If you’ve ever sat up at night, wondering just exactly how much effort you’d have to put into building working to scale replica of the Death Star, you know, just because they said you couldn’t, and wouldn’t it totally impress that special person, and anyway what has this planet done for you lately why not just blow it up to teach it a lesson?
Well, if such questions have ever marched through the silent halls of your mind in a quiet moment, you might want to take a look at this project done by a student team at Lehigh University, which, if nothing else, is a lesson in scale.
They started with the assumption that the first Death Star was reportedly 140km in diameter and based the rest of their conjecture on the technology used to make modern warships. Scale up the amount of iron used to make the HMS Illustrious to that size, and you’re looking at 1.08×1015 tons of steel. That’s 1,080,000,000,000,000 tons. Which seems like a lot, until they mention that if you took all the iron ore in the Earth, you could make slightly over 2 billion Death Stars.
So. There are just a few caveats:
[box] But, before you go off to start building your apocalyptic weapon, do bear in mind two things. Firstly, the two billion death stars is mostly from the Earth’s core which we would all really rather you didn’t remove. And secondly, at today’s rate of steel production (1.3 billion tonnes annually), it would take 833,315 years to produce enough steel to begin work. So once someone notices what you’re up to, you have to fend them off for 800 millennia before you have a chance to fight back. In context, it takes under an hour to get the steel for HMS Illustrious. Oh, and the cost of the steel alone? At 2012 prices, about $852,000,000,000,000,000. Or roughly 13,000 times the world’s GDP.* But then again, you can just take out a loan from the entire planet and then default on them in the most awesome way possible.[/box]
In their article, this statement is immediately followed by a picture of the Death Star blowing up Alderaan.
This is certainly not the final word on reverse-engineering the cost of the Death Star: as one commenter pointed out, nobody’s added in the cost of getting all those materials to space in the first place, which just raises the question of why we aren’t getting them from space, but things swiftly start arcing into the area of “magic technology” and other fictional time and money-saving enterprises. Anyone willing to improve on their methods may, we assume, do so.