What is the longest range tranquilizer

Science goes ballistic: 8 weapons for hunting knowledge

Some scientists may take pride in their finesse with a pipette or math expertise. For others, part of the appeal of scientific research is playing with very powerful toys. And, of course, some of those toys are guns. Except these aren't your grandpa's shotguns. From physics to astronomy to biology, researchers have found some great ways to propel something from point A to point B with as much energy as they can muster. And most of the time the science the weapon is used for is even more interesting than the blunderbuss itself. Outside of science, weapons are used too often to detract from life. None of the weapons on this list are meant to destroy just to create new knowledge. Here are some of the most amazing weapons in science.Over:

NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range

On March 17, a 40-kilogram meteorite hit the moon, causing a flash of light brighter than most stars and the largest meteorite explosion ever recorded on the lunar surface. Meteorite impacts on the moon are not uncommon, but in order to measure their force and their effect on the lunar surface, it must be possible to study them at close range. The Ames Vertical Gun Range. Photo Credit: NASA To investigate these powerful collisions from here on Earth, NASA is calling the Vertical Gun Range at the Ames Research Center. Originally intended to aid the Apollo missions, it is now used whenever NASA scientists need to fire something at something else very quickly. Much smaller than the similarly powered SHARP cannon, this lightweight gas pistol uses bursts of hydrogen to shoot a variety of glass, metal, or mineral marbles at simulated lunar targets at speeds of up to 7 kilometers per second. This is still ten times slower than many of the huge collisions in space. By observing these explosions in the laboratory, scientists can calibrate their measurements of the explosions they see in space. Analyzing these effects will help researchers understand the explosive risks that future astronauts could face in space and could one day help us return astronauts to the moon, or perhaps even Mars. Above: Photo of a Pyrex marble that exploded upon impact with the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range. Photo credit: Peter Schultz, Brown University, and NASA

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AEDC Ballistic Range S-3, AKA "The Chicken Gun"

If a "chicken gun" sounds like something from an episode of MythBusters, it's because it was featured on an episode of the show. An Air Force ballistic device that shoots poultry at planes has all the hallmarks of an urban legend, but the "chicken gun" is entirely real. Testing an airplane roof in Ballistic Range S-3 Credit: Arnold Air Force Base On Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee, in the middle of wind tunnels and test areas for jet engines, is the otherwise harmlessly labeled Ballistic Range S-3. Inside is a 90 foot long cannon powered by compressed helium and used for impact testing of aircraft canopies and body panels. At low altitudes, especially when taking off and landing, aircraft are at high risk of bird strikes. Chicken guns in Arnold and elsewhere are used in tests to make sure a $ 300 million airplane won't be overturned by a seagull. The 8-inch wide barrel is just wide enough to hold a 4-pound (thawed) chicken carcass purchased from a local farm, and a powerful burst of gas propels the poultry projectile toward its target at speeds of up to 1,400 feet per second to. A number of high-speed cameras, pressure sensors, and microphones monitor every scientific nook and cranny of the impact. The range S-3 is not only suitable for blowing up birds. It was instrumental in ensuring that the space shuttle program returned to flight after the Columbia disaster. Shortly after Columbia launched, a piece of insulation foam fell from the shuttle's external fuel tank, hitting the heat-insulating tiles, and upon reentry, tragically disintegrated the spacecraft. AEDC engineers replaced their chickens with foam blocks and fired them at various shuttle components to better protect astronauts on future missions. Space Shuttle Foam Impact Test in Ballistic Area S-3, Photo Credit: Arnold Air Force Base

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Space Gun (HARP project)

In the 1902 silent film Le Voyage Dans la Lune by Georges Méliès, a group of astronomers are shot into space aboard a spherical capsule known to be located in the right eye of the moon. In 1961, the US and Canadian forces undertook a similar endeavor. The HARP project for the High-Altitude Research Project was developed by the controversial ballistics engineer Gerald Bull. Bull and other military scientists originally came up with Project HARP to cheaply test ballistic missiles and gather information about the upper atmosphere. But the dawn of the space age quickly inspired Bull to use HARP to put satellites into orbit without costly rocket launches. At test sites from Arizona to the Caribbean, Bull and his team erected huge artillery pieces that pointed towards the sky. At lengths over 120 feet and barrel diameters up to 16 inches, they launched hundreds of test payloads to achieve the speed required to overcome Earth's gravity. The growing political and financial pressure related to the Vietnam War and NASA's focus on traditional large rockets such as the Saturn V led to the cancellation of the HARP project in 1966. In the same year, a HARP cannon fired a Martlet 2 projectile to an altitude of 180 kilometers, a world record for a cannon that still holds today. Bull never gave up his search for a space weapon. After Bull was jailed for developing artillery weapons for the South African army and was under a UN arms embargo due to his apartheid policies, he worked for an unlikely sponsor. He was hired by Saddam Hussein to lead Project Babylon, a series of space-capable superguns that Bull convinced that Hussein would turn Iraq into a true world power. But Bull was assassinated under suspicious circumstances in 1990, and the Babylon project was never completed. His quest to get into space with the power of steel and gunpowder was captured in the 1994 HBO film Doomsday Gun. Above: Project HARP 16-inch Gun, Department of Defense credit

