. Also, I had the impression that the true TASER was serialized, documented and expensive. (I know there are small stunners of every sort all over the place.)

armoredman
July 6, 2011, 09:43 PM
Yes, that was the same Taser we used to issue, and I have no idea how you would get replacement cartridges for it, Taser International is the only main supplier, IIRC.

telomerase
July 6, 2011, 09:48 PM
Orion

Or even NERVA, if it were built with modern materials:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/walker2.html

JVaughn
July 6, 2011, 09:52 PM
The problem with laser / phaser etc. technology is the ability to diable it. How many times has Picard told Obrien to disable phasers which are in transit with people in the transporter beam? Electromagnetic pulse technology, etc are also to be considered. You can't disable a powder and lead cartridge without touching it. I suspect they will never reach obsolete status, the knife still hasn't.

Jim Watson
July 7, 2011, 05:41 PM
Come on, blindhari, at least spell Heinlein correctly.

A few years ago there was a description of a laser weapon of infantry rifle size and power circulated, with claims that it was feasible over a 25 year development horizon. One interesting point that somebody calculated out was that its gas dynamic laser with a rush of working fluid down the tube for every pulse would generate appreciable recoil. Think of it, a ray gun that kicks!

Lots of science fictional concepts discussed here, most run aground on the rocks of energy storage and waste heat dissipation. I recall one SF story that at least gave a nod to the latter, as the character stepped out of the matter transmitter with a laser pistol in each hand. So if confronted by two assailants or predators he could deal with them without having to wait for one emitter to cool down.

Then there was the heroine with her trusty Slichter handheld railgun. I did the math and this was one tough dame, with elk gun recoil from her purse pistol. Probably put runs in her stockings when she fired it prone.

Cryogaijin
July 7, 2011, 05:56 PM
Yeah, a ton of authors tend to forget their basic newton: Equal and opposite reactions. Thus a rail/coil gun will have a similar recoil to a chemical rifle attaining similar energies. Yet they tend to give them energies 10-10000x as much.

I always chuckle when reading a SF story where the projectile "leaves the muzzle/barrel at 1/10th the speed of light"

Just think how much friction would be caused by that. Enough to melt the user's face off.

Which brings us to another issue with directed energy weapons: Bloom. While the beam expends most of its energy on the target, it also rapidly heats the air it is traveling through. As most of us know intimately, heated air has different optical properties, thus bloom actually bends the laser causing it.

Current mitigation techniques are to use microsecond pulses, or to have a self-correcting beam.

Snowdog
July 8, 2011, 01:17 AM
How many times has Picard told Obrien to disable phasers which are in transit with people in the transporter beam?

If Chief O'Brien discovered you left the apostrophe out of his name, you'd spend a pretty Federation credit buying him a Guinness at Ten Forward after a shift of calibrating phase coils.

Yeah, I'm a geek who's seen 'em all. Twice.

evan price
July 8, 2011, 03:38 AM
Nobody has yet found a way to make obsolete the lever and the inclined plane, the two most basic machines ever invented.

And, when all else including sci-fi whiz-bang gimmickry fails, you can still beat someone to death with a rock.

mbt2001
July 8, 2011, 08:10 AM
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=422875

The above thread is about a fella in France that used a Black Powder gun to thwart a robbery. That is "low tech" but it worked just as well as the "high tech" stuff would have.

USAF_Vet
July 8, 2011, 09:07 AM
The Science channel had a July 4th "Firefly" marathon. As I've been watching it (DVR'd the whole series) I was reminded of this thread. The guns they used are all pretty much the same as today, with minor modifications, mostly cosmetic. Although, the "pew pew lazer beam" sound effects kinda soured me. It it looks like a shotgun, loads like a shotgun and fires like a shotgun, it should sound like a shotgun. Not some dinky Star Wars effect. OTOH, when George Lucas re-released Star Wars in THX, the laser beams lost their pew pew sound effects for a blam blam pow pow effecgt, which also soured me. If it looks like a ray gun... you get the idea.

But Firefly tech seems a bit more likely, in my perspective. Guns won't change as much as the ammunition fired from them.

USAF_Vet
July 8, 2011, 09:31 AM
While we are working with laser technology on a weaponized basis today, it's admittedly a long way off for the standard infantyman. The USAF Airborn Laser system is designed as an Anti ICBM weapon. Even during research phases of the weapon, the modified 747 would have to keep the beam on target long enough to superheat the fuel cell inside the missile, which could take several seconds. So imagine any pilot of a 747 trying to aim his/ her aircraft at a target moving several times faster than the aircraft itself. Granted, auto pilot aiming would probably be the best way to go about this, and the ICBM would be engaged from a few miles away, negating a lot of the movement necessary to keep on target. Oh, and the fact that it takes a 747 to house the weapon and the power supply is worth noting, and that it only has enough energy stored to fire the laser for a handful of seconds.

Considering our currect technology, with the ABL, I think we stand a better chance of building the Death Star over a man portable energy weapon.

Snowdog
July 8, 2011, 05:00 PM
Isn't there some sort of automated mirror targeting system on the nose that tracks the target?
I would hope the pilot would have little more on his plate than piloting the aircraft (with the weapon deployment being the work of a separate crew).

I know very litte about such things. I believe my knowledge comes from a Popular Science. It's fun to read about though.

USAF_Vet
July 10, 2011, 11:03 AM
It's probably got a targeting system interfaced with the autopilot. but like anything on an aircraft, the pilot has to be able to perform the function manually.

"sorry Los Angeles, you're gonna get nuked because the autopilot system is inop."
:D

Wouldn't be such a bad thing now would it?

Morrell
July 10, 2011, 01:34 PM
not to get off topic, but just watched first episode of Firefly lastnight. Loved seeing the Spanish Astra 600!

benEzra
July 10, 2011, 02:47 PM
The primary reason for a lack of travel is the massive expense.
And the reason it's so expensive is that chemical fuels carry relatively little energy. This means that, using chemical fuels:

(1) Any interplanetary space vehicle has to have an insanely-difficult-to-achieve mass fraction to get into space in the first place (meaning both lots of throwaway stages, and cutting-edge lightweight materials and construction, both of which are expensive);

(2) Current systems have such limited delta-V that the only way to get to the planets is to coast there via minor orbit changes, meaning you have to have onboard life-support for two or three years just to get to Mars and back. A self-contained system that can keep one or more humans alive in a vacuum for three years at a stretch is unimaginably expensive. And to get to the outer planets, with chemical fuels, you'd be looking at round trips of a decade or two.

If you had some sort of propulsion technology that would allow you to accelerate at 1g for days or weeks, it would be way cheaper to get to the other planets. You don't need a hyper-expensive recycling environment or years worth of air and food if you can get where you're going in a week.

It's probably got a targeting system interfaced with the autopilot. but like anything on an aircraft, the pilot has to be able to perform the function manually.
It's all controlled by the crew in the back, just like an AWACS radar (and the targeting is completely automated; no human could work with that kind of precision).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_YAL-1

http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/gallery/images/military/abl/pics-clips/abl15.html

http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/abl/pics-clips/images/midres/cutaway.jpg

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