Bad Science in Star Wars

FORA.tv has a short video of me per­form­ing at the recent Won­der­fest sci­ence fes­ti­val in Berke­ley.  I’m talk­ing about bad sci­ence in sci­ence fic­tion movies, and the exam­ple in the clip is a clas­sic moment from Star Wars…

Link to video on YouTube

Link to video on FORA.tv

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Discussion

  • […] This post was men­tioned on Twit­ter by Brian Malow, Evert Bopp. Evert Bopp said: RT @sciencecomedian: Bad sci­ence in Star Wars: old movie, new video http://goo.gl/31An4 […]

  • John

    7:53 pm
    Dec-6-2010
    Reply

    From read­ing some of the Star Wars books, I believe that his use of par­sec was accu­rate. The Kessel Run is in a dan­ger­ous area known as The Maw. An area full of black holes and other extremely dan­ger­ous nav­i­ga­tion haz­ards. There is a “safe route” that is 18 par­secs long. But by cut­ting cor­ners and dare­devil fly­ing, you can skirt the haz­ards and cut travel dis­tance. He was able to shave 6 par­secs of dis­tance off the trip.

    So, in essence, Han wasn’t brag­ging about how quick of a trip he took…but rather how skill­ful he was by being able to short­cut through so much dan­ger­ous space.

    As this is only ref­er­enced in the Star Wars role­play­ing games and in sev­eral nov­els, I wouldn’t expect it to be com­mon knowl­edge and it is easy to con­fuse from the film’s spo­ken con­text.

    • Greg

      8:11 pm
      Dec-6-2010
      Reply

      Or Tim­o­thy Zahn took it upon him­self to cre­ate a back story to explain the error. It’s not like George Lucas had visions of ‘The Maw’ when he penned that line. It’s a pure ret­con.

      • Brian

        8:19 pm
        Dec-6-2010
        Reply

        Exactly. Thank you. Can’t we just admit that… and still love the movie? And laugh at it, too?

      • Brian Amin

        5:22 pm
        Feb-17-2011
        Reply

        I agree.

  • Brian

    8:16 pm
    Dec-6-2010
    Reply

    Yeah, I know. But it seems pretty obvi­ous that this is a ratio­nal­iza­tion made much later. I even addressed this in the clip – although I guess I described the issue dif­fer­ently – per­haps inac­cu­rately – as hav­ing to do with warp­ing space. Although I’ve heard MANY ver­sions of the ratio­nal­iza­tion.

    But my point is that the book says “time parts” – and the orig­i­nal Star Wars novel is canon if any­thing is.

    And that sug­gests that – at the time they were orig­i­nally released – they per­haps meant “par­secs” as a unit of time. But they invented an expla­na­tion LATER.

    Which is fine. Hey, it’s just a joke. I love the fuck­ing movie. I’m doing what any self-respecting geek would do. As are all of the defend­ers. Geek­ing out.

    Thanks for your com­ment!

  • zeronumber

    9:06 pm
    Dec-6-2010
    Reply

    You know, I had this same argu­ment years ago when some hot­head in Stars and stripes got goofy on star wars and lam­basted Solo for being so blantly dumb. Not so, says I then and now and let him know with a let­ter to the edi­tor. right you are to note that travel is not a mea­sure of time alone. Yes its about dis­tance too, and Han and his one fast ship did that run and saved the galaxy and got paid very very well, oh yeah and bagged the princess. Fan­tas­tic? yes on all accounts.

  • stygyan

    12:13 am
    Dec-7-2010
    Reply

    I com­pletely agree with Mag­gie Koerth-Baker at Boing­Bo­ing. Han Solo is just bull­shit­ting the noobs to impress them with some ran­dom gob­bledy­gook.

  • […] come­dian Brian Malow rags on what he sees as the most grat­ing sci­en­tific error in Star Wars: A New […]

  • Matt

    11:36 am
    Dec-7-2010
    Reply

    At light­speed, time and dis­tance are the same thing.

  • […] come­dian Brian Malow rags on what he sees as the most grat­ing sci­en­tific error in Star Wars: A New […]

  • Lupus

    2:29 pm
    Dec-9-2010
    Reply

    We don’t know what the Kessel Run was in the movie. “The Can­non­ball Run” could actu­ally be com­pleted in fewer miles than another entrant. “Logan’s Run” could have been com­pleted in a shorter dis­tance. “Chicken Run” could be a very long place where chick­ens work out. “Mid­night Run” could have had Charles Grodin caught in a short dis­tance.