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SHARP project

Decades after HARP, Lawrence Livermore's scientist John Hunter came across a plan for an electromagnetic rail gun to launch ballistic missiles from the sky. While this “Star Wars” project never materialized, Hunter realized that with a little flair he could finally fulfill HARP's dream of shooting things into space with a cannon. Lawrence Livermore's Super High Altitude Research Project (SHARP) became active in 1992 and set out again to use enough force to achieve orbital speed with a weapon. Instead of a traditional gunpowder-powered cannon like HARP, Hunter built a so-called "light gas pistol". Since a projectile in a weapon cannot fly faster than the gases in the barrel can push it, there is a physical speed limit for a weapon when using the relatively heavy gases found in normal air. Instead, weapons like SHARP rely on hydrogen gas, the lightest gas, to power their projectiles. In the SHARP light gas pistol, an explosion-driven piston compresses hydrogen gas in a long tube. When it reaches 4,000 times normal atmospheric pressure, it is released into the chamber of the vacuum cannon and the projectile behaves like projectiles. With small payloads, SHARP could only achieve the relatively Ice Age speed of 3 kilometers per second, less than a third of the speed required for orbit. In 1996, SHARP lost funding and had to test models of supersonic military equipment. Undaunted, Hunter started a private space cannon company called Quicklaunch as an alternative to rocket-oriented companies like SpaceX. Quicklaunch has yet to fire a prototype. Above: Project SHARP Light Gas Gun, Photo credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Whale biopsy crossbow

Crossbows are usually not associated with modern scientific research. They are usually reserved for tales of besieged castles and southerners hunting zombies. However, whale researchers consider them an indispensable tool for collecting vital data on genetics, eating habits, and population biology of large marine mammals. Scientists studying whale populations have long used distinctive tail markings as a type of fingerprint to identify individual whales. However, these photo archives provide limited information about the daily life of whales and require that the whale have a clear view of its rear part. A little bit of bacon can tell a much more detailed story. Ari Friedlaender studies how whales and dolphins hunt their prey. Tissue biopsies can provide a wealth of information about a species that spends up to 90 percent of its life under the ocean out of sight. To receive these biopsies, he needs to be close at hand with a crossbow. After a whale is sighted, its research vessel approaches within a few dozen meters for a clear shot. The bow is loaded with a special bolt equipped with a hollow tip surrounded by a foam collar. Friedländer leans his body over the waves, aims near the whale's dorsal fin and pulls the trigger. Upon contact, three barbs in the tip pull out a plug of skin and bacon the size of a ballpoint pen cap, and the resilient foam immediately ejects the bolt so it can be ripped out of the water. Business end of a biopsy crossbow screw held by Ari Friedlander. Credit: L. Peavey (NMFS Permit 808-1735) Back in the lab, this piece of tissue reveals all kinds of information. DNA can identify individual whales and even match parents with their offspring. Hormone levels can indicate whether a whale is pregnant or even signal environmental pollution. By comparing the proportions of certain forms of carbon and nitrogen in the bacon, scientists can determine what type of prey a particular whale is eating. Friedlaender also uses other high-tech methods to study the biology of the largest living things on earth. His latest research has shown that he sticks iPhone-sized sensors attached to a suction cup to the backs of whales and digitally animates their every move as they communicate, hunt, and migrate across the world's oceans. Above: Ari Friedlander aims a biopsy crossbow. Photo credit: A. Stimpert (NMFS Permit 808-1735)

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APEX Electron Gun Beam

When Thomas Edison invented the modern film camera, stories could for the first time be captured on film and played back to audiences around the world exactly as they happened. Berkeley's Advanced Photon Injector Experiment (APEX) is set to invent a film camera for particle physics that scientists hope can explore the matter Hollywood did for the love story. A tangle of wires around the APEX electron gun Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Fernando Sannibale, the physicist in charge of the APEX project, says his device will produce the most powerful high-resolution X-rays on earth. X-ray light sources are critical to a wide variety of scientific endeavors, from deciphering the structure of proteins to mapping tiny electron waves in semiconductors. The type of microscope that scientists use to observe things like cells is primarily illuminated by light in the visible range. These optical tools provide scientists with a lot of valuable information. However, when they try to enlarge individual proteins or molecules, it is like trying to read a license plate with Google Earth. For closer close-ups, you need a light source with a much smaller wavelength. X-rays are ideal here. In order to produce high quality X-rays, one must start with high quality electrons. The electron gun in APEX is unique in that it sends out pulses of charged particles millions of times per second. This rate is a thousand times higher than the electron beams used in today's most advanced X-ray light sources. Electromagnetic fields then accelerate the electrons to almost the speed of light, where the special theory of relativity for Newtonian physics takes over. Another set of magnets bends these electron beams, causing them to emit high-energy X-ray pulses that are only a trillionth of a second long each. While X-ray imaging isn't new, APEX hopes their radio frequency pulses will take the technology to the next level. Firing millions of X-ray pulses per second could allow scientists to see chemistry in action. Sannibale envisions that researchers studying photosynthesis could shoot photons at a light-trapping protein and create some kind of high-speed film of how the enzyme changes shape, each image being just a trillionth of a second. So far, APEX has successfully completed its first test rounds. Sannibale hopes they will be making femtosecond films in the next few years. Above: APEX electron gun beam line (incorrectly colored), photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Gene Gun

Genetic engineering is the process of rearranging the letters of the chemical code of life to create new forms of life that cannot be found in nature. Regardless of the delicate touch a scientist uses to create a bespoke strand of DNA, it can take a little brute force to actually get him to do something. Enter the gene gun. Given that all living organisms are filled with DNA, it is surprisingly difficult for scientists to get the material into many of the cells they want to manipulate. Common laboratory species like bacteria and yeast can be made to slurp DNA from their environment using relatively simple techniques, but more complex organisms require a little more force. The business end of a gene gun uses a burst of helium to deliver DNA-coated gold nanoparticles directly into animal and plant tissues. The microscopic pearls act similar to traditional spheres and penetrate cell membranes like genetic shotguns, but with far less destructive results. While there are models that are actually shaped like pistols, gene guns are more often camouflaged in harmless desktop cabinets. The development of synthetic and molecular biology has spawned catalogs full of DNA delivery methods, but few of them sound as entertaining as the gene gun. Above: PDS 1000-He ("Gene Gun") biolistic particle delivery system, Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson (Flickr)

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Tranquilizer gun

Tranquilizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and for the most part they look like regular rifles or handguns. It's what they shoot that makes them special. Zoologists and veterinarians regularly reassure animals to take blood samples, cause injury, and attach wireless or GPS tracking collars. However, putting a collar on a 2,000 kilogram bull elephant is considerably more difficult than the collar of a family dog. Steven Maeder, a veterinarian from the South African Vet who now lives in Michigan, says the drugs used to safely suppress these colossal creatures are among the most potent derivatives of morphine on the market. An injection dart the size of a dry-erase marker is fired from a rifle, often while the gunner is hanging from the door of a helicopter and propelled by an empty gunpowder cartridge. When it hits the animal, the self-activating arrow injects a few milligrams of the sedative in just a few seconds and gently puts the giants to sleep. Then the researchers quickly get to work. Because of its massive weight, a grounded elephant can be at risk of respiratory failure and can be threatened by predators.After collecting samples and tagging the animal, a second drug is injected to reverse the effects of the sedative and set the animal on its way. But things in the field don't always go as planned. "They tend to wake up very quickly," says Maeder. “I stood next to this elephant and turned [the sedative] over, injected it, and put things in a box. The elephant had just got up, I hear people screaming at me to run! I looked up and almost stood under it. I turned and ran. I went one way and he went the other. Fortunately, he was just as scared as I was. "Above: Vladimir Putin uses a tranquilizer gun, similar to the one used by scientists, to calm an Amur tiger during his visit to the Ussurri Nature Reserve. Credit: Wikipedia / Premier.gov.ru.