The Science of Star Wars

By: Sarah Brill  |  December 18, 2019

By: Sarah Brill, Sci-Tech Editor

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

George Lucas created a franchise that would steal the hearts of millions around the world. When he created the films, I don’t think he believed it would spark the debate it has around extraterrestrial life and the possibility of high speed space travel, known in the movie as “hyperspace.” 

When Star Wars was released in the 1970s, George Lucas depicted a type of space travel never dreamt of before. “Hyperspace,” or the ability to jump into light speed, allows a person to travel great distances, across various galaxies, to get to their destination in a minimal amount of time. At the current moment, we look at time and space in four dimensions. This means that when we are accessing a destination we look “linearly” and approach a place as such. For example, if we want to get from location A to location B, we think of traveling straight from A to B. The idea of “hyperspace” eliminates the concept of four dimensions and looks to gain access to a higher dimension where location A and B cannot be accessed linearly, but rather through different means. 

Many physicists have discussed the possibility of there being more than four dimensions, but that has yet to be discovered. According to Inverse, string theory, “the idea that the physical world is made up of a framework of tiny, one-dimension string particles that shape spacetime and interact with one-another to form what we might call existence. An offshoot of string theory called superstring theory, suggests that there could be 10 dimensions because of the way strings warp time and space around themselves. The four dimensions we know actually conceal six other dimensions that are curled up.” If we had a way to interact with these dimensions, we might discover properties of a hyperspace-like concept. 

Another concept discussed in Star Wars is extraterrestrial life. Many researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), have toyed with astrobiology, or the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. These studies discuss the idea that a planet may have the capabilities to hold life, or serve as a place for life to exist. The straight answer regarding extraterrestrial life, is that there is none. If we were to broaden our minds a little, we might surprise even ourselves. Think about this logically. According to NASA, “the rover Curiosity has firmly determined that ancient Mars was significantly more wet and warm, and was an entirely habitable place for microbial life. All the ingredients needed for life as we know it – the proper chemicals, a consistent source of energy, and water that was likely present and stable on the surface for millions of years – were clearly present.” If that is the case for Mars, who’s to say that life can’t exist elsewhere in the galaxies beyond our own. Space expands into a vast darkness of unknown possibilities. To say we approve of the theory of evolution and then say there is nothing else but ourselves in this huge expansion of nothingness, is to be ignorant and egocentric. For all we know, Chewbacca is hiding in another galaxy.

The Star Wars films served as a catalyst for scientific dialogue. The notion that there may be a way we can alter dimensions and see other universes and discover new life, is one that has been tossed around since the idea that “someone should build a rocket and go to space” was brought up. If we think linearly, we may find our imagination shrinking. If we choose, however, to expand our minds and look at the possibility of what might be out there in space, we might find more than what we expect to. 

***  ***