EU Roundtable #4
said I couldn’t do it, but I showed them! No, I’m not talking about the
Roundtable series actually making it to #4 (though that’s been no easy task
itself). I’m talking about today’s theme: the many controversies of Dr. Curtis
Saxton. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Saxton has a long-running web page
here on TFN called the Star Wars
Technical Commentaries. There, he attempts to examine various aspects of
the Star Wars universe from a scientific point of view; in other words, extrapolating
information from the films (and to a lesser extent, the EU) based on the laws
of our own world, as opposed to what’s specifically told to us. I’d say Saxton himself
describes it best: “the project intends to rationalize a fantasy”. His essays cover
a variety of topics, from ship sizes, functions, and classifications, to an analysis
of the injuries known to have been suffered by Darth Vader. While the controversy
has existed for quite some time, his site has become a flagship in the debate over
the true length and classification of Vader’s ship, the Executor (if you
were unaware that this debate existed, consider yourself lucky). The Saxton Wars
have only become more heated in recent years as the good doctor, thanks to the extensive
scientific expertise evident on his website, has begun serving as an adviser on
DK Publishing’s too-big-for-the-freakin’-bookshelf Star Wars reference books, including
AOTC Incredible Cross-Sections and the newly-released Inside the Worlds of the Star
Wars Trilogy. The debate you’re about to read deals primarily with one of the biggest
points of contention arising from the SWTCs: the Endor Holocaust.
and by the way: given the fierce contention we’re dealing with here, I just want
to point out that nothing has been edited in any way. There are a handful
of points where unrelated text was removed, as you will see, but every word of this
chat has been left perfectly intact. If someone were to misspell, oh, let’s say
“evacuation”, in the chat itself, it’s still misspelled now.
that I normally correct typos, mind you, I just wanted to take special care
to point that out once again. In any event, our volunteer debaters, who wanted their last names excluded because of what I can only assume are severe delusions of grandeur, are:
- David P, aka dp4m, Manager for the
Jedi Council’s Literature & Gaming sections, supporting the
anti-Saxton (for lack of a better term) side of the argument.
- Kyle J, aka Lord_Hydronium, frequent poster
(and debater) at the Jedi Council, supporting the pro-Saxton side of the argument.
Attempting to keep things interesting through the insertion of
smart-ass comments is me, Mike Cooper, unofficially supporting the “who
gives a damn” side of the argument. Here we go…
You have just entered room
Mike Cooper: Here's the way I'd like this to go. I want to make
sure we address the two biggest issues at hand here: the Endor Holocaust and
the length of the Executor. I don't know for sure how each of you feels about
the other issues like class names, shield generators, etc. but if you want to
discuss them, you're free to. Ideally, I'd like to see this debate be more
about the concepts behind the Saxton controversy than about what frame 79 of
scene 6 of RotJ says versus what page 37 paragraph 4 of some sourcebook says.
In other words, which interpretation is more valid? We know there are
contradictions. What we don't know is why author intent should matter over the
laws of physics, or vice versa. Why visual evidence should matter over official
reference, or vice versa. That said, my plan is to involve myself in the
conversation as little as possible. As long as you're talking about something
Saxton-related, I won't get in the way. The same goes for the maturity level,
too; it's up to you guys how serious you want to be. My main concern is that
this chat is fun to read, and silly bickering is just as fun as poignant
Mike Cooper: Beyond that, I just want to point out that this is
sort of an experiment for the Roundtable series, and I'm not really sure what
to expect. Here's hoping it's a worthwhile experience for everyone.
Let's start things off: the Endor Holocaust. To summarize, Saxton has made the
assertion that the laws of physics dictate that Endor's environment would have
been completely ruined by debris from the Death Star. The new book Inside the Worlds of the Star Wars
Trilogy, in whose development Saxton played a role, acknowledges the debris
issue and claims that the Rebels used shields and tractor beams to protect the
area around the strike team, but doesn't say anything either way about the damage sustained by the rest of Endor.
Pablo Hidalgo has, however, stated point-blank in Star Wars Insider that the
Holocaust definitely did not happen. Yea or nay, guys?
