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Ask Maxim February 2011

You’ve got answers, and we’ve got questions! (Wait, Reverse that.)

Is there such a thing as a death ray?
Morris Ty, New Haven, CT

According to Professor James Rosen­zweig, director of the Particle Beam Physics Lab at UCLA, the short answer is “not quite yet,” but here’s how they’ll work in the future.

Step 1: To create a ray that would work on such an enormous scale, you need a laser that can generate something like a million watts. A handheld laser pointer is less than
a single watt; this laser would be the size of a room and would eat up enough energy to light a small town.

Step 2: You have to be able to see what you’re shooting at, which means perfecting a tracking system. “You need a system that aims the laser—essentially, a mirror that you can move really fast.”

Step 3: Place the laser on a ship or plane, then position it next to an enemy nation. Take the offensive approach and point the laser at specific targets (say, Kim Jong-il’s quiff).

Step 4: Fire. Awesomely, the laser beam contains so much heat-generated power the target is totally neutralized, or basically incinerated, “sort of like putting it in a microwave,” according to Rosenzweig. Neat!

How does soap work?

Ryan Fitzhugh, New York, NY

Soap is made by combining fat (an acid) and sodium hydroxide (a base). Soap molecules are composed of chains of atoms working as opposites—one end of the chain is hydrophilic (water-binding) and the other hydrophobic (water-repellent). In this way it acts as an emulsifier, allowing oils to mix with water. Dirt, which is hydrophobic, adheres to fatty acids, becomes encapsulated in water, and gets carried off like a cow in a twister.

The number of times more likely a Spanish woman is to make the first move than an American woman, according to an online dating study of more than 90 million people. How did U.S. lassies fare overall? Second to last. Ladies, are you going to let those flamenco-dancing hussies show you up like this? Start flirting, fast!

Is time travel real?

Dexter Champ, Arlington, TX

As it turns out, traveling forward in time is totally real! With today’s technol­ogy, airplane passengers or astronauts return to land a few billionths (or thousandths) of a second younger, and so effectively travel nano­seconds (or milliseconds) into the future. Does this mean living on a plane will make you immortal? Yes! You should totally try it.

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