Amazing Maser… What’s a Maser?
We all know about lasers – and I don’t just mean in the pop culture sense.
They have become so commonplace, and so mundane that my spirit level has one, my classroom pointer is one, and – of course – they live in the heart of my Blu Ray and CD players…
However, that surface mundanity hides a whole world of precision devices – from beams so fine they can target micron-width capillaries in a patient (eyes, ears, or wherever), to military devices so powerful they can, and have downed aircraft in test.
Yet, the history of the laser is one that is both complex, and rooted in some of the earliest developments of radio technology of the 20th century, in a quite interesting way.
The key to a laser is in the acronym (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) – the idea that electrons could be ‘encouraged’ to emit radiation on command and, if properly treated, directed to specific needs.
However, like much speculative science it took a long while for anyone to get anything into operation, and in order to keep this review on target – and not offend any physicists with my woeful (though genuine) interest in these matters – let us jump directly to the device which lends its name to the weapon on our kit – the Father of the Laser. The Maser.
Charles Townes Demonstrating the First Amonia Maser in 1954
Maser stands for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, and you can already see where this is going, I think.
The Maser was first postulated, based on the earlier theoretical work of Albert Einstein in 1954, in the proceedings of the academic journal Physical Review, in which Charles Townes discussed how radar scientists had, since the end of WWII, been looking for ways to improve their own detection systems by reducing the wavelength of an a radar’s emissions below the centimetric level – as the shorter the wavelength, the more accurate the detection (if I read this correctly).
This led onto a desire in researchers in the field of atomic physics looking for ways to use sub centimetric radiation to examine molecular structure, and finally atomic – as detection systems became ever more precise.
One of the results of this research, as discussed by Townes was the fact that when molecules are stimulated, and alter their respective bonds, they releases sub centimetric – indeed, often millimetric – radiation in a predictable fashion. All it would need was an ability to stimulate enough molecules at the same time, and the ability to direct the resulting radiation in a desired direction.
It goes over my head, but to Townes it was one of those lightbulb moments, for he was already well acquainted with Columbia University’s work on microwave engineering techniques to know that much of any created radiation in a device would trigger further emissions in the mass of electrons being used and would strengthen to output to some degree.
To test this, the first maser in 1954, as pictured above, and using a beam of excited ammonia molecules Townes’ team was able to create a concentrated beam of massive destructive power…
Well, about 5 nanowatts (about enough power to do almost, but not entirely, sod all in real terms).
It *would* have flattened Minira in a flash, but so could Mothra’s guardians, and with their hands tied behind their backs, so that was hardly an improvement.
However, it was measureable, it proved the concept and was confined to a single wavelength, which meant that the energy was not being bled out, so that maximum power would be delivered at the target end.
Now, note that at this point the team were not envisaging a death ray, but a tool to help further the study of molecular and atomic interactions, as a result, once the maser had been developed it sparked a massive surge in interest, leading to the development of all manner of devices which operated on similar principles, but often work on different sources (infra red, optical, ultra violet) rather than microwaves.
Et voila… The Laser.
As a result, Townes shared a Nobel Prize in 1964 for his work on masers and lasers both, and although all the different versions of the device got tangled up in some serious legal sand kicking in the ’60s and ’70s (as Townes had not properly protected his original device) the Old Master did not seem to care. He preferred to have science as an open well from which all could dip, rather than an industrial concern from which only the wealthy could draw.
Ah for a time when science was about discovery and sharing knowledge…… 🙁
BTW, Masers did not fall out of use when the laser appeared on the scene. They are still being developed today, and being refined all the time.
How masers ended up as the ‘go to weapon’ of the classic SF age however, is something of a mystery.
It was quite a time between the development of the maser and the laser, so it is not totally surprising that SF authors in the 1950s would latch onto this real world term to replace terms like ‘heat ray’, ‘atomic rifle’, ‘nuclear pistol’ or whatever – for that sort of authentic touch which true pulp fiction needs in spades to sell itself.
This, in my opinion, is how the term worms its way into the Godzilla canon, perhaps as a result of the Nobel Prize of 1964 being awarded to the developers of said device.
All very fascinating, but in the end it is all irrelevant. Maser, Laser, or a flashlight… These things, no matter how big, or sexy are still as useless today against Godzilla as they always have been.
However, we all still love them…
Be aware that this is repackage of an earlier set of molds and I have to say that time has not been very kind here, as the quality of the parts is poor in places.
It takes a long time for steel styrene injection molds to show wear, but on every sprue in this kit, flashing and scarring, which would not be present on a modern kit is all over the place (albeit in minor ways).
Moreover, the level of detail is not one would expect of a modern kit, even in such a small model.
Wave is clear on this matter both on the box and in the paperwork, but in Japanese, so I do not say these things simply to pick spots. Rather present them in case a purchaser is under the assumption that the original kit has been improved in some way (as Wave has done with other releases from time to time).
That being said, let’s dive in…
The tractor cab, and already we have a disaster…
However, I cannot be sure if the error is all of my doing, or the styrene itself has some inherent flaw. I think, on balance I should not have used thin cement, run round the frames after fitting the windows. Either the vapour of it crazed the surface, in the sealed space (I made the error of fitting the cab top directly after cementing the windows), or the thinner cement ran out onto the surface as I turned the model about in fitting other parts and did the damage.
However, I did like the fact that the track and road wheels all came as a single unit.
A simple, but accurate chassis for the trailer, with brass rod to give rigidity to the wheel assemblies.
one minor niggle though. The pin to secure the tow bar was malformed and would not seal properly, hence the Heath Robinson affair to keep the axle operable.
The main body on the trailer had a concern as well, which I hope was just a random production flaw on my own kit.
The main body was badly warped on the sprue (though the sprue itself was not bent throughout) and, even after heating and bending, I could not get it to fit well (as seen above). in the end I cemented down one end, adding some bracing for extra strength. Then after 24 hours, I turned on the hair dryer, heated once again, and cemented before clamping it all down.
That worked, and does not look too bad.
It should be noted though that, though most of the kit components are molded in ‘more or less’ the correct colors, the hull needs to be painted (though in fairness, I wanted to paint all the metal components, as the metallic effect plastic looked well short of the mark).
The emitter array itself looks grand, as always, but care is needed to fit the four bracing arms, as they naturally lie too close together to allow for fitting the focussing lens body. Fit the lot before you cement…
Now the brass rods and springs come into their own…
Just as with the master model, the maser array automatically levels as one raises, or lowers the barrel. This is achieved by attaching thing brass rods to the main dish, and the other end to the turret, which forces the emitter to keep level when being raised.
The springs all cluster, into the middle of the array, and form the power conduit. Looks very nice when all put together.
Yes, I know it is supposed to be shiny… This is me though… Grime is Gold!
Ready to Roll…
Thankfully, though the molds do not appear to have been improved, the decals have benefited from the passage of time, and all behaved themselves – with the exception of the hazard stripes, which are much larger than the cells for which they were made. However, once they dry out, they can easily be cut and fit.
I had, perhaps unreasonably, expected this to be an update of the old 1/87 scale kit from the 1990s. As you can see this is not the case.
That did disappoint me a little for a while, but only for a little. Here is a kit which is rather niche within the Kaiju niche itself and it does seem unreasonable to expect a complete retooling for a small model that had, sadly a rather limited market footprint.
That being said, and taking the model for what it is, it is still a twee little model and I still cannot get out of my mind the idea of a Showa Themed HO scale model railway, featuring a few giant foot prints and a JSDF staging area just so I can pop this little thing into proper context.
You can’t beat a bit of Godzilla, after all..