4 Science Mistakes Star Wars: Episode VII Needs to Fix

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4 Science Mistakes Star Wars: Episode VII Needs to Fix

Sometimes, a science faux pas takes away from a movie. Here are four science mistakes that Star Wars has made in the past that Episode VII can either address or avoid.

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Rhykker:
A parsec is a unit of distance equal to 3.26 light-years, or 19 trillion miles. Given the context, and clarified in the Star Wars Extended Universe, the Kessel Run is a well-known smuggling route in space. Someone who has never heard the term "parsec" before would think Han is boasting about the speed of his ship, suggesting that it was able to make the run faster than any other ship. But when we realize that a parsec is a unit of distance, any obvious meaning he was trying to convey becomes muddled. How can the ship complete the run in less distance?

As crazy as it sounds, #2 is not a completely valid complaint. The Kessel Run IS a well-known smuggling route in the Star Wars universe. The reason is because near Kessel is a large cluster of black holes, called the Maw. Needless to say, black holes are very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, so all ships flying in the area give them a WIDE birth. This is because most people are smart and cautious.

Han Solo is not that smart and certainly not cautious. Instead of flying the long way around the Maw (along the circumference) he obtained a map of the individual holes' gravitational fields and flew through it (across the diameter). This may not be what George Lucas originally meant (point #1, bad writing) but the jargon makes sense. If it weren't for the "Fast ship?" line, Han would not be boasting about speed but his ingenuity in never getting caught.

half the circumference ~= 12 parsecs
diameter < half the circumference
diameter < 12 parsecs
image

TiberiusEsuriens:

Rhykker:
A parsec is a unit of distance equal to 3.26 light-years, or 19 trillion miles. Given the context, and clarified in the Star Wars Extended Universe, the Kessel Run is a well-known smuggling route in space. Someone who has never heard the term "parsec" before would think Han is boasting about the speed of his ship, suggesting that it was able to make the run faster than any other ship. But when we realize that a parsec is a unit of distance, any obvious meaning he was trying to convey becomes muddled. How can the ship complete the run in less distance?

As crazy as it sounds, #2 is not a completely valid complaint. The Kessel Run IS a well-known smuggling route in the Star Wars universe. The reason is because near Kessel is a large cluster of black holes, called the Maw. Needless to say, black holes are very dangerous and should be avoided at all costs, so all ships flying in the area give them a WIDE birth. This is because most people are smart and cautious.

Han Solo is not that smart and certainly not cautious. Instead of flying the long way around the Maw (along the circumference) he obtained a map of the individual holes' gravitational fields and flew through it (across the diameter). This may not be what George Lucas originally meant (point #1, bad writing) but the jargon makes sense. If it weren't for the "Fast ship?" line, Han would not be boasting about speed but his ingenuity in never getting caught.

half the circumference ~= 12 parsecs
diameter < half the circumference
diameter < 12 parsecs
image

That's well-put, and when fully explained, it's no longer a mistake. I feel as though the Expanded Universe really addresses a lot of the "issues" with Star Wars, but unfortunately, what's seen in the movies is what's seen in the movies. The audience can't possibly intuit that explanation given what little context was presented.

So in sum... The EU did a great job at making Han's line make sense. But it's still a mistake in the movie, because it doesn't come across like that. I'd be cool with Han giving the explanation you outlined in Ep 7 :)

Rhykker:
So in sum... The EU did a great job at making Han's line make sense. But it's still a mistake in the movie, because it doesn't come across like that. I'd be cool with Han giving the explanation you outlined in Ep 7 :)

Yup, but good luck ever getting them to sit down and actually talk science. The EU tweaks and explains a lot of really cool things, but not only has it been sidelined, but as you stated most people don't know it exists. Any movie should be able to stand on its own anyways.

