It's 2009. Where are our jetpacks? And laser guns? It seems like the cool stuff of sci-fi movies is now the stuff of the billion-dollar military programs, and equally unavailable to us common folk. What the hell?
Well, if you're tired of waiting for this stuff to turn up on store shelves, it turns out a whole lot of these working sci-fi staples can be built on your living room floor. All it takes is some off-the-shelf parts, a little creativity and a complete disregard for your own safety.
WARNING: SOME OF THESE ITEMS COULD BE USED TO KILL DUDES BY UNSCRUPULOUS TYPES. PLEASE DO NOT USE THEM FOR THAT PURPOSE.
Few things say sci-fi quite like a device that shoots huge blue bolts of electricity. Well except a city-sized UFO, but those are too hard to make at home, so we'll stick with the Tesla coil. All you need is some easily available parts and no fear of deadly amounts of uncontrolled electricity.
The detailed instructions found on eHow.com point out you just need some common items from your hardware store (metal plates, bolts, brackets, etc.) and a transformer. Not the overblown Michael Bay kind which can lead to inconvenient city-wide robot battles, but the electrical kind you can find in many devices. You can get them from a car parts store but they say the best ones are found inside neon signs (NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT STEAL THE NEON SIGN FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD LIQUOR STORE TO COMPLETE THIS PROJECT. A GUY WILL PROBABLY CHASE YOU WITH A SHOTGUN).
Oh, and you also need a source of electricity, so if you were hoping to hold this thing in your hand and pretend it's Jedi Force Lightning, you'll need an extension cord. Actually, the above guide mentions that Tesla coils have killed people in the past, so you probably don't really want to hook one up to your hands and pretend to be Emperor Palpatine. Especially if you happen to be taking a bath at the time.
Oh, and if actually paying the few bucks for those items to make your own dreadfully unsafe death machine seems like too much of a burden, the Internet also offers you alternative items found in most dumpsters, so you've got that going for you if you're homeless but still want your alley to resemble a super villain's lair.
OK, if you were turned off by even the minor costs associated with the Tesla coil up there, here's something you can build with stuff you have in the house right now.
Thanks to modern technology, we're surrounded all the time by horribly dangerous things. If you're willing to disregard common sense and safety precautions, you can take something as simple as a Maglite and a DVD burner, and make yourself a laser that will set things on fire (well, if they're already kind of flammable).
It just involves digging out the laser diode from the DVD burner and embedding it in the flashlight instead of the bulb. If you're confused, the instructions are available in video form:
The guy in the video uses his laser to instantly light a match and pop a balloon from several feet away. OK, so it's not exactly a deathray, but hey, it was free (assuming you weren't still using that DVD burner).
So the next time the bad guys have you tied up, armed with nothing but your flashlight and DVD-RW drive, and they're all carrying balloons filled with napalm... you'll know what to do.
"OK," you say, "so that was cheaper than the Tesla coil, but it could barely kill a moth! Isn't there some middle ground in both price and lethality?"
Well, if you ever played Quake back in the day, or saw that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Eraser, you're familiar with railguns. They're basically electric guns that fire a pulse down two conductive rails, carrying a projectile with it at ball-crushing speeds. They have plans to put railguns on board anti-missile satellites and the U.S. Navy is building huge railguns to put on their battle ships. Theirs can fire a seven-pound projectile at a mind-boggling 2,500 meters per second. The projectile doesn't even have explosives in it; at that speed you could put a bowling ball in there and it'd destroy a building.
Obviously yours won't do that, but how big and powerful yours is totally depends entirely on how ambitious you are. You can start small with the poor-man's railgun, called a coil gun. As the instructions at that site point out, all you need is some wire, batteries and capacitors (usually stolen from a camera). You'll have a nifty little hand-held gun that can punch nails into cardboard.
But you want a real, man-sized railgun, right? Again, instructions are everywhere but now you're getting a little more involved in terms of size (you'll need large copper rails) and getting bigger capacitors to provide more juice. Obviously the danger starts to become ridiculous at this point if you don't know what you're doing.
As you become more and more obsessed and/or determined to see your project end in some kind of criminal charges, you can go all-out and build something like this Japanese man did:
As you see, he's got some big-ass capacitors and a railgun that seems like it could punch a respectable-sized hole in a zombie. So on one hand, it appears it could electrocute him and/or explode and kill his neighbors at any moment. On the other hand, you know, railgun.
Ever since Aliens came out, we've all been deathly afraid of Sigourney Weaver. Likewise, most of us have wanted to use one of those giant mechano-loader things that Weaver uses to beat the shit out of the queen alien at the end of the movie, if for no other reason than it might be fun to strap into a giant metal suit and throw cars at buildings.
Now, obviously, (1) yours won't be on that scale and (2) this project requires a little more know-how than the rest. But by now you've gotten bored with your railgun and need to take things to the next level. And it's not as hard as you'd think.
In fact, they hold open competitions where people build powered suits (either pneumatic, electrical or hydraulic) that would let them lift a 650-pound barbell with the power of their robotically-augmented limbs.
The winner spent just over a $1,000 on materials, mostly stuff they found on eBay. Another contestant made a whole exosuit in his garage for about $2,000. And he was a 17 and had only a high school education. If he can do it, you can do it, too! Right?
Well, it may take some time. But at the end of it you'll have a suit that may not be enough to fight off a queen alien, but at least enough to, say, take on Queen Latifah for a round or two.
We know what you're thinking. Powered suit? Lasers? Projectile weapons? Hell, strap them all together and we've got ourselves a DiY Iron Man here!
If only it could fly.
Well, lucky for you, visionaries like Gerard Martowlis went all out to invent their own jetpacks. And you can, too, but this time you'll have to shell out a little cash.
As you might expect, one of the big snags in the design of any jetpack is just how to get off he ground without burning your legs off at the knees. This is where the combustion engine has failed so many aspiring rocketmen in the past (such as Wile E. Coyote).
Luckily, there are a few fun chemical alternatives to simply putting a tank of gas on your back and setting a match to it. For instance, 90 percent of hydrogen peroxide, while horribly volatile and capable of exploding the shit out of you in its own right, also makes for a kick ass propellant. Enough to get you off the ground, at least, and send you hurtling towards the 6 o'clock news, as captured on cell phone video, when you slam into a wall.
Where are you going to find that stuff? The goddamned Internet, like everything else.
This site has detailed plans and gives some good advice on where to get each part. The one you see there was built for less than $10,000, which probably sounds like a lot of money until you consider it's a freaking jetpack.
Come on, for that money you can get a jetpack or a 2005 Honda Civic with high mileage. If you even have to think about that choice, then get outta here. We don't want to know you.
Find more from Ian at Scenicanemia.com.
And check out 5 Tiny Mistakes That Led To Huge Catastrophes, because we don't want you to make this list in case, you know, you mess up while building your jetpack. And before you decide to replicate other sci-fi staples in your garage, we insist you check out 5 Awesome Sci-Fi Inventions (That Would Actually Suck).
Or, visit Cracked.com's Top Picks where we'll teach you how build your very own robot. Sex robot, that is.