Monday, 15 February 2016

The schizophrenic science of Star Wars

The best thing in "The force Awakens"

I have just watched Star Wars - The Force Awakens.

 - Spoilers ahead.

It is a good film - although, on some levels it is almost a carbon copy of the first , "A new Hope" (sorry, the "prequels" Do Not Exist, for me).

I mean... how many time The Empire must commit its resources into building a "Death Star", before it learns that with the same money/industrial output they could build an equally  formidable float of starships?
pretty much
A float whose combined fire power would be on par with that of the big base (timing each starship shot so that they reach the target at the same moment would be entirely doable, with current computers - ten thousand years or so of multi-planetary tech development after, it should be of no-consequence ), would have a far greater strategic and tactical flexibility, and it could not be destroyed by a single lucky shot from an X-Wing.

Of course, this would just echoes what happened with the Dreadnoughts at the start of WWII...

Up to the start of the war, every major power in the world had devoted literally fortunes to develop main battle ships, and bigger was better. 

Most of these ships proved almost useless during the war - they were sunk by aircrafts, often before they could engage battle with any other main battle ships, because each admiralty tried to avoid this kind of engagements... but I suppose WWII history is not among the required lectures for Hollywood scriptwriters nowadays.

One would think that a civilization that has starships going from one side to the other of the galaxy - and has got them for quite a while should have outgrown such an infantile "bigger is better" obsession.

The "Death Planet" in the new film, though, beyond being yet another example of "Maus-esque" - from the WWII panzer prototype, the Empire being "the Nazis in Space" , I feel that the comparison was acceptable -  dysfunctional appropriation of resources, done for the sake of showing who's got it bigger, it also has a good chance of earning the "Sci-fi writers have no sense of scale" prize for 2016.

333.000- that's the number of times - more or less a couple of thousands - that the mass of the Sun exceeds that of planet Earth.

Hence that is - approximately, let's say, in the ballpark of - the number of times that the gravity acceleration of the "Death Planet" should augment, while it gobbles-up the mass of a nearby star to prepare for firing.

Of course, suddenly weighing some twenty thousand tonnes (Rey... she is very svelte) should make a bit difficult having battles between putative Siths and Jedis.

Also, the scene of the "Planet" swallowing the star... it lasts some seconds.

Good for cinematographic purposes, but, how exactly fast is the matter going down, in the stream from the star to the planet? At usual cosmic distances, such short a time would mean that the matter is falling toward the planet faster than light...

This, without disappearing from normal space like the Millennium Falcon and without looking like it was going backward  (a common expected result of seeing something that moves faster than light, from anywhere but behind the movement direction).

Also, for all intent and purposes, the star is being compressed into a black hole - it is the basic mechanism of a quasar, the compressed matter should convert a relevant part of its mass  - by compression - into high energy X and Gamma rays, that would scorch the surface of the planet. 

But, the fans will say, we do not even have any idea for a functional FTL (faster than light) travel, so it is fair to say that the "technology" of Star Wars is so far out (of the possible) that it has no sense that we discuss it.

In fact, the fans of a Star Wars are right: the "technology" in Star wars is just thinly veiled magic,  which can be condoned, and works exclusively on plot needs, which should not.

So, even as magic, its use in the movies is full of contradictions - in most cases, authors in Star Wars prove uninterested in extrapolating even a bit the consequences of the gizmos they show.

The robots in Star wars have minds and sentiments - a feat well beyond the dreams of all but the wildest of the robotic scientist - and have been seen doing - literally - everything, as plot demands.

Yet, in such an economy - where second hand droids can be bought for cheap even on a forgotten planet et the end of nowhere - there still are plenty of low-paid manual jobs  around - even full blown slavery, and not necessarily of the only kind that could still have a meaning - waiting for characters to conveniently and dramatically walk away from them.

In our world, hundreds of thousand menial and not-so-menial jobs (online AI law counselling, rings it a bell) may disappear in the next fifteen years, unless computers tech really hits a wall with the end of the "Moore's Law", but  - some thousand years later - scrapping a crashed Star destroyer would still be done, piecemeal, by a bunch of near-starvation desperadoes stranded on a shitty planet.

One would think that to feel sorry for a friend is computationally harder than, say, dismantle piece by piece a crashed Star Destroyer...

In fact, dismantling the Destroyer would require something like the intelligence of an ant, so I expect to see something like shipyards with automatic dismantlers to arrive during the remaining span of my life.

Toward the end, if I am lucky.

Again, the equivalent of cars, in Star Wars, seems to be floating all the time - a frictionless skid made by an invisible force field, or some anti-gravity trick - both are way beyond modern physic knowledge, or maybe just plainly impossible - yet they need to be driven, by people or by droids...

All the while, in our world the Google cars are logging thousand mile after thousand mile without human intervention, their main problem seeming to be that they abide to all the rules all the time, where the humans around them skip this or that rule and occasionally crash into the way too observant googlies.  

Again, one would think that some thousand years after them, all but a handful of sporty models of sprinters, requiring a special licence, would have human commands at all.

About the light sabres, I rather avoid adding my  name to the list of the persons that decry their  physical impossibility - mostly because they are used also in Gundam, and  Tomino and Co proposed a somewhat sensed way they could be built, some day... if harder-than-matter force fields will ever be possible, of which there is no indication whatsoever as of this writing - but I would point out that I see pretty incredible to see people bare handedly fixing machines that handles powers akin to a nuclear explosion. 

In all , "Star Wars" is still the fairy tale written in the '70s by somebody that not only has never had much to do with science, but had never even tried to fix his own car... unscrewing a car's suspension radius arm, for example, takes a man's full strength with at least one meter's lever, in my experience.

But the Millennium Falcon's engine can get fixed with just some "wonder" duct tape.

Given these objections, I feel odd that Sheldon Cooper likes the franchise at all, in The Big Bang Theory...

(fixed  some errors of grammar, orthography and logic, October 13 2016)

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Feel free to point me out conceptual, orthographical, grammatical, syntactical or usage's errors, as well as anything else