No incoming missiles or airplanes warn of the hellish destruction that is almost upon us. No bombs fall, no hidden explosives tick away ominously. People go about their daily lives on a beautiful day. When suddenly, every molecule within 50 miles leaps to a temperature hotter than the sun, vaporizing every living creature, shattering every rock into plasma, obliterating every construction. The atmosphere flashes to dissociated gases and expands to many times its size, kicking off a terrible shockwave that rips three times around the planet. The awful event lasts less than a second, and not even dirt remains behind. Ash and slag rain for several hours. This is a scalar weapon, a power unlike anything in conventional physics, said to be invented by the obsessive genius Nikola Tesla.
Some point to the 1908 Tunguska event as Tesla's own proof of concept test. A series of unexplained booms off the eastern coast of the United States in 1977, and one over the Netherlands in 1976, have been attributed to Soviet testing of a scalar weapon. Some believe that the Japanese yakuza crime organization regularly uses scalar technology to create typhoons and other weather events throughout Asia. So what is this "scalar" stuff, how does it work, is it real, is it something we need to worry about, and what has Nikola Tesla got to do with it?
Let's start off with some basic definitions. A scalar field is a concept in mathematics and physics, in which a single value is assigned to every point in space. An example of this would be to describe the temperature in space, where there would be a single finite number assigned to every point. The science behind these is called scalar field theory. Compare this to a vector field, in which every point in space has a vector, consisting of a direction and a strength. Gravity in space can be defined by a vector field, as can the magnetic field surrounding a magnet. Those are legitimate science. Many of the same terms are used by the proponents of a pseudoscientific version also called scalar field theory, and from now on, whenever I refer to scalar field theory we're talking about the made-up version. This new type of scalar field theory takes it a step beyond legitimate science, based on the assumption that the scalar field has four or more dimensions, in which something they call scalar energy is also present at each point in space. Scalar waves are the hypothetical electromagnetic waves propagating along this field; although, unlike conventional waves that propagate outward like ripples in a pond, scalar waves propagate through space longitudinally, like ocean waves breaking on a long straight beach. These scalar waves, also called Tesla waves or Maxwellian waves, are said to be the mechanism of zero-point energy. It should be stressed that this definition of scalar field theory is not supported by experiment or by any actual physics.
This is fortuitous for the proponents of scalar field theory: Once you leave the realm of real science, you can pretty much make up whatever you want, and it's no more or less legitimate. There are endless web pages dedicated to this topic (like this and this), full of meaningless technobabble that cram in so many scientific sounding terms that a layperson has no hope of discriminating science from pseudoscience.
The basic concept of a scalar weapon opposes two powerful scalar waves against each other, creating a hypothetical standing wave resulting in what they call a scalar bubble between them. By controlling the strength and location of this scalar bubble in space, it is supposed to superheat the target area (though it's not clear why), even to the point of vaporizing the atmosphere itself. An enemy could theoretically enclose New York City within a giant scalar bubble, flashing it into oblivion.
For the sake of Nikola Tesla's legitimate legacy, it is important to separate his name from the modern pseudoscience of scalar field theory. It is true that Tesla did envision and describe superweapons capable of frying entire invading armies, but his concept was analagous to what we now call a directed energy weapon, basically a powerful particle beam. He did not stray into nonsense like scalar bubbles. Tesla did also claim to have completed a partial unified field theory that unified gravity with electromagnetism, which is something that scalar field theory also claims. Because of these similarities, Tesla's name is often wrongly associated with scalar weapons and scalar field theory. In many cases, his name is outright hijacked by scalar weapon proponents and used to give their ideas the appearance of credibility.
I should probably take a moment to defend my use of terms like "nonsense" to describe scalar bubbles and such things. Since these are theoretical and not evidence based, there's no way their existence can be disproven. Every so-called demonstration of scalar wave effects can also be fully attributed to the known effects of electrodynamics. In short, it's equally valid to say that the scalar field has a fourth dimension consisting of Mickey Mouses at every point in space, who all pull on ropes, thus creating all the fundamental forces in physics. This is equally non-falsifiable, and would produce the same experimental results as those we hear from the scalar field theory crowd.
