x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Build it they will not

Should the US build a Star-Wars style Death Star? Maybe not right away.

Politics, they say, is the art of the possible. But even when something isn't quite possible - say, building a vast orbiting military base equipped with a "superlaser" that can destroy a planet - politicians may be able to exercise the art of having a little fun.

The US constitution permits citizens to petition the government "for redress of grievances" and under current law the administration must respond to any petition, at whitehouse.gov/petitions, that draws 25,000 signatures.

Most of the over-200 current topics are grey and earnest, but a recent one, signed by over 36,000 Star Wars enthusiasts, drew a lot of media attention: Uncle Sam should "secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016".

White House official Paul Shawcross, responding as required by law, cited a couple of little problems with the idea: first, this administration "does not support blowing up planets". Also, the imaginary weapon from Star Wars would cost maybe $850 quadrillion (Dh3.1 quintillion).

He did also invite enthusiasts to study science, technology or maths. But he did not mention that right now, as President Barack Obama is advocating gun control, a Death Star might just send the wrong message.