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Diamagnetic Cavity Shields For Spacecraft?

Aspacecraft could be protected from radiation with a dipolelike magnetic fieldand plasma; it could surround a spacecraft like a ?mini magnetosphere.?Reseachers in the UK, Portugal and Sweden announced the work in this month's PlasmaPhysics and Controlled Fusion.

Spacecraft venturing to theplanets will need to be outfitted with some sort of protection againstradiation like that associated with the solar wind, a low-density plasma thatconstantly flows outward from the sun. Initial laboratory experiments seem tohold out the possibility that the solar wind could be deflected around anappropriately equipped spacecraft. Their experiments show a clearly defined diamagnetic-likecavity.

"Visible light imagingof the system indicates that the plasma beam is deflected into a thin annularshell, the interior of which appears to be devoid of plasma...

"Initial hybridmodelling of the system with the dHybrid code shows very good agreement withthe experimental results, reproducing well the measured ?stand-off? distanceand the overall spatial scale of the diamagnetic cavity. In addition the scalelength of the transport barrier region is consistent with experimentalresults... "

Earlier experimentsperformed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, UK, have shown thata deflectorshield of ionized gas could also protect spacecraft.

Force shields, also calleddeflector shields, have long been a science fiction staple. The general ideawas described in such early works as E.E. 'Doc' Smith's 1934 Triplanetary;see the entry for protectiveshield. The general term "shield" for a protective energy barrierwas probably first used by Smith.

The rise of special effectsimages in films has also given the public imagination much to work on; take alook at this depiction of a forceshield from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

An early representation maybe recalled by older fans; namely, the Martianforce shield from the 1953 movie version of H.G. Well's 1898 novel TheWar of the Worlds.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used withpermission of

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Bill Christensen

Bill Christensen is the founder and editor of Technovelgy, a website dedicated to cataloguing  the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers. Bill is a dedicated reader of science fiction with a passion about science and the history of ideas. For 10 years, he worked as writer creating technical documentation for large companies such as Ford, Unisys and Northern Telecom and currently works to found and maintain large websites. You can see Bill's latest project on Twitter.