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The Science of Star Wars

An Astrophysicist's Independent Examination of Space Travel, Aliens, Planets, and Robots as Portrayed in the Star Wars Films and Books

Jeanne Cavelos

St. Martin's Griffin

Former NASA astrophysicist Jeanne Cavelos examines the scientific possibility of the fantastical world of Star Wars. She explains to non-technical readers how the course of science might soon intersect with such fantasies as interstellar travel, robots capable of thought and emotion, habitable alien planets, bizarre intelligent life forms, high-tech weapons and spacecraft, and advanced psychokinetic abilities. She makes complex physics concepts, like quantum mechanics, wormholes, and Einstein's theory of relativity both fascinating and easy to comprehend. The Science of Star Wars does for Star Wars what Lawrence Krauss's bestselling The Physics of Star Trek did for the Star Trek universe.

Cavelos answers questions like:

* How might spaceships like the Millennium Falcon make the exhilarating jump into hyperspace?

* Could a single blast from the Death Star destroy an entire planet?

* How close are we to creating robots that look and act like C-3PO and R2-D2?

* Could light sabers possibly be built, and if so, how would they work?

* Do Star Wars aliens look like "real" aliens might?

* What kind of environment could spawn a Wookie?

* What would living on a desert planet like Tatooine be like?

* Why does Darth Vader require an artificial respirator?

* Can we access a "force" with our minds to move objects and communicate telepathically with each other?

BOOK EXCERPTS

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1PLANETARY ENVIRONMENTS
Sir, it’s quite possible this asteroid is not entirely stable.
—C-3PO, The Empire Strikes Back
It comes into view as a small, pale dot against the blackness of space. Dim, inconsequential beside the brilliance of a star. Yet for us, it is a safe haven in the endless vacuum of space. Only here, on this fragile bit of rock or others like it, can life develop and survive. It formed billions of years ago, the right elements combining in the right proportions at the right distance from its sun to bring it to dynamic life. Volcanoes breathed out an atmosp
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Science of Star Wars

"Likely to have lasting appeal . . . This is an unusually rich, diverse, and reasonable analysis of the scientific questions raised by the Star Wars series . . . Sigh, if only Jeanne Cavelos had been my teacher."—San Francisco Examiner

"This book is for all of us who wonder why jumping into hyperspace isn't like dusting crops on Tatooine . . . Appealing and accessible. the scientific research presented is the mainstream of current thinking in astrophysics, cosmology, robotics, genetics, and biological adaptation."—The Christian Science Monitor

"The author examines five major areas—planetary environments, aliens, druids, space ships and weapons, and the Force—in sufficient detail to satisfy even knowledgeable fans. Take Luke's desert home world, Tatooine. When Star Wars first came out, scientists doubted the existence of planets in other solar systems, but since 1995 several have been found. Could a planet form around a binary star? Yes, but due to gravitational forces only if the stars were very far apart or very close, so as Luke gazes out at his two suns setting, he sees an accurate portrayal of a binary system. Most of the Star Wars aliens fare equally well. The Wookies keen sense of smell, for example, would give them an alternative means of communication so that they might need to vocalize only with grunts and howls. Can the force be with you? Physicist David Bohm posited a quantum potential force that would interpenetrate and bind together everything in the universe, but only Yoda knows if we can direct it with our minds. Cavelos engaging style makes this book a treat, with no science background necessary."—Publishers Weekly

"Cavelos, an astrophysicist, mathematician, writer, and teacher, examines the science behind George Lucas's popular series of movies, comparing his fictional universe with the universe as we currently understand it. She points out that in the two decades since the debut of Star Wars: A New Hope, science has come much closer to making Lucas's vision a reality. Rapid interstellar travel is theoretically possible. Extraterrestrial life is apparently more abundant than previously thought. Robots seem to need emotions to learn and interact effectively with humans. There may even be—dare we say it?—a Force. The writing is clear and geared toward readers with 'no particular science background' although some is necessary. The author lightens the jargon with humor, and her examples for scientific principals and phenomena are apt. For example, Schrodinger's paradox is illustrated not by a cat in a box, but by Princess Leia in a cell."—Susan Salpini, Purcellville Library, Virginia, School Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Jeanne Cavelos

  • Jeanne Cavelos is a writer, editor, teacher and former NASA scientist. She began her professional life as an astrophysicist and mathematician and now teaches full time.
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Available Formats and Book Details

The Science of Star Wars

An Astrophysicist's Independent Examination of Space Travel, Aliens, Planets, and Robots as Portrayed in the Star Wars Films and Books

Jeanne Cavelos

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

St. Martin's Griffin

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