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The Science of Star Wars

Dec 02,2015 by Edulab

Star Wars is on the lips of everyone at the moment, and it’s not hard to see why. When the first film of the revolutionary saga was initially released (intended as a one off, didn’t you know),  it took the world by storm and with the release of its two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi , it cemented its place as one of the most significant pieces of work in history.

With that said, Star Wars is a sci-fi flick, which means a lot of the famous features are based somewhat on real world science – and as we pride ourselves as contributors to the scientific community, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly if we didn’t take a look at some of these things and see how they compare to real world science.


Perhaps the most famous image attached to the Star Wars franchise. A lightsaber is described as an energy blade – what that entails is where the saga gives little insight, which may be a good thing as it would be incredibly hard to create a real life lightsaber.

From what we can gather, a lightsaber generates a solid laser beam which can cut through solid matter with little resistance – now, a beam of this power would be possible, but what would be highly unlikely is the spacing of the thing. How does the laser only emit a meter or so outwards?

The only thing that could make a beam of energy revert back on itself would be a gravity field from an object so dense it formed a black hole, and we highly doubt that each lightsaber has a black hole embedded into the hilt. Light wouldn’t be able to escape, the thing would be impossible to lift and it would have a terrifying tendency to absorb all matter in the vicinity while emitting lethal gamma radiation.



As much as everyone (including us) loves the sounds of X-Wings and TIE fighters going head to head – especially those screeches of the TIE fighters, it has to be said that you would have no idea that was the noise they actually made unless they were battling in the sky. That’s because in space, sound doesn’t travel – because, you know, there’s no air for it to travel through.

Some people have suggested that these noises in the films are only heard by the pilots as auditory cues to what’s going on around them. This makes a lot of sense, but it doesn’t explain how we’re hearing them.


We don’t know what the Star Wars universe uses as fuel, but it’s clear that some of them use chemical propellants, complete with oxidants – how so? Well, there’s no oxygen in space, so for an explosion you would have to supply your own. Added to that the fact that fire needs oxygen to burn, and when we see a star-fighter get hit in these films, it explodes and burns for several seconds.

In reality, the available oxygen would be used up almost instantly, and those fireballs would be snuffed pretty quickly. Instead of a fireball, you would most likely see a brief flash followed by the pieces of the ship flying off in all directions.


While not a lot of the technology is clearly defined in the Star Wars universe, many of weapons they use – especially those modelled after guns – shoot lasers. Sorry, we should put ‘lasers’ because whatever they’re firing in these films certainly aren’t lasers.

A laser beam is a beam of coherent light, and in a vacuum a laser beam is invisible as there are no particles to scatter the beam and make it visible. They’re typically invisible in air too – unless you’re in fog, or there is smoke or dust in the air to scatter the beam.

This means that if the weapons used in Star Wars are laser guns, we shouldn’t be able to see them. It should just be storm troopers pointing guns at the rebels and the rebels falling down – although they still probably wouldn’t be able to hit them.

While we feel bad that we’re technically being party poopers with this information, we thought it needed to be addressed if we’re going to properly understand a prime example of science fiction!

When we’re not being party poopers, we’re supplying your lab with some of the best scientific laboratory supplies. For more information, contact us on 01366 385777 and speak to one of our professionals today.

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