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The Death Star Firepower Fallacy

"The Death Star is clearly the one supreme destructive force in either galaxy. This vessel can single-handedly destroy a planet in a matter of seconds, which is a task that would take 30 ships of a roughly Federation technology level hours to accomplish ("The Die is Cast"[DS9])."

This is probably Mr. Anderson's most controversial page. Not coincidentally, it is also one of the worst technical pages on his site. In the opening sentence, Anderson makes an enormous and deliberate misrepresentation of the evidence in "The Die is Cast" [DS9], to promote Star Trek unreasonably. The episode depicts a very piddling barrage of weapons from Romulan and Cardassian ships as they attack a planet, but it is clear that the shots are not doing sufficient damage to support the dialogue of the episode, which suggests that it would take the ships hours just to destroy the mantle of the planet in question. Anderson then takes this very ambiguous piece of dialogue, which is clearly contradicted by the visuals from that episode, and then claims that it would take thirty SF-level vessels hours to destroy a planet in a similar manner to the Death Star's destruction of Alderaan. This is clearly incorrect, even with just the dialogue from TDiC, and is downright dishonest, given the visual effects from the episode which depict weapons no more powerful than a few megatons.

"Unfortunately, instead of taking this fact at face value and moving on, many pro-Wars debaters attempt to claim gargantuan firepower levels for the Death Star far beyond what is supported by the canon."

Can this not, just as easily, be attributed to a desire to discover the truth? Mr. Anderson will stop at nothing to attack his unnamed detractors, but this is clearly an attack on their credibility that does not follow.

"Why? Because General Dodonna says in ANH that the Death Star has more firepower than half the starfleet. Of course, the fact that the surface of the Death Star was absolutely lousy with turbolaser emplacements is lost on the Warsies, who assume that the quote refers to the large superlaser, which the Warsies claim (based on a non-canon quote) is just a big turbolaser anyway. The point of inflating the Death Star numbers, though, is that the bigger the numbers for the Death Star, the bigger the numbers for the whole of the fleet. Warsies will not only reach into the depths of the non-canon works while ignoring the canon to support this view, but will also ignore the evidence of their eyes."

This is clearly an appeal to motive. Moreover, the actions of Mr. Anderson's intellectual assailants can just as easily be explained by a desire to learn the truth. Anderson dismisses this without mention, or reasoning, but it is clear that this is not the motivation of the "Warsies." In truth, it does not matter in the least what the motives for the "Warsie" actions are, as their claims may or may not be true regardless of why they were inspired, and for what purpose they were performed.

"The common way they calculate the firepower is by assuming that the Death Star directly input all the required energy into the planet. By "directly", they mean as if by laser, particle beam, or other direct energy transfer (DET) method. This is an assumption only."

This is not an assumption, the theory that the Death Star actually needed to impart that much energy into the planet Alderaan is clearly rooted in typical scientific thinking. The "DET" method is not an assumption, but a fact that can be verified through the "rabid Warsie" theory, which is explained quite well in the debate with Mike Wong.

Anderson claims that "if you watch that segment slowly in the Special Edition, the Death Star blast need only destroy part of the planet directly." However, this is clearly not true. Anderson's completely undefined theory for why this is the case is based in no small part on the existence of "bands of brightness," which allegedly encircle the planet Alderaan. It is unclear why these "bands of brightness" support Anderson's theory that something else is going on in this scene, but what is clear is that the "bands of brightness" almost certainly do not exist. In fact, no one other than Anderson is able to even see what he is referring to when citing these as evidence for his theory. People have continuously viewed the Death Star's destruction of Alderaan, but no one is in the least bit sure what exactly he is talking about. The bands he cites do not exist.

We do know that there are "rings" that appear around the equator of Alderaan, and that these rings spread outward very quickly before mysteriously slowing down. The existence of these rings, and their behavior, is not accurately described by the DET theory, suggesting that DET is in fact an incomplete theory. The rings bear some visual and behavioral resemblance to the seismic charges seen in Episode II, but they are also different in many respects. Anderson's undefined theory does not accurately predict these rings and their behavior, either, because it is not defined, but he is confident that because DET cannot predict these, his theory must be correct.

"Upon watching the destruction of the Death Star II in orbit of Endor, I noticed something I had not seen before, but which fits beautifully in my hypothesis. The second Death Star's explosion is not centered on the reactor of the Death Star, which would be in the center of the beast, but is instead centered around the left side of the superlaser, at roughly the center of mass of the Death Star. This occurs only after an explosive flash from the superlaser, suggesting that the superlaser was at least involved in the explosion, and not merely destroyed by it. There would be no reason for the explosion to occur at the center of mass, unless the mass of the Death Star were contributing to the explosion.

This fits perfectly with my hypothesis, while giving the classical model more trouble.

Again, Anderson fails to describe how the ring is even involved in the destruction of either the Death Star or Alderaan. It appears to be merely a bi-product of the destruction, as it does little to destroy either one and does not appear to interact with the matter of either body significantly. Additionally, Anderson contends that this shores up his theory, but his theory is still undefined. For it to become a workable theory, he would need to describe how the rings are formed, how they contribute to the destruction of the planet and the Death Star, how the rings help to support his claims about the second explosion being the primary cause of destruction, and how this supports his conclusion.

