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Q & A: recoiling railguns

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
I am writing a sci-fi short story and was wondering if "rail guns" or linear accelerators would have recoil. Your answer would help settle the argument between me and my writing group. Thanks in advance for your help.
- Jimmy E (age 25)
WA
A:
Newton's 3d law of motion, also called conservation of momentum, is a very deep general principle. If the projectile picks up momentum one way, then somebody else has to pick up momentum the opposite way. In principle the recoil momentum could be in a backwards propagating electromagnetic wave, but in fact it's just ordinary recoil of the rail gun.

Mike W.

(published on 10/22/2007)

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