by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
- NASA micrometeroid cannon
- High hopes
- The need for speed
- The tachyon solution
- For the record
Airgunners are fascinated by what is possible from the propulsion of just air. One thing that gets lots of discussion on my social networks is how, in big bore airguns, the heavier the bullet, the greater the power of the gun.
I saw something similar almost 20 years ago, when Robert and Mike Chilco invented CO2Much — a CO2 smoothbore that shot a 7-ounce lead slug fast enough to generate 1,082 foot-pounds at the muzzle. That was what they were after — the power record. As far as I know, they achieved it.
NASA micrometeroid cannon
Then, there was NASA’s pneumatic cannon that used a barrel 98 feet long to propel a tiny projectile up to 10,000 f.p.s. They were studying the effects of micrometeoroids on spacecraft material for the moon mission. They knew that a longer barrel meant higher velocity in a pneumatic gun.
What happens when two guys in a garage decide they want to do both things? They want the velocity record and the muzzle energy record too.
Their first attempt was to launch a 128-lb. engine block off a 419-foot communications tower using an air booster. They shot the block straight down to the earth, where it left a 3-foot deep crater. It passed their makeshift optical “chronograph” — a high-speed video camera — 10 feet above the ground — at a calculated 211 f.p.s., for an estimated impact energy of 89,291.18 foot-pounds. That put the energy record in the bag.
The need for speed
Next, they went for the velocity record. For this, they cheated. To understand how, you have to know something about these two young men. They are Dr. Harley Werthit of MIT and Dr. Angelo F. Alls from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They are on a team of scientists working on NASA’s Tachyon Communications Project (TCP). Tachyons are theoretical particles that travel faster than the speed of light, and the project is tasked with proving their existence. When that can be done, they hope to use tachyons to communicate.
But these 2 men also knew that if they could accelerate a particle beyond the speed of light they would capture the velocity record for all time. There is just one problem. Particles that go faster than light leave no trace of themselves. They “wink out” into another dimension. These men needed to prove they had done it. That left them with a dilemma. If they were successful, there could be no proof. If there was proof, they had not succeeded.
The tachyon solution
What they had to do to generate their proof was accelerate a target to a faster-than-light speed, hit it with their projectile and then slow it to sub-light again for evaluation. It took an estimated 3 years of both men working on the system to accomplish this, and in the end they named it the Accelerated Particle Reverse Isotropic Laminar Forensic Optical and Orthotic — Light Speed.
The first time they tested, it they got a result! A hole was found in the target at precisely the point at which they intended aiming the particle. The problem is that once the results were in, the funding for the program was cut and the particle accelerator hasn’t been completed, yet. So, they haven’t actually shot the particle yet.
The results of this test have given rise to some questions of relativity among the scientific and philosophical communities. A target has been hit, but the projectile that will hit it hasn’t been fired, yet.
These results have thrown the entire NASA Tachyon Communications Project into a tailspin. Congress is wondering why they should fund a communications project that delivers a message before it is sent. As one senator from Iowa said recently, “If I want to know what someone will say before they say it, I’ll ask my wife!”
For the record
To accommodate this specialized branch of science, the Guinness Book of World Records has created the Relativity Awards. A person or team can qualify for an award if they intend breaking a certain record in a parallel hypervelocity dimension and can offer proof that they’ve already done so.
It’s rumored that the U.S. Treasury is also looking into this matter with great interest, as a means of funding future government projects.