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The Praxis effect: Star Wars > Star Trek

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Can George Lucas finally be more right about Star Wars than the fans...?

Heghjaj Harbe'wI'pu'!

I'm not aware of any intense rivalry between Star Trek and Star Wars fans; the two extended franchises probably had adequate influence over each other to live in peace on any SF enthusiast's DVD shelf. But anyone out there looking for the Lucasverse to score points over the Federation can take comfort in the thought that hard science apparently defends the second-most outrageous piece of Star Wars revisionism after the Greedo/Han shooting controversy - whilst dissing Klingon physics.

Astronomer Phil Plait, who debunks movie myths about matters celestial at badastronomy.com, apparently surmises that the much-reviled ILM rethink of the Death Star explosion - which added a concentric explosion ring to the conclusion of A New Hope in Lucas's revised 1997 theatrical release of the original Star Wars trilogy - is more scientifically correct than its original appearance in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).

The Klingon mining moon Praxis explodes in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

In his 2002 book Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions And Misuses Revealed, From Astrology To The Moon Landing 'Hoax', Plait casts doubt on the verisimilitude of (Lucasfilm effects house) Industrial Light And Magic's seminal CGI effect depicting the explosion of the Klingon moon Praxis in Undiscovered Country.  Since explosions in space tend toward spherical shape unless impeded, Plait concludes that the blast pattern resulting from the explosion of the Klingon mining operation has no credible reason to resolve into a ring form, even if everyone thinks the effect is far cooler here than in 1997's revised New Hope.

Conversely, the surface integrity of the Death Star hull is interrupted by a perfect ring in the form of the gargantuan maintenance trench which encircles it, meaning that at this point of interrupted stress, a growing explosion would find the least resistance. This makes the highly criticised 'ring effect' far more plausible in New Hope [V.2.0] than its predecessor in Star Trek VI.

Sadly, upon closer inspection, we see that ILM blew this rare opportunity for scientific realism in the Star Wars universe...

The ring has no correlation to the one bit of design that would have justified it

See also:

Six unlikely changes for the Blu-ray release of Star Wars


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BAD ASTRONOMY: MISCONCEPTIONS AND MISUSES REVEALED, FROM ASTROLOGY TO THE MOON LANDING 'HOAX'
 

Comments 

 
#1 Matt Varney 2010-08-26 18:03
Apparently the first Death Star's diameter was somewhere around 140km. The maintenance trench in the movie I would estimate at only being a few hundred feet deep. Would a trench with a depth of somewhere around .2% of the total diameter really affect the explosion?
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#2 Henriok 2010-08-26 18:12
Notice how the explosion of the Death Star was from the _inside_? The trench that might be considered huge on the surface has absolutely no meaning on the inside, where the actual explosion began. It would make more sense to construct the innards of the Death Star around the orientation of its main weapon, the ginourmous laser. And lo and behold, the explosion ring is oriented about the same angle to the trench as the laser.
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#3 Andrew 2010-08-26 18:14
I heard that in space up and down are absolute terms.

Wait...

When up and down are subjective, so are horizontal and vertical. The death star did not have an axis of rotation to my knowledge, and if it did, the fleeing rebel forces (which presumably give us our point of view of the explosion) would feel no inclination to align themselves to that reference frame.
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#4 Morder 2010-08-26 18:22
Not quite, we don't know the surface of Praxis. Given that it underwent heavy mining, they could have strip-mined a ring around the planet (could be large source of their energy material) I would say that Praxis is still more plausible than the Death Star
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#5 DudefromtheNorth 2010-08-26 19:06
You only get that style of ring in a explosion when the explosion is on or near a(relatively) hard surface, such as the ground or the ocean. It's caused by the shock wave reflecting from that surface and interacting with itself to increase the pressure in that part of the shock wave. In stars and other astronomical bodies that go Novae and form rings, that's due to their rotations complicating things (to put it mildly). AFAIK, the Death Star wasn't rotating, so George Lucas, you're still a Hack (a lucky one though).
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#6 preacher_mg 2010-08-26 19:40
The ring was added for its visual qualities - this is what explosions look like on the surface of the earth - but if you insist on explaining it, you could say that the reactor thingy in the center of the death star contained some superheavy rotataing mass - a rotating black hole, perhaps, or some sort of ring-shaped accelerator - take your pick - contained in some sort of force field. When its containment failed due to the rebel attack, all the matter was hurled outside in a ring shape.
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#7 qurgh 2010-08-26 19:58
One thing, which Plait seems to have ignored, is that the ring from Praxis isn't a normal explosion ring. It's a "subspace shock wave" which basically takes it out of the realm of normal physics and pushes it into Trek-physics. Since subspace isn't something we can talk about using real physics, the whole argument becomes moot. If, at some point in the future, we discover something akin to subspace, and it supports some kind of shock wave, then he can come back and say it's right or wrong.

