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
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- How to trim $500 from your monthly spending
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
- Are there too many good shows on television?
- The forgotten victims of the war in Ukraine
- Comic-Con 2014: Everything we learned about Avengers 2, Batman v. Superman, and more
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
Subscribe to the Week