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<   No. 434   2004-04-04   >

Comic #434

1 Jar Jar: Meesa be thinking. What iffa you build-a some grand towers into-a space to take dissa heat away from da planet, muy muy?
2 Anakin: Jar Jar, the energy radiated by a black body is proportional to surface area, so to get any decent amount of cooling...
3 [sound]: Click! {image of a TV screen showing static}
4 {scene change: on board the pirate ship}
4 Long Tom: {beating a horse} Arrr! Take that, ye scurvy equine! And that!
4 Wendy: But cap'n, it be dead!

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The saga continues: #386, #393, #396, #399, #417, #420, #431...

Before he was so rudely interrupted, Anakin started explaining to Jar Jar why huge heat-radiating fins sticking out into the cold depths of space will not help Coruscant to cool down.

Those who remember the material on the Laws of Thermodynamics from #431 might be thinking:

But hang on. Space is cold. Pretty darn cold, if I remember rightly. Near absolute zero, in fact. (Though not at absolute zero because I understand the Third Law of Thermodynamics now; clever dick, aren't I?) And from the Second Law of Thermodynamics I know that heat will naturally flow from a hot place to a colder place. So if we build great big towers full of some heat-conducting material, from the surface of Coruscant so tall that they stick out into space, the heat will naturally flow up the towers away from the planet and into the cold of space! Brilliant!
Congratulations. You've just come up with an idea that Jar Jar came up with. ;-)

So what's wrong with it?

Yes, space is cold. But it's also empty. Heat mostly moves by conduction through matter. And there's bugger all matter in space to conduct that heat away. It will leak away, but very, very slowly. Not fast enough to cool Coruscant appreciably.

Energy can also be radiated away, as electromagnetic radiation. At the high temperature Coruscant will be, it will mostly be infra-red radiation. Now, I've already taken how much heat radiates from the planet itself into account in working out how hot the planet will be. That's the standard way to calculate the temperature of something in physics: Work out how much energy is being produced, and set it equal to the amount of energy radiated away (they must be equal because of the First Law of Thermodynamics). Solve the equation for the temperature, and there you go.

Now, the formula for working out how much energy is radiated from something depends on the temperature and the surface area of the object. So, to radiate an amount of heat sufficient to cool Coruscant appreciably, you need to have those towers have a surface area similar to the size of the planet itself. Which is a lot. And the other problem is all that area will start intercepting the radiation from the planet, making the cooling less and less efficient the more cooling radiators you build.

This material is examinable and will be on the test at the end of the semester.

Oh, and if you thought you'd never see a Star Wars/Pirates crossover strip, think again!

2013-03-19 Rerun commentary: An invocation and deconstruction of the literal dead horse trope.

Hey, don't blame me for all the links to TV Tropes. I have to distract you from the comic somehow.

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