A lot of Science Fiction these days blends hard concepts (I'll get to what that entails shortly) and a certain flair of magic mumbo-jumbo without really taking effort into explaining the technology within their respected franchises'. There are a few egregious examples I can pull off the top of my head, "Destiny," developed by Bungie, is one of the more unforgivable franchises which fall into this trap.
Now, I'll never come right out and say franchises which blend Science Fiction and Fantasy are an evil tome of unholy fiction. In fact, franchises that blend the two genres well are unique and a joy to experience. "Starcraft," Developed by Blizzard Entertainment is a franchise that does this extremely well and the writers should be commended. They take the time to earnestly make their fictional setting, characters, technology and worlds blend seamlessly with the more fanciful aspects of the lore. But in general, the blending usually results in a smoothie concocted of broken promises and shoddy storytelling.
The true masters of Science Fiction are educated in all facets of their genres. Most successful Science Fiction authors were actually something completely different career wise before writing with a few exceptions. David Brin has a PHD from UCSD (fellow alum!) in Astrophysics and still to this day consults NASA and the DOD. Joe Haldeman was a soldier in Vietnam and later a physics scholar before penning his masterpiece "Forever War." This experience in the non-fictional realm is essential in writing convincing hard Science Fiction. And while it was quite common decades ago, today it is extremely rare to read convincing hard Science Fiction. I'll be honest, most of the current published works within the genre currently, are schlock.
So what does hard Science Fiction mean exactly? Well, the term is quite broad, but for the sake of being brief, hard Science Fiction is (and should) be a seamless construction of a fictional world using speculative insight into the future based on currently technology and extrapolating outwards. This usually means a great deal of research goes into writing a hard Science Fiction work. Trust me, I know. It's often grueling and long hours are spent late into the night making sure everything sounds correct and works. Great classic examples of series that work are Arthur C. Clarke's"Foundation" series and Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars" trilogy of novels. Besides Halo other games and franchises within out medium have done an exemplary job representing hard Science Fiction as well. DotNod's Remember Me is an inspiring example of games doing hard Science Fiction well. It's an incredible jaunt through cyberpunk euphoria and it has a deep narrative as well.
But Halo? Well, our beloved franchise once again stands as the master classic of gaming hard Science Fiction. The detail, structure and intricate knowledge of real world technology extrapolated out is so precise I still want to see Joseph Staten's figure made into a gold model and placed in front of Seattle's EMP center. Probably not going to happen, but let me tell you why it damn well should. Here's how it's going to go.
I'll be breaking down the three major faction's (Human, Covenant and Forerunner) technology. Human weapons, Covenant tech and Forerunner physics. Now there's a LOT of tech in Halo so I'm going to pick examples out in which this shines through brightest.
Select Human Arsenal
Asymmetric Recoilless Carbine-920:
Ah, the "Railgun." An elegant weapon for a more refined era and subsequently my favorite weapon in the Halo universe. The ARC-920 is not your ordinary firearm, as it utilizes no gunpowder jacket. Instead it uses polarized negative and positive magnetic currents to propel an explosive tungsten slug at speeds so incredibly lethal the friction of the projectile moving through the atmosphere sets the air on fire. Yes, you heard that correctly.
The rails need a short time to polarize their charge and osculate the current to propel the slug forward . Best part? The non-fictional U.S. NAVY has an actual working Railgun and it's going into service in two years. You will note in that video the slug fired from a real Railgun penetrates SEVEN reinforced steel plates like Swiss cheese. But that aint' nothing compared to the ARC-920.
The U.S. NAVY's Railgun functions using high electromagnetic fields based on the electro-field principles (E > 5,000 V/m, B > 2 T) The absolute speed at which these fields operate in the real world are both amazing and devestating. The surface temperatures of the rails exceed 800 deg C during firing and the slug moves so fast it ionizes the air around it basically setting the surrounding air on freaking fire. What that means is, the object is utilizing non-osculating fields to "push" the slug forward whereas the ARC-920 uses osculating polarized currents to literally slam the slug forward, thus the charge time. However, the ARC-920 is also more power efficient (the small size is an indicator here) because osculating fields need less current to project their force outwards. Secondly, this means the smaller objects fired move much faster. The U.S. Railgun uses a 32-Mega Joule rail assembly to fire an object past forty thousand g-forces. The ARC-920 uses (from the lore we know) a compact linear assembly to launch a much smaller slug at around fifty thousand g-forces. Which basically means, whatever that slug hits is gone. GONE. At those speeds and kinetic forces the target at the other end would be turned into a fine mist. This goes for soldiers,
Warthogs, Scorpions ETC. All blown to dust.
