RSA Debate

Round 3, Part 1b (Death Star firepower)

(posted Wednesday, September 25, 2002)

I urge you to heed your own stipulation about brevity and cut it down.

<snip 5 paragraphs of nitpicks and justifications for excess verbosity>

I repeat the request that you cut down the unnecessary verbosity, legalese, nitpicks, and repetitions. If you refuse to do so, I will be forced to compose my next rebuttal in the form of an essay with only the occasional quoted sentence from you (much as you just did, but I'll keep it brief).

I. Observations

With the advent of the Special Edition, many changes were made in the Alderaan destruction event. The differences include the removal of the green "shield" effect (, completely altered explosion effects, and the addition of the rings.

I notice that you assume the original versions can be completely ignored. Justify this assumption. Keep in mind that in most forms of analysis, original data is always preferable over processed and revised data. Also explain such obviously doctored shots as Greedo shooting first. Your interpretations all tend toward rigid inflexibility; you INSIST upon a particular interpretation of a piece of a Lucas quote even if it contradicts another part of the same quote, and you INSIST upon interpretations of the canon films which contradict the original versions of those same films. A good scientist or historian tries to find an explanation which makes sense, does not introduce unnecessary complexity, and explains as much of the data as possible. Your approach, on the other hand, is to declare most of the evidence (the entire EU, the entire original trilogy) inadmissible prior to investigation.

<snip more excess verbiage>
First, resorting to invoking invisible beams is very questionable in its own right. Next, there is no canon evidence for a damaging invisible beam component that exists *after* the visible bolt or beam, and I can think of no instance when this could be inferred. There are a couple of canon occasions when damage occurs *before* the bolt strikes, but these instances are exceedingly rare in comparison to bolt=damage episodes.

There is evidence of an invisible beam component (see TESB), there is evidence that glowing pulses ride along an underlying carrier (see the DS superlaser as it builds power at the focal point), and there are official statements from Lucasfilm-sanctioned publications to back this up. Therefore, it is hardly unreasonable to conclude that the underlying beam can persist even without a visible component.

Further, your effort to employ the non-canon ICS fails not only due to its lack of canonicity, but also in regards to the argument it presents wherein turbolaser bolts are *preceded* by an invisible, lightspeed, laser-beam component, not followed by it. In the diffuse matter of the Alderaan blast, one would have also expected to see some evidence of beam-matter interaction, but none occurs. Also, Saxton, author of the ICS, would seem to disagree with this interpretation for the superlaser, given his comment on the matter: "When the eight tributary beams meet at the weapon's focal point they do not pass through each other as genuine light beams would. Instead they come to a halt and energy apparently builds at that point until a critical moment when the final outbound beam is spontaneously released. Whatever force is involved in the "superlaser", it cannot be mere electromagnetism because non-disruptive superposition of beams is ruled out by the focal point behavior."

Your shameless use of the "quote taken out of context" fallacy will avail you nothing. Dr. Saxton's interpretation of the Death Star superlaser is the same as mine; this is not a secret, and anyone who visits his webpages can easily verify that fact for themselves. He states (quite correctly) that they cannot possibly be ordinary lasers. However, unlike you, he does NOT make a leap in logic to conclude that the energy released by a turbolaser impact must therefore come from something OTHER than the turbolaser beam itself. As for the ICS being non-canon, you are correct: it is not canon. However, it is "quasi-canon", ie- officially sanctioned by Lucasfilm Licensing, which is far more than I can say for YOUR theory.

Also, any attempt to use the ICS theory can only detract from your shield interaction argument, owing to the fact that there is nothing visibly occurring at or near the planet prior to the green beam's impact. The superlaser beam takes 38 frames to reach Alderaan, at 24fps and from a stated distance of 6 planetary diameters (or about 77,000km). Even rounding the time down and the distance up, that's still 1.5 seconds to traverse 100,000 kilometers, which would still only be 67,000 km/s, or just under one-quarter lightspeed. Any energy traveling at lightspeed would have been affecting the planet well before we see the superlaser hit the planet.

Pure sophistry. You are using the ENTIRE time between initial firing and target impact, even though the beam obviously stops, circulates, and builds at the focal point of the dish for most of that time. In reality, the beam builds up at the focal point for a while but once this process is over, it takes only ¼-second to cover the 72,000km distance to the planet, which means that it travels at roughly c.

And last but not least, employing the non-canon would also include such things as the Sun Crusher or Galaxy Gun, other devices which employed fancy non-DET maneuvers to blow things up.

And both of those were infinitesimally small compared to the Death Star, thus proving my point for me: if the Death Star used the same tricks, it wouldn't need to be so large. Thank you for digging your own grave.

(Then, of course, there's the Galileo argument. When Galileo noticed that the moon had mountains, church-men were shocked and appalled . . . according to their beliefs, the moon was a perfect sphere. So, they argued that there was an invisible crystal over the moon, thereby making it spherical. Galileo, in his wit, replied that the invisible crystals were arranged into even taller mountains . . . I suppose I could argue that the superlaser released billions of invisible flying gnomes that dismantled Alderaan piece by piece, but I really don't see the point of such claims.)

