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Photoprotoneutron Torpedo

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"Fry! Cover us, buddy! You got the only wounded-up positron shooter!"

So, you're writing science fiction. Need a weapon name? All you have to do is put the name of a subatomic particle in front of a regular modern weapon. Simple! Sometimes "ion" and "plasma" are used to the same effect despite not being subatomic particles, although they may be relevant to the weapon's working in some cases. Sometimes, just "particle" is used, and sometimes, "quantum" is used despite the word by itself being utterly irrelevant to the weapon's operation (its meaning being "small(est) individual quantity").


This sometimes results in hilariously unrealistic weapon names for people with a knowledge of the properties of said particles. A "Meson Cannon," for example, would be a terribly pointless weapon and a "Gluon Gun" wouldn't be much use, either. This, however, can be averted by creating your own fictional particles with fictional properties, or by simply doing a bit of research so that the weapon's properties do match the particle it's named after. A "Photon Beam Cannon", for example, could realistically denote a laser or any electromagnetic radiation-based Energy Weapon, a regular Photon Cannon could just be a flashlight, and "Positron Warhead" could refer to an explosive that uses antimatter annihilation as its energy source.

Often, if the writers bother with background material they will list such weapons as having yields in the kilo/gigaton range, making this a case of Nuclear Weapons Taboo.


This is a Sub-Trope of Sci-Fi Name Buzzwords. Less realistic examples often fall into Technobabble. Compare Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything, which may be the implausible explanation of the way they work.


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  • Digimon Adventure 02: Imperialdramon's special attack is called "Positron Laser", probably meant to imply positive energy.
  • GaoGaiGar has J-arc's Anti-Meson Cannons, massive beam cannons which could apparently be very finely calibrated in terms of level of destruction, leaving all but the enemy untouched. When transformed by Mega Fusion into King J-der, it retained access to these and also had MASER cannons in its fingers.
    • KouRyu, and by extension TenRyuJin, also used MASER attack in GaoGaiGar FINAL, although they were rendered as pink lightning bolts. Also, the King J-der's Evil Counterpart, the Pia Decem PEAK (modeled after an aircraft carrier), launched kamikaze planes which were designated MASER Fighters and Anti-Meson Fighters.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has the Positron Rifle.note 
  • Tekkaman Blade has the Fermion Cannon.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the English dub, Blue-Eyes White Dragon attacks with a Breath Weapon named "White Lightning". Multiple Blue-Eyes can be fused together to produce the three-headed Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon, which attacks by firing all of its heads' Breath Weapons at once... with the confusing name of "Neutron Blast". This isn't present in the original, where White's attack is "Horobi no BURST STREAM"note  and Ultimate's is "ULTIMATE BURST".

  • Some Bronze Age Marvel titles occasionally featured a "meson disintegrator". (Considering their nanosecond half-lives, mesons actually do a pretty good job of disintegrating all on their own.)


