10. Materials – In A Galaxy Far Far Away

In this episode of the podcast, we are joined by Dr Lisa Simmons (@DrLisaSimmons), Senior Lecturer in Applied Physics at Manchester Metropolitan University, to talk about the science behind the latest Star Wars film, Episode VII: The Force Awakens. In this latest episode of the George Lucas (and now Disney) franchise, director J.J. Abrams takes the reins and delivers a tour de force in bots, blasters and bloody great big spaceships. Before reading any further we should warn you that there ARE PLOT SPOILERS, so if you don’t want to have any of the film spoiled for you (at least before you watch it) THEN PLEASE STOP READING NOW!


Much has been written about the science of Star Wars, including this rather excellent and extensive Wikipedia entry, and there is so much to potentially talk about, from lightsabers and robots to aliens and intergalactic space exploration. As such, we decided to instead focus our discussion with Lisa mainly on the realities (or not) of the StarKiller Base, the super weapon constructed by the First Order, which uses an entire planet as its weapons platform, and which harvests the energy from its system’s star, using it to generate an ultra powerful laser beam that can destroy the home worlds of the Republic. We talk to Lisa about the many reasons why this would probably not be feasible, but in defence of the movie (and the StarKiller Base) it transpires that this energy beam does indeed blast through hyperspace, thus explaining how it is able to traverse such great distances in such a short space of time. How silly of us not to realise this!


As well as the oversight regarding the hyperspace capability of the StarKiller base, Sam also gets into a bit of a muddle concerning the speed of light, but thankfully Lisa is on hand to put him in his place, and to remind him that his MPhys in Physics with Space Science and Technology happened long time ago in a galaxy far far away.


Despite some minor misgivings involving the correct use of the term parsec (correct definition provided here), and the feasibility of a spherical robot being able to traverse desert-like planets, the real magic of the film is that its exciting plot and strong character development pull you in, enabling you to suspend your disbelief. And let’s face it, who amongst us doesn’t want to believe that the science of Star Wars might one day just be possible…

Also, as mentioned in the podcast, make sure to have a listen to our podcast neighbours at Digital Innovation who have formed Shedcast – Well worth a listen to if you have an interest in technology and its potential role in education!



Listen to these related episodes:

16. Space [Live] – Live On Mars

In this special live edition of the podcast we talk to Dr Sophie Nixon and Professor Neil Reeves about the 2015 film ‘The Martian’. This episode was produced in conjunction with Into Film, the Institute of Physics and the European City of Science. Make sure to check out the Into Film resource on ‘The Martian’ here at: www.intofilm.org/resources/275

13. Bionics – Never Be The Same Again

Would you like the ability to control electronics with your mind? Store data on your internal flash memory? Want to be a cyborg? In this episode we discuss the 1989 Jean-Claude van Damme film ‘Cyborg’ and ask what makes a cyborg? Where is the technology going? And are we headed for an ethical blackhole?