Thursday, September 7, 2017

Physics of Star Wars book explores the science of the force (and gungans)

The first movie I ever saw in theatre was The Phantom Menace in 1999. I don't remember much of it because I was so young, but I do remember being fascinated by the light sabers and, although the CGI technology was no where near as good as it is now, it still amazed me. How cool would it be to live in a world where we could travel at hyper speed through space, and we could have light sabers to fight with. Now with technologies like the hyper loop coming to play, maybe we aren't so far from the sci-fi universe that we all dreamed of as kids.
This article speaks about the "tantalizing and impossible" physics behind Star Wars, evident in the use of the light saber and hyperspace travel. Professor Patrick Johnson wrote the book The Physics of Star Wars to explore if the physics is close to becoming reality. This book will be released November 7, 2017, but is not the first time that a scientist has tried to grapple with this idea. For example, in 2016, Mark Brake and Jon Chase wrote the book The Science of Star Wars: The Scientific Facts Behind the Force, Space Travel, and More! along with several other similar publications. 
Each chapter explains one phenomenon, how it fits into Star Wars, and then how it works compares to the physics that we understand in the real world. 
The example the article draws on is that there's one chapter about machines making machines, which seems like a soon reality since we already have 3D printers and automated manufacturing plants. 
Circling back to The Phantom Menace, they travel to the core of Naboo, and when they do this, the movie implies that Naboo is water from "surface to surface," and it is possible to have a planet like that, but has certain implications that Star Wars did not entirely consider. For example, the water at the bottom would be under high pressure, and more likely to freeze since the boiling points of water change with pressure. And now that you consider that, will the radius of the planet be affected by that? He said, "If you go to the perfect center of a planet there's no force of gravity because on all sides it would be pulling it towards it, so there's no force of gravity. This means that the pressure behaves in a more complicated fashion as compared to my initial approach." And then, if Naboo was truly water at the core, then it wouldn't have the iron core or a magnetic field, but then maybe the inhabitants set up a magnetic field on their own, or they are super resilient to radiation. 
Physics in pop culture is incredibly interesting and I'm so excited to read this book!

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