Thursday, January 7, 2016

The physics (or lack there of) of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Starkiller Base and the Solo Maneuver)

So I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the physics of Star Wars Force Awakens and their greater ramifications on the greater Star Wars Universe.
A few Disclaimers
1- Spoilers for the movie ahead, so if you haven't seen it, stop reading and come back after you do (go ahead and join us/follow us on facebook or twitter!)
2- The movie is AMAZING. Anytime here that I say that "Star Wars is ruined" I don't mean it literally.
3- I am not guaranteeing full accuracy of this. I do this just because I am really nerdy and think about these things...
4- And before you go "This guy doesn't know anything," or "I know physics better", I'll just say I have  BS in Engineering and I am currently enrolled in a Physics masters program, so I have a pretty good grasp of this.
5- And before you criticize anyway, just because you follow Neil Degrasse Tyson on Twitter and IFLScience on Facebook, you are not the expert you think you are.

Okay with that out of the way...

Starkiller base is lame compared to the Death Star and Han's Hyperspace Shield Maneuver RUINED STAR WARS!!!

So before I get to the ruination of all that we love and hold dear in the Star Wars universe (space ships going PEW PEW PEW. I assume that is your favourite part and that you are an X-Wing or Armada player because this is a Wargaming Blog), I want to cover how the Death Star and Death Star II are FAR more powerful Battlestations than Starkiller Base EVER COULD HAVE BEEN.

First of all, let me tell you how powerful the Death Star is. Now this is just the first Death Star. The second one was far more powerful and able to charge in a matter of minutes rather than hours, but since we never see it destroy a planet (except Endor with its falling debris and radioactive fallout. Ewok Apocalypse/Genocide), we aren't going to compare it.

To destroy a planet like Alderaan (at the rate of about 5% the speed of light), which will will assume to be approximately the same as Earth, it would require in the ball park of 2.25x10^32 Joules (2.25x10^20 TJ, or 2.25x10^8 Yottajoules. 1 Yottajoule is 1 SEPTILLION Joules). Source 1, Source 2, Source 3. It would take A BILLION TRILLION AMERICAS to match. Or rather 592105 times MORE ENERGY than the sun puts out EVERY SECOND (3.8x10^26 Joules, or 380 Yottajoules). And remember the Death Star delivered that amount of Energy in approximately 1 second (watch for yourself). So we can assume the Death Star is ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more powerful than the sun, which is a rather common star as far as stars go.
SO this brings me to Starkiller base. So first let us just discard the following
1- Since it was SO CLOSE to that Star in TFA, and its snow wasn't even melting, that would have to be a near dead red dwarf or something incredibly weak or small. BUT for arguments sake we are going to say it is about the same as the sun and Starkiller base just has a shield with SPF 14 million. And just forget about the gravitational effects...
2- The "laser" it fires is a "hyperspace" weapon? What does that mean? Are you making light travel faster than the speed of light (with nothing propel it?) IDK what that means. Seems like something JJ Abrams just wanted to say to make it sound more dangerous. BUT we will roll with it.

SO since we know the Death Star is BY FAR more powerful than the Sun, how is a Battlestation that uses only the power of a single star suppossed to be stronger? And how is that single star suppossed to provide enough energy to destroy not one, but like 6 or 7 planets at once like we see in the movie. Even if that was only one planet with multiple moons, the total mass would be at least double, if not more, than that of Alderaan's mass.

So the only argument I have is that Starkiller base is essentially able to burn through about 5 billion years worth of Star fuel in a matter of minutes. EVEN IF this was what happened, that would take us up to just shy of 6x10^43 Joules. That would be 2.67x10^11 times the amount of energy that the Death Star released.
HOWEVER we know from the film that this is not what happened.
1- That wasn't a laser, but rather a projection of matter. It was not pure energy, as well see it and it moved rather slowly (weird for a hyperspace weapon)
2- The amount of energy lost to traveling at hyperspace (BECAUSE IT IS A HYPERSPACE WEAPON) and heat loss would be tremendous
3- When Starkiller base exploded, a new star blooms, meaning most of the matter is still able to sustain nuclear fusion and fission. As well it did not collapse into a super dense Neutron Star or Black Hole, suggesting that the reactor of Starkiller base was really just propagating and continuing the reaction of the star, rather than causing it to go supernova or the like.
SO All told, there is no way that it is up to 10^43. It is probably around 10^26, based mostly on the fact that the star is still there afterwards. This is still enough to destroy a planet, but not like Alderaan. More like the laser from Independence day, but on a global scale. Plus, we didn't see the Hosnian system blow up into really really small rocks did we? Just a huge rolling ball of fire across the surface right? So I think they are now just lifeless husks... barren rocks orbiting their star.

BUT you don't even need a Death Star anymore! HYPERDRIVES ARE ALL YOU NEED!!!

Now that Han showed us you can get through a shield at light speed because of their fractional refresh rate, all fighting is Star Wars is rendered NULL AND VOID.

Now maybe Han was the only person to know this, but that is very UNLIKELY. Well for one, Chewie and Finn now know. And second of all, he talks about shields and modifications to the Falcon alot. Chances are he had to learn all this stuff, in theory and practicality. And even if he was the first to put this idea together, someone else will. I mean you have super smart engineers building death stars and exceeding the speed of light and the like, they can figure this out too. Maybe Han learned this in his time at the Academy. Maybe this is Lando's manuever from "The Battle of Tanab". It doesn't matter. The point is OTHERS WILL KNOW THIS ALREADY OR FIGURE IT OUT SHORTLY. Especially in the mishap report review of the loss of Starkiller base under the section called "How the Hell did the Millenium Falcon get through our shield?"

Here is the deal though. We always see the space ships RAPIDLY slow down upon exiting the I mean hyperspace. BUT what if you didn't WANT to slow down? What if you wanted to stay at about 98% the speed of light? I imagine that this is possible just by the very fact that they can break the speed of light in Star Wars (Han Solo is the Chuck Yeager of a galaxy far, far away).

SO what do you do with this? Well, you calculate the kinetic energy that lets say, something like an Imperial Star Destroyer, would have. Now if we estimate the ISD at about 40,000,000 metric tons, propel it at .98c and calculate the Lorentz factor, we would get a T (Kinetic Energy) of about 1.45x10^28 Joules, which is more powerful than what I am arguing Starkiller base is and nearly as powerful as the Death Star. Start throwing bigger objects, and you get Death Star level forces.
Basically this except A LOT FASTER
Now my math may be off, it is midnight as I write this and I am just piddling around, not really being serious. But the concept is still sound. If you slam into objects at relatavistic velocities BAD THINGS HAPPEN. Alot of Kinetic Energy is imparted into the target.

Added benefits
-You can strike from ANYWHERE IN THE GALAXY
-You enemy cannot detect you
-You are moving too fast for anything to stop you even if it could
-There are no (known) defenses for this. If there are defenses for this, that is a pretty big risk Han took to get onto Starkiller. If they had blown up, what would the resistance have known about it? And what could they have done afterwards?

And this is completely scalable. Why not just have small droid star fighters do this trick against Star Destroyers of Mon Cal Cruisers? Hyperspace missiles essentially.

Or don't even slow down. Han basically says in Episode 4, while booting his nav-computer, that you can run into asteroids or supernovas while in hyperspace, so why not slam into objects at the speed of light or faster? Their shields can't stop you and you will annihilate them.

And that is how Star Wars is ruined. Everyone is essentially just flying around in Death Star level weapons like it ain't no thing. And future combat in star wars is pointless. Hyperspace missiles exist.