A recent debate between Mr. Robert Anderson and Mr. Mike Wong has been over this event and its subsequent theories numerous times- to the point where additional debate on the subject is not likely to get anywhere. However, it is clear that Mr. Anderson's theory that a chain reaction, which greatly magnified the apparent firepower of the Death Star, has numerous flaws in it, which will be summarized here.

  1. Probably the most important flaw with Mr. Anderson’s theory is that it is completely undefined. That is, Anderson has refused to explain what is actually going on in the reaction. He instead claims simply that because the current DET theory does not accurately predict the rings around Alderaan must be incorrect, even though his theory does not even properly describe the destruction of Alderaan, much less the rings.

  2. Anderson's reasoning is self-contradictory. Mr. Anderson has stated that it is impossible for the Death Star to produce the necessary energy to destroy a planet, but that it must be able to do so by affecting a planet. It would be much simpler if the energy were created using Mr. Anderson's mechanism, and then transferred to the planet that is about to be destroyed. Essentially, Anderson believes that the Empire possesses the technology to create nearly limitless power by deriving it from mass, but that the Empire is incapable of using this in its reactors, which he insists are run by nuclear fusion.

  3. This is essentially the largest physics-escape clause in the history of the vs. debates. Anderson claims that the Death Star could not have generated enough power to destroy the planet using direct energy transfer, but fails to explain how his theory allows for the Death Star to destroy Alderaan while simultaneously creating the “rings,” which is the primary reason that he cites in support of his argument.

  4. Anderson harps on the existence of the rings as his primary evidence, but does not explain how his theory explains these rings or their behavior. Thus, his theory does not explain these rings at all- this is the same as the direct energy transfer theorists, except that DET is known to exist in real life, whereas Mr. Anderson's speculation on his Mysterious Chain Reaction is merely speculation and is completely unverifiable.

  5. Anderson's invisible "bands of brightness" are not just invisible, but defy the laws of physics as well. They are not evidence for anything because they do not appear to exist. Moreover, the behavior that Mr. Anderson attributes them with is not explainable with any theory- including his MCR theory. In fact, the secondary explosion detracts from the MCR theory, because chain reactions that convert mass to energy do not wait to collide with similar chain reactions before exploding and releasing that energy. Instead, when a chain reaction occurs, it invariably uses a portion of the reactants while propagating. This is not the behavior of Mr. Anderson's "bands of brightness." They continue until they collide, at which point a secondary explosion occurs. This is not supported by any known theory in physics or chemistry, and Anderson's refusal to explain how his MCR theory explains this behavior does not present evidence for his case.

  6. A primary component of the DET theory is the Alderaan Planetary shield. In fact, it need not have been a planetary shield, but merely a very large theatre shield like the ones observed on Naboo and Hoth, except on a greater scale. The Endor shield, which clearly protected both the moon and the Death Star in orbit, is a perfect example of what would have been needed. Anderson, however, completely dismisses this possibility and then insists that DET theorists explain how the planetary shielding effects (which, contrary to his assertions, are visible) are possible, but refuses them to explain them using a planetary shield. This is a spectacular flaw in logic. The planetary shield has been observed. It affects the super-laser in a manner not otherwise explicable using physics. Anderson's simple dismissal of this as admissible evidence demonstrates a lack of judgement on his part, and one that is not logical.

  7. The only true evidence for Mr. Anderson's theory comes from his refusal to acknowledge alternate interpretations for one line of semantics. He insists that the word “sun” can only be used to describe something that produces power using nuclear fusion, however this is not true. There are stars that operate without using nuclear fusion.

  8. Anderson's MCR Theory relies heavily on the bands damaging a planet. As he puts it, "Away from the primary strike, the planet was undamaged until the band actually passed. Observe the left side of the planet." This does not support his theory in any way. The rings could not be seen to be interacting with the planet's mass in any way. More importantly, this is still explainable with the rings being merely a byproduct of the planet's destruction. Most importantly, the amount of energy required to create a fireball encompassing the hemisphere of the planet that is already destroyed before the rings pass is vastly in excess of the amount of energy Anderson attributes the Death Star with providing.

[Editor's note: this article successfully points out a number of serious problems with Anderson's "theory" (a term I use loosely, since a theory must have a defined mechanism and be capable of specific predictions from that mechanism), but sadly, none of it will penetrate RSA's dogged insistence that the Death Star couldn't possibly have supplied all of that energy. He does not even have the right to insist that the classical theory needs to be defended at all, since Conservation of Energy dictates that any given energy input into a system must manifest itself in that system, so the "Classical Theory"'s only requirement is Conservation of Mass/Energy, the most fundamental law in all of science; his undefined theory, on the other hand, respects and observes no scientific laws except for his own homemade law that Star Wars must always lose, by hook or by crook]


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