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The new Ghostbusters (2016) features a major upgrade to an iconic device: The Proton Pack. In the original movie, the Proton Pack was a portable particle accelerator that emitted a stream of positively-charged protons to ensnare negatively charged spiritual entities. This device was based on one of the earliest particle accelerators: the cyclotron.
The cyclotron was one of the earliest types of particle accelerators ever developed. Invented by Ernest O. Lawrence in 1932, it works by accelerating charged particles along a spiral path. Inside the cyclotron, a charged particle is injected into the middle of the chamber where it is accelerated between two D-shaped electrodes or “dees.” In the case of the Ghostbusters’ Proton Pack, that charged particle is a positron or positively charged electron. The magnetic field passing through the dees bends the particle’s path, making it travel in a circle, while the electric field between the dees accelerates the particle, giving it a “kick” to make it go faster. When the positron beam has enough energy, it strikes a metal target to release a beam of protons.
The upgraded Proton Pack is based on the synchrotron. Like the synchrotrons that make up many of the modern-day particle accelerators, this allows for higher energy particle streams. The idea behind the upgrade was due to the movie’s science consultant, and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility particle physicist, James Maxwell.
Crossing the Proton Pack’s Beams
The movie’s writers, Paul Feig and Katie Dippold have put considerable effort into getting the science right. It is definitely worth a look at the science behind the Proton Pack.
Article: The Science of The Ghostbuster’s Proton Pack.