2014-06-08

"Death Trap"[TCW2] Tech Note

This is how I put it a few years back:
"Cadet 327: What reaction propels the main engines of this Jedi cruiser?"
"Poles combine sparking off the reactor core rods, sir."
(or "post combined sparking off the reactor coil rods, sir" or "posts combine sparking off the reactor core rods, sir." or "{something} combine sparking off the reactor {whatever}, sir")
For what it's worth, a subtitles website online has updated, and its subtitle file for Death Trap suggests that the line is the following:
"Post-combined sparking off the reactor core rods, sir." 
Turns out that I was repeatedly wrong, as were the subtitle guys.

It finally dawned on me to watch the episode Blu-Ray with the subtitles on.   Doing so, I got the following:

"Pulse combines sparking off the reactor core rods, sir."

I still don't know what that means.  I would presume that this implies electrical current is drawn from the reactor core rods and aggregated in some sort of pulse form, and that this energy is used to drive the ion engines.   But that's more supposition based on existing knowledge than any deep analysis of the quote, because the quote itself doesn't make a lot of sense.  Quoting myself:
What we do know is that Star Wars engines are generally ion thrusters.  The ANH script refers to X-Wings as having "ion rockets", and the TESB script refers to the Falcon's "ion engines".  The TESB novelization refers to the ignition of the Falcon's ion engines, in reference to starting up the thrusters from a darkened state after the ship detached from the ISD.  And, of course, the RotJ novelization explains that TIE fighters are Twin Ion Engine vehicles.  Perhaps most importantly, given that all the other examples refer to very small vessels, the Revenge of the Sith novelization suggests that ion engines are the technological basis of even the bigger ship engines:  "The shimmering canopy of ion trails and turbolaser bursts was fading into streaks of ships achieving jump as the Separatist strike force fled in full retreat."   
Whereas most rockets operate by burning or annihilating something in order to produce high-pressure gasses which are then directed out of a nozzle, producing thrust, ion engines operate by taking a charged propellant and, via electrostatic or electromagnetic fields, causing the propellant's rapid departure.
The only alternate take on the quote that I can think of offhand is that the reactor core rods themselves are consumed, creating sparks of ionized gas that are then somehow combined and ejected.  

The reference to rods is somewhat perplexing, as well.  Rods are used in fission reactor cores to control the reaction rate, commonly by being some material that will effectively consume the neutrons in the assorted fission reactions.  One does not commonly think of control rods in most fusion setups.

For fusion, one generally expects some sort of confinement . . . the sun's fusion is based on gravitational confinement, more or less, with fusion occurring because of the massive pressures in the core.  Most of our attempts at artificial fusion are based on other confinement schemes, including magnetic confinement, inertial confinement, electrostatic confinement, or combinations thereof.

However, there are fusion techniques involving assorted gizmos that might qualify.  The fairly recent inertial-electrostatic confinement pyroelectric fusion system, for instance, features a tungsten needle.  The basic idea is that pyroelectric crystals are used to generate an electrostatic field, with the tungsten needle being attached to improve the field strength.  The field ionizes and accelerates deuterium, creating a deuterium ion beam aimed at a metal hydride (a solid with a lot of hydrogen in it, such as the lithium metal hydrides I've previously referenced on the site), with the goal being high velocity collision with the metal hydride, generating a fusion event with He-3 and a neutron as the product.  As it stands now this technique is not very good insofar as it makes a ton of neutrons, but the same principle might be applicable with better technology schemes, and presumably could use a hydrocarbon as a target.

There are also the fusor and polywell fusion devices, though neither involve rods as such.  However, some of the cylindrical fusors could be thought of in the context of rods, somewhat liberally.
 
The overall problem with all these notions is that the visible shape of most of the reactors we've seen in Star Wars doesn't really fit any approach.  Sure, the Venator reactors look good for most purposes, but even those have issues.  And certainly the hourglass-shaped reactors remain mysterious in any case.

In any case, this quote neither helps nor hinders any particular point at the moment.



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