The standard settings of a phaser2; stun, kill/vaporise and wide dispersal stun, plus the option to use the same device for welding, cutting and heating, may seem impossible to those unfamiliar with its workings. However it is the sophistication of the weapon’s self-correcting feedback that makes its use seem so simple. So how does a machine ‘know’ just what type of energy, and how much, to emanate to achieve each of these modes, regardless of the nature, size and density of the target?
Firstly it must be understood that the visible coherent light beam that originates in the clear central cone of a phaser is not the energy that does the actual work. The beam serves two other purposes. Initially, upon starting to depress the trigger, the beam is the visual targeting system. By this method it is possible to shoot accurately ‘from the hip’ by eye; wild shots are almost eliminated. For this reason it also affords a much quicker response in hostile situations than aligning traditional fore and aft sights. Lab measurements show that with practice the operator’s spatial awareness can develop to the point that the beam serves only to confirm an accurately judged aim. Indeed, in the hands of an experienced operator the sighting and shot are so quick as to appear simultaneous. From the moment of partial trigger depression the detector plate [the metal rectangle mounted at the front of the phaser] scans the object in the beam’s path for organic compounds, mineral and water content, density and volume, and for localised complex electrostatic discharges [indicating the strength and activity level of any nervous system or consciousness]. On wide beam setting, surrounding objects of similar constitution are also scanned. This data is conveyed to the output calculation circuit. To improve speed, this circuit first cross-references the incoming data against the desired phaser setting in comprehensive digital tables garnered from known lifeforms and materials. If a match is found the circuit instructs the array to fire that combination of outputs upon full depression of the trigger. If no data exists the circuit uses algorithms to extrapolate the correct outputs from the known ranges. The output is so accurate that it can be used, for example, to heat a single pot of coffee, or several large boulders, to stun a crowd, or kill a single attacking non-corporeal being without any damage to surrounding objects in each case. Upon full depression of the trigger the visible beam serves its second purpose, as the carrier wave to deliver the energy when a tight beam is required. This energy is fired from the circular silver-coloured array that surrounds the beam emitter. The array can fire ultrasonic waves, EMP, infrared radiation, microwaves, a negative or positive ionising charge an electrostatic discharge, or any combination of these.
A SIMPLIFIED EXPLANATION OF TYPICAL OUTPUTS: All examples are generalised to cover the many possible substances the phaser's output circuit can tune itself to. STUN. One organic being: Carrier beam engaged, single pulse, Static electrical pulse sufficient to momentarily disrupt the central nervous system. One gaseous being: Carrier beam engaged, single pulse, Mixture of ionising discharge and/or ultrasonic pulse sufficient to disrupt complex patterns. One energy beings: Carrier beam engaged, single pulse, Due to their multi-dimensional nature these beings are hard to accurately calculate for. EMP has had some success, at the risk of causing death. WIDE BEAM AKA DISPERSAL STUN. Several organic beings: Carrier beam disengaged, single pulse, Static electrical pulse sufficient to momentarily disrupt the combined central nervous systems. Several gaseous beings: Carrier beam disengaged, single pulse, Mixture of ionising discharge and/or ultrasonic pulse sufficient to disrupt all complex patterns. Several energy beings: Unknown. KILL One organic beings: Carrier beam engaged, single pulse, Ultrasonic pulse sufficient to disrupt all tissue, then infra red energy sufficient to vaporise the total mass. One gaseous beings: Carrier beam engaged, single pulse, Mixture of ionising discharge, microwave and/or ultrasonic pulse sufficient to overcome all atomic bonds. One energy beings: Carrier beam engaged, single pulse, EMP, though not always effective. Starfleet, being a peacekeeping force, does not issue portable weapons with the option to kill multiple targets.
HEAT. For survival in the cold: Carrier beam disengaged, continuous, Mixture of microwaves, infrared radiation or ultrasonic waves sufficient to reach radiant heat. Welding: Carrier beam disengaged, continuous, Mixture of microwaves, infrared radiation or ultrasonic waves sufficient to reach melting point. Cutting: Carrier beam disengaged, continuous, Ultrasonic waves, EMP, microwaves and/or infrared radiation sufficient to break atomic bonds.