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Flame on! Richie Rich Flame on!

Written: 1999.04.25

Note: Richie Rich is an alias. The person with whom I originally corresponded has since E-mailed me to apologize for his statements, and he politely requested that I not identify him by name. I have therefore removed any references to his real name from this exchange.

On Monday, January 25, 1999, a high school student sent an e-mail which eventually turned into a flamewar. His rantings constitute an excellent example of why high school students should do some research before making unscientific claims and embarrassing themselves. The first e-mail message started with the incendiary declaration that he was right and I was wrong, followed by a quote from the official Star Wars website at www.starwars.com.

The power output for the hyperdrive is wrong.
"A technology whose origin remains the subject of heated debate, the hyperdrive is an engine - powered by fusion generators - which allows a spacecraft to enter hyperspace, an alternate dimension where travel at many times the speed of light ceases to be an impossibility. Journeys that would require months or years in normal or "realspace" zip by in a matter of weeks or hours, making distant star systems easily accessible."
No fusion generator can generate 1E25 watts, none, its not possible, not even with cold fusion or any other type of fusion im aware of.

(Editor's note: you will find that people are often offended if your very first words to them are "you are wrong" or something similar. Even if you feel that you have a solid case for disagreeing with them, it is fairly easy to find a more diplomatic way of introducing yourself to someone- apparently, he's never even heard of the word "hello". An introduction like the one above will only guarantee that any responses will be similarly rude. I answered with the following post).

The word "fusion" is merely a synonym for "joining". It does not necessarily mean "nuclear fusion". Did you know that melting is also known as fusion? The SW hyperdrive motivator reactors are explicitly described to run off anything from radioactive gas to heavy metals. Nuclear fusion cannot occur in heavy metals, therefore the "fusion generators" obviously aren't nuclear fusion generators.

(Editor's note: From this point forward, he became more and more insistent, finally resorting to racist remarks and irrelevant claims about his personal wealth and class status. Some sections are deleted because they are repetitive or just pointless, but nothing is altered. Everything quoted here is taken verbatim from the original, flame-filled e-mail correspondence. The occasional line-break indicates the passage of days.)

Actually I do know a little bit about fusion ... also you are correct that it did not specify which kind of fusion it is. But then again why would they bother saying its powered by fusion, if they dont say what type of fusion it is. Since all of mankind only knows of nuclear fusion as a possible futuristic power source, it is probable that is what was meant by fusion.

Wrong. Nuclear fusion is impossible in heavy metals, therefore it cannot be nuclear fusion. If you knew as much about fusion as you claimed to know, you would already know this. The elemental binding energy curve is one of the most basic concepts in nuclear physics. Your "knowledge" of nuclear physics is obviously typical sci-fi fanboy knowledge, not actual professional knowledge.

So perhaps they have some advanced form of fusion that we arent aware of.

One that allows them to get positive energy from a process which yields net negative energy? That would be quite a neat trick, and completely impossible. Go back to the shallow end of the pool.

(Editor's note: The following argument relates to the technical literature which states that a Star Destroyer consumes more energy in a single hyperspace jump than many nations will consume in their entire lifetimes).

And seeing as how the author of star wars only had a few nations to base it on, eg earth, it can be safely concluded that he is talking about the US.

Obviously the text refers to SW civilizations and planets, not Earth. In the entire history of SW tech literature, nothing has ever been described in terms of Earth or our galaxy. It is all based on their frame of reference, which is their galaxy. Is this really the best you can come up with?

If you are such a genius, why dont you tell me what other form of fusion creates energy. Melting takes energy last time I checked.

A form of fusion we have not discovered yet. Fusion is an extremely generalized term, since it only means "joining". Matter/antimatter annihilation could technically be described as "fusion". Maybe it refers to some sort of quantum-level reaction. The point is that nuclear fusion is impossible in heavy metals.

As long as mass is lost in the reaction, energy is gained. Ever heard of the theory of relativity.

