Force field (fiction)
In fictional works, a force field, sometimes known as an energy shield, force shield, or deflector shield, is a barrier made up of energy or particles to protect a person, area or object from attacks or intrusions. This fictional technology is created as a field of energy without mass that acts as a wall, so that objects affected by the particular force relating to the field are unable to pass through the field and reach the other side. It is a concept popular in science fiction and fantasy works. Scientific research into real energy shields is ongoing, primarily to protect against radiation.
A University of Washington group in Seattle has been experimenting with using a bubble of charged plasma to surround a spacecraft, contained by a fine mesh of superconducting wire. This would protect the spacecraft from interstellar radiation and some particles without needing physical shielding.
In 2008, Cosmos Magazine reported on research into creating an artificial replica of Earth’s magnetic field around a spacecraft to protect astronauts from dangerous cosmic rays. British and Portuguese scientists used a mathematical simulation to prove that it would be possible to create a "mini-magnetosphere" bubble several hundred meters wide, possibly generated by a small unmanned vessel that could accompany a future NASA mission to Mars.
Science fiction and fantasy venues postulate a number of potential uses for force fields:
- A barrier to allow workers to work in areas that can be exposed to the vacuum of space, keeping the atmosphere inside while allowing certain other objects to pass through
- Emergency quarantine of an area afflicted by a harmful biological or chemical agent or occupied by enemy forces
- The extinguishing of a fire by forcing the reaction to use up all the available oxygen in the confined space
- As a shield from damage by natural forces or enemy attacks
- To create a temporary habitable space in a place unsuitable for sustaining life
- As a security method to direct someone in a particular direction for capture, or to confine a captive in a particular area
The abilities and exact functionality of energy shields vary; in some works (such as in the Star Trek universe), energy shields can stop, or mitigate the effects of, both energy and particle weapons (e.g. phasers) and normal projectiles, both natural and artificial. In the various series, shields function primarily as a defensive measure against weapons fire from other ships; these shields also generally block the use of transporters while active. Also, inside ships, force field generators can seal off ship atmosphere from the vacuum of space, as in the case of a hull breach caused by an attack or explosion. There are two kinds of force fields, one that is projected as a flat pane from emitters around the edges, and one that surrounds the ship like a bubble.
The concept goes back at least as far as the 1920s, in the works of E.E. 'Doc' Smith and others; in William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912) the Last Redoubt, in which the remnants of humanity shelter, is protected by something very like a force field.[original research?]
In Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe, personal shields have been developed by scientists specializing in the miniaturization of planet-based shields. As they are primarily used by Foundation Traders, most other inhabitants in the Galactic Empire do not know about this technology. In an unrelated short story Breeds There a Man...? by Asimov, scientists are working on a force field ("energy so channeled as to create a wall of matterless inertia") capable of protecting the population in case of a nuclear war. The force field demonstrated in the end is a solid hemisphere, apparently completely opaque and reflective from both sides.
The concept of force fields as a defensive measure from enemy attack or as a form of attack can be regularly found in modern video games as well as in movies, such as in The War of the Worlds (1953, George Pál) and Independence Day.
The ability to create a force field has been a common superpower in comic books and associated media. While only a few characters have the explicit ability to create force fields (for example, the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four and Violet Parr from The Incredibles), it has been emulated via other powers, such as Green Lantern's energy constructs, Jean Grey's telekinesis, and Magneto's manipulation of electromagnetic fields. Apart from this, its importance is also highlighted in Dr. Michio Kaku's books (such as Physics of the Impossible).
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- "Star Trek-style shields could become reality". Cosmos Magazine. 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
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