Home / Funny / Viral / Archimedes 3rd-Century Death Ray Proved Plausible By Middle Schooler


An Ontario middle school student has recently demonstrated the possibility that the Greek mathematician Archimedes' fabled heat beam is real. This invention used mirrors and the sun to defeat the enemy and is said to have been used to burn Roman ships during the Siege of Syracuse in the third century BCE. The author Lucian first mentioned Archimedes' death ray in the second century CE when he claimed that Archimedes burned enemy ships. It was eventually made clear that he used the sun's rays to do so.

It is thought that he angled multiple mirrors to align the sun at one particular location. The ships then burst into flames due to the intense heat.

Twelve-year-old Brenden Sener chose to investigate whether this ancient death ray was a hoax or if it could genuinely function as his science fair project. He made a tiny replica of the device to accomplish this. A piece of cardboard, two different heating lamps, an infrared thermometer, concave mirrors, and a few basic items he was able to order on Amazon made up his setup. Sener marked his focal point on the cardboard, then as he adjusted the heat lamp's wattage and the number of mirrors, he used the thermometer to gauge the target's temperature.

The outcomes unequivocally demonstrate how the mirrors increased the heat. The temperature rose from 27°C (80.5°F) with a single 100W LED heat lamp to a scorching 54°C (129.2°F) with four mirrors in use.

Sener notes in his report that there have been attempts by others to verify the accuracy of Archimedes' heat beam. Most notably, Mythbusters attempted to replicate the experiment. They were unable to start flames, even though they could demonstrate an increase in temperature. However, the preteen points out that more than one mirror was used on a single stand in Mythbusters. Sener's arrangement of multiple mirrors in various orientations more closely resembles the ancient paintings that show mirrors strewn all over the Bay of Syracuse.

Other experiments support Sener's findings, even though he was unable to test them on a real boat. An MIT team discovered in 2005 that Archimedes' death ray could ignite a ship in just 11 minutes. Sener received a substantial award for his efforts. In addition to the London Public Library Award for Inspiring Children's Interests in Science and Technology, he also won the Physical Sciences Thames Valley Science and Engineering Fair Gold Medal and the Matthews Hall Annual Science Fair Gold Medal. 

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