Ray Gun FAQ

Ray guns are an exciting feature of science fiction. Anybody can dream up a ray gun, but nobody can shoot one, because they do not exist yet.

Who invented the ray gun?

W.G. Wells, a science fiction writer, armed his Martians with ray guns in his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds. Mr. Wells had been a science teacher, so he knew how to make his ray gun seem realistic.

After that, ray guns became an important science fiction weapon. Flash Gordon used a ray gun on the planet Mongo, and in Star Wars Han Solo used one called a blaster. Since ray guns are not real, at least not yet, anyone can imagine any kind of ray gun they like, and give it any powers that seem logical and interesting.

What are some types of ray guns?

Most ray guns seem to shoot rays that look like beams of light, but some shoot invisible rays. The rays make objects explode, but for some reason they usually make humans crumple to the floor.

Ray guns can make people disappear, blind them, age them, shrink them, or turn them into mindless zombies who do the bidding of whoever holds the weapon. It's hard to imagine how a ray gun could actually do any of that.

Could a ray gun paralyze someone?

A ray gun could certainly paralyze someone in a science fiction story. In real life, it would be hard to paralyze someone who is a distance away without otherwise harming them, or at least messing up their clothes a little. In Batman, a ray gun freezes people. How would a gun work that lowers temperatures?

Would a ray gun work in space?

It's easy to imagine a ray gun that would work in space, because the photons sent from the sun travel through space to light up the planets. There is no reason why the beams from a ray gun could not behave the way photons do. In fact, an ordinary handgun would work in space, assuming it was warm enough, so a ray gun should work fine.

Could lasers work as ray guns?

Certainly they could, in someone's imagination. The problem with real lasers might be inventing a power source to make them portable. A small battery will not hold enough energy to zap anything in an effective way. A ray gun with a long cord doesn't seem quite right either; the hero might trip over it.

The real lasers in use today are large, stable machines, not small hand-held guns. Someday a scientist or engineer may well come up with a way to power a light, portable hand-laser ray gun, but it has not happened yet.

Is a real ray gun possible?

Of course it is. Many things were dreamed of long before they were built. No one has built a real working ray gun yet, but chances are someone will. With enough imagination and enough knowledge, almost anything is possible.

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