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We Have The Answers To 12 Of Your Most Pressing Star Wars Questions

No Force Awakens spoilers, just wildly speculative science.

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We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to give us their absurd scientific questions about the Star Wars universe. Here's how some actual scientists answered them:


LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: Not with Earth technology — the problem is keeping the energy source small enough to be handheld, not creating the technology itself.

Longer answer: There are a number of challenges involved in creating a real-life lightsaber, many scientists told BuzzFeed Science. Both Suveen Mathaudhu, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Riverside, and Marc Hairston, a physicist at the University of Texas at Dallas, agreed that such a device wouldn’t actually be light- or laser-based, but would have to be some sort of contained field of plasma (a charged state of matter unlike a solid, liquid, or gas). The trick, both scientists said, would be to contain such a field of plasma. “In theory you could produce a finite length plasma arc that would stop at a certain point,“ Mathaudu said, but the energy to do that is beyond our current technological abilities. “It would take huge magnetic and electric fields to confine and control the plasma to make it work like a lightsaber,” Hairston told BuzzFeed Science.

2. "What would happen if you tried to cut a mirror with a lightsaber?" —Taylor Nelson, Facebook

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: It would fuck that mirror up.

Longer answer: If one accepts the plasma definition of a lightsaber, then the answer to this question is simple, said Hairston. “Since the lightsaber is made of a beam of high-energy particles, not light, it would melt and cut the glass/metal/whatever of the mirror.”

3. "Where did the money come from to build TWO planet-sized weapons?" —Craig Cole, Facebook

Lucas Arts/Disney

Short answer: It would cost a lot of money, but the Empire probably has a pretty solid tax base.

Longer answer: Many fans and engineers have come up with various numbers for the cost of a Death Star. Washington University in St. Louis financial engineer Zachary Feinstein used the cost of large aircraft carriers to scale up to a Death Star. He concluded that the two Death Stars would have cost around $419 quintillion. In other words — $1 million times 1 trillion.

David Barnhart, director of the Space Technology and Systems group at the University of Southern California, speculated that one can “only assume the Republic is super efficient in sucking taxes out of hundreds of planets at once.”

4. "How do you build a Death Star and not pay attention to the one exhaust port?" —brenth40a06a025

Lucas Arts / Disney

Short answer: The exhaust port was a necessity and engineers mess up all the time.

Longer answer: Mathaudhu said that a major exhaust system would be an absolute necessity for a Death Star. “You can't have a laser without some manner of active cooling,” he said. In terms of not defending it, Barnhart reminded us that it is not uncommon for brilliant engineers to make spectacularly stupid mistakes. Barnhart pointed out that NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter crashed into Mars because someone forgot to convert English units to the metric system.

5. "According to Wookieepedia, hyperspace is essentially another dimension. How is it possible for [people in the Star Wars universe] to jump between dimensions so easily?" —sarahp40860e4aa

Lucas Arts / Disney

Short answer: In Star Wars, hyperspace is the wrinkling of space-time caused by near-speed-of-light travel. The closest thing we have to that in theoretical physics is the wormhole.

Longer answer: Brian Koberlein, a computational astrophysicist at the Rochester Institute of Technology, told BuzzFeed Science that a wormhole could theoretically (if they existed) connect distant regions of space. According to Wookieepedia, hyperspace is a dimension of space-time reached only by traveling at light speed. The basic idea is that going so fast creates wrinkles in space-time that can be used to jump from one place to another. Koberlein added that such a definition could actually make Han Solo’s controversial brag about finishing the Kessel Run in less than “12 parsecs” (a unit of distance, not time) make scientific sense. “Making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs could be a boast about how good Han and the Falcon are at finding the shortest paths through hyperspace,” he said.

6. "Can Watto's tiny wings really support his weight?" —David Estrada, Facebook

Disney / Lucas Arts

Short answer: Probably not, but have you ever seen a fucking bee?

Longer answer: Watto is a shady junk dealer and human trafficker with tiny wings who can hover. Professor John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College in London argues that it seems implausible for such a creature to do this by Earth standards. Assuming that Tatooine had similar atmospheric density and that Watto weighed about 44 pounds (as much as a lightweight child), Hutchinson told BuzzFeed Science that it was unlikely such an organism could fly, arguing that no living birds over 40 pounds are capable of flight. Mathaudu was similarly skeptical, but not entirely dismissive. “It certainly doesn't appear possible, but neither does a bee flying, and we see that happening all the time,” he said, referencing the seemingly impossible way bees hover.

