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Scientific Inaccuracies in 'Star Wars'

The 'Star Wars' movies are full of science, but how much of it would really hold up on Earth? Here are a few of the glaring inaccuracies in the 'Star Wars' universe.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, the Star Wars franchise was born. The popular movies have been a hit since their creation in 1977. The series is widely known as the epitome of the science fiction genre, with a massive worldwide fanbase. As you can imagine, people love to theorize about whether or not the events in the Star Wars films can actually occur. Could there be alien species on other planets or powers people can control with their minds? How about spaceships that can travel within a galaxy at hyper-speed? So much is still unknown about outer space beyond the Milky Way, but there are some events in the Star Wars universe that just couldn't happen in real life. Here are just a few of the scientific inaccuracies in the Star Wars films.

Explosions in Space

A staple of the Star Wars movies is the massive explosion. Two ships collide and suddenly a boom is heard and fire is everywhere. This would not happen in our galaxy. Yes, it's true that explosions do occur in space, but they appear very differently from those on Earth. The process of combustion on Earth involves an oxidizer, which is difficult to come by when there's no gaseous oxygen. An explosion will be visibly smaller in space, as it will quickly disappear into a vacuum. Think more along the lines of a camera flash than a continuously burning ball of fire.

Additionally, the explosions in the movies would not make a sound in real life. That same vacuum of space eliminates the sound that would have been heard from the exploding Death Star. The lack of air means a lack of sound as well. In actuality, the characters of Star Wars would sit in eerie silence after an explosion.

Hyperspace

The idea of hyperspace as it exists in the Star Wars universe is that of another dimension that can be reached by traveling at the speed of light or faster. This concept makes it possible for the characters of the films to travel between planets much faster, and so that the movies do not last for 100 hours. When traveling in hyperspace, spaceships are able to skip from one point to another. They do not have to travel between point A and point B, but instead jump between the two. In reality, this is impossible. Hyperspace does not exist, and for a moving object to accelerate to lightspeed it would take an infinite amount of energy, according to Albert Einstein. Moving between stars would actually take years, not minutes. I'm sure all of our morning commutes would be a lot easier with hyperspace though, so it's nice to dream.

Planet Landscape

Another fundamental inaccuracy in the Star Wars saga is the simplistic landscapes of the different planets. Yes, it's true that we don't know all the planets that exist beyond our galaxy, but many of the planets in Star Wars have one singular type of landscape, which generally doesn't occur when a planet supports life. Earth has a healthy mix of desert, ocean, jungle, and icy regions. In a perfect world, maybe we could find an inhabitable planet that's only tropical beaches, but right now it's an impossibility.

Lightsabers

Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. General Grievous in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Unfortunately, deadly weapons made of light will never exist. Light does not have mass, so it cannot cut through objects like the Star Wars movies suggest. It is possible that light can be manipulated into a laser which can cut things, but it would have to be bent in order to look the way it does in the films, and lasers do not bend. Additionally, to power a device like this would require a huge amount of energy, resulting in a laser lightsaber that would be too large to carry. What's the point of having a portable, laser-powered device if you can't hold it in one hand? The famous movie battles would be a lot slower and less intense with giant unwieldy weapons.

Some fans believe that a real lightsaber could be built using plasma. Plasma torches can reach very high temperatures, having the ability to cut through or melt objects. However, they would still need a massive amount of energy to be powered, and when contained in magnetic fields (which is the only way to manipulate the gas-like substance), they would melt the metal handle and kill the Jedi trying to harness the device. Furthermore, if two contained tubes of plasma collided, as they do in every epic Jedi battle, the tubes would pass through each other, and nothing would happen. The Star Wars movies would, therefore, be pretty anticlimactic. 

Parsecs as a Measure of Time

In Star Wars: A New Hope, Han Solo famously says

"You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 Parsecs."

But here's the thing: in no galaxy does that line refer to a real measurement. A parsec is a unit of measure for distance, not time. Famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explains that one parsec is equal to about 3.26 light years. Apparently, the Kessel Run is about 18 parsecs in total, which makes Solo's claim even more strange. There have been theories about what Kessel Run actually is and how the line should be interpreted, but as it stands, he makes no sense. In the real world parsecs would not be used to measure time, and since they are an obscure form of measurement, they probably would not be used at all.

The Force

The Emperor uses the force in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

As much as we wish it was, the force is not strong with this one. I wouldn't even try to debunk this normally because the Force seems completely fictional. However, in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the concept of the midi-chlorian was introduced. This is the idea that small particles in the bloodstream work in conjunction with cells to make up a person in the Star Wars universe. The midi-chlorians are inside of every living thing, however having more of them makes you more inclined to harness the Force. Apparently anyone can learn to use the Force with the right training, but those with more midi-chlorians will have an easier time doing it, and they'll be able to use it to a greater extent.

In actuality, the only thing that comes close to midi-chlorians are mitochondria, which serve as the powerhouse of cells. A difference between midi-chlorians and mitochondria is that in Star Wars, children have more midi-chlorians and when Anakin is an adolescent he's told he is too old to be trained as a Jedi, and in real life, mitochondria are at their highest concentration during adolescence. Another flaw in this parallel is the fact that mitochondria are not inherited paternally, but maternally. In actuality, Darth Vader's mitochondria would bear no effect on Luke's.

So is the Star Wars Universe a Lie?

The bottom line is that Star Wars is fictional. As much as we would like to travel between planets in an instant or slice things with colorful handheld laser beams, it's not going to happen. Instead of trying to rationalize the science behind Star Wars, we should appreciate the story for what it is. Maybe one day we'll see devices that exist in a galaxy far far away, but for now, we're unfortunately stuck on Earth.

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Scientific Inaccuracies in 'Star Wars'
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