Mad Science Monday: May the 4th Be With You

May 4, 2020

Welcome to Mad Science Mondays, where we talk about depictions of science in movies, TV shows, books, and the media. We dissect the good, the bad, the comical and the outright irresponsible. Who says learning about science can’t be fun?

Happy Star Wars Day, and welcome to my post about the science of this iconic series. Because my scientific expertise is strictly terrestrial, and because I am one of about three people on this planet who isn’t really sure why Star Wars is such a big deal, I decided I had better do a google. Lucky for me (and you, let’s be honest), people who know a whole lot more about both Star Wars and space have got you covered:

Did you know that the official Star Wars website has a science section? It is chock full of videos on a very wide range of sciencey topics, and an excellent place to start your May the 4th research.

This article on The Science of Star Wars is from the big brains at Georgia Tech. It was written to celebrate the release of The Force Awakens, so it’s a little out of date, but it’s an interesting and wide-ranging read. I particularly enjoyed the section on why the series has such enduring appeal.

The big brains at Stanford wrote Fact or Fiction? The Science of Star Wars, for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, so it’s more current. It’s also more focused, concentrating on types of planetary bodies and issues in space exploration. Very cool stuff!

Of all the articles I read, though, The Real Science Inspired by Star Wars is my favourite. It’s about the ways that pop culture not only inspires research, but simplifies the teaching of scientific concepts by giving students familiar reference points. That is a thing we science writers are always aiming for, so it was fun for me to see how scientists and teachers uses the same strategies.

On a related note, two of the studies I read as research for my current science book project (coming in 2022!) were clearly written by Star Wars fans:

Phantom hunter of the fjords: Camouflage by counterillumination in a shark (Etmopterus spinax)

A deepwater fish with “lightsabers”- dorsal spine-associated luminescence in a counterilluminating lantern shark

That’s right – I’m writing a book that includes glow-in-the-dark sharks. Personally, I’ll take those over droids any day. But that might just be me. 😉

Are you a Star Wars fan? What do you like about the movies? What science or technology from the series do you most wish was real?

2 Comments on ‘Mad Science Monday: May the 4th Be With You’

  1. Cool! If you’re into glow-in-the-dark fish, maybe you saw this, but I’ll share it anyway.
    (hope the link works!)

    Reply | 
    1. Cool! It’s a little hard to tell from the video whether the dolphins themselves are glowing, but based on the trail that’s following them, I’m betting that their movements are actually agitating bioluminescent plankton – apparently physical stimulation can trigger the light signal in some species. Either way, it’s beautiful!

      Reply | 

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