Does Size Really Matter?

Let’s look at the issues of size and scale when it comes to building miniaturized guns and ammunition.

by Jason Albee

Our society is obsessed with all things big. Many people want a larger truck or bigger gun. Children want bigger toys. Competition drives people to make things larger. The arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States culminated in the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated: The Tsar Bomb. Competition can also drive things to go small. A great example of this is the miniaturization of computers. Every year engineers find ways to squeeze more and more circuits onto a chip. They are used in everything from our cars to toys that children play with.

Guns and bullets are a good example of something that people can shrink to a much smaller size. The size of a gun does reach a functional limit, not because they can’t go any smaller but because human hands just can’t pull the trigger anymore. A projectile size can go down to the level of an atom and still be functional. The power of a projectile is dependent on its velocity and weight. By increasing the speed of the projectile a person increases the projectile’s destructive power or how far it will penetrate into a substance. A smaller bullet can have the same force as a larger bullet. Particle accelerators are similar to guns and shoot projectiles, but at speeds near the speed of light. A lot of resistance is needed to decelerate particles but sometimes they have so much force they will cut right through an object and keep going.

Read more in our June 2015 issue. Back issues are available.

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