# Star Wars Physics lesson - Geeks knowledge required

Discussion in 'Science' started by aporter86, Jul 13, 2011.

1. ### aporter86New commenter

I want to show Star Wars IV New Hope to GCSE Physics class as a bit of an end of term thing but specifically with a physics focus.
If you have any ideas for a questions sheet I could put together that would be most appreciated.

Focus could be on:
Electromagnetic spectrum
Insulators / specific heat capacity etc
Acceleration
Gravity
and obviously space...

Thank you!

2. ### OrionNew commenter

Just pose the question of the photon model of light compared to the wave model. Introduce E=hf and ask them to explain why light sabers cannot really work. I think tht is enough and a nice A* think peice to lead onto AS!

3. ### blazerStar commenter

How can a faster than light speed ship communicate or even use sensors if the EM rays used are slower than the ship itself?

4. ### aporter86New commenter

Thanks for the quick replies - I'm liking the ideas

5. ### prescotta

geek alert ...apparently hyperspace is an alternative dimension ... and we all know what happens in those sort of places!

6. ### IanBDunne

Oh where to start, I love the film but it is not the most scientifically accurate.
You would not hear one space ship explode from another, sound cannot travel through a vacuum.
Light sabers? Are they plasma contained in a magnetic bottle or what? What could give you the power source, a pocket sized fusion reactor?
The death star planet killer ray is a similar problem
Han says something like, "This is the ship that made the Kessel run in three parsecs" A parsec is a measure of distance not time.
The Falcon and the other ships "fly" in space by banking etc like an aircraft. No they wouldn't, planes fly like that because they are moving through air. In space manourvering would be by rockets or such, the momentum and angular momentum of the machine has to be changed to make it change dirrection. Remember Newtons second law.
Hyper space? I'm not sure even superstring theory can account for that.
The Force, seems even stranger to understand how a that "action at a distance" works compared to the electromagnet force or even gravity.
How does the artifial gravity of ships etc work.
Holographic 3 d images, is that by constructive interference or is there another method that could work.
On a biological note, consider the natural selection that must have operated to make Yoda and what sort of selection pressures produced mitochlorians?
I do love the film though, honest it is the best of the whole franchise.

Yes but a real star wars geek would know that Kessel (with it's Spice Mines) is next door to the Maw.....a region of space with about 6 to 12 black holes (i can't remember the exact number off the top of my head). If the Kessel run takes him near there and considering that black holes do funky things to space time it is potentially possible for him to have done the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs (not the three as you say).

For those that are really into the geek the Maw is where the empire kept a top secret research base that came up with the plans for the death star. Solo also had a load of Corellian orphan kids on the Falcon when he did the Kessel run that time which is how he got away from the star destroyer that was was chassing him when he tossed his cargo so the kids got him out of dodgy.

My geeking out aside you could throw in some sort of question relating to the black holes at kessel and see if you could get them to piece out if it is or is not possible to do the Kessel run in a shorter distance. In the mean time i think i need to go back to my box as all this socialising is making me a tired little uber geek.

8. ### mrswallowNew commenter

Um, the idea behind making the Kessel run in under a certain distance is that there is a safer, longer route to Kessel, then there is Han's route which is shorter and therefore quicker, cheaper and less likely to be intercepted by other people as it involves flying closer to the black holes. It is supposed to demonstrate that Han is brave and that the MF is a better ship than she looks. So, not a mistake in the script then.
My understanding is the cargo Han tossed belonged to Jabba the Hutt, and is why Jabba is annoyed at him. So, not just filler for the third film then, but proper back story.
If you want to know more about the physics of lightsabers* then have a quick read of 'I Jedi' by Micheal Stackpole. the artificial gravity thing is also used as a inertia compensator for tight bends and rapid accelerations in different ships, so there is lots of lovely physics there.
And failing that, look up 'Wookiepedia' and get answers to questions you never thought you knew you wanted to ask. They have a forum, where some lovely, enthusastic people will help you with any questions.
I'm a bit embarassed I know so much about it all, but hey, at least it isn't Star Trek.
* If you don't then I don't really blame you.

It's been a while since i was reading the expanded universe in any detail. But Han was doing a Spice Run and he also had Corellian orphans on the ship, he tossed the ilegal stuff when he was close to being boarded and when he was he used the fact he was taking Corellian orphans back to Corellia to avoid being arrested.

