I thought of this question while reading another question here.

In both examples of suicide-by-phaser that I know about, the phaser gets vaporized too! Think of the homeless man in The City on the Edge of Forever after he steals McCoy's phaser.

And there's the example in the in video clip below where Captain Terrell kills himself in Wrath of Khan. It's from 55 seconds to 60 seconds.

Why doesn't the phaser just drop to the floor after these suicides? The phaser is vaporized too! Which means the beam must turn back on itself or something.

The answer to this question probably involves treknobabble nonsense, but I would like to know if there is an in-universe explanation.

Edit: CanadianGirlScout found another example of suicide-by-phaser that destroys the phaser too. It's at the 3:26 mark in this video clip.

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    The more fundamental question is: Why do phasered objected disintegrate as a coherent whole (a whole rock disappearing at once, or an entire person and all their equipment), rather than the disintegration effect moving outward from the point of the beam's impact? Presumably, there is not reason except 1960s special effect exigencies. – Buzz Jan 7 '17 at 23:27
  • Related - scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/12474/… – Paulie_D Jan 7 '17 at 23:35
  • 'What are little girls made of?' episode in the original series also has Dr. Korby firing a phaser between himself and Andrea with the phaser disappearing along with them. It happens around minute 3:26. – Canadian Girl Scout Jan 9 '17 at 4:25
  • @CanadianGirlScout Ah, thanks. That is a third example of suicide-by-phaser that destroys the phaser too. This is now a recurring theme. – RichS Jan 9 '17 at 4:47
  • @Buzz One could ask the same thing about disruptors, though those do tend to spread from the point of impact (but still only affect the desired object[s]). – JAB Jun 5 '17 at 15:35

From Memory Alpha:

Federation phasers emit nadion radiation - a beam of particles causing molecular disruption.

The effect described by OP is called vaporization or disintegration or disruption effect and required specific setting on the firing device.

I would say that in this setting beam is enveloping - although this is only my own speculation based on visual effects of the beam hit in various situations.

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    Technobabble aside, the phaser probably disappears because it is held by the person getting disintegrated, whatever effect causes the disruption extends to objects held in their hands (and clothing, jewelry, etc). Nothing else survives on anyone getting disintegrated, so why would the phaser held in their hand? – Jason K Jan 9 '17 at 16:58
  • @JasonK - then why not disintegrate the floor they are standing on (or partially). Or why not the planet? Or the -gasp- universe? – iMerchant Jan 9 '17 at 21:22
  • @iMerchant - i'm thinking the targeting system makes sure of that? There is also a way to set phaser on wide-beam in disintegration setting, so where's the problem? – AcePL Jan 10 '17 at 14:34
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    @iMerchant I'm not saying it makes any kind of logical sense, just that "the phaser is in their hand" is all the justification they need to sell the idea. If folks were phasered and their tools and clothes fell to the floor, then I think you'd see the suicide phaser fall as well. But since everything else disintegrates, so does the suicide phaser. As to why the disintegration effect doesn't spread beyond the EXACT area needed for the plot, well, it is becau....POOF look over there, a Gorn! – Jason K Jan 10 '17 at 14:42

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