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People wonder how the walls of stone forts could have been melted so that the granite blocks are fused together.

The popular and extremely interesting idea is that the stone was melted with an atomic bomb. This is not the only possible explanation. We can’t rule it out, of course, but it would be healthy to consider all of the other options.

OK, the big problem is that fuels do not burn with a high enough temperature to reach the melting point of granite, by thousands of degrees. If we burn a very large quantity of fuel, we release a very large amount of heat, but the heat exists over a large volume of space. Beyond a practical limit, releasing greater heat does not result in greater temperature. The maximum combustion temperature is a characteristic of the fuel. Exotic fuels that were not easily available to the ancients might provide higher combustion temperatures, but it would still be a challenge to melt granite.

Last year, I was driving on the White Sands missile range while on a business trip. I have access as a government employee. One of their interesting resources is a solar furnace. It is used to investigate the effects of short duration radiation pulses at temperatures equal to those generated by an atomic bomb. This is all perfectly unclassified information. They accomplish the job by defocusing an array of small mirrors, initially. When they want a sudden pulse, they abruptly steer all of the reflections onto a test subject. They are able to precisely control the intensity, duration, and time history for each energy pulse. This is much cheaper than exploding a new atomic bomb each time they need to test a new material to see how it would hold up near an explosion.

Masters Stefan and Boltzman were jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for working out a simple equation for predicting the temperature that will result in a given type of material if we know the intensity of the light shining on the surface, and the reflectivity of the target. When I use their equation and plug in the characteristic reflectivity of ordinary brass, the black body light absorption of granite, the intensity of ordinary sunlight, and crunch the numbers, I get a figure that shows about 1400 flat reflective surfaces would be able to deliver the necessary punch for melting granite. The interesting challenge would be to get all of those soldiers to exactly aim individual reflections from each polished shield onto the same spot.

There is a way to accomplish this aiming task without any modern equipment. You just need to know something about ancient warfare. Also, keep in mind that a technique that would have allowed a group of independent soldiers to accurately aim reflections onto the same spot would not have been developed for the sake of melting stone. This technique would have had a much humbler beginning. It would have been pioneered by a small number of soldiers as a way of dazzling an archer in a wooden tower above the wall of a fortress.

The archer in the tower has a terrible advantage. If you try to shoot flaming arrows at the tower when you lay siege to the fortress, the flaming arrows are very heavy compared to ordinary arrows, and you must shoot them upward. Before you can get to a workable shooting range, the tower’s archer can cut you to pieces. The solar reflection technique can be used to effectively dazzle the tower’s archer while operating just outside the archer’s maximum range. A few soldiers would work to blind the archer, and others would rush in to destroy the tower.

A technique for aiming the reflections of many shields, without confusion, would have been a well-kept military secret in the middle ages. It might not have been written down.

How do you aim your own reflection, while dozens of other soldiers are standing right beside you doing the same thing? First, you need a shield that is flat on both sides. You need a thin layer of brass on both sides of a light, cheap, wooden panel. It has to be lightweight, not much metal, in order to keep the cost of production very low. This way a few thousand soldiers can afford to have one. If you punch a small hole in the middle of this two-sided reflector, an amazing thing will happen. If you hold the shield in front of you while facing the sun, you will see a reflection of your own body in the backside of the shield. Your body is in shadow, except for a single point of light on your chest where the sunlight passes through the hole in your shield. Twist the shield’s angle so that the dot of light on your reflection’s chest is centered on the hole in your shield. Anything you look at through the hole will now be hit by the reflection from your own shield. It works, and cannot miss.

I have redone the calculations to see how many reflections would be needed for causing wood to burst into flames. Conservatively, you should be able to accomplish this task using only about 70 soldiers. The archer in a tower would not have a chance. This technique would also do a fine job of opening a hole in a heavy wooden gate.

After several generations, soldiers in armies knowing this technique would have been directed to routinely practice aiming while they were otherwise engaged in practicing their marching maneuvers outside their own fortress walls. Their stone fortress would have typically been set on a hill, so it would have made a fine practice target for an army of a few thousand soldiers. One fine day, a group of more than 1400 soldiers would have made the very interesting discovery that their practice target had been melted by the fury of their solar furnace. It was not uncommon to see a standing force of more than 2000 soldiers during training. The practice of melting the stones together would have been a greate advantage. It would have prevented a siege army from removing individual stones.

Again, we have no records to show that this was the actual turn of events, but it could have happened. Truth can be stranger than fiction.

Bill Triplett

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Subject Views Written By Posted
Fusion of Stone Forts 133 Bill Triplett 26-May-02 00:03
Re: Fusion of Stone Forts 37 ananda 26-May-02 00:47
Re: Fusion of Stone Forts 63 Bill Triplett 26-May-02 01:18
Re: Fusion of Stone Forts 39 ananda 26-May-02 01:42
Re: Fusion of Stone Forts 40 konuzion 26-May-02 02:23
Re: Fusion of Stone Forts 41 AWSX 26-May-02 04:05
like archimedes 36 jamie 26-May-02 04:06
Re: like archimedes 42 David Campbell 26-May-02 05:56
Re: like archimedes 40 bob1234 26-May-02 11:58
Re: like archimedes 44 jamie 27-May-02 02:20
Re: like archimedes 30 AWSX 27-May-02 03:12
Re: like archimedes 45 jamie 27-May-02 03:33
Re: like archimedes 38 konuzion 26-May-02 22:47
Re: like archimedes 46 stickler 27-May-02 10:15
Re: like archimedes 39 J.Rafferty 27-May-02 11:17
Re: Fusion of Stone Forts 35 B L Zeebub 27-May-02 22:21

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