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How to build a Death Star

Death Star

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Scientists, super-geeks, NASA, even The White House have all mulled over the prospect of building a Death Star in the past 25 years. Would it really be possible to create this colossal relic from the golden age of sci-fi? Could we build a real-life galactic superweapon, capable of vaporising planets at the touch of a button? With crazed international despots seemingly arming themselves with lethal arsenals of weapons, and the price of steel still falling, now seems as good a time as ever to seriously consider it.

The 1994 film Clerks was one of the first to start the debate about the construction of this superlaser-firing behemoth. In the film the two protagonists, Randal and Dante, jabber at length about some of the issues they think might arise, namely pertaining to the scale of the workforce that would be required for the job. Randal says “A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing” and of course our preoccupation here at Cobalt would be exactly the same. But what the pair fail to seriously consider is just how much it might all cost, before starting to plan recruitment.

In 2012, a petition appeared on the White House’s website. The petition hoped to “Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.” Despite over 30,000 signatories, the petition never made it the US government, largely, as cited by the tongue-in-cheek White House response, due to the 850 quadrillion dollars that it estimates would be needed to build it. And a huge portion of this cost would come with the necessary raw materials. Basing their calculations around the thickness of warships, experts believe that a staggering one quadrillion tons of steel would be needed for its construction, if steel would be the material of choice. At over 87 miles in diameter, even at today’s favourable steel prices the amount needed would set you back a cool $500,000 trillion. This figure alone is 13,000 times the world’s gross domestic product.

But another thing Randal and Dante fail to consider is the amount of time that would be needed to make the steel to build the Death Star. Even with the most efficient workers beavering away, researchers believe that it would take more than 833,315 years to supply enough steel for the space craft. However, one quick fix to this could be the recent suggestion by scientists who claim that capturing a small metallic asteroid and forcing it into Earth’s orbit could be how the materials are harnessed more efficiently. But then again waiting for access to the technology to do this, and the funds to pay for it, could take years.

So perhaps the haters have a point, waiting for thousands of millennia to see the fruits of our labour could render this a redundant exercise. Maybe it really is only at the end that we realise the power of the Dark Side.

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