Halo severely understates its Railgun technology if nothing else.
Galilean Nonlinear Rifle (M6 G/GNR):
Since man first looked up at the stars he thought to himself..."I want a laser, and I would like very much to vaporize things with said laser." And thus, the Galilean Nonlinear Rifle (M6 G/GNR) answered man's prayers.
The Galilean Nonlinear Rifle (M6 G/GNR) is a chemical process operated laser device capable of shredding most armor with a single shot. Lasers as powerful as these use chemical interactions to create radioactive enhanced light projections. In fact, Laser is an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation." If you have a powerful enough projection device and amplification lens, your laser can be as powerful as your technology allows. Currently, the U.S. NAVY is already using a weaponized laser to burn combatant’s ships out of the water or destroy their engines.It's very large and is ship mounted, of course.
The Galilean Nonlinear Rifle (M6 G/GNR) however is compact and much more devastating. It uses a large calibrated lens assembly to focus a mass of smaller beams into one larger array. This produces a much wider and condense laser that reaches temperatures much hotter than anything currently on the market in reality. The combination of radiation, heat and light would turn most armor into a molten slag of unrecognizable carnage. In fact if the The Galilean Nonlinear Rifle (M6 G/GNR) is as powerful as is stated in the lore, one lance could turn a Scorpion tank into a wonderfully fine ionized powder.
Lasers, ladies and gentlemen.
Orbital Magnetic Accelerator Cannon Platform (AKA "The Big Stick"):
There are lots of weapons in Halo's universe that can turn you into little more than dust in the wind. But no weapons platform of any known race in the present day Halo timeline can even come close to the utter destruction of the MAC platform.
The MAC platform uses gauss technology. Like Railguns (but a bit different) it uses magnetic currents to propel objects to incredible speeds. Unlike a Railgun, gauss technology uses an assembly of increasingly powerful magnetized coils to keep pushing the object forward. The MAC platform's magnetic coils are so powerful they can accelerate a motorcycle sized piece of ferro-tungsten to 4% the speed of light. Lets do a bit of (fun and non-intensive) math here...
Assuming that it truly can propel an object that size at that speed the round would impact with an equivalent kinetic force of 51.6 gigatons of TNT, 1,031 times the yield of the real world's largest nuclear weapon ever tested (Tsar Bomba.)In other terms, anything that round touches is in for a bad day.
As soon at the round reaches its unfortunate target the kinetic force would be so great the targets particles would undergo fission and fusion. Each section the slug cuts through would create a miniature sustaining (doesn't last long) nuclear chain reaction. Imagine a bunch of small nuclear bombs going off anywhere the slug touches. Furthermore the friction of the slug passing through would super-heat the target, melting anything or anyone nearby. Sections of the target that could be a great distance away from the impact point would reach temperatures nearing several orders of magnitude the surface of a star. As the slug exits (let’s say a Covenant Super Carrier) the shrapnel following the projectile would shed the rest of the hull, if there was anything left. No known ship or technology in the lore can withstand a direct hit from the Big Stick.
Should have constructed more of them...
Selected Covenant Technology
Nanolaminate Hull Plating: The Covenant has some extremely cool weapons and technology. But perhaps the most understated and important of those technological develops is the Nanolaminate hull plating used to armor Covenant vessels.
While we do not know exactly what the plating is constructed of, other than laminate materials, we do know the properties. It is extremely heat resistant and boasts exemplary impact protection. What I would surmise is that the armor is made from nano-infused cellular mesh that self assembles into a very tight atomic pattern.This process simply means that molecular chains can self assemble in real time, repairing or constructing itself. Armor like this would be extremely useful in prolonged combat, as damaged sections would essentially self replicate new panels over time.
Secondly, the armor itself is laminate which means it has very high heat resistance. For instance, Covenant vessels have been observed surviving near nuclear weapons impacts with little surface damage. Although they cannot survive a direct hit, the armor is very helpful is dispersing the heat of a nearby detonation. Laminate is also very resistant to radiation, something that is of great help in deep space.
The Covenant has used this armor on both city sized starships and small ground attack craft. It is probably the single most important technology the Covenant possess. Which is why it is one of the few technologies they have not shared with Humanity post war.
