"Science and science fiction, how do you even distinguish the two?"
- Jerry Pournelle
||Thermodyne Heat Ray
||Device focuses, and projects, a heat beam.
|Freddie opened his apparatus and
explained it briefly. His so-called
thermodyne principle. Though ultimately
he had hoped to adapt it into a motor
of revolutionary design, his present model was
merely a small projector.
"Projector of what?" demanded the
"Of heat, sir," Freddie answered. "I'll
show you. This is a very small model, of
course, but it demonstrates the principle."
They did not want any technicalities
from Freddie. He explained only that his
apparatus, in this present small form,
took a tiny electric spark and built it up.
into a new form of radiant heat.
"It is," said Freddie, "heat of totally
different properties from the kind with
which we commonly deal. It travels —
radiates, by the diffusion of its electrons,
more like light than heat. At a great
speed — I think possibly, at over a hundred
thousand miles a second."
He opened his apparatus. It consisted
of a small, flat, metallic box, curved to
fit a man's chest. A disk, like a small
electrode, to be pressed against the skin.
Freddie bared his chest and strapped it
"I use," he said, "the tiny electrical impulse
which the human body itself furnishes.
This, I amplify, build up and
store in a battery." Wires from the generator
led to a small box which he
opened to show his audience—a box of
coils, and a tiny row of amplifying tubes.
He put this in his pocket, with wires
leading to the battety and the projector.
These were both in one piece—the projector
a small metallic funnel, with a
trigger; a grid of wires was across its
opened end; it had a long metallic handle,
in the hollow interior of which was
the battery where the charge was concentrated.
"Electrons of heat under pressure,"
"Show us," said someone.
Freddie erected a screen across the
room—an insulating screen to kill the
heat-beam so that it could not injure
the wall. The men moved aside.
Freddie, after a moment to generate
and concentrate the charge, raised the
The thing.hissed slightly; a dull violet
beam sprang like light from the projector.
It struck the screen some twenty
feet away, in a large circle of fluorescence;
in the dimness of the room it
seemed like phosphorescent water, landing
in a spray and dissipating as it
struck, like a dissolving mist.
Freddie cried, "Peter, hold something
I took a sheet of paper, held it carefully
into the beam. It shriveled, blackened
and burst into flame. Then a lead
pencil—it melted off midway of its length
as I held it up.
Freddie snapped off the apparatus.
"That's all, gentlemen. With a large
model, I would use a high voltage current
for my original impulse, instead of
the tiny impulse of the human body."
|From A Brand New World,
by Ray Cummings.
Published by Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1942
Additional resources -
Compare to the pencil heat ray from Brigands of the Moon (1930) by Ray Cummings and the heat ray from The War of the Worlds (1898) by H.G. Wells.
Don't neglect its opposite - the zero-ray from An Adventure in Futurity (1931) by Clark Ashton Smith.
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