Last updated: 2003-04-20
Shields are a more complex subject than many people think, even after you suspend disbelief and stop asking whether they're possible to build. At a fundamental level, we're not even sure what they do, never mind how they work. However, we can certainly theorize, and perhaps learn a few things about certain scientific principles along the way.
In the strange world of sci-fi debating and analysis, shields are one of the strangest subjects of all.
Star Wars vs Star Trek
If we use published specifications for Star Wars and Star Trek shields, we find that the heat dissipation of an Old Republic Acclamator troop transport is 70 trillion GW peak1, while the heat dissipation of a Federation Galaxy Class Starship is 3311GW peak2. In other words, using published specs, we find that an Acclamator has more than 20 billion times the shield system heat dissipation of a GCS, and that is not a typo.
Of course, some will point out that the published material for Star Trek does not enjoy the "quasi-canon" status of published material for Star Wars, and some will simply prefer to debate only with the shows and movies (for obvious reasons, in the case of Trek fans obsessed with Trek power exaggeration). However, this policy only reduces the precision of conclusions, without altering the general balance of power. Without published data, GCS shields can withstand radiation bombardment in the TW range3, and hits from warheads in the high-kiloton or low-megaton range4. However, SW fighters can carry weapons up to and including huge multi-gigaton warheads5, yet they are still ineffective against capital ships without support from heavy weapons6.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that SW shields are far stronger, but they also have the benefit of being far more difficult to circumvent through trickery.
1Attack of the Clones: Incredible Cross-Sections (Acclamator specifications page)
2Star Trek Technical Manual, p.138
3TNG episode name "Relics"
4TNG episode name "Pegasus"
5Attack of the Clones (Slave-1 seismic charges observed destroying asteroids in a multi-kilometre radius)
6The Empire Strikes Back (rebel pilots dismissing the possibility of taking on an ISD).