I'd be interested to see how many ideas from there leak into the new canon. Picking and choosing would certainly cause an uproar among fans, but Disney has to at least recognize that canonizing stuff such as Boba Fett escaping the sarlac pit is an excuse to print free mone- er.. I meant new Boba Fett toys and games >.<

it's a sci-fi movie, it doesn't have to be realistic, calm your nipples.

jaibryan:
it's a sci-fi movie, it doesn't have to be realistic, calm your nipples.

I most assuredly will not, good sir. I am a scientist; it is my job to point out factual inaccuracy in all things in order to be a giant buzzkill.

jaibryan:
it's a sci-fi movie, it doesn't have to be realistic, calm your nipples.

Space opera, in fact. No science involved.

jaibryan:
it's a sci-fi movie, it doesn't have to be realistic, calm your nipples.

And then Harry Potter said "Abracamurder!" and all the bad guys in the universe died. What do you mean he's breaking the rules? It's magic.

Just because it's a sci-fi movie doesn't mean they can spout confusing gibberish, especially when it costs nothing for them not to.

Clowndoe:

jaibryan:
it's a sci-fi movie, it doesn't have to be realistic, calm your nipples.

And then Harry Potter said "Abracamurder!" and all the bad guys in the universe died. What do you mean he's breaking the rules? It's magic.

Just because it's a sci-fi movie doesn't mean they can spout confusing gibberish, especially when it costs nothing for them not to.

that is exactly what is means, that's what fiction is. they they want to use real science, good for them. but if they want to make up everything, who are we to tell them no?

I think there is a reasonable way to save the midi-chlorians. Instead of being force enablers, merely have them as force sensitive organisms that multiply in a force sensitive host. That way, it still makes sense for Obi Wan to test Anakins blood and notice his high midichlorian count indicating high force sensitivity, but we aren't left with tricky questions like why you can't breed these things in a vat and inject them into anyone who wants them.

Clowndoe:
And then Harry Potter said "Abracamurder!" and all the bad guys in the universe died. What do you mean he's breaking the rules? It's magic.

Just because it's a sci-fi movie doesn't mean they can spout confusing gibberish, especially when it costs nothing for them not to.

See, now you're confusing two unrelated concepts: Factual errors and bad storytelling. Harry Potter saying "Lumos!" and having a piece of wood light up makes as much sense as saying "Abracamurder!" and having the plot be resolved. You or I can't do either one, after all since Magic isn't real in the real world.

Correcting errors if you notice them is all well and good, but if ignoring them makes for an entertaining story that looks cool (SEE: Fighter plane dynamics on space planes) then may as well ignore them.

jaibryan:
that is exactly what is means, that's what fiction is. they they want to use real science, good for them. but if they want to make up everything, who are we to tell them no?

Fiction is not a blanket ticket to excuse bad writing. There's a big difference between making something up and presenting your setting, actions and characters in a believable and internally consistent manner.

jaibryan:

Clowndoe:

jaibryan:
it's a sci-fi movie, it doesn't have to be realistic, calm your nipples.

And then Harry Potter said "Abracamurder!" and all the bad guys in the universe died. What do you mean he's breaking the rules? It's magic.

Just because it's a sci-fi movie doesn't mean they can spout confusing gibberish, especially when it costs nothing for them not to.

that is exactly what is means, that's what fiction is. they they want to use real science, good for them. but if they want to make up everything, who are we to tell them no?

Well, if we're going off of technicalities, then Clowndoe is right. Science Fiction is fiction where everything can/should be explainable scientifically. Fantasy is making shit up because it's neat. Most Sci-Fi certainly does blur the lines, though. I mean, that is the sole reason that the SciFi channel changed their name to SyFy. Science-Fantasy means they get to be scientific when they want while still making shit up because it's fun.

Star Wars has incredibly outlandish things, but it really tries to stay in the former. They took the coolest magical idea they had and retconned a scientific explanation to it almost for this very reason. (cough, midichlorians, cough) Also because of Point #1: they suck at writing.

It's not really necessary for Star Wars to be scientifically accurate. It runs on Rule of Cool.

