The Alderaan Argument

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The Alderaan Argument refers to the debate on how the Death Star destroyed Alderaan.


In Star Wars: A New Hope, the first Death Star's superlaser fires a short blast at Alderaan, causing the planet to explode violently. The velocity of the fragments from the planet indicates that a massive amount of energy is involved, far beyond the minimum needed to destroy the planet by simply overcoming the gravitational binding energy of the planet. Further, before the actual explosion, a wide area above the atmosphere begins radiating energy, suggesting the presence of a planetary shield.

The implications of the Galactic Empire having power generation, weapons, and defensive shielding technology on this scale is far-reaching. In an effort to avoid those implications, many versus debaters have come up with alternate explanations for these observations which have much lower energy requirements.

These explanations are always either ill-defined (and are therefore as useless as saying "a wizard did it," from an analytical point-of-view) or scientifically absurd (misapplying real-life science concepts), if not both.

Rebuttals and counters

While the simplest theory is simply that the Death Star generated the requisite power and fired it directly at Alderaan, some have tried to claim that the Death Star is in fact not as powerful as it seems. for various reasons. Clearly, from the point of view of a Trektard, the Empire's ability to produce so devastating a weapon in so small a timeframe is an absolutely damning prospect. These rebuttals are inevitably stupid and contrived, some of the more common ones are listed here.

Rebuttal 1: The Death Star did not directly destroy Alderaan, rather it catalyzed something in/on the planet to have it destroy itself (some chain reaction)

Counter: This argument in fact occurs in two common types: inducing a nuclear fission/fusion reaction in Alderaan, or the Mysterious Chain Reaction. A nuclear reaction is easily rebutted, as it's simply impossible - there do not exist sufficient quantities of Uranium in any planet to allow it to self-destruct, and a fusion reaction would actually take far more power to induce than simply blowing away the planet with a high-energy blast.
The primary source of the Mysterious Chain Reaction argument usually depends on a string of "unsolved mystery" fallacies, pretending a chain reaction can explain said mysteries somehow. However, when asked how it explains them, the source usually responds, "it's sci-fi, I don't need to explain how." In other words, the source insists the chain reaction can explain something without actually explaining it.

Rebuttal 2: Time-Compression was used when recording the explosion, resulting in a more violent-seeming explosion than actually occurred

Counter: This explanation violates Occam's Razor, by insisting that for this particular sequence (and no other) the recording frame-rate was much higher. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and there is none here. Besides, even if the recording was altered in such a way, destroying Alderaan at all would still require horrendous amounts of energy - about as much as the sun generates in a week.
Further, mere moments after the destruction of Alderaan, the Millennium Falcon dropped out of hyperspace near its location to see nothing but an unusually violent asteroid-shower. If the rebuttal were true, then it would have to come up with some explanation for the lack of stray fragments in the vicinity of what used to be Alderaan (and it can not).

Rebuttal 3: The planet of Alderaan was actually rather lightweight/less-dense than a normal planet; so using earth-like constants makes the energy seem too high.

Counter: Alderaan is seen in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith to have a gravity that is at least comparable to that of earth's. This is shown by the fact that (1) it is able to maintain a gravitational pull strong enough to retain its own atmosphere (2) Humans and infants are able to stand on the surface and walk normally without either floating away or getting crushed by immense gravitational forces. In order to have a gravitational field comparable to that of earth, it must be equivalently massive to earth, so this rebuttal is dismissed.

Rebuttal 4: The Death Star could not have possibly produced that much energy because it is impossible with modern technology. (frequently re-phrased as 'because a sun that sized wouldn't have enough energy' or 'because Han Solo said it would take 1000 ISD's worth of power, and that amount is less').

Counter: The argument shows a classic case of failure to follow suspension of disbelief. We see the Death Star firing a shot powerful enough to destroy a planet, therefore the Death Star is capable of using enough energy to fire a shot to destroy a planet. If the novelization says that it was achieved via an artificial sun, then either the 'artificial' nature of the sun is such that it allows for the generation of the power needed, or we ignore this fact since the film-event is higher canon. If Han Solo claims that 1000 ISD's couldn't do it, then clearly Han is wrong in his assessment since the Death Star actually *did* do it.