Friday, January 2, 2009

On Force Fields

Every hundred years or so, mankind devises a new technology so groundbreaking that it causes a paradigm shift, changing the way we live our lives, enjoy our entertainment, or -- unfortunately perhaps the most significant change -- the way we fight our wars. Come Inauguration Day, President Obama will have countless opportunities to work towards such shifts. We have heard talk of many of his plans, and I am optimistic that they will be productive. However, there is one area of our great nation that needs dramatic change that he has not yet grasped. We need a change in our approach to defense. What change? I'll tell you -- FORCE FIELDS.

Redirecting the bulk of our military spending to force field technology could, in the long run, greatly increase security and reduce spending. There is a long science fiction history proving the effectiveness of this strategy. Plus, force fields are badass. Yes, I know, it's exciting. I'm pretty jazzed about it, myself, but before I jump into the plethora of possible implementations, allow me to cite some precedent for this seemingly radical change.

Come with me to ancient China, the 3rd century B.C. First Emperor Qin Shi Huang wants to protect his newly-unified China from northern Xiongnu invaders. What does he do? He builds a wall. THE wall. The Great Wall of China. It's big, and it's in your way. He thinks that perhaps a big barrier will repel some attacks, discourage others, and generally keep more of his people alive. Perhaps some of the more aggressive soldiers scoffed at this seemingly cowardly approach, but this may have stemmed from the rumors I heard that Great Wall duty sucked, because it was pretty chilly up there. Turns out, though, The Wall worked. Later dynasties maintained this wall and improved upon it. Today, parts of it still stand. While history showed that the wall did not make its defended invincible, it was tremendously effective.

Now follow me to 8th century Greece, after the jump...

The Spartans, in their quest for military and abdominal superiority, implement a phalanx infantry formation, which may or may not have been inspired by the Sumerians. The strength of this tight battle formation relies on a gapless wall of shields, combined with spears, making a frontal attack extremely difficult. While the Spartans could hack up their enemies with the best of them, the first step was to prevent damage.

Now, before I move on, note this: while Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and others would counter that the best defense is to take the initiative with offense, keep in mind that I am not advocating dissolution of our nation's offensive capabilities. I am, rather, suggesting that perhaps our focus should be shifted a bit. Hell, the department is called the Department of Defense, not the Department of Excessive Bombing. And hey, force fields can be used offensively, too. You'll you read on.

So, I've exhibited some historical precedent for the advantages of barriers, and I know what you're thinking: "Yea, I get it. Walls are effective. But walls aren't as exciting or versatile as rockets OR Gundams." Lucky for me, science fiction has left me a long history of really sweet force field use to draw examples from. I will now present some of these to you, to show just how much we can do with force fields...

Homeland Security (Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within)
Here, we see the most obvious use of force fields -- keep the baddies out. Earth has been infested by an alien species known as Phantoms, so mankind retreats into "barrier cities" protected by giant force fields. I don't think I need to say much more to tell you why this is useful, but I will add this: these force fields are keeping out aliens, aliens that can kill you just by touching you. I know I would be comforted if the entire U.S. were surrounded by one of these. Wouldn’t you?

Interplanetary Defense (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi)
I know this doesn't seem relevant to us now, but if alien invaders come to kill Earth (and, let's face it, with our first black president elected, the future is unfolding just as we predicted), why not just stop them before they even get here? The Empire defends the Death Star by use of a large force field. Now, I realize that they had trouble keeping it from ultimately being deactivated, but keep in mind that we have no furry Ewok meddlers living on our moon to give our shield generator any trouble. It is also important to note that this implementation of force field is invisible, giving invaders a false sense of security when, in fact, the force field will be QUITE operational when their friends arrive.

Offense (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace)
I promised you and Sun Tzu that force fields can be used in offense, so here you are. In The Phantom Menace, the Gungans use mobile force fields to protect their warriors from projectile attack. The important distinction of this version of force field is that, while it blocks all incoming projectiles, it allows for outgoing projectiles, making it a great tool for both ground-based and aerial combat. Of course, the Gungans ended up performing rather poorly in this battle, but let's not blame that on the force field. Also, this technique was later implemented in the Halo universe, so you know it works.

Environmental Protection (Spaceballs)
Pacifists, I'm looking out for you, too! The planet Druidia here has used force field technology to protect their atmosphere from would-be thieves. This suggests that we could implement yet another variation of force field to, say, patch our O-Zone layer. Wouldn’t that be neat? We could also protect endangered species from poachers by using miniature force fields activated when the animals are tagged, though then we run the risk of force field-protected rhinoceroses conquering all our major world capitals, but, really, I think the rhinos will stay cool.

Everything Else, Really (Star Trek)
Seriously, Star Fleet knows their force fields. They use the things as prison cells, patches for battered starships, shields to block outside communication and prevent espionage, and more. Plus, when was the last time you heard Kirk/Picard/Janeway/that guy from Enterprise say "Divert all power AWAY from shields." Doesn't happen. Shields are always the last thing they want to give up, other than, MAYBE, life support, but even that gets sacrificed sometimes for some good reinforced-aft-shield action.

In conclusion, force field technology is not only effective, it is versatile and will satisfy military-types and pacifists alike. As for feasibility, the U.S. spent over $700 billion on defense in 2008. Come on. Scientists around the world are doing amazing work in physics. Couldn't we take, say, $300 billion and put it towards this? I'm sure NASA and the EPA would be willing to chip in a little. Dear President Obama, the power is yours. Make us proud.


LoquaciousMuse said...

dude. BRILLIANT. so glad you wrote this. force fields!!! we'd be so badass!!!

david said...

NOTHING is as exciting or versatile as gundams! nothing!!!

but yes, if for every two dollars we spent on the war in iraq we had spent 1 dollar on force fields... the brain boggles.

EruditeChick said...

Um, I would like to point out that bipedal mech-armors and force fields can be combined in any number of impressive and tactically sound ways. Accepting for read that by the time such implementations are ready to be made, all structural disabilities the Gundams will face have been solved- The Gundam Deathscythe, from the A.C. timeline Wing universe, uses force fields both as light refractors for stealth as well as shields.

So Giant Battle Robot + Force Fields = Clear Win.

LoquaciousMuse said...

We would be UNSTOPPABLE. robots and force fields! although the robots can turn on us - force fields can't. right?

Teddy Diefenbach said...

I'd be more worried about North Korea getting their hands on Gundams than on force fields. Food for thought.