"Out of Range":  Star Wars Weapons Range Objections

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I.  Misunderstandings of Perspective

Some people have great difficulty with issues like perspective.  For instance, let's take two pictures:

On the main SW range page, I note that the bottom TIE is apparently larger (i.e. bigger in the two-dimensional image because it takes up more space on the picture) than the top TIE. 

However, some have claimed that it is simply a matter of vantage point.   What they're saying is that the lower TIE simply appears larger because we're closer to the window in the lower shot.

In other words, the TIEs would just naturally "grow" in apparent size by half-again if the camera's position had been a few feet forward in the top shot.    This, of course, is patently absurd.  An object's apparent size won't change by such a huge percentage in such an instance.   Let's say you're on a ship, and some guy's looking out a window . . . maybe at Earth or another ship.   You walk up to the window, a journey of six feet.  What happens?   Something like this:


The blue circular thingy is the exact same size in both scenes (the two scenes being separated by the red line), but you've moved . . . so all the things close to you . . . the guy's head, the window . . . have all grown in apparent size.  But distant objects aren't going to increase in apparent size to the same extent.

Objectors then took things a step further, claiming that Han's head should be used as reference point.  They claimed that one should shrink the second image so that Han's head is the same size as it was in the first.  In other words, they wanted something about like this:

 Of course, that's just as crazy.  While such a maneuver might work for something that was within a few feet of Solo (say, the turret, or a penny taped to the outside window), it will increasingly distort any object that's further away.  Let's try it aboard my artistically-horrid ship again, using the same two scenes as we used before, but this time with the second one shrunken accordingly:

Well well . . . now the blue thingy is of a much different size.  The difference is about 60%.  If you were trying to calculate the distance to an object of known size . . . Earth, or that other ship . . . you'd be off by a huge margin, because the shrinking method employed does not account for the three-dimensional nature of things.

II.  The Falcon's Dive

It's been argued that the Falcon's dive toward the Death Star in ANH shows greater maximum weapons range for the Falcon than ~350 meters against TIEs.

Proponents for this idea claim that the Falcon was in the dive when it fired on Vader's wingman, and then didn't pull out of the dive until we saw Han engaging in a turn several seconds later.  Then, using erroneous speed calculations from entirely different scenes (instead of the 68 m/s speed they argue for and show with a vidcap from during the actual dive), it is claimed that the Falcon fired from about eight kilometers distance.

The eight kilometer value is quite obviously flawed, given the replacement of the observed speed value with a totally different one.   The hypothesis that the Falcon did not pull out of the dive until the turn we see is also flawed.  

1.  Vader's other wingman sees the Falcon diving toward him as if on collision course, panics, and crashes into Vader.  If the Falcon were even a kilometer away, and moving at merely 68 meters per second, the TIE pilot would've had almost 15 seconds to react.  Instead, he behaves as if the collision would occur in just moments, screaming a warning and freaking out.

1a.  We see the Falcon moving at about 68 meters per second, as per a decent eyeball estimate they calculated themselves.  We see it diving for 1.54 seconds, again a figure the objector gives.  Thus, we have a total observed dive distance of just under 105 meters.  

1b.  When we do see the Falcon making its turn after Vader and his wingman collide, it comes down from the upper right of the screen.   The Death Star's surface is not visible.  Therefore, either the Falcon pulled out of the dive at some great altitude above the Death Star's surface, or the Falcon's turn was not the pull-out, but another maneuver.  (See #3)

2.  The claim of the objector about the scene also contradicts both the script and novelization.

In the script:

Vader's wingman panics at the sight of the oncoming pirate
starship and veers radically to one side, colliding with
Vader's TIE fighter in the process. Vader's wingman crashes
into the side wall of the trench and explodes.

The Falcon's later turn . . . claimed to be of the Falcon pulling out of the dive . . . is described thusly:

Solo's ship moves in toward the Death Star trench.

That does not say "Solo pulls out of the dive at the last second" or anything remotely similar.  In the novelization, the scene is described this way:

  All three Tie fighters continued to chase the remaining X-wing down the trench.
It was only a matter of moments before one of them caught the bobbing fighter with a
crippling burst. Except now there were only two Imperial pursuing. The third had
become an expanding cylinder of decomposing debris, bits and pieces of which
slammed into the walls of the canyon.
  Vader's remaining wingman looked around in panic for the source of the attack.
The same distortion fields that confused rebel instrumentation now did likewise to the
two Tie fighters.
  Only when the fighter fully eclipsed the sun forward did the new threat become
visible. It was a Corellian transport, far larger than any fighter, and it was diving
directly at the trench. But it didn't move precisely like a freighter, somehow.
  Whoever was piloting that vehicle must have been unconscious or out of his
mind, the wingman decided. Wildly he adjusted controls in an attempt to avoid the
anticipated collision. The freighter swept by just overhead, but in missing it the
wingman slid too far to one side.
  A small explosion followed as two huge fins of the paralleling Tie fighters
intersected. Screaming uselessly into his pickup, the wingman fluttered toward the
near trench wall. He never touched it, his ship erupting in flame before contact.
  To the other side, Darth Vader's fighter began spinning helplessly. Unimpressed 
by the Dark Lord's desperate glower, various controls and instruments gave back 
readings, which were brutally truthful. Completely out of control, the tiny ship 
continued spinning in the opposite direction from the destroyed wingman—out
into the endless reaches of deep space.

  Whoever was at the controls of the supple freighter was neither unconscious nor
insane—well, perhaps slightly touched, but fully in command nonetheless. It soared
high above the trench, turning to run protectively above Luke.
  "You're all clear now, kid," a familiar voice informed him. "Now blow this
thing so we can all go home."

In short, both the script and the novelization are in agreement with the presentation in the film and the canon range limitation seen in the earlier TIE chase.

3.  Of course the basic flaw is that the opponents are trying to use the hypothesis about when the dive begins and when pull-out occurs as if it were canon fact, and believe that it therefore overrides the clear visuals of the Falcon and the out-of-range TIE.   This is a wrong-headed way of doing things.  Instead, consistency requires that the Falcon could not have been more than about 350 meters distant when it fired on Vader's wingman, unless the canon specifically demands otherwise.   Flawed hypotheses about the dive do not constitute a canon demand.


What actually occurred is that the Falcon flew along with, fired on, and destroyed a TIE fighter from above.  Then the other TIE wingman looked up and saw the Falcon diving toward him at ~68 m/s as if on collision course.  Freaking out, he tried to evade, and as Han pulled out of the dive and swept overhead, the wingman's TIE collided with Vader's.  The later shot in the film showing the Falcon's turn was Han engaging in a turn high above the trench, soaring toward it in order to fly protectively over Luke. 

That is the logical position, and the canonical position.  However, it is also my position . . . which explains why some opponents have difficulty accepting it.