Ehh, not misusing jargon would be nice, but I'm really not convinced that fixing either of the first two would really make it a better movie. The problem with Star Wars has never been scientific faux pas, it's been wooden character portrayal and mediocre script. (And some would argue an inconsistent tone; but I think that's one of it's strengths)

More focus on the combat tactics? And explaining (or worse, not explaining) an unintuitive physics system to the audience? Not really what the series needs, at least in my opinion. (Never mind that having the rules of physics change between movies is probably a more jarring issue than the original issue to begin with)

And the fourth? I'm not going to defend midi-chloreans, by any means, but they're hardly a "science mistake".

The way I heard it, Han Solo's line really is a misuse of jargon - a deliberate, in-universe mistake. In the fourth draft of the original script, Obi-Wan is literally described as reacting "to Solo's stupid attempt to impress them with obvious misinformation," and even in the final draft the paranthesis attached to Han's line are "obviously lying". Han is a bullshitter trying to pull the wool over the eyes of a couple of out-of-town rubes.

To be fair with regards to the Earth gravity thing, it is pretty likely that humans would only settle in large numbers on planets with gravity close to 1g. We're not really built for living in heavier gravity for very long, and settling in low gravity or zero g has it's own set of problems, and would make it extremely difficult to transition back to more normal gravity for even a short period of time.

Though I will wholeheartedly agree that when we see things like Han and friends landing inside of an asteroid, it's either one damn big asteroid that has been inappropriately classified as such, or they should be bouncing around the place at the very least. But going from Tatooine, to Hoth, to Coruscant? Not a big surprise if those places have similar gravity.

Vivi22:
To be fair with regards to the Earth gravity thing, it is pretty likely that humans would only settle in large numbers on planets with gravity close to 1g. We're not really built for living in heavier gravity for very long, and settling in low gravity or zero g has it's own set of problems, and would make it extremely difficult to transition back to more normal gravity for even a short period of time.

But on the other hand, hiding out on a forest moon that doesn't have enough gravity to make humans feel comfy seems like a perfect, non-intuitive place to build a secret Rebel base. If people think that only teddy bears can live there happily, they won't look for a base. Meanwhile, the Rebels set up the base with whatever gravity-creating machines they have on their spaceships and are as happy as clams.

Anyways, interesting article.

That last one doesn't really gel with the rest of them; first you offer suggestions on how Star Wars can be more scientifically-accurate, then you go onto say it needs to ditch the pseudo-science and go back to being magic fantasy. Part of the charm of Star Wars is that it's mostly rule-of-cool nonsense.

Vivi22:
To be fair with regards to the Earth gravity thing, it is pretty likely that humans would only settle in large numbers on planets with gravity close to 1g. We're not really built for living in heavier gravity for very long, and settling in low gravity or zero g has it's own set of problems, and would make it extremely difficult to transition back to more normal gravity for even a short period of time.

Though I will wholeheartedly agree that when we see things like Han and friends landing inside of an asteroid, it's either one damn big asteroid that has been inappropriately classified as such, or they should be bouncing around the place at the very least. But going from Tatooine, to Hoth, to Coruscant? Not a big surprise if those places have similar gravity.

Besides galaxies are vast. Our galaxy has up to 300 billion stars. Let's say about 40% of those have planetary systems (it's an estimate I got from an old Extra Credits episode who got it from NASA), that means 120 billion star systems. Let's be conservative and say only one per mil of those star systems has only one planet with gravity similar to earth's. That's still 120 million planets. How many planets does the complete (now defunct) Star Wars canon including expanded universe feature? I don't know, I'm not into that... But I doubt it's much more than 500.

Do you realise this article is displaying each point in reverse numerical order?

Point 4 is good, it wouldn't hurt to show a planet with less gravity now and then. As for ditching midi-chlorians, YES PLYEASE.

Rhykker:
I would applaud J.J. Abrams if he had the audacity to retcon midi-chlorians out of the universe entirely.

