The video: After six years of development and at least $240 million, the U.S. Navy's futuristic electromagnetic railgun is one big step closer to reality. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is now test-firing a working prototype of the weapon that's small enough to fit on a warship. Using electric pulses, not chemical explosives, the cannon can shoot a 40-pound metal slug from New York to Philadelphia at up to 5,600 miles per hour — more than seven times the speed of sound — with 32 times the force of a car traveling at 100 miles per hour. (Watch a video below.) "This is the stuff you saw in movies a couple of years ago — cutting-edge, taking out the Transformers — and now it's reality," says ONR chief Adm. Matthew Klunder.
The reaction: Meet "the ultimate superweapon," says David Woods at Manolith. The railgun is already deadly with these test projectiles — basically non-aerodynamic hunks of metal — and once the railgun starts using real ammo, "it could revolutionize the way battles are fought." But watching this "railgun in action chills me to the bone," says Jacqueline Burt at The Stir. "I'm not disputing the incredible technical achievement this signifies," but I could say the same of the atomic bomb. Can any good "ever come from creating a weapon of mass destruction"? See for yourself:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree
Subscribe to the Week