  • Artemis Fowl:
    • Some fairies use neutrino charges to blow stuff up at one point.
    • One of the main LEP weapons is the Neutrino handgun series, which has variable power settings that let it gently heat substances, stun perps, or provide lethal blasts of powerful energy. This is subverted in a later book, which reveals that "Neutrino" is actually a brand name (note the capital letter) and the gun is actually just an adjustable laser.
  • Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage II: One character jokingly suggests that the military should start researching neutrino bombs. As he sees it, they'd have all the positive effects of weapons development — scientific advancement, job creation, and so on — and none of the negative effects — such as the ability to actually kill people.
    • Actually, powerful enough neutrino beam COULD kill people - by ionising radiation, released when atomic nucleus, bounced by neutrino collisions, collide with each other on high speed.
  • The "proton cannons" of The Pentagon War actually fire an electrically neutral hydrogen plasma, but "electrically neutral hydrogen plasma cannon" would take too long to say.
    • But "plasma cannon" is apparently fine for other authors...
  • "Plasma Torpedoes" get a mention from time to time in the Honor Harrington novels. In usage, they are more akin to cannons than torpedoes.note  They are very short ranged and ineffective against sidewalls or gravity wedges (to the point of usually being irrelevant) but immensely destructive on the very rare occasions where they can be brought into play. Thoroughly averted with standard missiles, which employ multi-megaton nuclear warheads and the most exotic they get is using the missiles to power a cluster of bomb-pumped lasers.
    • In prequel series, set several hundreds years before Honor era, plasma torpedoes are MUCH more efficient, because combat distances are much smaller, and sidewalls are fragile & easy to knock out.
  • Kris Longknife: Neutron torpedoes, later dubbed Hellburners, are one of humanity's major weapons. The naming is completely literal, as the warhead is a small chunk of degenerate matter from a neutron star, used as a kinetic weapon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek is the Trope Maker. Generally, torpedo types are named like this, usually with the name being an actual explanation for their payloads. In later shows though, the name serves no purpose except adding dramatic flavor when the characters order for the weapon to be fired. There's:
    • The standard Photon Torpedo, so named because, being an antimatter weapon, it releases gamma ray photons when it detonates.
    • Plasma Torpedoes, which are a ball of plasma that are somehow fired at warp speed. Compared to the other torpedoes, this one is a Wave-Motion Gun, capable of completely destroying starbases and starships in one hit. Its drawbacks are the fact that it has a has a limited range, and due to power constraints, it cannot not be fired while the ship was cloaked.
    • The Quantum Torpedoes were introduced as a new kind of torpedo to replace the old photon torpedoes. However, they are functionally identical to photon torpedoes, albeit more powerful with the only visual difference being their color.
    • Polaron Torpedoes, like Quantum Torpedoes, are just differently colored photon torpedoes.
    • Plots which involve technology far beyond the protagonists' capabilities will simply upgrade the name of a technology with an even fancier-sounding prefix. In Star Trek: Voyager, a future Janeway brings along some transphasic torpedoes to the past, and introduces the idea of a transwarp drive, which is of course much faster than regular warp drive.
    • In Star Trek: Enterprise, because it took place a century earlier, they were called "photonic" torpedoes.
  • Battlestar Galactica gave us "pulsar cannons." Pulsars are a type of neutron star, which would make the name nonsense if taken literally, but idiomatically it could describe a weapon like a pulsar (in the sense that it shoots electromagnetic radiation). The reimagined version stuck with good old atom bombs and slug-thrower guns.
  • Tom Servo of Mystery Science Theater 3000 once had a "neutron machine pistol" during a sketch. He called it Lucille.
  • Gamma guns from Quark

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller largely keeps it "realistic" (with most ships only having lasers or nuclear missiles), save for the fusion gun and the spinal mount meson cannon.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Vespid (wasp-like aliens) use neutron blasters, a device that fires neutrons when the Vespid crystal resonates at the appropriate frequency.
    • Most Tau weaponry is plasma-based, but several weapons use gatling ion cannons.
    • Imperial forces have limited access to plasma weapons, which they barely know how to maintain in the first place. They also have "Melta" weapons, which fluff describes as working the way a "real" plasma-shooting weapon would without the quasi-magical technology.
  • The Star Munchkin roleplaying-game book parodies the concept, explaining that the smaller the thing the torpedo is named after is, the bigger the explosion the torpedo makes.
  • BattleTech has a example in the form of the Particle Projection Cannon (which, incidentally, is described as firing a stream of ions or protons). It's more commonly referred to by the initialism PPC.

