Friday, October 9, 2009

The Xindi "Death Star" vs. the Death Star


Enterprise, wow. Hell of place to start, right? I'm sure most of you would prefer to forget that the series ever existed. While there is certainly much about the serious worthy of critism, in this post I will be addressing the Xindi "Death Star". I will explain why it was both improbable and foolish for the Xindi to construct a weapon capable of blowing up the Earth, and why the same doesn’t apply to the real Death Star of the Galactic Empire.

You may remember when Trip said that it would take a thousand ships like (the) Enterprise to blow up the Earth, shamelessly quoting Han Solo. Assuming a 100% reaction efficiency (which is impossible) it would take 1.2464 trillion tonnes of anti-matter, minimum, to blow up the Earth. That’s 52. 3488 quadrillion megatons, or 2. 19^29 joules. So in order for Trip’s dialogue to make any sense, (the) Enterprise would have to carry at least 1.2464 billion tonnes of anti-matter, which is clearly impossible. I would assume they can carry a maximum of 1000 tonnes of anti-matter, meaning it would take more than a billion ships like (the) Enterprise to blow up the Earth. And yet the Xindi Death Star was no where near as big as the Imperial Death Star. At most it was a few kilometres in diameter. Since no reaction is ever 100% efficient, it must have carried many trillions of tonnes of anti-matter in order to ensure the annihilation of Earth. How could such a vast quantity of anti-matter fit into a relatively small spacecraft? I would speculate that the Xindi Death Star fired anti-neutronium, which would be sufficiently dense to fit trillions of tonnes into the proverbial breadbox. Of course all this is speculation since how the Xindi Death Star worked was never explained, but given what we saw an anti-neutronium weapon seems the most likely to me.

The Xindi appeared to be a fairly standard Star Trek race in terms of technological advancement. The Federation likely produces millions of tonnes of anti-deuterium each year as a power source and for weapons, and other applications. Yet the Xindi Death Star must have at least stored trillions of tonnes of anti-matter, (which would seem an impossible amount for the Xindi to produce) or even more unliekly it could have produced the anti-neutronium itself in a matter of days at the most, since it was deployed as soon as it was operational. A single spacecraft that can generate a million times the quantity in a thousandth of the time it takes the Federation, not to mention that anti-neutronium must be inordinately more difficult to produce than anti-deuterium. Furthermore, the Xindi had lost their homeworld, and were living either as nomads or in scattered, sparsely populated colonies. It is highly unlikely that such a civilization would have either the technological sophistication or the resources to construct a weapon that could produce anything close to the fifty two quadrillion megatons needed to destroy the Earth.

The Xindi’s goal was to wipe out Humanity. Blowing up the Earth is not the most efficient way of doing that, not by far. Some of the Reptilians on the Xindi council had the common sense to suggest a bio-weapon. All they’d have to do is abduct a few humans for research and they could make a virus that could wipe us out in a week. That’s a hell of a lot easier than producing a fifty two quadrillion megaton blast. The next best idea would be a massive orbital bombardment. They have ships, they have photon torpedoes. Put a hundred ships in orbit, armed with a hundred fifty-megaton torpedoes each and fire. That’s 500 000 megatons! Sure, it would barely make a scratch on the Earth’s surface, but it would wipe out Humanity, and most other terrestrial species for that matter, and all for barely 0.00000000095% of the energy needed for blowing up the Earth.

So if the Xindi Death Star was so improbable and so idiotic why is the Imperial Death Star any different? The Galactic Empire is aptly named; it spans an entire galaxy, a galaxy far far away with four hundred billion stars. At least a million of those are inhabited systems under the Empire’s reign. The Old Republic that it was built upon endured for twenty five thousand years. They’re hyperdrive allows them to travel from one end of the Galaxy to the other in a matter of days. Clearly their resources and technology are exponentially greater than any civilization on Star Trek. The real Death Star was at least 120 miles in diameter. The superlaser was powered by a colossal hyper-matter reactor. Granted, I don’t know what a superlaser or hyper-matter is, but turbolasers are hybrid lasers and particle beams, and I’m going to assume that a superlaser is just a very powerful turbolaser. Hyper-matter may be a term for super dense matter such a neutronium. It may refer to both matter and anti-matter, as anti-hyper-matter could be considered cumbersome. So again, I’m assuming that the Imperial Death Star fires a particle beam, which for some reason also incorporates a laser, of super dense anti-matter, known as hyper-matter. Given the vast resources and technology of the Empire, they could have constructed a space station capable of generating trillions of tonnes of super dense anti-matter, then firing it at a planet.

But why would they bother, if blowing up a planet is such an inefficient means of genocide? Because genocide was never the intent of the Death Star, merely a by-product. The Death Star was meant as a psychological weapon, intended to scare the shit out of any opposition. It is pretty much impossible to blow up a planet; and if you can do the impossible that makes you mighty. The Death Star was a symbol of the Empires infinite power! Who would join the pathetic rebellion if the price could be the utter annihilation of their homeworld? They wouldn’t have to conquer worlds; all would surrender to them or be destroyed. It may also be helpful to remember that Palpatine was a dictator, and a sadistic vindictive narcissistic megalomaniac as well, maybe even insane. It should not require an explanation as to why such a person would want a Death Star, and as the Emperor he would get what he wanted. Anyone who thought that the Death Star was a waste of resources would soon feel Sith Lightening coursing through their body.

If you enjoyed my first comparison between Star Trek and Star Wars, you can anticipate more such comparisons in the future.

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