The X-Wing Fallacy

In this page, Mr. Anderson attempts to explain away how a very low X-Wing firepower could have created the billowing smoke effects seen during ANH when Luke fired his X-Wing's cannons at the surface of the Death Star. His unnamed Warsie detractors ignored his objections that the surface of the Death Star contributed significantly to the massive cloud of gas that was created by the attack run. Anderson goes on to write that metal catches fire on the Death Star, as a result of Luke's attack on the Death Star, and explains that this is indicative of a much lower firepower for Luke's X-Wing.

[Editor's note: quite frankly, there is no need to even bother refuting this page at all, except to point out that if the X-wings needed volatiles on the surface of the Death Star to produce these effects, then he must be at a loss to explain how Slave-1 was able to produce effects requiring much more energy than 60 GJ in the AOTC Geonosis asteroid field chase. Also note: in his page, he claims that the figure on my X-wing page is 600 GJ, even though it's actually 60 GJ and quite conservative, as are all of my figures even if RSA won't admit that]

For the purposes of this paper, it will be assumed that Anderson is correct and that the hull of the Death Star (assumed to be iron), is indeed combusting following Luke's attack run. Unfortunately for Mr. Anderson, the combustion of metals does not ordinarily give off smoke1. Thus, the only possible aid that the canonical combustion of the Death Star's hull could have given the cloud of gas would be the heat it gives off.

[Editor's note: it should be noted, however, that I've seen an aluminum sheet-metal fire and it produces a lot of smoke. Nevertheless, iron does not burn unless it's made into very fine fibres or particles and placed in an oxygen-rich environment; there is no reason why this would be happening on the Death Star]

There are about 125 moles of iron in a cubic meter. The heat of vaporization for iron is a significant 824.2kJ/mol. The original calculations run demonstrate that the X-Wing would have needed to impart 60 GJ of energy into the Death Star in order to vaporize that much material. If we subtract this total and assume that all of that iron combusted perfectly, contributing to its own vaporization, we still get a required power for the X-Wing's cannons of about 60 GJ. The difference is hardly significant. It is a grand total of merely 1E8 joules (0.1 GJ).

We have another factor to consider, however. This is no longer mere iron that we are vaporizing. This is the ionic compound, iron oxide. Iron oxide, as an ionic compound, will have a greater melting and boiling point when compared to iron. It will also have a higher specific heat than iron alone. This will actually raise the amount of energy required to vaporize the substance as a whole. Thus, we see that 60 GJ is actually a minimum for the amount of energy that an X-Wing would need to impart to vaporize such a quantity of iron. The amount of damage potential of the X-Wing's cannons is self-evident, from this example. Mr. Anderson's objections are clearly not capable of supporting his argument. Thus, by using data from the canonical film and the canonical ANH novelization, we find that a figure of about 60 GJ is accurate as a lower limit from this incident.

"I guess the X-Wings are hiding the giant fusion reactor and enormous fuel stores necessary for such a thing."

They must be, or else they have a more powerful and advanced form of reactor. This is obviously canonical evidence of such power-generation capabilities. Anderson, of course, disregards it in favor of a semantics interpretation from a vague statement that may be interpreted in several other ways equally well. In any case, it really does not matter how the X-Wings are generating such energy, since this represents clear evidence that they are.

[Editor's note: I find it amusing how RSA completely disregards an X-wing's ability to escape a planet's gravity well several times on a single fuel load, since a 20-ton spacecraft would need more than a thousand GJ to do it just once, and he claims 60 GJ is beyond its power generation capabilities! As always, one can only shake one's head at RSA's scientific buffoonery]

Anderson goes on to attempt to debunk EU reports of high firepowers for SW ships:

"The Episode II Incredible Cross Sections book throws another absurdity onto the fighter firepower flames, claiming one kiloton fighter weapons. That, boys and girls, is approximately 1/15th of Hiroshima! Funny, I never saw Hiroshima level events in any of the space battles, and I certainly didn't see anything even remotely like Hiroshima on Hoth, Endor, or Geonosis."