The principal public proponent of pseudoscientific scalar field theory is Thomas Bearden, a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army. Most web articles about scalar weapons cite Bearden's writing as their principle source. He has often written under the guise of a Ph.D. purchased from an unaccredited "life experience" diploma mill. Most of his many books, papers, and web sites are about perpetual motion machines, free energy, magnetic motors, and other "over-unity" violations of the laws of thermodynamics. Among his claims are that scalar weapons and other such techologies are responsible for Chernobyl, the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger, the downing of TWA Flight 800, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina. You might be surprised to hear it, but I actually like Bearden. His science is largely fantasy based, but he seems a good genuine guy who hopes that scalar technologies will benefit humanity. On one page of his web site he shows a pile of his books about to be shipped out, and he comments "There's the information, on its way to going out, and perhaps to the very grad student who eventually turns the academic energy world upside down and makes it happen." That's a hope a lot of us share, but the cold hard reality is that scientific progress is almost always the result of long, hard, tedious work, and rarely a fortuitous sudden rewriting of the rules from the fringe. Bearden's profound and uncritical belief in nearly every conspiracy theory imaginable is fairly typical among many proponents of scalar weapons, and it clearly clouds their judgement.
Bearden notes that a letter he received from the National Science Foundation, in response to an email describing his perpetual motion machines, states "There is a uniform support for your 'out of the box' thinking about conventional models and mathematical approaches." What's often omitted by Bearden's supporters is that this letter diplomatically concludes by emphasizing the need to "(1) demonstrate the strength of evidence that perpetual motion machines have worked as advertised, and (2) address how something works that appears to violate our present understanding of engineering and physics." He's wrong and has a lot of pretty crazy theories, but so do a lot of other good people. It's great to be well intentioned, but it's also equally important we better inform ourselves before propagating misinformation. And this is the reason to quarrel with Bearden. He is very well informed, but about a fantastical, non-scientific universe.
Just Google for "scalar weapon" and you'll find more than enough reading material to keep you occupied for days. One interesting trend to watch for is the frequent use of the terms "old" and "new": The "old" understanding of physics and electromagnetism, and the "new" understanding. Make no mistake; "old" and "new" physics really mean "real" and "made up" physics. You'll see that virtually every authoritative link or reference is to one of Tom Bearden's books or web pages. You'll see all the familiar warning signs of the classic conspiracy mindset: Huge lists (like this and this) linking nearly every aerospace or weather-related disaster to scalar weapons, and the uncritically presumed existence of worldwide networks of secret weaponry, men in black, and confessions of anonymous insiders claiming that such things are real.
The first time most people hear about scalar weapons is usually through a YouTube video or chain email from some doomsayer. Whenever you hear such a wild, far-out story, you should always approach it with skepticism, and not just accept it at face value because the chain email was forwarded by a trusted friend. The proponents of scalar weapon conspiracy theories are not backed by any valid science. The idea makes for some fine science fiction, but at a minimum, spend five minutes on Wikipedia before accepting and repeating such wild stories as science fact.
Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Scalar Weapons: Tesla's Doomsday Machine?" Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media,
30 Sep 2008. Web.
11 Feb 2016. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4121>
References & Further Reading
Bearden, T. Analysis of Scalar/Electromagnetic Technology. Chula Vista: Tesla Book Co., 1990.
DeSanto, J. A. Scalar Field Theory: Green's Functions and Applications. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1992.
Durrant, A.V. Vectors in Physics and Engineering. London: Chapman & Hall, 1996. 127-140.
Melia, Fulvio. Electrodynamics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Nichelson, Oliver. "Tesla's Wireless Power Transmitter and the Tunguska Explosion of 1908." Prometheus Alternative Sciences and Technology. Prometheus Group, 8 Jul. 2001. Web. 30 Sep. 2008. <http://prometheus.al.ru/english/phisik/onichelson/tunguska.htm>
Tesla, N. My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla. Williston, VT: Hart Bros., 1982.
Tesla, Nicola, as told to George Sylvester Viereck. "A Machine to End All War." Liberty. 1 Feb. 1937, 13: 5-7.