10. ### OrionNew commenter

Maybe as well you can teach the topic without runing Star Wars as the greatest Sci Fi Epic ever done!

11. ### IanBDunne

I bow to your awesome geek knowledge.

12. ### PinkHelenNew commenter

This sounds like an awesome idea for a physics lesson! And possibly a good opportunity to teach my year 10s that the prequels are not the best of the whole series, as they seem to think!
I don't have any questions to add as sadly you've all out-geeked me

Although you may already know this, a nice comparison to hearing the ships in space when you really shouldn't is provided by Firefly, as in their episodes there was only ever silence when they were in space. An episode called "Objects in Space" demonstrates this quite nicely with huge explosions on the ship, and then cutting to outside where nothing can be heard.

Being a little cheeky, would it be possible to have a copy of your question sheet if you make one?

13. ### ruoshan

It cant! I think it's better to ignore that part, cuz nothing with an actual mass can go faster than light, as when speed increases mass increases as well, and when the speed infinitely close to speed of light, mass would become infinite, so nothing could go faster than speed of light but photons

14. ### mike ryan

BUT

The cans and can'ts are all based on the idea that we KNOW we are right about space / time / light etc. With all this dark matter (nothing to do with the dark side...or is it?) knocking about we might be on the verge of a whole new explanation of science being needed to explain "stuff". The person who is going to deal with this paradigm shift may be in your laboratory this week. S/he will have to prove themselves using our current understanding before they are allowed to develop their own, possibly better version of "truth". If people don't at least consider the "wrong science" then we would still be in a geocentric flat earth world.
So long as the students are able and careful to distinguish between the science they need to know to pass exams and the science (fiction?) of film and literature, this can be a great way to get them thinking and arguing.
Imagine the shock on the face of some ancient when he found a magnetic material that made things disobey gravity. We already pose such awkward questions when we tell GCSE children that similar charges repel and yet we have lots of protons sat next to each other in a nucleus.

15. ### DrDaz

As they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Sometimes to explain complex concepts to the uninitiated we have to lie to introduce the subject and then correct the lie later on once the basics have been established.
For instance, protons do have like charge and should repel in the nucleaus of an atom; indeed they do. However, as with any stable system, there are two forces acting that balance one another.(eg. during a star's stable phase its gravity is balanced by radiation pressure from the fusion reactions occuring in its core). The nuclear force (aka strong nuclear force cf. weak interaction) balances the electrostatic repulsion. The nuclear force is an interaction between neutrons and protons in the nucleus and is mediated by a particle know as a meson (specifically a pion I think). This then leads into discussions of quarks, gluons and quantum chromodynamic that, lets face it, is a little bit above GCSE level!
One point about the so called 'Dark Energy' and 'Dark Matter'. Both have been invented to account for the discrpency between our theories of the universe and what is observed. If our theories are correct then only ~5% of the universe is made up of the stuff we claim to understand, of the remaining 95% about 23% is Dark Matter and 72% is Dark Energy. These statistics are based on our current theories and observations. If we accept that Dark Matter and Dark Energy are real, physical phenomenon why can't we detect them? To me they seem too much like fugde factors but if we don't accept them to be real, then that means our theories are incorrect and need modification or a complete overhaul. Indeed, if our theories are wrong then that means we are interpreting our observations incorrectly thus the discrepencies.
Anyway, Star Wars. Discussion of space-craft design may be interesting, such as the fact that nearly all the space-crafts in the films operate both in the vacuum of space and in atmospheres. Which way is 'up' when in space?
How could you make a tractor beam/ plasma cannon/ blaster/ light sabre?
Something about the four fandamental forces and 'The Force', which is described as an 'energy field' that pervades the whole universe? Leads into a discussion of the difference between an energy and a force, or about what 'field' actually pervades the entire universe; the cosmic microwave background radiation.
Even the text at the start of the films i.e. "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" could spark questions relating to the cosmological principle, the vast distances between galaxies, the nature of light and even the evolution of the universe.
And Jar Jar Binks, why?

The less said about that the better!!!!

17. ### OrionNew commenter

Actually it just occured to me, I take it that you recorded this program of UK TV as if you are showing a bought DVD or Video you will be in breach of the Copyright!
Just a word of warning!

18. ### ScienceGuyOccasional commenter

Obviously useful when introducing the concepts of culling!