Kyle J: I'll do a summary of my position: I think
that despite the unrealistic elements added in to make a good story, Star Wars
in fundamentally realistic, that is, with different technology it could take
place in our
own universe (and that, given its place in the GFFA, it does). Given that, if
an object explodes just outside the atmosphere of a planet, I'd say it's
required that there be some effect.
David P: But, if that were so, wouldn't there
have been a noticable effect for an object that size within the (astronomically
speaking) short distance to the planet?
Kyle J: You mean gravitational?
David P: We'd seen an Endor planetary habitat
from years before within the canonical structure of the movies (e.g. Ewok
movies); shouldn't the Death Star have changed the climate much more than it
Kyle J: If it was outside the atmosphere, there
should be no effect
Kyle J: It would be like a small moon in
relatively low orbit
David P: Doesn't the moon affect our tides at its
Kyle J: Yes, and there might be some tidal forces,
but we don't see any bodies of water near the are ain the movies (so we can't
say whether those have been changed), there hasn't been enough time for the
stresses on the land to have any appreciable effect, and perhaps a small bulge in
the atmosphere would be the worst that took place.
Kyle J: Major climatic change wouldn't take place
that quickly; local weather patterns might be altered, but we only spend one or
two days on Endor in the movie
David P: True, but how long would you suspect
that the Death Star takes to build (I think we can assume 3.5 years from ANH to
ROTJ without resorting to EU)?
David P: Wouldn't a sustained increase in
low-orbit mass of that nature affect weather patterns more than we saw?
Kyle J: But how much of the weather patterns did
we really see? Two sunny days in ROTJ, which isn't enough to really judge in
David P: True.
David P: Clarifying question: which explosion do
we wish to cover -- SE or Original flavor?
Kyle J: SE's the most recent, so that one
Mike Cooper: is
there a difference? it's been a while
Kyle J: That ring of fire/energy
David P: Yeah, Praxis effect explosion vs.
Kyle J: Heh, nice ST reference
David P: Hey, it's where it comes from. ;-)
Mike Cooper: oh,
yeah; that'll win him fans :-)
David P: (Kirk loses to Han in a barfight easy...
David P: Anyways, let's assume for the moment
that the DS2 is 170 km (you can think it's larger, but it's irrelevant for this
David P: If it's 170 km, at what speed would you
imagine that the debris would be travelling and thus impact Endor?
David P: (given forces, mass, acceleration, etc.)
Kyle J: I don't know how powerful the explosion of
the DSII was; that would give its initial velocity (and judging by the speed of
the ring compared with the Falcon, it's pretty darn fast), then there's the
gravitational acceleration on top of that
David P: So we can safely assume that, at the
very least, none of the "very large" chunks remaining (of
inteterminate size) impacted from the initial explosion velocity.
David P: It was day near the Ewoks when it
happened and at night there was clear sky at night.
well, there was still some debris
David P: We'll get to that Coop. ;-)
Mike Cooper: :-)
David P: I'm just seeking concordance on none of
the "large debris" impacted from the initial explosion velocity.
Kyle J: There are several chunks of debris visible
in the explosion going faster than the main fireball
Kyle J: So they would be pushed with the full
force of the explosion into the planet
David P: But none of them could have been large
enough to cause lasting damage, as there was no dust cloud hours later.
Kyle J: Depends on how far away they landed
David P: Then you're assuming that Luke, Han,
Leia, etc. are all sociopaths?
Kyle J: Explain
David P: Clearly the behavior of folks who know
that a sentient species is about to be wiped out is to party with them.
David P: If they had told the Ewoks about the
disaster and tried to evacuate them, wouldn't we be seeing an evacuation rather
than a party?
David P: Remember, we're talking Luke "And
Sacrifice Han and Leia?" Skywalker. ;-)
Kyle J: First, let me point out that Luke's been
in the wilderness this entire time
David P: And poses for pics when he returns.
Kyle J: I concede the point, and suggest that the
huge chunks were caught (the ones that, if they hit, would cause instant
annihilation). This would stop any immediate threat. Long term effects would beprevented
by a long term solution, and any evacuation could wait a short time
Kyle J: Basically, an instant evacuation was not
necessary, giving them time to celebrate what they had done; afterwards,
however, the hard work would begin
David P: Okay.