The simplest response for these foolish assertions would be to simply say, "If the EU is considered a reasonable source of information, then too bad. It's an official figure." However, there is an example of a Hiroshima-sized explosion in the canonical films. It is the very one that this page of Anderson's site discusses, in fact. The X-Wing imparted several kilotons of energy into the Death Star's surface, Anderson's claims not-withstanding. Essentially, Anderson is saying "If I ignore the canonical evidence of kiloton-scale fighter weapons in the Star Wars movies, then I find there are no clear incidents of kiloton-scale weapons." This is obviously faulty reasoning. We do see kiloton-scale weapons in this incident. [Editor's note: not to mention Slave-1's firepower in the Geonosis asteroid belt; this is yet another example of his hypocritical behaviour; when Voyager fragmented an obviously C-type asteroid in "Rise", he labelled it a 100 megaton blast, and called it an absolute lower limit. If you scale down that same figure to the bright S-type or M-type asteroids around Geonosis, you get around 30 kilotons. Yet he claims that there is no evidence whatsoever for kiloton yields; either he must admit that his own calcs for "Rise" are grossly inflated, or he must admit that he's seen asteroids get blown up by 30 kT blasts as an absolute lower limit. Instead, he tries to have his cake and eat it too; the dark, brittle asteroid in "Rise" somehow took 100 megatons to break apart, while the bright, well-consolidated asteroids in AOTC somehow flew apart like tissue paper]

Anderson writes:

"this is the same ICS that claims 200 gigaton weapons for the prequel-era combat vessels such as the proto-ISD Acclamator, without realizing the inherent absurdity."

Of course, he does not bother to explain why this is absurd. Since he is clearly using EU information for this page in the form of the ICS, we must also accept that Base Delta Zero operations are possible for Star Wars ships, and that they melt the surface of a planet. This will be elaborated on during the discussion of Mr. Anderson's Base Delta Zero page.

"There is no point to fighters, unless they can be employed against the ships before ship-to-ship combat ensues . . . especially if there's such a wide gulf between fighter firepower and ship firepower."

According to Mr. Anderson, there is no need for weapons between a gigaton and a blaster. By this reasoning, the US military should not use M-16's because they cannot harm a battleship. There are, quite obviously, numerous roles that star fighters could be useful in even if they cannot directly harm capital ships until the shields on the said vessels are disabled. A list of just a few of them ensues:

  1. Pursuing freighters, such as the Millenium Falcon, when using a larger vessel is too great a committal of resources, or when it is dangerous for larger forces to follow the ship.

  2. Scouting for the larger ships, and providing targeting data for their weapons.

  3. Finishing off crippled capital ships.

  4. Attacking capital ships, once some of their shields have been disabled and the ship is attempting to protect unprotected areas.

  5. Providing close air-support for ground troops, when it is necessary for the troops to take and hold territory.

  6. Defending smaller capital ships and transports against other star fighters.

  7. Engaging enemy star fighters being employed in similar roles.

Anderson then goes on to conclude that:

"Further, if ships are vulnerable to fighter weapons, then it is unlikely that shipboard weapons are going to be dozens of orders of magnitude more powerful, as is claimed now."

"Naturally, with such foolish assumptions", Anderson comes up with foolish conclusions. By completely misunderstanding the purposes of star fighters, Anderson decides that the ICS presents ludicrous claims when in fact they are very well reasoned and very consistent. Anderson's logic is based on a faulty premise, but it is also circular in reasoning. Mr. Anderson states here that, because SW ships are vulnerable to SW fighters, SW ships must not be orders of magnitude more powerful than SW fighters. Of course, if the ships were vulnerable to SW fighters, he would be correct. In fact we find that they are not. The canonical RotJ novelization states clearly: "Concentrate your fire on their power generators. If we can knock out their shields, our fighters might stand a chance against them". This is confirmed by the events of the Battle of Naboo, during which starfighter weapons were incapable of penetrating capital ship shielding. Anderson, once again, ignores canonical evidence in making his subjective assessments.

Anderson then goes on to completely misrepresent the position of his "Rabid Warsies." Acclamator weapons as depicted by the ICS:II, he explains are "almost 14 billion times stronger than the high-end Warsie-made fighter firepower figures mentioned above." There's just one problem with this reasoning: the figures above are lower limits, as opposed to upper ones. Unless Anderson assumes that iron is the most thermo-resistant substance available to the Galactic Empire [Editor's note: and he also assumes that fighter guns are a serious threat to a capital warship even though the Naboo fighters didn't even try using guns rather than torpedoes], he should have been able to recognize this. Anderson deliberately attacks his critics' credibility by outright lying about their intent.


[Editor's note: many of RSA's arguments take the form of this sort of mockery; does he actually explain where Dr. Curtis Saxton has butchered science in his analyses? Of course not; he simply mocks the figure as "patently absurd" and gives some flimsy arguments based on the assumption that a wing of fighters can take down a SW capship unaided, even though we've never seen anything remotely like this in the movies]


1 Boudreaux, Kevin A., Combustion in Pure Oxygen: Part 2: Burning Iron. (December 14, 2002).