And if you knew your ass from a hole in the ground you would know that in heavy metals, mass is gained in the reaction. Mass is lost when heavy metals fission, which is why nuclear fission occurs with uranium.

Thats how nuclear reactions generate energy. While it is nearly impossible, it isnt totally impossible, besides how do you think everything past uranium was created, it sure as hell wasnt natural.

I know how it was created- neutron capture followed by spontaneous beta-decay. That's more basic nuclear physics which you obviously don't know.

Also what would be the point of even bothering with a death star when a shot or two from a Star Destroyer would destroy all life on the planet anyways. Also since hundreds of people are telling you its wrong, and these people may actually have some knowledge greater than yours, id suggest you listen to them.

(Editor's note: I didn't even bother replying to this rant. It's so stupid that the act of reading it may actually damage your brain! He ignores the planetary shield problem, which is one of the reasons the Death Star was created in the first place, and he assumes that "hundreds" of people have been telling me that I'm wrong on this issue, when he is in fact the very first person to ever e-mail me about this particular part of my website. I've gotten criticisms before, but most people know enough not to assume that it is possible to generate power with nuclear fusion in heavy metals).

Btw never email me again, Im afraid you need a college education to actually speak with me. And I mean a real university, not community college, which seems to be what you have. Besides, if you had  any actual brains, you wouldnt  resort to insults and other such stupidity. And not all superluminal travel does mean time distortion, eg quantum tunneling.

In other words, you know that your knowledge is so vastly inferior to mine that you don't want to continue this argument. Otherwise, it might have occurred to you that fusion is a net-energy-loss reaction in heavy metals. They release energy through fission, not fusion. This is basic nuclear physics, which I learned at the University of Waterloo.

Maybe someday when you grow up, you'll be able to sweep floors there.

(Editor's note: This is the part of the argument where he thinks that he can give himself the last word by commanding me not to respond. Since I am not bound by any sort of law to obey his edict, I of course responded anyway. Notice how he assumes that I'm no more educated than he is, without bothering to check. Of course, when I inform him that I do have a university education, he will instantly rescind his previous statement about giving credence to university educations. Also note that he is making bold statements about superluminal travel without bothering to do his research- Einstein's Theory of General Relativity predicts that unless some form of time travel is employed, superluminal travellers will quickly die of old age).

Actually Ill be going to the George Washington University on a 10000 dollar scholarship in science, and as i said never email me again. You see, Im rich, I have connections, Im better than you. I could go to any university I felt like. You are basically an inferior race. Your pathetic little attempt to impress me has failed scum. So as I said, never email me again.

In other words, you're just another snot-nosed high-school kid, living off your parents' money because you've never earned a dollar in your life. I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not.

(Editor's note: Here, he inadvertently reveals several things about himself. He thinks that he's going to impress me with the fact that he's going to university soon. Maybe that impresses children, but it doesn't exactly knock the socks off an adult who graduated from university years ago! Also, he reveals that he's a racist, and he also claims to be wealthy. Apparently, he feels that if he claims to a wealthy member of a superior race, that somehow applies to this argument. Well, no one ever said that racists were smart ...)

I wasnt criticizing your race, i was criticizing your social status. And as long as the stock market  is around, ill always have money. Its not actually possible for me to be racist as I have too large of an ancestral background to do such.

So you're either a racist or a spoiled rich kid who's living off Daddy's money. You feel that one of those alternatives is something to be proud of?

(Editor's note: It's pretty hard to imagine someone using the phrase "inferior race" to a member of a visible minority like myself, without realizing how offensive it is. It is equally hard to imagine how this person might accidentally replace the word "class" with "race". He is either a racist (who is now trying to backtrack weakly) or he is incredibly stupid for using the phrase "inferior race" without realizing that it is a racist remark. Strangely, he thinks that if he admits to class snobbery instead of racism, this makes him look like some sort of hero).

I also think that in a black hole there could be fusion of heavy elements, seeing as how it could in theory accelerate something past light speed.

