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Guest Article by Linton Lewis - How Ghostbusting Equipment Works

 By Paul Rudoff on Feb. 18, 2022 at 11:30 PM , Categories: Ghostbusters 1, Ghostbusters 2, Props

From time to time, Spook Central will feature articles written by guest contributors. Today's ghost... guest writer is Linton Lewis, and the topic up for discussion is the Ghostbusters' equipment. Without any further ado...

How Proton Packs and Other Ghostbusting Equipment Work
by Linton Lewis

Ever since Ghostbusters debuted in 1984, film fans and tech geeks alike have marveled at the equipment seen in the film, loving its design and homegrown aesthetic, not to mention its busting capabilities. It's no surprise then that so much cosplay has emerged over the years featuring the equipment, with fans building, modding, and personalizing the sci-fi tech to their exact desires.

But within the world of the films, how does this equipment actually function? What real-world and fictional science comes into play? And does Peter Venkman really know how to use that Ghost Sniffer?

We may never know the answer to that last one, but suit up and grab any unlicensed nuclear accelerators you have lying around, because we're stepping through the interdimensional cross-rip to take a deep dive into the science of Ghostbusters.

The PKE Meter

The most fundamental of Ghostbusting equipment, the PKE Meter is used to determine the size and intensity of any nearby otherworldly entities by way of psychokinetic energy, operating much like a divining rod or a metal detector for spooks, spirits, or ghosts. Indicator arms and lights help to guide the operator toward a suspected apparition as the device locks onto PKE frequencies.

The intensity wheel found on the rear of the device allows the operator to attune the meter to specific entities' frequencies, which provides for a more accurate analysis when in the field. This is very useful for Ghostbusters who are attempting to lock in on a certain ghost to track and take out before others, since spirits' frequency signatures differ.

The Proton Pack

The Proton Pack is the crown jewel of ghostbusting equipment, and stands out as the most intricate and detailed when it comes to operation, so it requires some more thorough analysis. It's not a toy, after all.

Light 'Em Up!

Powered by radioactive isotope carbon 14, the Proton Pack features a core with a half-life of 5,730 years. Power cells for the pack are situated within fuel rods inside the booster core at the top left of the pack when facing it from behind. The power is distributed to the accentuators, and then to the primary power distributor, or PPD.

The PPD further distributes power to the ion arm, hydrogen gas actuator, and cyclotron, the latter being the prominent, rounded portion seen on the backs of the packs. All of this power distribution is monitored and regulated by way of a CPU that is kept in the ion arm at the top left of the pack.

Hydrogen for the pack is stored in two containers, and the gas is then drawn into the hydrogen gas actuator, where it is ionized before being sent to the cyclotron. Within the cyclotron, an oscillator alternates the current between two electrodes so the negatively charged hydrogen is attracted to the positive electrode and repelled by the negative one, causing the particle to spiral faster and faster. This active process is indicated by the rotating cyclotron lights.

The cyclotron process removes electrons, leaving only protons to be sent to the emitter, also known as the Particle Thrower or Neutrona Wand.

Make 'Em Hard!

Three switches must be active for the Neutrona Wand to throw a proton stream. Switch one turns on the oscillator, switch two activates negative electromagnets in the wand and draws the protons in, and switch three is a safety switch to prevent unintended firing of the proton stream.

Once all three triggers are activated, the Ghostbuster presses the intensify trigger. This reverses polarity of the electromagnets in the center of the wand and activates a positively charged magnet at the rear. Doing so sends the protons forward, releasing them through the barrel for use in the field as a proton stream, as they shoot out like lighting from a firehose.

Roast 'Em!

Contrary to popular belief, the proton stream is not actually one beam, but two separate ones as part of an energy exchange. Protons are shot out, indicated by the central yellow-orange beam, and then these same particles are pulled back in, indicated by the blue zig-zag beam. A stream control wheel regulates the stream intensity, and is found as a dial on top of the Neutrona Wand.

Ghosts are made up of negatively charged ionized particles, with physical manifestations being called ectoplasm, and it is due to these negative particles that proton streams have their effect. The positively charged proton streams attract the negatively charged spirits, helping the boys in grey ensnare them.

The Ghost Trap

The Ghost Trap, also known as the Muon Trap (named for particles contained during use), is used to trap and hold spirits before final transport to the Containment Unit. The trap is powered by a rechargeable battery located at the rear, although a safety feature remains in place during use and must be deactivated to make the trap fully functional.

After any Class 5 Full Roaming Vapors, spectral joggers, or Scoleri brothers are contained with a proton stream, the trap is triggered by a foot pedal, creating a blast of energy that "pins" ghosts within the field of muon particles surrounding them.

Muon particles are produced from the positive particles of the proton stream coming into contact with the spiritual entity, with these negatively charged particles being more than 200x heavier than an electron. With the ghost surrounded by muons, the conic entrapment field - the bright flash that Egon really shouldn't be looking at - draws in the muons and the accompanying ghost. A second pressing of the foot pedal closes the trap, containing the spirit.

The conic entrapment field is actually able to be adjusted by a dial found on the device, altering the cone size produced. A wider field has less power but can take in entities from a greater space, while a narrower field has more power but must be utilized with precision. Think of it like going after a ghost with a shotgun vs. a sniper rifle.

The Containment Unit

Once a ghost has been temporarily stored in the Ghost Trap, it must be transported to the Containment Unit for permanent incarceration. A Ghostbuster merely inserts the trap into the unit, follows standard procedures, and when the light is green the trap is clean. This brings us to particle physics.

Within protons and neutrons, smaller components called quarks are held together with gluons. Gluons fluctuate in and out of existence between dimensions, which in turn produces a quantum vacuum.

The Containment Unit features a thorough laser grid which stops the fluctuation of gluons for PKE, meaning that any ghost finding itself within the unit's laser grid will be "trapped" between dimensions, unable to interact with or escape to the physical plane.

Should the lasers cease to function, the ghosts within the unit will no longer be trapped between dimensions and will be able to free themselves. To prevent this, like in the event of a citywide power outage, backup generators are utilized. These generators unfortunately can't do much to stop overzealous EPA agents, however.

The Usual Literature

To learn more about ghostbusting equipment, you'll want to consult these resources from Ghostbusters NW and Channeling Spirits:

Ghost Trap

Containment Unit

Proton Pack

How Does the Proton Pack Work?

The Ghostbusters Ectomobile book from Haynes Manual also has a wealth of information about all types of ghostbusting equipment, so give it a look!

I'm a Ghostbuster!

So there you have it - a complete look at the inner workings of key ghostbusting equipment. With this knowledge in tow, and some successful tests under your belt, you'll be well on your way to slugging it out with some pesky poltergeists. Have fun!

*   *   *

Linton Lewis is a lifelong Ghostbusters fan whose writing has appeared on sites like Wicked Horror, Slackjaw, Robot Butt, and more. He also gets to work with TYKMA Electrox, a laser marking company with equipment that would make Egon Spengler perk up.

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