I think we all would buddy. Truly.

The point behind the parsec thing was to illustrate Han as a lying scumbag, or a scoundrel if you will. It's also why he shot first.

Mistake #4 is not a Star Wars thing, it applies to almost every sci fi show and movie ever made. Having realistic gravity would be a massive pain in the ass for story writing and make most of them impossible. #3 is also present in almost every sci fi ever because even though there is no reason for ships to not fly up side down in space it would be kinda awkward to look at.

In what way would a low gravity Jedi fight be different from the Jedi fights in the prequels... Those guys were flying off the walls and throwing what should have been incredibly heavy objects at each other.
Also, I would have loved to hear a character claim they could cross the distance between two points using sandwiches.

While it is a mistake about the sound in space, and I like how Firefly fixed that, it's so iconic. It's hard to damn it because they sounded so good, and we all love the laser noises. I think it adds to the movies' personality, although I will still admit it is a mistake.

And this is why fans of Star Wars hate Star Trek. This kind of stuff have place there, in "almost" hard sci-fi. This is Star Wars, there is no need of logic because the universe runs on awesome. Really, if someone haven't noticed this in all this time, maybe Star Wars isn't for you.

Only one thing...I really hope there is a way out of the Midichlorians nonsense, yeah, i prefer the Force as a supernatural power, thank you.

I see someone mistook Star Wars for a Science fiction franchise again. You would think that after 35 years, people would stop doing that. Space Opera != Science Fiction.

Bad Jim:
I think there is a reasonable way to save the midi-chlorians. Instead of being force enablers, merely have them as force sensitive organisms that multiply in a force sensitive host. That way, it still makes sense for Obi Wan to test Anakins blood and notice his high midichlorian count indicating high force sensitivity, but we aren't left with tricky questions like why you can't breed these things in a vat and inject them into anyone who wants them.

Or sticky questions like "If Midichlorians are actual, countable things all over a sentient being's body... wouldn't removing parts of the body make them less force sensitive?

Shouldn't Darth Vader be so much weaker with the force given they replaced a lot of his body with cybernetics?"

Because that seriously bothers me.

ObsidianJones:

Bad Jim:
I think there is a reasonable way to save the midi-chlorians. Instead of being force enablers, merely have them as force sensitive organisms that multiply in a force sensitive host. That way, it still makes sense for Obi Wan to test Anakins blood and notice his high midichlorian count indicating high force sensitivity, but we aren't left with tricky questions like why you can't breed these things in a vat and inject them into anyone who wants them.

Or sticky questions like "If Midichlorians are actual, countable things all over a sentient being's body... wouldn't removing parts of the body make them less force sensitive?

Shouldn't Darth Vader be so much weaker with the force given they replaced a lot of his body with cybernetics?"

Because that seriously bothers me.

Hah! Excellent point. Wow. The more you think about it, the worse it gets. "More machine than man, now. Twisted, and evil. And much, much weaker."

About the midichlorians, you don't need the EU to clarify it. Just actually listen to what Qui-Gon actually says and it's pretty plain.

"They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the force".

He never said they are the Force itself, the Force is still that nebulous Force it always was and the midichlorians don't explain the Force. They're what allow the Jedi to "talk" to the Force.
If a generation of fanboys had bothered listening to what the movie actually said as opposed to what they thought it meant, maybe people wouldn't have been so upset about it and propagated a fact that simply wasn't true (that the force is midichlorians).

It's not explaining the force and it's not taking away the mystery, it's basically just explaining why everyone isn't a jedi if all you have to do is concentrate and believe. So they DO serve a purpose. And quite frankly I would expect that after being around for a thousand years, the Jedi would have some type of scientific knowledge about why they can do stuff that other people can't. That's not poorly mixing science with fantasy, in fact it's the opposite.