Wrong. Nothing is accelerated past light speed anywhere in the universe, not even in a black hole. Furthermore, there is no such thing as "fusion" in black holes. Black holes do not contain atoms- they contain degenerate matter which can no longer be described as "atoms" or "elements".

(Editor's note: I suppose some anal-retentive type might point out that quantum mechanics can be interpreted to permit individual subatomic particles to occasionally move faster than light, and some trickery might be attempted based on this fact. But a macroscopic object is a completely different animal).

Btw being rich isnt a bad thing, its quite good actually. Only American society is all screwed up, and people like to smoke crack and do all sorts of stupid things. I do not, and i am proud to be rich because it means i am part of the upper class, and i always will be. However  i do not feel like getting into an arguement about social classes and all that garbage right now.

Because you enjoy being a snob? I don't care how rich you are. I only care how ignorant you are. And sir, you are a first-class example of an ignorant little high-school kid with delusions of intellectual adequacy.

Now another little thing to show you that their ships may use technology that we have or will have soon enough, is the fact that fighters use ion drives. This technology may be implemented soon enough. Now if they have been travelling space for 25000 years, they have hypermatter reactors and some unknown fusion reactor thousands of years ahead of us, and yet they use ion drives, something we could build today.

This is yet another example of unscientific thinking. All sublight propulsion systems in all sci-fi series are based on basic Newtonian impulse principles. The fact that we can build such engines today proves nothing. We can't build engines which can be miniaturized onto a fighter and used to repeatedly escape a planetary gravity well on a single tank of fuel. This is a classic example of ignorant Trekkie technobabble- the name of the device is irrelevant. The performance is what matters. The Wright Brothers achieved airfoil-based flight near the beginning of this century- does this mean that the F-22 is no more advanced than the Wright Brothers' aircraft?

I didnt mean for you to explain it to me, i already know that much, that basic chemistry, which i did get a 5 on the AP test last year. Im quite aware of laws concerning enthalpy and entropy.

But you were obviously not aware of how transuranic elements are formed, since you previously claimed that they must have been formed through fusion. If you are so knowledgeable, why don't you explain what neutron capture followed by spontaneous beta radiation is? It's the currently accepted theory for formation of transuranic elements, and you have been boasting about how your vast knowledge makes you superior to a university-educated professional like myself. This should be an easy answer for you to rattle off the top of your head if you are half as knowledgeable as what you say.

(Editor's note: Several days later, he managed to figure out what neutron capture followed by spontaneous beta decay is, and triumphantly e-mailed me to say he had accomplished the task. If nothing else, at least he may have learned something from this debate even if he won't admit it. But if he had looked it up before he started this flamewar, he wouldn't have made a fool of himself by claiming that all transuranic elements are made through nuclear fusion. If he had looked it up the moment I first mentioned it, he wouldn't have continued to spout the same argument up to this point. Instead, he seems to run on "intuitive" assumptions unless challenged, and the "intuitive method" is notoriously unreliable when discussing science- he will display the weakness of "intuitive" science again in the following paragraph where he claims that Einstein was wrong about the light-speed barrier).

I know what a black hole is, its basically one large nucleus, since the electron shells collapse basically all vacuum. Now all scientists agree that anything within a black holes event horizon is pulled in by its immense gravity, even light, which gives it its name. So if light is travelling away from this black hole, the acceleration of  the gravity must be enough to pull it from its original course and back into the hole. Now lets say a particle is already moving towards it, one of significant mass. The acceleration would be much greater, and would be greater than the speed of light.

Again, totally wrong. Nothing can accelerate past the speed of light. This is basic General Relativity, which you claim to understand. Your problem is that you don't understand the basic principle of gravity, and you are attempting to apply Newtonian physics to a decidedly non-Newtonian sitaution. Do you seriously need me to explain basic GR to you? You seem to think you understand it, but based on your statement here, you obviously don't.

Also what form of fusion does use heavy metals, their engines melt uranium and then through some mystical quantum thing it produces energy, doubtful.

