For lovers of all things geek, this past week was a long time coming.
The release of Episode VII in the Star Wars series has been dominating my social media and a lot of traditional media as well. Having grown up with the original trilogy, I’m as excited as the next geek. But as an astrophysicist, I’m also excited about the explosion of “the science of Star Wars” posts that have been cropping up all over the place. And sometimes, truth is stranger than (science-)fiction.
My favorite example is Saturn’s moon, Mimas (pictured above), which is strikingly similar to the Death Star. Mimas was discovered by William Herschel in 1789, but the first images revealing its prominent crater weren’t taken until the Voyager spacecraft flew past Saturn in 1980 and 1981 - four years after the first Star Wars film was released! More recently, the Cassini spacecraft has studied the moon in more detail in the continued quest to find water elsewhere in our Solar System. Mimas has only frozen water, while its nearest neighbor moon, Enceladus has a subsurface ocean despite being closer to Saturn (and thereby subject to stronger tidal forces).
I’ve also been enjoying the series of posts physicist Rhett Allain has has been writing for Wired on the physics of specific events in the Star Wars canon. While I’m not patient enough to do all of these calculations on my own, I’m thrilled that someone else is. Allain walks you through the math to answer questions like: Does R2-D2 fly at a constant speed? Could Han have even shot second? How fast do TIE Fighters fly?
To round things out, here are a few more gems I’ve found:
- Fascinating video showing how the original lightsaber effect was accomplished. [VIDEO]
- The final destruction of the Death Star would most likely have destroyed life on Endor.
- The neuroscience behind Jedi mind tricks. [VIDEO]
- An oldie, but goodie: interactive comparison of the speed of famous sci-fi spaceships. The Millennium Falcon holds its own.
Here’s some more geek from the week:
- 200 year old giant salamander found alive in a cave in China.
- Your face mites are a record of your geographical ancestry.
- This 3,000 square foot mural of the evolution of birds around the world took two and half years to complete.
- Sea monkeys (aka brine shrimp) have been to the moon and back.
- The history and difficulties of the trumpet solo in Handel’s Messiah.
- Altruism may help reduce stress.
- These DIY socks will pause Netflix if you fall asleep while binge watching.
- The example of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge as failure from resonance is actually NOT.
- Icebergs in the Antarctic actually cause ripples in the cloud layers above them.
- Physicists use lasers on Earth to discover “helium-rain” on Saturn.
Keep on geeking!
@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist