Archimedes's Death Ray

Archimedes's Death Ray

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Credit: ADAM HART-DAVIS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: MODEL RELEASED. Archimedes's Death Ray. Array of mirrors being used to reconstruct the 'Death Ray' design of the Ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes (c.287-212 BC). Some texts claim that Archimedes used an array of polished hexagonal mirrors to focus the rays of the Sun and set objects on fire. One claim includes using such an array of mirrors to set enemy ships on fire. This design uses 88 steerable steel mirrors. Several reconstructions have been attempted, and while such devices can raise temperatures at the focus of the mirrors, it does not seem possible to ignite wood, though some flammable materials might ignite.

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