Monday, April 30, 2007

Science of STAR WARS

Cockpit of the Millenium Falcon. May is the 30th anniversary of the first STAR WARS movie (now called A NEW HOPE.) Monday April 23 was an anniversary showing at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills, attended by George Lucas and some of the other makers. There was also an exhibit of models and costumes at the California Science Centre.

Since it is the anniversary of this enjoyable series, I will write in defence of the "science." Many people complain that spaceships don't make noise in a vacuum, but who is to say that Space is completely empty? Even hundreds of kilometers from a planet, there is enough atmosphere that a space station's orbit decays. STAR WARS spaceships battle close to planets, and don't venture into deep Space without the hyperdrive. Perhaps with sensitive enough microphones you could hear the ships roaring by. Rocket engines leave a lot of gas in their wake, through which sound travels.

Some have also complained that STAR WARS fighters bank like aircraft. There are actually two reasons for this. The X-Wings and Millenium Falcon must have engines on their undersides for takeoff and landing. By rolling in the direction of a turn, they can use those thrusters to change direction in a hurry. Harrier pilots do this in a maneuver called VIFF, Vectoring In Forward Flight.

Another reason to bank is the "G-forces." STAR WARS fighters don't seem to have any system compensating for acceleration. Everyone like me who has spent time in military aircraft will attest that the only way to make a high-G turn is to bank. Then the forces of acceleration hit the pilot eyeballs-down. Otherwise pilots would black out or worse.

Our civilisation has yet to experience a Space war. With our limited experiments of Strategic Defence, we have seen how difficult it is intercepting a rocket approaching you at thousands of kilometres per hour. Even in our age of guided missiles, pilots always try to intercept a target from behind. The Death Star gunners have great difficulty shooting down attackers from fixed positions. The best way to intercept a spacecraft may be to do like Darth Vader, get into your own spacecraft and shoot at Luke from behind.

My discovery about the MILLENIUM FALCON: There is a set of 4 forward guns right above the cockpit. You can see them in the scene when they come out of hyperspace into an asteroid field. The guns are visible on top of the frame. As a TIE fighter passes by, Han hits a switch and we see the guns fire. Those guns are also used to shoot at Darth Vader in the end of the movie. They could not have used the turret guns because Han and Chewbacca are both seen in the cockpit. We saw earlier that the turrets need someone inside to be fired. Perhaps someone should write a paper on this.

MORE thoughts about STAR WARS and courage at They Found the Remains of a Rebel Base.

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Blogger Kea said...

Wow, you get to some cool spots! Sadly, I actually remember going to the first movie, when it first came out. I was ten years old. I think the first film is the best.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My cell mate's sister went to visit the places where they shot in Tunisia only yesterday.

4:23 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Nothing to be sad about Kea, it is best to have seen it the first time on a big screen with a child's eyes. A bit like witnessing an early Space flight, it is an expereince to be treasured.

Sam, I hope she returns with some good pictures. Things have been very busy and I am glad when there is time to blog.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a movie standpoint, my guess is that the turrets just do whatever is needed to serve the plot. But, for a better explanation, my guess is that the turrets have remote control systems that enable them to be fired from the cockpit. When engaging multiple TIE fighters Luke and Han needed to manually engage the targets. When going after Vader, they used the Falcon like a fighter-you aim by pointing the whole vessel at the target. Having nerdtastic powers is fun. :)

5:13 AM  

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