    Video Games 
  • Numerous weapons in Escape Velocity. Neutron turrets are superior to proton turrets, which are superior to laser turrets.
    • Mostly ditched in Nova, which just calls most of its guns "blasters" (except for the railguns and chainguns). It does have an "ion cannon", but explains that it really does shoot ions — charged helium atoms, to be precise. However, the Auroran "Fusion Pulse Cannon" stands out as a Dubious Science Alert, as does the Polaron weaponry (though in the later case it is downplayed by multiple weapons having the same questionable take on polarons and using it in different yet internally consistent ways).
  • The MagiMechTech MechaMechs in Kingdom of Loathing use photoprotoneutron torpedoes.
  • In Supreme Commander, the Aeon Illuminate has strategic bombers which drop 'quark bombs'.
  • Transformers: War for Cybertron has 'Neutron Assault Rifles', 'Ion Disruptors' and 'Nucleon Shock Cannons'.
    • Given their nature as Mechanical Lifeforms, ion weaponry is a viable threat to Cybertronians. A 'nucleon' is a particle that makes up the nucleus of an atom, or in other words, proton and neutrons. Somehow, in the Transformers setting, this also denotes a powerful but unstable fuel source in the Transformers universe, and apparently it is used to power the explosive 'shock cannons' (which are really just large missile launchers). It's possible it may have something to do with nuclear power, but none of the fiction so far has gone into specifics aside from labeling it both powerful and unpredictable. Perhaps the strangest thing about Nucleon is that it is rather consistently depicted as a liquid, like Energon.
  • From the Wing Commander series:
    • Neutron guns, Ion cannons, Particle guns, and Tachyon guns. The torpedoes in this setting are simply called "torpedoes", but they are designed to be used against targets protected by "Phase Shielding".
    • Privateer gives us Proton Torpedoes, which are really just very powerful dumbfire missiles that are otherwise unrelated to the regular torpedoes of the rest of the series.
  • Zigfrak:
    • The engine cell upgrades go from high level fusion cells, to protium cells, then deuterium cells, and finally the legendary tier fuel of "Liquid Swarzenegger".
    • In the Back Story for "Hawk", his family was wiped out in a "proton bombing".
  • Half-Life has the Tau Cannon (aka the Gauss Gun) and the Gluon Gun (aka the Egon).
  • The gigantic Wave Motion Guns of FreeSpace are typically called "beams", both in-game and out, but their technical name is "Photon Beam Cannon". There's also the Meson Bomb, a superpowerful explosive that completely vaporizes anything within three kilometers. One fan-made campaign threw it all into a blender and hodge-podged together a beam cannon using a meson bomb's energy reaction as a power source.
  • The Marvel vs. Capcom series brings us Iron Man's PROTON CANNON.
  • Galactic Civilizations 2 is rife with these.
  • Command & Conquer has the GDI's Ion Cannon in the Tiberium games and the USA's very similar Particle Cannon in Generals, and the Allies have the Proton Collider in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3.
  • MechWarrior and its related games featured the weapon known as the PPC, which stands for "particle projector cannon," derived from the tabletop source material. It is often compared to man-made lightning, but the fiction suggests the weapon fires beams of charged particles. A large percentage of the time, it is rendered as a blue stream of energy with some lead time. The version in the Mechwarrior 2 trilogy fires what the guides term "plasma balls."
    • The latter may ironically stem from the "energy shells" mentioned in the description of the Manticore tank's "Parti-Kill PPC" in the board game's own fiction...which is explicitly described as working differently from most standard weapons of that type.
  • Amusingly enough for the page description, game developers Silicon Knights created a top down turn-based-strategy/action hybrid game called Cyber Empires which featured the Neutrino Cannon as its most powerful energy weapon.
  • Starsiege and its predecessors, the Earthsiege series, featured the PBW, for particle beam weapon, which is described as an 'electromagnetic shotgun.' Bearing in mind that the weapon fires a single discrete beam, this raises some questions about how exactly the weapon operates.
    • Another example from the series is the electron flux whip, or ELF, which is called the 'lightning bolt on a leash.' It is often rendered as a continuous arc of blue or yellow electricity with a short range, or occasionally as a slow, single arc that twists awkwardly through the air to damage the target's shields or armor.
  • Mass Effect has the Reapers' Wave Motion Guns, which are not beams but are actually "magnetohydrodynamic cannons"... Subverted, as this is actually a perfectly accurate descriptor of the weapon: it fires a stream of molten metal at relativistic speeds. Other starship weapon names are similarly straightforward: mass accelerators,note  fusion torpedoes,note  point-defense lasers, antimatter warheads,note  disruptor torpedoes,note , particle beams, and so on.
  • Several weapons in the X-Universe series fit this. Ion Disruptor, Ion Pulse Generator, Ion Cannon, Ion Shard Railgun, and Photon Pulse Cannon. Oh, and the Kha'ak use kyon emitters, which fire a fictitious particle. The names are normally fairly justified by Flavor Text.
