Top Questions From Our "Science of Star Wars" Panel at Silicon Valley Comic-Con

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 - 3:30PM
Science of Star Wars
Physics
Space
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 - 3:30PM
Top Questions From Our "Science of Star Wars" Panel at Silicon Valley Comic-Con
Image credit: Lucasfilm, Disney
When you wade into the Star Wars fandom and ask the hard-hitting questions (Why does C-3PO have a red arm in TFA? What's Palpatine's first name?), you better have a team of experts backing you up. Luckily, we do—everyone from NASA engineers to laser technicians to prop-makers. This year at Silicon Valley Comic-Con, we brought on Kim Steadman, Tracy Newby, and Dr. Janina Scarlet to talks about droids and Death Stars. Here was the official event description:

Opening quote
Who hasn't wondered how a lightsaber works, or what makes a Wookiee Bowcaster so powerful? Is the Death Star massive enough to create its own gravity? In an exciting update to our sold-out, standing-room only "Science of Star Wars" panels from SDCC and NYCC, Outer Places assembles a panel of experts, scientists, and die-hard fans to explore the science behind Star Wars. This will be our first panel to focus specifically on the technology, space travel, and robots featured in the movies.
Closing quote

Once again, we sold out seats for this panel and had lines out the door—thanks to everyone who came to see us at Silicon Valley Comic-Con! You can see the full panel livestream video below (apologies for the low quality), but here are some of the top questions from the panel:
 
Outer Places: The centerpiece of Rogue One is the Death Star and its famous superlaser, which has the ability to destroy cities and even planets from orbit. As someone who works with laser technology, can you talk about how a planet-destroying laser would work?

Tracy Newby: "Some college students back in 2012 actually figured out how much energy it would take, and someone else figured out how much it would cost....[The energy is] 2.25 x 10^32 joules...[They found out] that if you only used a laser, it wouldn't work. You could bore all the way to the center of a planet, and you'd have the core there...you might go through to the other side...so they had this great idea: take a little bit of the core and turn it into anti-matter...But it would take a lot of energy. They figured it would take the same amount of energy as several main-sequence stars."

When it came to the question of cost, Newby estimated it would cost about 15.6 septillion dollars, or "1.4 trillion times the current national U.S. debt."
  
Outer Places: You've had some experience with robot explorers and rovers, including the Mars Rover Opportunity. When you look at astromechs like R2-D2 or BB-8, what are your thoughts?

Kim Steadman: "Well, I think they're really cute, but they're not very practical. They can't go a lot of places. That's why I think, in the prequels (which I usually don't admit exist most of the time), R2 can fly because they realized he can't go very far...At NASA, everything is built with a specific purpose. Everything is a one-off."
 
Outer Places: Early on in The Force Awakens, the Stormtrooper Finn has a really intense sequence where he sees his squad mates die in battle, allows an innocent woman to live, then disobeys an order to fire on civilians. Afterwards, he's sent in for "reconditioning" by his superiors-what kind of conditioning do you think it takes to create a Stormtrooper, and what does Finn's rebellion say about his psychology as a soldier?

Janina Scarlet: "I think that what he's experiencing is what a lot of service members might experience, which is called 'moral injury.' Moral injury is when someone commits an act that goes against their moral upbringing, so for Finn, my understanding is that he has a very strong moral code, and believed that the Stormtroopers were the good guys, and that seeing them kill innocent villagers created a conflict in him that made him question everything he was raised with...in terms of reconditioning, there's probably some kind of associative training, where there might be, say, pictures of Rebels paired with painful outcomes, like shocks for example."
 
We'll be bringing our Science of Star Wars panel to San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic-Con this year, so keep an eye out! If you haven't checked out the highlights of our SVCC coverage yet, click here!

Here's the full panel video! Skip to around 8:00 for the beginning of the panel.

Science
Science of Sci-Fi
Science of Star Wars
Physics
Space
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