For example...Obi-Wan was on Tatooine for 20-ish years waiting for Luke to grow up. If just anyone could just use the Force and become a powerful jedi, why didn't he spend those 20 years training random people he met in secret out in the desert? Why only Luke? Because obviously not just anyone can do it...
And when Luke asks about the force, true there's no mention of midichlorians...but mentioning the technical details would have just confused an already confused young Luke even more, he was giving sort of a general overview, details not important.

Other than that though, good article, I enjoyed it!

ObsidianJones:

Bad Jim:
I think there is a reasonable way to save the midi-chlorians. Instead of being force enablers, merely have them as force sensitive organisms that multiply in a force sensitive host. That way, it still makes sense for Obi Wan to test Anakins blood and notice his high midichlorian count indicating high force sensitivity, but we aren't left with tricky questions like why you can't breed these things in a vat and inject them into anyone who wants them.

Or sticky questions like "If Midichlorians are actual, countable things all over a sentient being's body... wouldn't removing parts of the body make them less force sensitive?

Shouldn't Darth Vader be so much weaker with the force given they replaced a lot of his body with cybernetics?"

Because that seriously bothers me.

About Darth Vader being less sensitive due to all the mechnical parts...well I expect he was weaker as a result, but given that he was "the chosen one" with a midichlorian count higher than Yoda's I imagine he could lose a few limbs and still be pretty powerful. That or the distribution of midichlorians is lower in the extremities that were lost...

ObsidianJones:

Bad Jim:
I think there is a reasonable way to save the midi-chlorians. Instead of being force enablers, merely have them as force sensitive organisms that multiply in a force sensitive host. That way, it still makes sense for Obi Wan to test Anakins blood and notice his high midichlorian count indicating high force sensitivity, but we aren't left with tricky questions like why you can't breed these things in a vat and inject them into anyone who wants them.

Or sticky questions like "If Midichlorians are actual, countable things all over a sentient being's body... wouldn't removing parts of the body make them less force sensitive?

Shouldn't Darth Vader be so much weaker with the force given they replaced a lot of his body with cybernetics?"

Because that seriously bothers me.

I'm not really all that familiar with the EU but this is brought up in a few books. For one, the novelization of Revenge of the Sith. (Which is fantastic, by the way.)

Vader is MUCH weaker than he once was. The Force is the power of life and he's barely alive. I think in other books, they establish that his armor is designed to amplify what little power he has left into something useful.

It's not a question of "real science", it's a question of your system having internal consistency and the failures of such being low-profile enough that nobody notices until after the movie's over.

Midi-chlorians aren't bad because mixing science fiction tropes (bio-augmentation) with fantasy tropes (psychic powers), they're bad because they immediately raise a question that crashes the entire premise of the plot. If the link to the force is a symbiotic organism, and you demonstrably have the technology to clone shit, why do you need to wait around for a chosen one? Making one would be almost laughably trivial, since you know very specifically what you want and you know exactly how to make it.

It ruins the flow of the story because this is something that even a ten-year-old (the intended audience) that's seen the other movies will pick up on IMMEDIATELY, rather than something that only someone spending way too much time thinking about, say, orbital mechanics will think about a week later (like the endor holocaust).

#2... oh yes, please take away the iconic Star Wars space combat and substitute Babylon 5 style. I hope they stop using that old John Williams music while their at it. :P Hell, Star Trek and even Babylon 5 cheated and eventually outright switch to aerial flight dynamics and tactics that when they needed the battles to be exciting.

Midi-Clorians is where I probably would have walked out of the theater if I were older at the time. But even then I was still aware that this completely ruined the concept of the force for these movies. If Abrams does end up retconing that part out I'll be completely and totally fine with that. I mean I think at this point though I can't imagine Abrams doing anything that would alter the physics of the current universe. He seems to be trying very hard to not just replicate the feel of the originals but by evidence of how it's being marketed, what with the "candid" photo's and all, it seems unlikely that he would risk altering anything that might hurt the "feel" of Star Wars. For example I seriously doubt he'd get rid of a whole folder of labeled Star Wars sounds/space.

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