Physicist reveals science secrets of 'Star Wars' in new book
Georgetown professor explores the science behind the Jedi Force, lightsabers and the Death Star.
It's a good time to be a "Star Wars" fan – "Episode VIII" was brought to life by American director Rian Johnson and prolific Israeli producer Ram Bergman last year and now a new film, focusing on the early career of Han Solo, is due out in theaters this month. Not to mention that Disney has ordered a bevy of more films to add to the cannon.
But before heading to the multiplex, fans should spend time reading an intriguing new book by Georgetown University science professor Patrick Johnson. Called "The Physics of Star Wars: The Science Behind a Galaxy Far, Far Away," it was published by Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster.
In it, Johnson takes everything you know and love about the "Star Wars" universe and explores it through a scientific lens. Take, for example, lightsabers. Could you actually create your own lightsaber? It's a topic discussed at length in the book, and also in this short video:
Other questions that the book tackles include: What are the physics involved in keeping a cloud city afloat? Could you fly through space at the speed of light like Han Solo and Poe Dameron? Can you explore the mystical power of the Force using quantum mechanics? How much energy it would take for the Death Star to destroy a planet? That last one would actually depend on how you calculate the gravity of that ship.
As for "Star Wars," we all know from that famous opening scroll that it takes place in a "galaxy, far, far away," but exactly when is that? Johnson tackles that question as well in his new book. He estimates that the films take place as "recently" as 4.7 billion years ago. "It is certainly closer to now than to the Big Bang," he writes.
These are all topics that likely would have fascinated Albert Einstein, the world's most famous physicist. After all, without Einstein's theories surrounding GPS, "Star Wars" spaceships would have no way of traveling from Point A to Point B. Einstein's theory of relativity touched on the topics of time travel and gravitational pull, both of which can be seen in the "Star Wars" universe. The Millennium Falcon used hyperspace to quickly traverse a galactic empire spanning more than 120,000 light years. Not to mention the fact that the British makeup artist who worked on the original film revealed that Einstein was a muse for Yoda.
Johnson, an Ohio native, said that one of his primary life goals is to bring accessible discussions of science to the world. Weaving pop culture into physics has earned him respectable ratings on RateMyProfessor.com, with students saying he's "super funny and engaging" as well as being a "great guy too, awesome to just hang out with and talk."
Hie new book falls in line with other academic books devoted to pop culture including "The Philosophy of Seinfeld," "The Science of Game of Thrones" and "The Physics of Star Trek."
"Science is about the critical thinking process needed to tackle a problem rather than the specific situation in which the problem appears," writes Johnson. "There's no reason we can't consider Yoda force-lifting rocks instead of pulleys lifting blocks!"
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