7. "What's the deal with Tatooine's twin suns?" —Patrick Louie Antolin Robles, Facebook

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: It's a binary star system and they fully exist in real life. NASA has described one such system as being similar to Tatooine's system.

Longer answer: The terrestrial planet Tatooine, where Luke Skywalker grew up, has two suns. There is no cannon-approved consensus on what kind of star either of them were, though it is likely that they were both G-type stars similar to our own. According to as Harry Shipman, an astronomer at the University of Delaware, solar systems like this do exist. He pointed to a system called Kepler-16. “It actually looks sort of like the Star Wars stars on Tatooine because one of the stars is about the temperature of the sun, and the other one is a much cooler red star,“ he told BuzzFeed Science.

8. "How do people growing up on a planet with twin suns end up being so comparatively pale?" —Andrew Smith, Facebook

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: A second sun doesn't necessarily mean more of the UV radiation that causes tans and sunburns. Even if it did, a healthy dose of ozone could help mitigate that.

Longer answer: Shipman said the effect of the other, redder (which would make it cooler) sun might not have a huge effect on how much UV radiation the inhabitants of Tatooine might experience. “If the one was cooler, it would probably not emit very much UV radiation,” he said. The other factor, he pointed out, would be how much ozone there was on Tatooine. The more ozone, the less UV radiation would make it to the surface.

9. "What sorts of biological forces could allow that giant asteroid slug thing in Empire Strikes Back to evolve?" —KerbalD2

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: This thing plays by its own rules since it is made up of silicon, but its large size can be explained by the low gravity on an asteroid. The more complicated question is how asteroids can keep such large bodies going.

Longer answer: The giant slug thing is called an exogorth. It is hard to make any comparisons to Earth organisms because it is a silicon-based organism and Earth life is carbon-based. "They could be huge, live in near-zero gravity and a vacuum, live in almost empty space with little nutritious, organic material around them,” Hutchinson said. He said the zero-gravity conditions would have made it possible for them to reach their massive size. “What worries me is how they’d keep their metabolisms going with little energy around to supply their huge bodies. They must have hibernated a lot, shutting most of their bodies down for long periods of time while they waited for food to come near,“ he said.

10. "How strong would a snowspeeder’s tow cable realistically have to be to bring down an AT-AT?" —cchiefham04

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: It's really easy to trip an AT-AT and you don't need a particularly strong cable to do it.

Longer answer: According to Mathaudhu, whose expertise is in materials science, the strength of the cable isn’t really the issue here. “I don't think it has to be strong. I think it's like saying you have to have super-strong shoe laces to be able to trip somebody. It's an issue of bad design of the AT-AT,” he said. “The high center of gravity combined with any sort of confinement of the ability for it to move is it going to cause it to fall over,” he said. “What I would say is that the thrusters of the snowspeeders would have to be so powerful to snap a cable or to be able to drag it. It's more of a factor of the snowspeeder's strength than the strength of the cable.”

11. "Why was there fire in space? There is no oxygen in space so fire would not be a possibility." —emilym4f684145f

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: There's no oxygen in space, but there are flammable gases inside any spaceship, destroyer, or Death Star.

Longer answer: Indeed in the vacuum of space there would be no fire, but fiery explosions near something with oxygen inside of it would certainly produce fire, Mathaudu said. "If something has oxygen or something flammable and it gets ignited, then yeah, you could have fire or an explosion within that region.”

12. "How much shit would Jabba the Hutt produce in a single day?" —Alex Kasprak

LucasArts / Disney

Short answer: Maybe 100 kilograms of shit per day?

Longer answer: This is obviously another pretty hard question to answer, but Hutchinson took a crack at it: “Jabba seems to also be similar to some kind of endothermic organism with some degree of internal skeleton (e.g., his arms), so looking to [Earth] vertebrates is not a crazy approach. A 1,000-kilogram [Earth] vertebrate, like a cow, would output maybe 100 kilograms of manure per [Earth] day. Jabba seems like a hungry chap so I don’t find that back-of-the-envelope calculation to be implausible.”

Science Writer, Fossil Beastmaster

Contact Alex Kasprak at alex.kasprak@buzzfeed.com.

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