More sophistry. The only one inventing extra mechanisms here is you. Conventional energy transfer does not need to be justified; it is the default behaviour of energy, as dictated by the laws of thermodynamics. The only way to show that something more complex is happening is to show that the left side of the equation does not equal the right side, and you have failed to do this. Instead, you give us endless iterations of your "unsolved mystery fallacy".

<snip repetition of your earlier screenshot>
The band outer boundary is also visible in your Frame 4 and moves further in Frame 5, and one can see that it is obviously unrelated to any pre-existing surface or atmospheric object (frames 0 and 2 included for reference):

The so-called 'bands'

You have chosen to deny the existence of the white band encircling the globe outright: "The bands are a figment of your imagination. Nothing more." This is incorrect, as the canon visuals demonstrate in two separate ways.

Your imaginative artwork proves nothing. No one sees these "bands" but you. You arbitrarily decide that the white-hot glowing region around the dark spot is a "band" by virtue of being next to a dark spot, even though it exhibits none of the geometric regularity of a circle and is obviously random. Moreover, your theory is undefined, and as such, would not predict these "bands" either, even if they were to exist.

You have also claimed that they are not grounds to conclude that some Superlaser Effect occurs. You are partially correct . . . alone, they are not. However, they are not the sole piece of evidence.
<snip repetitions of earlier claims about planet's surface being intact after explosion begins>

Already dealt with in my previous post. There is already luminescent material hundreds of kilometres away from the planet well before any of this happens. You are pointing to vague bluish regions and arguing that they MUST represent solid, intact planetary surface still in its original location despite obvious evidence to the contrary.

Moreover, there is the physics of the situation; we can see enormous volumes of material hurtling away from the planet. It does not take a PhD physicist to see that if huge clouds of superheated and vapourized material are flying away from a surface, there MUST be some kind of damage to that surface! What is your explanation? That all of the material is headed TOWARD the camera, the appearance of debris flying outward in all directions is an illusion, and the planet is mostly untouched? If that were the case, we STILL wouldn't see an unaffected planet, since we would effectively have rocket propulsion on a grand scale, and the planet would be knocked backward. Face it; the planet is sending clouds of material skyward at significant percentages of the speed of light. It is impossible for it to do so while retaining an intact surface; what you perceive as a persistent outline is just that: the appearance of a persistent outline and nothing more.

You have chosen to deny the existence of the clearly visible intact polar material ... incorrect. There is obviously something there, maintaining its location and orientation after the band passes.

OK, let's say we humour your bizarre assertion that the poles of the planet do not move at all even though the rest of the planet is hurling trillions upon trillions of tons of matter into space, based on what appears to be a persistent outline. How does this prove your theory? By your OWN ADMISSION, this questionable interpretation was a COMPLETE SURPRISE to you, which means that your theory did NOT successfully predict it. Ergo, it does not represent support for your theory! There are 4 possible interpretations:

  1. It is an optical illusion.

  2. It is an overeager interpretation of a vague outline.

  3. The planet is exploding in a grossly asymmetrical fashion, hence part of it stays in place for a long time. This may have something to do with the rates and directions in which energy is transferred throughout the planet's mass, or perhaps some fantastic side-effect of the shield, which would imply that part of the shield stayed up for a while, perhaps from shield generators on the far side of the planet which survive longer.

  4. It is proof that the SE's are aphysical and that they are obviously doctored versions of the originals (a conclusion already agreed upon by most observers in the case of Greedo's infamous first shot in the Mos Eisley cantina).

Regardless of the interpretation, this is not proof of your theory. It is simply another example of the "unsolved mystery fallacy", laid bare by your public admission that you failed to predict it.

<snip massive repetition>
However, you argue that it is vaporized material *only* for the second modified screenshot, and *not* the first. For the first, you argue that it is a shield effect, "PRECISELY as we would expect for the far side of a shield which has just been struck by a superlaser versus a shield which has already collapsed."

More sophistry. If the shield collapses, the energy must go somewhere, and a lot of it will head downwards and vapourize the surface. There is no contradiction between an energetic shield and a vapourized cloud of material flying up from the surface shortly afterwards.

This is a gross inconsistency: you ascribe two separate causes to what is a visually identical phenomenon, claiming that one is vaporized material (even though this makes no sense without a fireball) and claiming the other is a shield effect (even though there is no evidence for a shield, but I'll be coming back to that shortly).

Visually, it IS an identical phenomenon: a shield which radiates energy or a piece of superheated matter which radiates energy will have the same appearance. This has been demonstrated many times in the movies by visibly glowing shield/bolt interactions, including one in which the entire front face of a Star Destroyer's lower superstructure glowed white-hot. For that brief moment, it was impossible to tell if the metal was white-hot or a shield was radiating the energy away. The fact that the two phenomena look similar does not mean that they MUST be the same phenomenon.

<snip more repetition of earlier claims>
... you claim that the above shot shows that the center of the dark spot is at least 3500 kilometers away from the impact point. First, and most importantly, it should be noted that the dark spot is not the basis of band location, contrary to your assertion.

Of course not. The dark spot is not centred on the superlaser, nor is it centred on the band. These phenomena are obviously random, rather than being the geometrically predictable phenomenon you imagine them to be. Thanks for conceding the point.

Second, the radius of Earth is 7000 kilometers, but I see no valid centerpoint which could be half that radius distant from the point of impact, as illustrated below:

Anyone can draw a line between the centre of the dark spot to the corner of the white flash where the superlaser hits, and come up with the same figure. Your denials change nothing.

Finally, your assertion fails to take into consideration the fact that the planet is three-dimensional. We would expect to see any ejecta which heads from the surface directly toward the observation point as somewhat less luminescent, given that there wouldn't be so much luminescent material behind it and adding to the luminescence. This can also be seen in the large dark debris area's explosion, where you'll note the rightmost side of it is darker than the left side.

Actually, debris of any given temperature heading toward us will be MORE luminescent, since it is closer and the inverse-square law dictates that it will appear brighter for that reason. Please try not to butcher elementary physics in future.

<snip more repetition>
[Re: secondary blast] The only argument I've seen you make which could possibly have anything to do with the secondary blast is your reference to inertial confinement fusion (which, granted, was made in reference to the polar region, and not the planetary core). However, inertial confinement fusion is based on even, uniform target heating, whether it is done by almost 200 lasers focused on the target surface, or by even heating of a container which heats the target via radiation. I do not see how a lone superlaser beam could be expected to produce this effect for the core or polar region.

Strawman. ICF is a hopeless theory for the IRON core of a planet, and I never made that argument. ICF does, however, provide an example of where a densified core can remain in place in a spherical explosion, because the inertial pressure from the expanding outer layers holds it in place. I was merely pointing out that outer-layer expansion pressure could keep a densified core in place for some time, hence the persistent spherical shape inside the expanding cloud of debris (certainly a better explanation than your bizarre claim that the surface is intact despite trillions of tons of vapourized and superheated matter emanating from it).

<snip more repetition>
You have been shown the fact that DET cannot explain the rings, and does not explain the Death Star rings, either. You dismiss that argument with the following:

"Alternative syllogism fallacy (A or B; if not A, then B). The fact that the conventional explanation cannot explain the non-physical behaviour of the fire rings does not lend weight to your undefined MCR."

However, that is incorrect . . . you have mistaken my argument for one that falls victim to that fallacy. You see, DET not only fails to explain the rings of Alderaan and the Death Stars, but it also stands opposed to those rings by virtue of the predictions one would expect from DET. It is a failed prediction.

Please re-read the definition of the alternative syllogism fallacy (A or B; if not A, then B). You deny committing the fallacy, and then you REPEAT it! You say that normal physics does not predict this particular aspect of the explosion (no kidding; the rings slow down of their own volition in the vacuum of space!), ie- "not A". You then conclude that your MCR wins by default, ie- "if not A, then B". That IS the fallacy which I described, and your denials will not change that fact. All you have accomplished is to show that you are an unapologetic user of fallacies, and will not retreat from one even when it is pointed out to you.

Meanwhile, my theory is based on the observations. As it stood from the beginning would suggest that all of the fire rings should have as their centerpoint the approximate center of mass of the object being destroyed.

You think that expansion from the centre of mass somehow proves a chain reaction? If you heat up a volume of material to extreme temperatures, what do you think it will do? It will naturally expand in a pattern located around its centre of mass! I honestly cannot believe you are attempting to claim that a mundane occurrence such as expansion from centre of mass somehow nullifies conventional physics and forces us to introduce new and mysterious mechanisms, not to mention vast untapped reserves of potential energy within ordinary planetary matter.

It is, therefore, not a matter of a fallacy of any sort. It is a matter of false predictions of one theory, as opposed to true predictions of another.

Your failure to define your theory means that any "predictions" generated from it are false. You simply declare that it "predicts" everything we observe, without explaining how.

5. The Novel Evidence

A. "Space filled temporarily with trillions of microscopic metal fragments, propelled past the retreating ships by the liberated energy of a small artificial sun"(ANH Novel).

This describes the power source of the Death Star as having the energy of a small sun, and/or being a small artificial sun. In either case, we have a Death Star powerplant that cannot be described as being more than around 1e26W, the power output of our mid-sized natural sun. Further, suns operate off of nuclear fusion, and the quote above suggests the same of the Death Star.

Wrong. Suns do NOT necessarily "operate off of nuclear fusion". Pop quiz: does nuclear fusion occur in a neutron star? Does nuclear fusion occur in a white dwarf? No. Stars are defined by their luminosity, not by nuclear fusion. Please do not waste any more time with this scientifically ignorant line of semantics-based argument.