David P: How long are we talking here?
while the pretty boys hit-footed off to bakura
Mike Cooper: *hot
Kyle J: They could start the next day
David P: No, no... no Bakura. Bad Coop. No EU.
well, it's hardly revelant
Kyle J: Party, sleep, then begin plans for an
exacuation or transplant
Kyle J: the next morning
David P: I could have the Rebels have a Star
Destroyer if that were the case. ;-)
David P: Okay, but conversely, couldn't they have
simply prevented the destruction entirely by destroying the slower moving large
Kyle J: *evacuation
Kyle J: Yes, that's also possible; by long term, I
mean like the radiation or any chemicals or industrial byproducts that might be
in debris that slipped through; not immediately hazardous, but you don't want
it hanging around in your
Kyle J: ecosystem for too long
Kyle J: Heck, there could be a Rebel hazmat team
checking out possible hotspots while the party's going on
David P: Well, since there's no gas giant to
speak of to gather most particulate matter... ;-) How high would the levels of
radiation need to be to not be absorbed by the moons magnetosphere? I'm not
sure how much ours protects us from solar radiation.
Mike Cooper: i
thought there was supposed to be a gas giant off-screen
David P: sssshhhh! :-P
David P: And also, the Ewoks probably have no
ozone problem to speak of.
Kyle J: Ozone only blocks UV light
Kyle J: And I really don't know too much of
stellar phenomena to say what the magnetosphere can block
Mike Cooper: and
little enough gravity to allow those stupid glider things to work, but that's
neither here nor there...
David P: True, though we could count how long it
takes them to fall from the netting... ;-)
David P: I've been led to believe that ozone
plays a part in blocking solar radiation, etc. but having no background there
Kyle J: I admit I don't have background there
either; I'm just going off what I know
David P: In any case, the point I'm trying to
make is that any sort of "background" effects beyond the debris
(obviously dangerous) might be stopped by the planet's natural defenses and
Kyle J: But at the levels of radiation that would
be created by something that could power the entire DS, with that much of the
power output going towards the planet (compared with what percentage of its
power a sun provides towards a planet at any appreciable distance)?
(editor’s note – full disclosure; at this point, David was
accidentally disconnected from the room. He returned promptly, and we went on)
David P: As I understand it, the types of
energy/radiation that's "bad" operate on very, VERY short
wavelengths. Therefore they might dissipate naturally over the distance from
the DS2 explosion to the planet, no?
David P: "Gamma rays and hard X rays ranging
in length from 0.05 to 5.0 Å"
let's try to wrap this particular point up, guys; then we'll do a little bit on
the executor and call it a day
David P: Sure.
David P: I think we'll need the EU for that
David P: Sice we don't have ANY measurements
David P: *since
Kyle J: To tell the truth, I don't know enough
about propagation of EM radiation to answer that one
weeelll, let's just move on then
Mike Cooper: too
many fancy science words
Another big point of contention most likely predates Saxton's involvement,
although he's become a sort of poster child for it nevertheless. To make a long
story short, the old Star Wars RPG and most EU material have given sizes (note
the plural) for the Executor that, some people say, vastly contradict what is
blatantly obvious from watching the movies. I couldn't say what all the
different asserted lengths are exactly (because, to be honest, I could care less), but the fact remains, only one
of them can be right. Which one, and why?
Kyle J: Mine!
Kyle J: Because I said so!
David P: I agree. I like his best
David P: It's shiny.
Mike Cooper: ..
argue, damn it
Mike Cooper: do
you have any idea how long it took me to write that sentence? :-)
Kyle J: Short answer: 17.6-19.2 kilometers,
because scaling it with the other ships whose lengths are known (ISDs), you can
use perspective to find the possible bounds of size.
David P: Hehe. Basically, at this point there are
four defensible arguments: 8 km, 12 km, 12.8km and 17.6 km (supposedly).
Kyle J: 12? That's the Lusankya one, right?
