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Plugged In

The Real Science of Halo: Reach

Plugged In

reach out to respected professionals in the scientific community including jet
pack engineers, plasma researchers, mechanical engineers, and the scientific
advisor on Battlestar Galactica to get at the truth behind the fiction.

With six video games, an animated series, several graphic novels,
and six printed novels Halo is perhaps the richest and fullest
science-fiction universe ever spawned from a video game. It's also home
to some of the most inventive science-fiction we've ever seen. But we
wanted to see how much of this universe stands up to scrutiny. So with
the help of respected scientists we're putting Halo Reach under the

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A new addition to the series, jet packs feature prominently in
Reach's multiplayer. But a fully equipped Spartan weighs over half a
ton! The armor and equipment weigh around 1000 pounds. Add in the
weight of the enormous, genetically engineered behemoth inside and you
could easily be in the range of 1250 pounds...not including the weight
of the jet pack.

Could a back-mounted chemical propulsion system reliably and accurately launch this hulking mass of steel and bullets?

"Yes," said Nino Amarena, CEO of Thunderbolt Aerosystems which
engineers and manufactures real, working private jet packs. "It would
be possible to build a rocket motor that could lift that weight for
short periods. But the pilot would also need to carry the load [of the
jet pack] and the required fuel."

Not only that, but Amarena says landings could be accurate to within two feet.

Weight is the most significant issue, not just for launching the
soldier into the air, but for keeping the Chief a nimble
Covenant-killing machine on the ground. Seeing as the Chief can jump
nine feet in the air we're guessing a couple extra hundred pounds wont
be an issue.

The most beneficial factor for the Spartan is the MJOLNIR armored
plating and shields. This would allow them to use far more volatile and
powerful rocket fuels than would be possible with an unaided pilot,
substantially cutting down on fuel weight.

Verdict: Plausible

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Plasma Gun

Plasma Rifles

The staple of the covenant armory is the famed SPARTAN-shield
demolishing plasma rifle. We wanted to learn a bit more about what
plasma is, and why aliens are using fluorescent light bulb technology
to destroy us, so we contacted the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
for further explanation.

"Plasma," explained Patricia Wieser, a representative of the
laboratory, "is the fourth state of matter. It's a hot, electrically
charged gas." But the term "gas" is merely a convenient descriptor. The
ionized state of a plasma can lead it to behave quite unlike any other
form of matter.

They are characterized by their ability to be highly charged with
electricity and their reaction to magnetic fields. Due to these
qualities they can be moved or aimed in beams. Lightning is an example
of a highly excited form of plasma that exists on Earth.

Harnessing plasma in a handheld form is not out of the question. In
2005 the US military stated it was developing a controversial new
weapon based on plasma research. The weapon was non-lethal and could
fire a laser from up to two miles away, creating a plasma reaction when
it hit something solid (like a person.) This in turn creates an
electromagnetic pulse that triggers pain neurons without damaging
bodily tissue. The stated purpose of this weapon was to induce maximum
pain in rioters.

Verdict: Possible

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Glassed Planet

Glassing a Planet

The Covenant's favorite means of dispatching enemy worlds is a
process referred to as "glassing." This is a type of orbital
bombardment that so thoroughly destroys the planet that its surface is
literally turned to glass.

We've already found that plasma can be harnessed and fired in beams
by magnetic fields, but the real question is whether it's realistic to
say that a plasma could burn through the metals that populate a
planet's surface.

According to the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, this is
entirely possible. "Plasmas are used to melt metals all the time," said
Wieser. "For example, plasma torches can cut steel plates, and arc
furnaces can melt tons of scrap steel. Plasmas can have a temperature
much higher than the melting point of any solid. It can melt anything."

Although plasma's melting capability is unmatched, it takes a large
amount of energy to heat the plasma to a degree that it can melt those
metals. Using it to destroy the entire surface of a planet would
require truly ridiculous amounts of energy. Especially considering the
plasma would need to be beamed hundreds of miles down to the planet's

So while there's nothing theoretically impossible about this, the
energy storage necessary for the Covenant to not only fly across the
galaxy (and back home again) but then destroy an entire planet would
require technology the likes of which we can't even see glimmers of

Verdict: Improbable

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