<snip various semantics-based "sun" arguments>

B. "Luke had seen the shattered remnants of Alderaan and knew that for those in the incredible battle station that the entire moon would present simply another abstract problem in mass-energy conversion"(ANH novel, p. 178).

The way in which the superlaser does its job is defined above. Some have argued that this somehow refers to the reactor of the Death Star, but that claim does not fit the context of the quote. Luke is pondering the incredibly tough temple and the remains of Alderaan, along with the (possible) destruction of the moon.

Ah, I see. And even though Luke is a farmboy with no training in physics and certainly no knowledge of planet-destroying battle station design, you are confident that a detailed semantic analysis of his ruminations will reveal the inner workings of superlaser physics. Frankly, I don't even see the need to explain what is wrong with your logic here; I trust that it will be self-evident to all rational observers.

II. The Definition of the Superlaser Effect

"The true nature of the "superlaser" remains an undescribed piece of superphysics . . . Questions of "how" the superlaser functions may be unanswerable, but we can determine useful limits on the capabilities of the technology." - Saxton

The Death Star employs the Superlaser Effect.

This effect is based on some form of mass-energy conversion against relatively dense (i.e. solid) matter to create the required energy effect, with direct energy transfer effects being non-existent or extremely limited. This effect is not instantaneous, which would suggest a chain-reaction or propagation time for the effect.

Scientific ignorance: in reality, heat/mass transfers over any distance are NEVER instantaneous. There is a distinct propagation delay, particularly over LARGE distances such as the radius of a planet, over which even the movement of light carries discernible delays. The expansion of Alderaan occurs at rates which work out to a significant fraction of c. This is many orders of magnitude faster than the conduction of energy from the Sun's core through its outer layers up to its surface (another "DET" process, although it would be disqualified as such if we were to adopt your "reasoning").

The mass-energy conversion is almost certainly not achieved by way of combustion, fission, fusion, or antimatter means, since none of these can provide the required energy output in a reasonable fashion, and/or reasonable timeframe, and/or in a manner consistent with the Death Star's stated and observed capabilities.

This is not a definition. You have only defined what your MCR is NOT. What are the preferred reactants, since all chain reactions are material-dependent? How do you know that the activation energy for this "reaction" is lower than the energy requirement for simply heating up the material? You are not defining a theory; you are merely defining a wish-list of characteristics you would like the theory to have (ie- "not a known reaction", "not energy-intensive", etc).

The estimates of how energetic the Alderaan blast appears to have been seem to hover around 1e38J. Assuming 100% efficiency of a mass-energy conversion effect, this would require only 1/5000th of the material of Alderaan. Alternately, 100% of the material of Alderaan could undergo conversion, at 0.02% efficiency. Given the debris which remains (and which the Falcon later bumps into), a higher-efficiency mass-energy conversion is more likely.

Now you move on to describe the energy released by your still-undefined magic theory in which matter is annihilated completely to energy without requiring antimatter or any energy-intensive process. You appear to know nothing about this magic chain reaction of yours except for the fact that it can't possibly require a lot of energy.

The precise nuts-and-bolts of the how the Superlaser Effect is achieved are not stated in the canon, just as hyperdrive and other advanced or exotic technologies are left unexplained. However, we know it to be a mass-energy conversion, and we know the limitations of the Death Star reactor, so we have certain logical and physical constraints which must be maintained. The Superlaser Effect creates a planar shockwave after a certain amount of matter conversion takes place, though the precise appearance and orientation are variable.

You simply define your MCR to "create a planar shockwave" with no other explanation whatsoever? How convenient! And HOW does it do this, pray tell? Why shouldn't I simply copy your method and define a new "planar-ring DET" theory, in which I state that the Death Star uses a special form of energy transfer which "creates a planar shockwave?" And did you notice that the rings are NOT lined up with your imaginary "bands", or that they leap away from the surface simultaneously around the entire circumference, long before your imaginary "bands" reach the far side?

The lack of band dissipation supports the concept of mass-energy conversion, provided the remnant polar material observed is subsurface (i.e. mantle or upper mantle). The notion of chain-reaction or propagation related to the band is supported by the timing . . . the secondary blast begins concurrent to when the band would meet itself. The secondary blast occurring after the superlaser has terminated also supports the idea, since no additional energy input was occurring from the superlaser.

False-cause fallacy. Let's say we humour your bizarre claims about clearly visible and geometrically regular "bands" around the planet even though no one else can see them; what makes you think this bright glow is the CAUSE of heating rather than a SYMPTOM of heating?

The planar aspect to superlaser and superlaser-related explosion events is a constant. In the case of Alderaan, we have two rings. DS1 gives us a ring-and-a-half, while the DS2 gives us only one ring.