David P: I say supposedly, because I do't have
the text where it says 17.6 km (ITW) but I assume people aren't lying to me.
David P: Yes. Lusankya is 12 km.
David P: Easily explainable as it was also
modified for atmospheric capabilty.
David P: *capability
Kyle J: ITW doesn't actually say "17.6
km", but it does say it's nearly 12 times the length of an ISD
Kyle J: which fits within the movie bounds (19.2
being exactly 12 times as long)
Mike Cooper: ITW
also calls the executor an "ultimate star dreadnaught", so i'm less
than inclined to lend it much credence :-)
Kyle J: The quote from From Star Wars to Indiana
Jones also shows that 11 times is the original intent as well
David P: Now you're talking CRAZY talk. Isn't the
ISD 1.6 km?
Kyle J: yeah
Kyle J: You could argue that "Star
Dreadnaught" is just a description, or you could take it as a literal ship
type; the second one helps beat the old "Why is every KDY ship a
Mike Cooper: i
try not to think about that kinda stuff too much one way or another; after all,
han calls then bulk cruisers in ANH, right?
David P: Didn't he used to say 11 times the
length? Now it's 12?!? *sigh*
Kyle J: No, it's 17.6-19.2 km
David P: Do you have the exact quote from the
Kyle J: Oh, from the book
Kyle J: I was referring to Saxton's measurements
Mike Cooper: i
had it a second ago...
David P: Right. I thought it was originally 11
times the length (as a rough measurement)
(editor’s note – at this point, David was disconnected and
quickly reconnected. Again. Man, I love AIM)
Kyle J: "Over one hundred times more massive
than a common Star Destroyer and almost 12 times as long, the Executor bristles
than 5000 turbolasers and ion cannons, and carries wings of star fighters and
two pre assembled garrison bases"
David P: Aha! So it *could* be nearly twelve
times as long as a Vic.
Mike Cooper: heh
Kyle J: "Common Star Destroyer" can only
be an ISD, especially since this is a movie-based book.
David P: Not so. The ITW is EU, and as such
"common Star Destroyer" could be anything.
didn't the implementation of vics actually predate the "star
Kyle J: It's "Inside the Worlds of the Star
Wars Trilogy". It may be EU, but the movies are the clear focus of the book.
David P: Perhaps, though they were certainly the
ship first monikered with the designation. As such, most likely the VICTORY
were the ships the average person on the planet thought of as a "common
David P: Doesn't matter; The Movie Trilogy
Sourcebook is also EU though the movies are the clear focus of the book.
let's call it a night. we're starting to get tangled up in details
David P: As are the Galaxy Guides 1, 2 and 5 (A
New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)
kyle, last word?
(editor’s note – at this point, we were ALL shortly
disconnected from the room. Luckily, I’d been backing it up fairly often)
Kyle J: I know of no better source than the movies
themselves to look at I'm wondering whether the obscure language in ITW was
designed to not directly go against the sourcebooks (which even change amongst
themselves, so one extra figure wouldn't hurt anything). But I think that the
movies show clearly that anything smaller than 11 times is impossible.
Mike Cooper: and
that'll do it
Mike Cooper: just
to show how much more we could potentially be arguing about, we'll leave with
another quote from inside the worlds...
Eventually designated the Executor-class after the vessel assigned to Vader's
personal use and commanded by Admiral Ozzel, it is usually referred to in rebel
slang as a "Super Star Destroyer"-- a term that covers many warship classes bigger than a Star Destroyer,
from Star Cruisers to ultimate Star Dreadnaughts like Executor.
Mike Cooper: (say
David P: Goodnight gracie!
Kyle J: See y'all!
I’d say it went fairly well, even if it wasn’t quite as long
as the others. We actually took the same amount of time as the others, but
naturally, responses were being written much more carefully than normal; in
hindsight, maybe I should have encouraged them to insult each other a bit. =) Thanks
to David and Kyle for stepping up and proving that it’s possible to have a
friendly debate about this without a mile-long list of caveats and conditions. I’m
planning another slight variation on form for next week; here’s hoping it pans
out as well as this one. If you have an idea for a future topic, or any
feedback for that matter, send it in.