Plasma: The Covenant's primary weapon ammunition is plasma, something that can be found is great quantities piratically everywhere. Plasma is one of the four fundamental states of matter. Others include solids, liquids, and gases. A simple explanation taken from Wikipedia states that "A plasma can be created by heating a gas or subjecting it to a strong electromagnetic field, applied with a laser or microwave generator. This decreases or increases the number of electrons, creating positive or negative charged particles called ions."
Halo gets it right, that's for sure. Plasma in the lore is fired using magnetic fields to channel and "hold" the plasma in formation until it reaches its target. The larger the plasma generated, the larger the field must be. Small arms only need a small amount of current to generate a field, while glassing type weaponry used in orbital bombardment may require vast amounts of current to maintain the holding and channeling field.
Plasma is hot matter, meaning that ionized plasma burns extremely hot. A bolt of plasma generated in modern day labs is not long lasted but generates temperatures reaching several thousands degrees. If applied to a weapon, the bolt would be able to melt most surfaces. The initial impact point would also cause a splashing effect, spreading the burning ion in all directions similar to an explosion. If the field was applied to hold the plasma after impact, the target area would continue to burn for several seconds after.
Plasma would be an efficient ammo type as well, as the universe basically has an unlimited supply of matter to generate plasma from. Cheap, deadly and efficient is the name of the game.
Shielding The main reason Humanity was at such a disadvantage technically during the way was primarily due to The Covenant's shielding technology. A bullet would hit the shield and be absorbed, leaving the target uninjured. Later, this shielding technology was captured and used for The Spartan programs to give Humanity an edge.
Covenant shielding tech is not well documented. It is not really known how it operates. However, I would surmise that it utilizes super-cooled light particles to generate a field of solid light to absorb impacts (I will explain how this works later.) The shield would be able to absorbed a limited amount of damage before dispersing, but having a recharging method as The Covenant do would help greatly in making up for that deficiency.
To generate a small shield, only a very small fusion generator would need to be constructed to cool particles (cold fusion technology, but on a super advanced scale.) However, ship shielding may need a massive generator to maintain the shield.
Problems with the shield include but are not limited to, boiling the user alive, creating a magnetized field of deadly particles and throwing out deadly doses of radiation in the gamma spectrum. Lets hope The Covenant ironed out those troubles...
Selected Forerunner Technology
Light is like every other thing in our universe, it's tangible. Light is electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum and like every other form of radiation it can be deadly if used or distributed in the right manner. Enter Hardlight.
Absolute zero is just that, absolute zero temperature. Which is minus 273.15 degrees Celsius. At that temperature particles freeze in time, or slow to almost a complete standstill. Freeze a beam of light within absolute zero and you get hard...light.
In current day labs hard light or solid light lasts very shortly, and cannot really be harnessed into anything other than a cool experiment. However, The Forerunners have done so by super chilling particles to form beams of light that can be propelled outwards as shards of weaponized light. Light based weapons would be extremely effective against any known materials due to how fast light naturally travels. The kinetic energy in a frozen beam of light particles retains it's velocity upon impact. The kinetic energy of something hitting at the speed of light would be incredibly devastating.
Shards would pass right through the target and burn away the top layers of flesh or armor. Secondly, the radiation contained within the light would damage the targets cells leaving lasting damage. However, the logistics of using light based weaponry is very far fetched. Halo does a wonderful job explaining how it would potentially work, but don't expect to see Lightrifles anytime soon.
I hope you all enjoyed this small peak into Halo's technology and how the writers circa Halo CE - Halo 4 did an amazing job researching and truly extrapolating outwards. Joe Staten and the rest of the pre-Halo 5 writing team should be commended for their dedication and attention to detail.
Next article will be (as requested) focused on the transhuman themes in the series, and how Halo is a Science Fiction series that gets the notion of "Transcendence" right. Until next time!
A Halo fan since the beginning, 2001. Also a games industry consultant, writer, and educator. These are my thoughts, praise and advice concerning the past, present and future narrative of the Halo franchise.
Halo, all assets within, characters and merchandise are property of the Microsoft Corporation and is developed by its subsidiary 343 Industries.
I do not own, claim to own or retain any rights to the Halo franchise. This is a fan based work, and is strictly non-profit.
All other images, articles linked, materials and franchises that are not strictly specified as my own are property of their respective owners.
A More Complete Look At The Halo Franchise
Written, Researched, Produced And Published By Halo-Nation member "Synth Samurai"
Always A Stranger, In A Strange Land