Wrong. The Rebel ships destroyed by superlasers in ROTJ create no planar ring. The original trilogy showed no planar ring. The micro-superlasers in AOTC showed no planar ring. Moreover, you have still failed to explain why a planar ring supports your theory, and why I shouldn't just copy your fallacious methods and invent a similarly meaningless "planar-ring DET theory" in which I simply define the problem away.

The theory as originally created successfully linked the planar effects to a single cause, as opposed to the random ad hoc hypotheses which existed previously. Further, even though the expectation that a theory have predictive powers is a questionable one given the untestability of any theories regarding sci-fi technology, the theory did successfully predict the mass-centered nature of the DS2 ring prior to this theorist's noticing of that effect.

You have yet to explain the cause of the planar rings other than to mumble that your MCR creates them somehow. Moreover, your bizarre claim that a theory need not have predictive powers is scientifically ignorant in the extreme; there is no such thing as a valid theory without predictive powers. Even an untestable theory should still have predictive powers, even if we can't test those predictions (and I must point out that a theory can be testable even without experiments; observations made after formulation of the theory represent tests). Your theory has no predictive powers whatsoever, and your laughable attempt to claim that mass-centred explosions are somehow unique to your theory will fool no one.

Finally, though the original state of the theory left open the question of how much DET was involved in the superlaser beam, I eventually came down on the side that there was none or virtually none. My discovery of the lack of atmospheric effect served as confirmation of that hypothesis.

I presume you refer to your "discovery" of what everyone else clearly identifies as a shield, which protected the surface and prevented these atmospheric effects?

By the way, please model the rates of energy release for your chain reaction, which supposedly propagates across the surface of the planet causing very lttle damage and then abruptly causes the whole planet to explode like a bomb. A simple calculation on the volume ratio between the core/mantle of the planet and its crust will reveal that any reaction which propagates that slowly across thin surface layers would take a LOT longer to consume the core than we observe.

III. Counterarguments
0. DS2 ship shot against the Wingless
You claim that the planar puff is a thin surface layer superheated and blown off. This claim makes no sense, and is contrary to the evidence. Please explain.

We see luminescent matter flying away from a ship which is obviously still intact. If it is not a thin layer of surface material, then please explain what ELSE it could be, unless it's some kind of shield/superlaser interaction (an alternate explanation which is even more harmful for your preferred theory).

1. Chain Reaction

You have previously claimed that all chain-reactions are dependent on certain materials . . . fire burning better than steel, hydrogen fusing better than iron, and so on.

However, you have pointed out only those chain reactions which are based on particular sorts of particles, and have failed to acknowledge the existence of reactions which are not dependent on a certain element or compound.

One such chain reaction I'm familiar with was the one that caused the big stir when the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider was due to come online at Brookhaven. It is called the "Ice-9 Type Transition". Some physicists were nervous that the RHIC would end up doing more than creating quark-gluon plasma. They were concerned that it would end up creating a negatively-charged strangelet (a particle with three quarks like usual, but two of them strange), which would 'eat' all the nuclei of Earth, turning them into other strangelets. The problem would be that all these similar-charged strangelets would have repelled one another, leading to the destruction of the planet.

As you might guess, this hasn't happened. As luck would have it, the worst that might have happened given the energy levels employed at RHIC would be a positively-charged strangelet being created, lasting long enough to snatch electrons from some innocent nearby atom. But, in any case, there is precedent for the idea of a funky, non-material-dependent chain reaction even in our comparatively-backwards physics.

Thank you for using your diligent web research skills to provide another example to prove MY point: their theories were proven to be bunk, just as MOST scientists predicted beforehand. The failed attention-getting activities of a couple of fringe scientists hardly represent proof of material-independent chain reactions! Face it; according to every piece of evidence at our disposal, there is no such thing as a material-independent chain reaction. Your use of a FAILED example hardly disproves my point.

2. Opening Crawl
<snip repetition>
As to the word not lending itself to the assumption you place on it, I have extracted the relevant definitions from . You are at liberty to add to the list if you feel other definitions apply.

1. The ability or capacity to perform or act effectively. (The Webster's Revised Unabridged on the page goes into further detail on this point)
9.a. The energy or motive force by which a physical system or machine is operated: turbines turned by steam power; a sailing ship driven by wind power.
b. The capacity of a system or machine to operate: a vehicle that runs under its own power.
c. Electrical or mechanical energy, especially as used to assist or replace human energy.
d. Electricity supplied to a home, building, or community: a storm that cut off power to the whole region.
10. Physics. The rate at which work is done, expressed as the amount of work per unit time and commonly measured in units such as the watt and horsepower."

Now, you'll note that the use of the word which you assume to be the only accurate one given the context is the tenth approach, which for our purposes would be the same as "firepower".

However, there is no reason to make this assumption. I find it questionable that the opening crawl of Star Wars was making a foray into physics and weapons yield data, as opposed to simply describing the awesome capabilities of the Death Star.

And those capabilities happen to be a vast amount of raw power. Deal with it.

