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LETTER: We really built the death Star?

Published: Monday, February 24, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 24, 2014 23:02

To the editor:

Walking home from the library last week, I noticed sign put up in celebration of Engineering Week. The sign said “An engineer designed the Death Star: That’s Engineering. That’s Utah State.” I feel as though it would be useful to unpack the sign’s rhetoric.

First, the Death Star is fictional and therefore designed by a fictional engineer. It may have been designed by a fictional engineer who went to a fictional Utah State, but I doubt that because the “Star Wars” movies take place in a “galaxy far, far away.”

Maybe the sign was referencing John Stears, the Academy Award-winning special effects guru for the “Bond” films and some of the “Star Wars” films who designed the models of the Death Star that were used in filming “Star Wars,” but he worked as a draftsman at an architecture firm prior to his film career, not as an engineer. If the sign is referencing him, then the sign should read “a draftsman designed the Death Star,” not “an engineer designed the Death Star.”

Second, does the College of Engineering really want to associate itself with an implement of genocide? In the film, the Death Star was designed specifically to destroy entire planets and their inhabitants. Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia screams as she watches her home planet get destroyed.

It probably was an engineer who designed the landmines that litter Cambodia, and it probably was an engineer who designed the chemical weapons that killed hundreds during World War I and that have been used recently in Syria. Should our College of Engineering draw attention to that dark side of war profiteering engineers in such a positive light? Should that be encouraged on our campus?

Last, the Death Star is known not for being a sound piece of engineering, but a failure. It has one major flaw: A single fighter pilot can destroy the entire thing with just one shot into the thermal exhaust port. Do we really want “that is engineering, that is Utah State” to be the tagline to science fiction’s greatest engineering failure?

I mostly write this to point out that what we post on campus, if we don’t pay attention to the implicit and explicit rhetoric, can really reflect poorly on our great university. So let’s not be sloppy with our words.

Braden Clinger

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