A SCOTTISH researcher has used civil engineering to figure out more effective ways Luke Skywalker could have overpowered the Death Star.
In Star Wars: A New Hope. Skywalker correctly works out that a small thermal exhaust tube on the Death Star was vulnerable to a pair of proton torpedoes.
But by applying Hazard and Operability studies, Dr Guy Walker, of Heriot-Watt University, has discovered more efficient ways the enemy weapon could have been destroyed - including getting R2D2 to plant a computer virus, introducing an infestation of space vermin and using ‘soft power’ and entice Storm Troopers.
According to Dr Walker, these alternative options would have also put Skywalker at less personal risk, but also offered the Rebel Alliance the option of capturing a handy functioning Death Star rather than simply providing a special effects spectacular.
Not that the Death Star was a pushover.
Dr Walker said: “Fair play to the Empire: when we used standard level Hazard and Operability studies we didn’t get very far, but when we went with the more intensive ‘Cognitive Work Analysis’ programme, that highlighted areas of Death Star operational vulnerability which Darth Vader, or at least his key management team, really should have been across.”
Dr Walker admitted that he had a good deal of fun applying these systems to the Death Star, but insists that the project does have its serious side.
“Resilience is a major issue in civil engineering projects, key to our transport systems, power stations, all our major infrastructure projects. That means looking at not only the engineering in isolation, but at how the system operates in the real world, including, most importantly, human interaction with the systems.
“This involves not relying on traditional forms of safety and risk analysis but using the latest and most up-to-date systems.
“Thinking in more holistic ways is a key attribute for our undergraduates, and I the idea of this project was to get them really, properly thinking about civil engineering problems and not just exam grades. Pity Luke Skywalker couldn’t make that seminar, really.”
The full list of potential ways to destroy the Death Star identified by Dr Walker and his team, with some associated potential costs and benefits, is:
1. Infiltrate from the inside and seize critical Death Star controls (as per the disablement of the tractor beam reactor coupling in the film)
2. Shut the main reactor down (only a temporary solution)
3. Use ‘soft power’ and entice Storm Troopers to defect. Create an insurgency
4. Harness super laser energy and create a critical situation such as blocking thermal exhausts ports and thus robbing the station of its ability to expel excess heat and energy
5. Shut down energy shields and turn off force field, then use large Star Destroyers to inflict critical damage
6. Sabotage laser focussing nexus
7. Use navicomputer to collide Death Star with a planet or sun
8. Perform remote attack using hacking
9. Sabotage hyperdrive station and hyperdrive Death Star into a planet or sun (see above)
10. Create artificial gravity in wrong direction
11. Sabotage medical droids and ‘turn them rogue’
14. Poison atmosphere
15. Infect or sabotage maintenance droids by gradually degrading their performance so that no one would suspect they were secretly allowing normal faults to propagate and worsen (like the famous Stuxnet virus)
16. Disable back-up systems to make rest of system more brittle and vulnerable to attack.
17. Disrupt the command and control capability (e.g. reduce opportunities for communication and information flow)
18. Attack the executive docking bay when VIP’s are arriving. “Cut the head off the snake”: Would the ‘dumb’ Stormtroopers know what to do?
19. Disable tractor beam and prevent Death Star from capturing space born objects. Use said objects to inflict critical damage
20. Remove the atmosphere (disable blast doors and compartmentalisation)
21. Depressurise the interior too quickly and cause hull damage/implosion
22. Have R2D2 log in to Imperial Network and plant a computer virus to disable critical systems (in the style of Independence Day)