<snip repetition>

So you admit that the conventional explanation works, which means that it's a perfectly viable theory. Concession accepted.

What you have failed to notice (besides my comment immediately after what you quoted regarding how your pro-shield argument ignores canon facts) is that I was not acknowledging the validity of the shield idea . . . I was acknowledging that you require it to be valid, and badly.

Actually, you said that a shield "is the only explanation that can possibly explain the situation" and then attempted to disprove the existence of a shield with your fallacious reasoning about Rebel starship shields and planetary shields necessarily being identical in every conceivable respect. I explained that your disproof was utterly fallacious (with the TV example in support) in my last post , and you quietly dropped that part of your argument, but you STILL cite its conclusion that the shield "ignores canon facts"!

Sorry, but it will be obvious to any observer that you are backtracking. You said that the shield "is the only explanation that can possibly explain the situation", but you were confident that you could prove there was no shield. When it was pointed out that you did NOT successfully prove that there was no shield, you suddenly changed your position and claimed that you never acknowledged the validity of the shield in the first place, even though everyone can see quite clearly that you did.

As for your rhetorical grandstanding about how the DET/shield theory needs the shield, congratulations for proving that which is already self-evident: a theory needs all of its components in order to work.

100% of your arguments against the conventional theory are strawman distortions, because the conventional explanation includes a shield, and you insist on REMOVING the shield from that theory before attacking it.

Incorrect . . . there is no straw man in play, because there is no evidence for a shield.

Wrong. You are distorting the theory by removing a piece. THAT IS A STRAWMAN FALLACY. Your refusal to admit your fallacies does not strengthen your argument in any way. You claim that you can do so because there is no evidence, but for the SECOND time, I must point out that if the full theory (including the shield) can explain our observations, then THAT FACT is the evidence you require. Consistency with observations is evidence! What part of this don't you understand?

This is a quite a fantastic little bit of sophistry you've concocted; a theory is tested by comparing it to to the observations and THEN seeing whether it is consistent with them. You take the conventional explanation, claim BEFORE TESTING that part of it fails the test, remove that part, and THEN you test it. And when the butchered strawman version of the theory doesn't work, you shake your fist in triumph. This is the most shamelessly pseudoscientific deception I have seen in a long time.

3B. Outside Evidence for Planetary Shields
You claim that there is outside evidence for the existence of planetary shields in Star Wars:

"The defense systems on Alderaan, despite the Senator's protestations to the contrary, were as strong as any in the Empire. I should think that our demonstration was as impressive as it was thorough."

Tarkin bragged that the destruction of Alderaan would be impressive because Alderaan's defense systems were as strong as ANY IN THE EMPIRE

Unfortunately, we are not told what this refers to. Orbital defenses, anti-ship surface weaponry, fighter craft, jamming equipment, and/or a naked guy with a sharp stick could all be defined as a planetary defense system, and would logically have been the expected sort of defense in a pre-superlaser universe.

Sure, and Tarkin thought that THOSE types of puny defenses would make his massive planet-destroying battle station significantly more impressive? Your desperate efforts to dismiss various inconvenient facts are not helping you.

Naboo seemed to have little more than luck and fighters as its defense system. They were, as Panaka pointed out, a non-violent people. Similarly, Leia described Alderaan as being a planet of peaceful people . . . I see no reason to assume that Alderaan would suddenly have planetary shields when no other Republic or Imperial planet has been seen to have them.
... the technology itself is not known to exist
... a threatre shield does not make for a planetary shield.

Hoth. Theatre shields are known to exist, and with broad coverage. A network of such shields would constitute a planetary shield. Stop wasting time by forcing me to explicitly point out the obvious. Moreover, the ROTJ shield covered, if not the entire planet, then certainly one hemisphere of it, as described in the ROTJ novelization.

<snip more repetition, superfluous detail>
As the superlaser hits, the cloud bank above the impact site is unaffected. This suggests that there is no DET-style interaction with the atmosphere. You claim that the planet is protected by a shield which repels the superlaser until around Frame 4. As evidence for your claim, you point to a "halo" of atmospheric brightening effects which appear on the right side of the planet, past the terminator.

For the umpteenth time, if the shield explanation works, then it wins because shields are already known to exist. Your MCR is not. Do not shift the burden of proof to me; we already know that shields exist, and that they can explain the visible phenomena. That is more than enough to postulate their existence here, and it is certainly more than you can say about your MCR. You act as though I must produce some kind of irrefutable proof of a shield being installed before you will even consider the possibility as part of a THEORY, thus justifying your refusal to even subject the idea to TESTING. That is putting the cart before the horse, Robert.

<snip more repetition and superfluous detail>
[Re: patchy luminescence as evidence of shield rather than atmospheric light transmission] Illogical: a light source producing a diffused brightness in the atmosphere need not automatically obscure everything below it. A clear sky, though appearing blue and virtually opaque to us, does not appear that way from orbit.

