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"Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way."
- Robert Heinlein

Polaron Beam  
  A unique beam of energy that scatters some of its light at right angles to the direction of propagation.  

A classic battle between a stationary fort on the lunar surface versus a quick, mobile spacecraft is decided by this fort-based weapon.

Readers should note that Clarke alters the version of this weapon for use in the 1955 novelization of the story. See the stilletto beam from the novel Earthlight to see Clarke's final (and perhaps more elegant treatment) of this idea.

For it was during a lull in the engagement that the polaron beam operated for the first time in history.

The two watchers saw it strike upward like an inverted lightning flash. It was clearly visible along its whole length not merely in patches where it passed through dust and gas. Even in that brief instant of time Wheeler noticed this staggering violation of the laws of optics and wondered at its implications. Not until many years later did he learn how a polaron beam radiates some of its energy at right angles to its direction of propagation so that it can be seen even in a vacuum.

The beam went through the Phlegethon as if she did not exist.

From Earthlight (Novella), by Arthur C. Clarke.
Published by Wonder Stories in 1951
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