If you found your way to this site, then you probably know the Millennium Falcon, the iconic spaceship depicted in the Star Wars films. The Stellarator is likely just slightly less well known, though bears an uncanny resemblance, as pointed out in this AAAS Science Magazine article. In this post I will compare and contrast the two scientific marvels and score them to see which is the overall winner.
The Millenium Falcon:
The Falcon is the brainchild of George Lucas and has been featured in no fewer than three full length films and has made a cameo in another (Revenge of the Sith). It will again play a pivotal role in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The ship is depicted in countless video games, comics, drawings, artwork, models, and even Legos.
The Stellerator is a fusion power reactor that could revolutionize power generation. Its first test should be before the end of the year and, if successful, could usher in a renaissance not seen since the industrial revolution. The specific reactor in question, the W7-X, has been in work for a long time. Initially given the go in 1993-94 by the newly unified German government, it was supposed to go live about 10 years ago, but technical issues caused delays. Now, after more than a million hours of construction, it is finally ready to be turned on.
Now on to rating the two:
Looks: Falcon: 9 – Stellarator: 4
The Millennium Falcon is amazing in its looks because it is so unorthodox. I think there are a few more attractive ships out there so it doesn’t quite rate a 10, but it’s close. The Stellarator looks like a Borg took a donut into the back closet. I really don’t know how this thing could possibly come out looking like it does. No disrespect to the scientists and engineers who put the amazing reactor together, but it really isn’t pretty. Maybe on the next one they’ll engage a designer or architect.
Genesis: Falcon 6 – Stellarator: 9
By his own admission, Millennium Falcon architect George Lucas said the inspiration for the ship came from a hamburger with an olive off to the side. The Stellarator, on the other hand, came from decades of study, countless hours of work, quadrillions of CPU cycles, and a gargantuan amount of political will.
Influence: Falcon: 7 – Stellarator: 10
As mentioned above, the Millenium Falcon is or will be featured in four Star Wars movies. It was also one of the primary influences for the Firefly movie and series. Millions of kids (and a few adults) have built Lego models of it (the Lego kit is 5,195 pieces). It made cameos in numerous movies including one Star Wars film, Star Trek: First Contact, Blade Runner, Spaceballs, and Starship Troopers. Since the Stellarator hasn’t really launched yet, we’ll have to score it on potential influence. If the Stellarator is successful, it will literally change how the majority of people live their lives, could end water shortages, enable space travel and colonization on an unprecedented scale, slow down, and even reverse, global warming, provide power to hundreds of millions currently without, end our dependence on fossil fuel, spur the power revolution… you get the picture. As of yet there is no Lego model of the Stellarator.
Capabilities: Falcon: 8 – Stellarator: 10
The Falcon made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs. That’s pretty impressive. The Stellarator could produce nearly limitless power without toxic byproducts and without destroying our planet. As an aside, a parsec is 3.26 light years, which is a distance. I originally was critical of Lucas because when Han Solo mentioned the Kessel Run and 12 parsecs, it was like saying ‘I ran the Turkey Trot 10k in less than ten thousand meters.’ But then I learned that the Kessel Run was a route that went by a black hole and ships had to navigate around the gravity well. Because of the Falcon’s speed, it could shave distance off by cutting it close. You get a pass, Lucas, but you did confuse a lot of people.
Speed: Falcon: 8 – Stellarator: 10
So this comparison I need to stretch a bit. Since the Stellarator doesn’t really move, I’ll have to compare the heat it generates to the speed of the Falcon. Did I mention the Falcon did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs? It also outran a number of star destroyers, got inside a death star, twice, escaped getting eaten by a giant worm, did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs – oh, I said that one already. Well the Stellarator heats up plasma to 100 million degrees Celsius. The sun only burns at 15 million – wow.
Feasibility in Our Time: Falcon: 1 – Stellarator: 10
The Falcon existed a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The Stellarator could get turned on by the end of the year.
So adding these all up, it looks to be close, but my math shows the Stellarator edging out the Millenium Falcon by a score of 53-39. Sorry George.