Revenge of the Fifth

Distracted by a could-not-be-more-beautiful day, I forgot to put up a “May the Fourth be with you” post. Like the Jedi, my negligence has given rise to The Revenge of the Fifth!

If your nerd quotient is not dangerously high enough to have seen these before, here are some very important technological and economic questions raised by the date:

What would it take to launch the material to build the first Death Star with our current level of technology? (assuming that somehow we have the technology to make a death star…)

The upshot is that to finish the death star in ten years it would take four ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) launches per second, for the whole timespan.

How much would it cost over those ten years?

Only three orders of magnitude more than the world’s GDP each year!

 Of course, that’s assuming we don’t create the necessary infrastructure of a Galactic Empire first. 

Unfortunately, despite the project being a great use of our tax dollars, the White House has firmly rejected it.

I hope that you find reading about these ridiculous scenarios as interesting as I do. However, if you are among the many who see these posts, shake their heads and think “what a waste of some smart people’s time and thought,” here is one more thing for you to ponder:

If it weren’t for the inspiration and excitement provided by Star Wars, how many fewer scientists, engineers and technology innovators would be hard at work today? Many intelligent people are faced with the choice between pursuing a career focused only on income/comfort maximization and one driven by the desire to make the world more awesome. Logically they know that the latter often have much less tangible payoffs, and the chances of having a large impact are very small. So why do many smart individuals follow those paths?

It’s because they are driven by their excitement and a belief that the world can become more awesome through science and technology and that they can be an agent of that change. What instills this belief? The sources are of course as diverse as the people, but many like myself, it is the inspiration planted by visions of technologically superior universes in works of science fiction like Star Wars and many others.  

So before dismissing science fiction as a childish diversion, consider the counterfactual. May the Fourth (and Fifth) be with you.

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