  • Several of the energy weapons mounted on Protoss vehicles in Starcraft qualify. Corsairs use a Neutron Flare, Scouts mount dual photon blasters and anti-matter missiles, Arbiters and Dragoons carry phase disruptor cannons, and their defense building is a Photon Cannon.
    • The tools/weapons used by Probes and SCVs are Particle Beams and Fusion Cutters respectively.
    • A Terran Ion Cannon features in one mission, with the Informed Ability to prevent ships from leaving a planet.
  • An obscure Russian 4X game called Remember Tomorrow might as well be the poster boy for this trope. In a slightly misguided effort to create variety in types of available weapons, engines, and power systems, the designers seem to have found a list of particle names and matter states, and stapled entries from it in front of various "cannons", "engines" and "generators". Highlights include "ion generators", "proton missiles", and cannons in "proton", "gluon", "meson", "antimeson", "graviton", "boson" and "baryon" varieties, culminating in the ultimate beam-type weapon, the "neutrino accelerator".
  • Sword of the Stars: The Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness for particle beam weapons goes Particle, Neutron, Positron, Meson with Graviton and Pulsed Graviton somewhere off the main branch. The unguided torpedoes go Photonic -> Gluonic -> Kelvinic or Mesonic.
  • The Homeworld games have the Ion Cannon, which is the heaviest weapon available save for the Progenitor Phased Cannon Array. It is exclusively a starship weapon (and a ludicrously big one at that) - except for the Bentusi, who managed to put two of them on fighters.
    • Given Homeworld's hard sci-fi nature the Ion Beam Cannon might be a subversion of the trope, possibly being a weapon that accelerates charged particles to relativistic speeds.
  • In Space Empires, torpedoes go from Anti Matter to Quantum. The beam weapons use protons and mesons.
  • In EVE Online, hybrid blasters of all sizes come in three variants: electron, ion, and neutron, all of which use the same types of metallic charges (which also double as railgun rounds).
    • Explained as the charges containing a core of <bullet type> atoms in a suspended plasma state, which the blasters extract and form into a bolt which is then fired, while railguns simply fire the entire bullet.
  • The two most powerful energy weapons in Wasteland are the ion beamer and meson cannon. The best melee weapon is called a "proton ax", whatever that means.
  • Dawn of War: Photon/Plasma grenades for Tau Shas'ui/Eldar Guardians respectively.
  • Several ships in Star Trek: Klingon Academy are armed with muon cannons (known in-game as "shieldbreakers").
  • Stellaris features such weapon names as Proton Torpedoes, Particle Lances, Tachyon Lances, and Quantum Missiles.
  • Some of the alien weapons you pick up in Moon Chronicles have names like Muon Pistol, Lepton Spread or Fermion Sniper, implying they fire sub-atomic particles.
  • The Fusion Rifle and Proton Cannon weapons of Feral Fury. The Fusion Rifle is actually just a reskin of the Assault Rifle, with red Tron Lines and projectiles. The Proton Cannon spews a blast of green energy that obliterates most enemies in one shot.
  • In Metroid Prime: Hunters, the bounty hunter Sylux uses a weapon that fires neutrinos. In Real Life these particles are so ubiquitous that about 100 trillion of them pass through your body harmlessly every second.
  • Stars In Shadow is quite fond of this. While missiles tend to use nuclear warheads, beam weaponry fits. After lasers, the next step is ion cannons, then those get upgraded to "Primary" beams, which fire matter/antimatter reaction waste. The final step is the "Hellbore" cannon, which fires superhot plasma.
  • Gradius gives us Photon Torpedoes which pass through multiple one-hit enemies at once.
  • Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception uses "Meson Cannons" as a defensive weapon for Aurelian capital Griswall. However, their usage and properties are largely justified. The cannons are located on top of Atmos Ring - a large particle accelerator and a muon-catalyzed fusion powerplant - the primary method of generating muons in real life is, in fact, through meson decay. Similarly, the cannons don't actually utilize mesons as a projectile, but rather muons that they decay into. The range of the weapon is limited to several kilometers, just like one would expect a weapon with unstable particles as projectiles to behave. And finally, the cost of production and development was high enough to be stopped midway.
  • Event Horizon has plenty of these, including the Proton Torpedo, Neutron Blaster, Ion Cannon, Quantum Torpedo, Singularity Cannon, Tachyon Beam and Heavy Anti-Matter Torpedo. At least It Makes Sense in Context considering how the aforementioned weapons work.
  • The Enchanted Cave gives fractal cabbage as a healing item. Because magic. No, seriously.

    Western Animation 
  • In a parody of this, rifle-sized "positron shooters" are apparently the standard issue weapon for DOOP soldiers in Futurama. They're powered by hand cranks and play Pop Goes The Weasel as they're wound up.
  • Spoofed in Madballs: Escape from Orb, where our heroes launch a "photon bathtub" to slow down the bad guys.
  • In Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Rusty is powered by nucleoprotons, which he can also fire at his enemies as an energy weapon.

Alternative Title(s): Photoprotoneutron Weapon