Next he'll be saying that bears and other jungle characters can't talk and Disney is "Wrong".
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#8 Dan 2010-08-26 20:01
maybe the scientific minds here should watch the rest of the movie and tell us what they think of lasers that travel slower then sound and ... well sound in a space battle.
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#9 John Muller 2010-08-26 23:10
Sound in a space battle is easy, the pilots are all wearing headphones, while the energy weapons give off magnetic pulses with each shot.

Just like speakers clicking when a cell phone is about to ring. Except instead of an incoming call, it's incoming fiery death.

For the ring shaped explosion, the Death Star may be powered by a torus shaped reactor, like Tokamak.

as for Star Trek vs Star Wars, they are both nothing compared to Space 1999
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#10 Gandoron 2010-08-27 15:11
So the explosion of the Death Star from the original Star Wars edition with no ring was the most accurate of all.

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:8M3ONTGmW3hVJM:http://www.dvdactive.com/images/editorial/screenshot/2009/8/explosion1983.jpg&t=1

Wouldn't it have been easy to point that out in the comparison article. Lucas is not trying to be accurate, he's trying to make it look cool. shame.
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#11 The Dreaded Rear Admiral 2010-08-27 18:37
If we considered a simple model of the moon explosion for the purpose of a back-of-the-envelope calculation- say we had a very thin spherical shell that instantly became disconnected from the core of the moon, and every 'chunk' of the shell became disconnected from every other one. Then every chunk would be on an elliptical orbit about the core (we'll assume the mass of the shell is small compared to the mass of the core, so we can neglect self-gravitation of the chunks) but chunks from near the equator will be moving much fast than those near the poles- depending on the rotational speed of the planet, they may be at the periapsis of their new orbits, and will spread far from the core, whereas the chunks near the poles would have been almost stationary immediately before the explosion, and so would be at the apoapsis of their new orbits and wouldn't stray far from the remaining core.

This is just a crude model- I think a follow-up graphic in Star Trek VI shows the explosion was far from symmetrical, and given that the explosion happened from overmining, you can't make any definitive claim about the internal structure of Praxis. However, it seemed reasonable to me that I could convince myself it was at least *possible* that the debris would spread out further in the plane orthogonal to the axis of the moon's rotation.

But maybe I take challenges to Star Trek's credibility too seriously, and should really just relax. At least it's not The Core.
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#12 xytan4 2010-09-23 22:18
The "ring" is actually the "shadow" of a hyperspace shockwave, this is because the Death Star used an exotic form of power production called Hypermatter. Hypermatter is composed of tachyonic particles that exist in hyperspace, and constraining these faster than lightspeed particles to real space causes them to annihilate and produce vast amounts of energy. When Luke's proton torpedoes breached the reactor core, it liberated the Hypermatter contained inside, which caused a great deal of the Death Star's mass to be hurled into hyperspace, causing the shockwave that we see. Same goes for the Alderaan explosion, and the Praxus moon explosion. That also explains why there wasn't an Endor Holocaust when the Death Star 2 exploded, since most of its mass would've been thrown into hyperspace when the reactor exploded.
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#13 Not so fast mark 2011-03-01 18:23
Recall that space itself is curved. We know this because Einstein noted that massive bodies (like Praxis) have a gravitational effect of bending light as viewed from Earth. The light, energy, x-rays, etc. all released from a massive body destructing would look very different than a bomb going off on Earth. If Praxis is massive, and the gravitational effect of its energy release was to fold space or warp a gravity field, the blast energy that is in the visible spectrum might well look like a cascading wave, emanating from a spherical mass but traveling on a plane. Good job ILM!
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#14 WRONG bob johnson 2012-02-14 19:19
Magnets.
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