Analysis and Explainers: Star Wars Edition
Wired has a delightful twofer that any journalist interested in analysis and explainers should read.
The first comes from Spencer Ackerman and explores how the Galactic Empire is such a miserable fighting force. Taking the Battle of Hoth as his case study, Ackerman writes:
From a military perspective, Hoth should have been a total debacle for the Rebel Alliance. Overconfident that they can evade Imperial surveillance, they hole up on unforgiving frigid terrain at the far end of the cosmos. Huddled into the lone Echo Base are all their major players: politically crucial Princess Leia; ace pilot Han Solo; and their game-changer, Luke Skywalker, who isn’t even a Jedi yet.
The defenses the Alliance constructed on Hoth could not be more favorable to Vader if the villain constructed them himself. The single Rebel base (!) is defended by a few artillery pieces on its north slope, protecting its main power generator. An ion cannon is its main anti-aircraft/spacecraft defense. Its outermost perimeter defense is an energy shield that can deflect Imperial laser bombardment. But the shield has two huge flaws: It can’t stop an Imperial landing force from entering the atmosphere, and it can only open in a discrete place for a limited time so the Rebels’ Ion Cannon can protect an evacuation. In essence, the Rebels built a shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape.
When Vader enters the Hoth System with the Imperial Fleet, he’s holding a winning hand. What follows next is a reminder of two military truths that apply in our own time and in our own galaxy: Don’t place unaccountable religious fanatics in wartime command, and never underestimate a hegemonic power’s ability to miscalculate against an insurgency.
Ackerman goes on to explore Darth Vader’s “incoherent strategy in outer space,” the Empire’s mismanaged ground assault and its inability to form an actual blockade against rebel forces trying to escape.
Rhett Allain follows up in the Wired Science blog with an explainer of how much Darth Vader must weigh.
It’s not as easy as it appears and requires a fair bit of math and physics by exploring a scene in Return of the Jedi where Vader does a one-handed grab of a rebel and lifts him off his feet. As Allain points out, despite having bionic arms and legs, we must explore the physics of mass and stability in order to understand how Vader achieved this feet of strength.
Follow Allain’s mathematical formulas to account for mass, gravity, force and torque, and it turns out that Vader weighs in at a minimum of about 520 pounds (236 kg).
Image: Video still, The Empire Strikes Back, Battle of Hoth. Select to embiggen.