So, China has put a railgun on a warship. Should America be worried?

Pictures of the secretive and extremely high-powered weapon have appeared on Chinese social media. 

China has put a railgun on a warship. That sentence alone might trigger the heebie-jeebies in some members of the American military. It's the first time any nation has ever put such a powerful gun on a warship. But there's more to the story than that. 


The physics behind the railgun are particularly impressive. Since the specially designed "bullets" are 22lbs each and are capable of traveling about 100 miles at Mach 7 speeds (approx. 5,300mph), the bullets have to be fired with an extreme amount of energy: about 32 megajoules. That's about enough energy to propel a 1 ton object at 566mph, so, to give you a rough idea of how powerful this thing is: it's like giving something the size of a basketball the speed (and ultimately destructive power) of a 747.

While we can't do much (save for interchanging the lyrics to Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" to "China's got a gun"), we can rest somewhat assured that the railgun might not actually work. Fancy though it may be, it's not easy to get a machine this powerful to fire at a target. The American military had up until fairly recently working on railgun technology but since dropped it in favor of more short-range weaponry; it looks like China was watching pretty closely and picked up the ball where America either lost interest or lost focus. 

So, should anyone be worried? Maybe. It could be a while until the railgun actually gets used, and if certain Big Thinkers are to be believed this is more-so the kind of show-off weapon that is built mostly as a deterrent and/or status symbol. And besides, it's not like we have a head of government who likes to tick off the Chinese. Oh, wait! We do. Well, we might be seeing the railgun sooner than later. 

Misbehaving: being clever and wicked is a form of creativity

Creativity can bring about unchecked harm, but it's up to us how we wield it.Aeon counter – do not remove

Mind & Brain

Suppose you forgot it was your partner's birthday, but you know that they would appreciate the smallest of gestures, say a bouquet. It's late at night and no florists are open. The cemetery on your way home has recently had a funeral, and you walk across the site and pick up a good-looking bouquet of roses from someone's grave. You then head home, and the flowers are happily received by your partner.

Would you say that you hurt anyone?

Keep reading Show less

Study: Memories of music cannot be lost to Alzheimer's and dementia

The part of your brain responsible for ASMR catalogs music, and appears to be a stronghold against Alzheimer's and dementia.

The parts of the brain highlighted in red and yellow are thought to control your sense of attention and memory. (image c/o Brain Network Lab)
popular

Some music inspires you to move your feet, some inspires you to get out there and change the world. In any case, and to move hurriedly on to the point of this article, it's fair to say that music moves people in special ways. 

Keep reading Show less

In 1999, David Bowie knew the internet would change the world

Musican. Actor. Fashion Icon. Internet Visionary?

Technology & Innovation
  • David Bowie was well known as a rock star, but somehow his other interests and accomplishments remain obscure.
  • In this 1999 interview, he explains why he knows the internet is more than just a tool and why it was destined to change the world.
  • He launched his own internet service provider in 1998, BowieNet. It ceased operations in 2006.
Keep reading Show less