We are not talking about a "diffused brightness". We are talking about atmosphere heated to white-hot luminescence, such as that which you would see in a nuclear fireball! Your pretty picture of a sunset diffusing light a few degrees over the horizon hardly proves that atmospheric diffusion can cause white-hot luminescence to cover an entire hemisphere from a concentrated point! To do this, it would have to bend more than 90 degrees around the planet's curvature! If the planet's atmosphere could do this, there would never be any night-time! How many of these scientifically absurd claims do you intend to make?

It generates a fireball in all directions moving outward from the point of energy release, with no patches or open holes whatsoever.

Then why the claim of fireball-free vaporization in regards to Frame 5?

Who said anything about the atmosphere being "fireball-free"? It is glowing white in a contiguous region, is it not?

<snip repetitions and superfluous detail>
Note the gray clouds, and the diffuse surface details. This suggests one of several things . . . either the cap is too dim, or the planet receives very little sunlight, or the atmosphere is much thicker or denser than that of Earth.

And how does this make it possible for atmospheric light diffusion to selectively brighten areas with clouds or bend more than 90 degrees around the curvature of the planet to cover more than one hemisphere from a single point of contact?

Straw man: your argument is based on *direct* light transmission, whereas I have never claimed direct light transmission from the point of impact as the source of the atmospheric brightening.

Of course not, since you defined NOTHING. So what mechanism does it use, pray tell? Please explain how a 23.5 gigaton energy release will cause an entire hemisphere to glow white-hot, or how its energy will propagate in a selective fashion which favours clouds.

Further, it is interesting to note here the fact that Alderaan, despite appearing quite dim overall, is surprisingly well-lit past the terminator.

What a vivid imagination Robert has

Note the visible atmosphere past the terminator in the brightness and contrast-enhanced shot to the right. The same result occurs no matter which frame you look at prior to the superlaser hit. This suggests a natural atmospheric diffraction of light far greater than what one would expect from a planet such as Earth, as one can observe much more closely in the following shot:

A totally irrelevant shot of Earth

Wow, a blurry long-distance shot of Alderaan seems to show slightly more atmospheric refraction than a very clear short-range shot of Earth. Of course, you ignore the possibility that this is due to simple video resolution limits and colour saturation, so you conclude that its atmosphere is radically different from that of Earth despite humans living there. Uh huh. And even if Alderaan's atmosphere refracts light a few more degrees over the horizon than Earth does, how does this translate to the magic ability to bend light more than 90 degrees around the curvature of the planet while mysteriously and selectively favouring clouds? How?

Scientific ignorance: by assuming that the superlaser must start from zero at the moment it breaches the shield, you neglect conservation of energy.

Completely untrue. I do not assume it must start at zero, but by your own argument regarding the shield re-radiating the energy around the planet, there is no need to assume that all of the sudden a shield failure would make that energy zip down and burn off the surface layers of the planet, either. However, that is what your theory requires.
Irrelevant . . . a planet is not a closed system. You should know this from arguing with creationists, since the reverse is one of their claims. If it was re-radiating energy into space by use of a shield, there is no reason this energy should suddenly turn inward when the shield fails.

Don't be ridiculous. No one said the energy had to go 100% down. If it is released in an omnidirectional fashion upon shield failure, nearly half of it will be headed toward the surface. That half would vapourize the surface. Please stop demanding that I waste time explaining every simplistic and/or painfully obvious little detail for every point I make. I am not speaking to a child; with reasonable diligence at learning the basics (rather than rushing straight to quantum-physics websites), you should be able to grasp these concepts for yourself without my painstaking tutelage.

<snip more repetitions, superfluous detail>

100% of your attempts to generate evidence for your undefined MCR are examples of the alternative syllogism fallacy (if not A, then B).

Absolutely incorrect. What we are dealing with is not-A AND B. The two arguments are not dependent on one another, though the comparisons are quite telling.

You have still failed to define a theory, other than say that it's some vague reaction which uses little energy but produces great energy from inert matter. Amazingly enough, you don't even notice the GLARING CONTRADICTION between this claim and your corrollary claim that the Death Star is limited to nuclear fusion: if they have some technology for converting any arbitrary inert material into pure energy, why would they be using nuclear fusion for their reactors?

Your theory is its own death: you argue that the Empire has some fantastic technology for arbitrarily converting any kind of matter into energy even at great distances, then you turn around and deny that it has anything beyond nuclear fusion for a power source, in order to shore up your claim that the Death Star couldn't possibly have enough power output!

6. Parsimony (
The version of the principle of parsimony I like best is Einstein's: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
But, for our purposes, one of the four given on that page is best, such as: "The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations."

DET is a very simple theory . . . but it is too simple. In order to try to explain away unhelpful facts, additional notions must be piled on top:
A. In order to explain away the lack of cloud burn-off, there must be a shield.
B. In order to explain away the band, it must be denied.
C. In order to explain away the rings, they must be chalked up to ________ (where "blank" is still undetermined).
D. In order to explain away the secondary explosion, it must be chalked up to an invisible beam.
. . . and so on.