Exactly. So it can't possibly be nuclear fusion. This is what I've been saying all along. Don't you get it by now?

also after 25000 years of development you would think they could come up with something better than an ion drive. 25000 years ago we were using rocks to kill things, now we use nuclear weapons, thats the kind of advancement i am expecting to see.

The Centauri use mass-drivers to bombard the Narn homeworld in B5. Does that make them technologically equivalent to cavemen? I repeat for the hundredth time: the only thing that matters is performance. Modern ion drives barely generate enough thrust to push a piece of paper against the force of gravity. Obviously, any ion drive which can accelerate a monstrous mile-long starship at thousands of g's is not like a 20th century ion drive.

And yes i would like you to explain gr to me since my physics teacher hasnt bothered to prove me wrong yet. Also if you look at what Newton did, most of his stuff is considered LAW, Einstein's work is THEORY, and he didnt do much work with black holes as i recall. In fact a lot of his work was proven wrong.

More ignorant high school bullshit. All science is theories- "laws" are just theories that are very well accepted. As for general relavitity, I discuss this on my webpage in the science section and see no reason to educate you again, if you couldn't read or understand it the first time. You can always look it up. While you're at it, ask your high school teacher if black holes accelerate matter beyond the speed of light. If he says "yes", please report his name and district to me so that I can report him for extreme incompetence.

Newton's "laws" are approximations, which are only accurate at low speeds. At high speeds, they are totally wrong. Einstein's work has not been "proven wrong". His work has been built upon and augmented, but GR is still perfectly valid and accepted scientific theory. Who the hell told you that it was "proven wrong?" Mickey Mouse?

Also gravity is the way that matter distorts space-time. It causes objects of mass to accelerate towards it. Acceleration by gravity is constant, and should something be going near lightspeed anyways, then why wouldnt it accelerate to light speed.

It isn't enough that someone with a university degree in applied science (which, by the way, is enough education to qualify me to teach ignorant high school kids like yourself if I want) simply says so? Your problem is that you don't know anything about general relativity so you don't understand any of the ramifications. Length, mass, and time all change as you approach c, so gravitational acceleration is not constant at those velocities.

Why cant other particles get up to this speed, only einstein was able to explain, someone who had much of his work refuted.

It was not refuted. Subsequent scientists have added to his work, but GR stands proud today and has not been refuted in any way, shape or form. All modern particle accelerators would be impossible without GR.

(Editor's note: This is not the first time I've heard someone claim that Einstein's work has been refuted. Einstein made errors to be sure, but the Theory of General Relativity, his most famous work, is still the accepted method of modelling the behaviour of large systems. Until the grand unified theory comes along to marry quantum mechanics and general relativity, both fields are still valid within their particular regimes. I've noticed that a lot of people hear that Einstein was incorrect on some issues, so they assume that everything with Einstein's name on it has been thrown out the window. Words fail me to describe how ridiculous this attitude is).

And while this high school student may not be brilliant because he isnt university educated yet, i soon will be. Also I am at the top of my class in physics, chemistry, and calc. So if I am a dumbass, id hate to think what the rest of highschoolers are.

You're quite an arrogant little high school kid, aren't you? You really think that your feeble little high school class valedictorian crap means anything? Every single person in first-year UW engineering was at the top of his high school class. Three quarters of these guys failed out before the end of the program. Being at the top of your high school class means nothing.

And while the time travel device that the borg has as you claim is only for purposes of the movie and a plot, you forget, STAR TREK AND STAR WARS ARE AROUND FOR ENTERTAINMENT

Wow- what a news flash! You should be very proud for detecting this well-hidden fact!

(Editor's note: when a stubborn, immature person paints himself into a corner and starts badly losing an argument like this, they tend to resort to their pathetic last gasp, which is to argue that since neither Star Wars or Star Trek are real, this argument doesn't amount to anything. Since everyone knows this before they jump into the argument, this isn't exactly a revelation. This sort of statement is a good indicator that someone knows he's losing but refuses to say "uncle").

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