The Science of Star Wars

Watch the Q&A portion here.


This talk was given by Dirk Morr, professor for theoretical physics at the University of Illinois at Chicago as part of “One Book One Chicago” on 04/03/2019 at the Harold Washington Library Center, in collaboration with the Chicago Council on Science and Technology.

Star Wars – the fight of the light side of the force against the dark side – is a story that has fascinated us for the last 40 years. A crucial part of this story is the unbelievable scientific and technological advances – traveling through hyperspace, lightsabers, holograms, the discovery of habitable planets – that fill the universe. But are these advances really beyond our reach, or have we already surpassed some of them? Are they even scientifically possible? If you want to hear the answers to these questions, join us for a lecture on the science behind Star Wars, and the physical laws that we have to “bend” to make them work. This talk discusses the physical laws and concepts underlying the scientific advances portrayed in the Star Wars movies. It thus provides a connection between the popular ideas and visions of Star Wars and actual cutting edge science.

It reviews the physics of “The Force” in the context of the standard model of high energy physics “Light Sabers” in the context of electromagnetism, light waves and quantum mechanics “Faster than Light Travel” in the context of Einstein’s special theory of relativity “Exoplanets and Intelligent Life” in the context of discovering exoplanets “Death Star” in the context of gravitational energy “Robots and Artificial Intelligence” in the context of creating neural networks and computing power.