Most people bristle at the idea of classifying Star Wars as science fiction, feeling it more comfortably slips into the space fantasy or space opera slots. That may be fair, but Star Wars does deal in science with its strange planets, species, and space-travel physics. In their new book The Science of Star Wars, serious science writers Mark Brake and Jon Chase take all of this zany stuff seriously in an attempt to calculate approximately how long ago and far away the films took place, consider the galactic economic depression that would result from the destruction of both Death Stars, and determine why Wookiees are so hairy.
Brake and Chase may take these questions seriously enough to provide thoughtfully considered answers rooted in real physics, chemistry, biology, and evolutionary science, but they fortunately never forget that Star Wars should never be anything more or less than fun, so they maintain a lighthearted tone and a good sense of humor about it all. Nevertheless, a lot of the science leading to their conclusions made my eyes glaze over. Because I do not have a strong enough science background to debate the accuracy or legitimacy of the writers’ conclusions, I basically had to put myself in their hands and assume their conclusions regarding the logistics of building a Death Star were straight. Considering that they determined it would take 800,000 years to produce enough steel to build one, I can’t even test their theories in any practical way. So much for that Death Star I was hoping to tuck under the tree this Christmas.