Monday, April 15, 2024

A 13-year-old had a big “Aha!” moment while working on a science project. The project hinted that Archimedes’ invention could actually have been possible

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Known as the math dad, Archimedes was a big shot inventor in ancient Greece. Some of his cool ideas are still used today. But there’s this legendary thing called the death ray that’s been puzzling scientists for ages. Now, a 13-year-old kid named Brenden Sener might have cracked the code.

Brenden, from London, Ontario, got two gold medals and a London Public Library prize for his tiny version of the death ray. This supposed war gadget uses lots of mirrors to focus sunlight on a target, like a ship, and make it catch fire. Brenden’s findings are in the Canadian Science Fair Journal.

The death ray is a hot topic because people think Archimedes used “burning mirrors” to set ships on fire way back in 214-212 BC during the Syracuse siege.

Brenden did a cool experiment with a heating lamp and four small mirrors. He aimed the light at a cardboard with an X and saw the temperature go up each time he added a mirror. The more mirrors, the hotter it got. He didn’t expect it to be so drastic, though.

His results suggest that light goes everywhere, and the mirror’s shape focuses it on one spot. A scientist from Sandia National Laboratories praised Brenden for digging into Archimedes’ death ray.

Brenden isn’t trying to set stuff on fire. His heating lamp is nothing compared to the sun’s heat. But he thinks with sunlight and a bigger mirror, things could get fiery real quick.

People have different ideas about the death ray. Some think it’s a bunch of mirrors or shiny shields. But others say it doesn’t work because ships move during battles. If they’re not still, the mirrors can’t make them catch fire.

“MythBusters” tried in 2004, 2006, and 2010, but no luck. Even MIT students only lit a boat once in 2005. Brenden thinks combining MIT’s and his findings suggests the death ray could be real, but it might not work in cold or cloudy weather. Also, ships moving in the sea mess things up.

Brenden’s mom isn’t shocked he picked this project. He loves history, science, and learning new stuff. Brenden sees himself as a scientist one day, maybe in engineering, bioengineering, or medicine.

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