I would revise that list to:
A. The well-known phenomenon of planetary shields successfully explains the lack of cloud burn-off. Your theory does not.
B. The luminescence patterns on the planet are obviously random. You must pretend that they are geometrically regular in order to generate a semblance of evidence for your undefined mystery theory.
C. In order to explain away the rings, they must be chalked up to _______ for BOTH of our theories. Alternatively, we might consider the fact that they do not appear in the original version, or the fact that they are clearly non-physical for a variety of reasons.
D. The established phenomenon of invisible-beam components can successfully explain the secondary explosion. Your mystery chain reaction, on the other hand, cannot. The reaction rates must abruptly swing massively upwards by many orders of magnitude in order to explain the secondary explosion, for no reason other than a back-fit to the evidence, which is to say no reason at all.

Occam's Razor: "Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily."

Indeed. Just above, we have three separate extra entities piled on top of DET. Meanwhile, my theory requires but one, with nothing piled on top.

No, we add only ONE entity: the planetary shield. You add ONE entity as well (your MCR), but since planetary shields are known to exist and your MCR isn't, planetary shields win. Moreover, since planetary shields are defined while your MCR isn't, planetary shields win TWICE.

Further, the DET theory fails to address the similar rings around the Death Star I, Death Star II, and so on, and so forth. More ad hoc theories would no doubt have to be employed in order to explain those events.

Your MCR does not explain those rings either. You can't simply say that it uses a reaction which "creates a planar shockwave" and leave it at that. This would be like explaining fire by saying that it's a reaction which "creates flame". No shit, Sherlock, but that's not a theory. The fact that the rings leave all sides of the planet simultaneously even though your imaginary "bands" have yet to reach the far side, or the fact that the rings aren't lined up with your imaginary "bands" both indicate the level of wishful thinking evident in your undefined "theory".

"The principle of parsimony is intrinsically hostile to any theory which introduces extra or undefined mechanisms."

Perhaps, but it is even more hostile toward theories which do not explain the evidence. Remember, something must be explained by a theory before parsimony will even bother with it, and DET not only fails to explain Alderaan without lots of extra ad hoc entities, but also fails to explain the exact same phenomena with reference to the Death Stars.

And since no undefined theory can explain ANYTHING, your theory is STILL inferior. A theory which explains most of the evidence and leaves us scratching our heads at the remaining bits is imperfect, but it's far better than a theory which explains nothing and leaves us scratching our heads at the whole thing.

<snip more repetitions>
Again, as with the Canon argument, I am at a loss to understand why there's an argument going on. There can be only one . . . let's go with the one that sticks to the canon facts.

Your grandstanding notwithstanding, you have utterly failed to meet several challenges:

  1. Define your theory. Provide some numerical figures on reaction rates, propagation rates, explanations of the multiple order-of-magnitude spike in those rates for no conceivable reason midway through the reaction, types of reactants, etc. Do NOT simply define a wishlist of what you would like your theory to predict if it was ever defined, eg- "uses almost no energy".

  2. Provide satisfactory reasoning for dismissing even the POSSIBILITY of a shield, so that it is not even evaluated as a THEORY. As long as it is POSSIBLE, it is valid for inclusion in a theory, and all of your attempts at sophistry aside, that fact remains. Your stubborn insistence on removing it from consideration is indicative of your level of discomfort with the idea; you realize that when the DET/shield theory is employed with all of its pieces in place, it defeats your theory.

  3. Successfully predict any "unsolved mystery" which is not predicted by the conventional theory (and no, simply SAYING that the effect "creates planar shockwaves" is hardly a valid prediction; I might as well invent a "fire-ring DET theory" to combat your illogic).

  4. Make your theory self-consistent: your claim that the Death Star runs on nuclear fusion is patently absurd in light of your claim that the Empire can magically convert any arbitrary piece of inert matter into pure energy at will.

I agree with ONE of your statements; there is only one possible conclusion here, and that is the only one which is A) self-consistent, B) inclusive of the most evidnce possible, including both versions of the trilogy and the EU, C) physically meaningful, and D) fully defined. For the umpteenth time, an undefined theory can NEVER defeat a well-defined theory, even if the latter theory is imperfect. Our disagreement is not over Star Wars evidence, but over basic scientific philosophy, or to be more specific, your failure to employ it.

Debate Summary in 3 sentences

1. You claim that conventional physics and a mysterious undefined mechanism should be considered equal theories, with the latter winning by default if you can produce evidence of any unexplained phenomena.
2. I point out that this is an example of the "alternative syllogism" fallacy, or possibly the "false dilemma" fallacy depending on how you define your theory.
3. You deny, deny, deny any fallacy, and then you produce various examples of unsolved mysteries, some of which are more fanciful then others, and all of which you tout as proof of your undefined theory.

What part of this don't you understand, Robert?

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