    Screw up? Prob­a­bly, but not nec­es­sar­ily.

  • Pie

    12:26 pm
    Dec-10-2010
    Reply

    Of course what keeps the defence of Lucas eter­nally alive is another part of the script when the Mil­len­nium Fal­con is escap­ing the Star Destroy­ers orbit­ing Tatooine, Han Solo says to Luke “Trav­el­ing through hyper­space ain’t like dust­ing crops, boy! With­out pre­cise cal­cu­la­tions we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a super­nova, and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?”. To me, that line sug­gests that Lucas isn’t think­ing of a Hyper­space jour­ney as merely a straight line A to B job. Unlike Star Trek which has Warp Fac­tors to denote speed all the space­craft in Star Wars travel in Hyper­space with deter­mi­na­tion of who is faster. So per­haps the “Spe­cial Mod­i­fi­ca­tions” Han Solo refers to are not in the engi­nes but per­haps he tin­kered with the Navi-Computer instead? Just a thought 🙂 Keep on geek­ing!

  • Pie

    12:29 pm
    Dec-10-2010
    Reply

    Sorry, there was a miss­ing ‘no’ in my post above. The part that reads “all the space­craft in Star Wars travel in Hyper­space with deter­mi­na­tion of who is faster.” should read “all the space­craft in Star Wars travel in Hyper­space with no deter­mi­na­tion of who is faster.”

    Appolo­gies.

  • Robert J. Sawyer

    6:03 pm
    Dec-13-2010
    Reply

    As always, won­der­fully funny and won­der­fully insight­ful. Way to go, Brian Malow!

  • James Kerwin

    6:42 pm
    Dec-13-2010
    Reply

    Actu­ally the orig­i­nal screen­play was writ­ten with the par­en­thet­i­cal direc­tion “(obvi­ously lying)”. The intent was for it to be obvi­ous that Han Solo was just mak­ing stuff up and got the info wrong. Lucas later admit­ted that the bit didn’t read prop­erly on screen, and changed the line to “time-parts” for the nov­el­iza­tion. So tech­ni­cally, not a mis­take — and the fans’ ret­con­ning about him intend­ing to mean dis­tance is also untrue.

  • James Kerwin

    6:51 pm
    Dec-13-2010
    Reply

    (Untrue mean­ing unnec­es­sary — it’s true that fans have tried to ret­con it)

  • Nick

    7:56 pm
    Dec-14-2010
    Reply

    Just look it up in Wook­ieepe­dia

  • CVi

    2:28 am
    Dec-17-2010
    Reply

    Can i ratio­nal­ize the “Stan­dard time parts” bit?
    He never said it was the base unit of time, just a stan­dard­ized one.
    Now at speeds close to light, you warp space and time. This means that “Stan­dard Time Parts” could be a unit that com­pen­sates for that fact i.e. by mea­sur­ing on a stan­dard clock on a fixed loca­tion, or by using the time tra­ver­sal on that loca­tion, and mea­sure form inside the ship and trans­form­ing them after­wards.

    What i’m try­ing to say is that “Stan­dard Time Parts” may be a unit used only for mea­sur­ing time used to travel inter­stel­lar dis­tances at speeds that warp time and/or space.

  • […] posted a video from Won­der­fest (The Bay Area Fes­ti­val of Sci­ence – you should say “Fes­ti­val Sci­ence” […]

  • […] Bad Sci­ence in Star Wars Posted: Decem­ber 24, 2010 by The Age of Blas­phemy in Bad Sci­ence Tags: Bad Sci­ence 0 Bad Sci­ence in Star Wars […]

  • PeteB

    5:46 am
    Jan-30-2011
    Reply

    Per­haps he reduced the dis­tance of the run but if par­sec is a dis­tance there is no ref­er­ence to the time it took so it could have taken him all week,unless of course a week is a unit of speed in that Galaxy far away.

  • Brian Amin

    5:21 pm
    Feb-17-2011
    Reply

    Haha, stan­dard time parts…
    ~Tacos

  • […] 9, 2010  //  News  //  No com­ments Check out this funny video where Brian Malow, a sci­ence come­dian, makes fun of the biggest sci­en­tific error in Star Wars: A New Hope. The […]

  • Hilar­i­ous! As Star Wars fans we have to sus­pend our dis­be­lief and accept the bad sci­ence. Per­son­ally, I don’t par­tic­u­larly mind-the ewoks make it all worth­while!

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