Economics of the Death Star

by | Dec 17, 2019

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In 2012 economics students at Lehigh University calculated that the first Death Star, the one destroyed in the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV A New Hope), would require about $852,000,000,000,000,000 worth of steel.

This $852 Quadrillion amount was calculated by assuming the Death Star would have similar steel vs. non-steel density as a modern warship. Using a reported diameter of 140km, the Death Star would require about 1.08×1015 tons of steel. $852 Quadrillion is 13,000 times the earth’s total annual economic output as of 2102.

A Washington Unversity systems engineering professor, Zachary Feinstein, took the Lehigh analysis a few steps further. He calculated the total cost, including labor, non-steel items, R&D and the like, is much higher. His analysis was based on the total cost to construct a recently built aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford. Scaling up the Gerald Ford’s $17.5 Billion cost, the Death Star would cost $193 QUINTILLION (193×1018) or about 178,000 times the cost as $850 Quadrillion figure.

Prof. Feinstein also looked at the economics of destroying the Death Stars* and hypothesized that their destruction would cause an empire-wide depression with galactic GDP dropping 13% – 30%. Here’s a link to his entire paper: It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill.

Regardless of the expense and resources necessary to build it, the Death Star was pretty awesome and it would be super cool if the U.S. built one. Don’t get your hopes up. In 2012 over 25,000 people signed a petition demanding that the government build a Death Star and the Obama administration refused, responding with these key points:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

Read the government’s full response to the petition here. I bet the Trump administration would build a Death Star.

Here’s more Star Wars fun: a physicist from Purdue University has calculated that the destruction of Death Star II above the planet Endor in Return of the Jedi would have caused massive devastation on Endor and wiped out the Ewoks. His paper begins with this line: “The Ewoks are dead. All of them.” Bummer.

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Bummer for you creepy little Ewoks – science says falling debris from Death Star II wiped you out.

*The paper looked at the economics of blowing up both Death Stars – the first one as well as the partially completed one from Return of the Jedi.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks John. I see a parallel with certain billionaires’ fascination with moving mankind to another planet before we’ve destroyed this one. Intuition tells me that the broad magnitude of the economics wouldn’t be a lot different. Except probably bigger.

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