The physics behind the Death Star superlaser

Reason #4786 why I love math geeks: This article on Death Star Firepower (thanks, digg).

Death star superlaserA guy with enough grasp of calculus and physics to convince me (which, really, isn't saying much) works out how much energy had to be in the beam that blew up Alderaan. Long story short, something in the range of 10^32 joules is necessary to blow apart a planet.

Bear in mind that a joule is one watt-second, so considering that the beam struck Alderaan for about one second in Episode IV, that means the Death Star superlaser had a an output of 10^32 watts. Now, also bear in mind that the National Ignition Facility--which is using the world's largest laser array to try and create a microsoecond of fusion--informs us that the entire United States has an electrical generating capacity of about 5 x 10^11 watts. Back-of-the-napkin math: It would take 10^21 United States-worth of generators--as in a billion trillion Americas--to generate the same amount of energy that the Death Star superlaser released in one second.

This leads us to only one logical conclusion: Emperor Palpatine for U.S. Energy Secretary! If anybody can figure a way to wean us off Middle Eastern oil, it's Darth Sidious.

By Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...