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These days, it wouldn’t be a big science fiction film release without noted celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson chiming in and pointing out various scientific inaccuracies. He’s sounded off on the dubious physics of Star Trek Into Darkness, picked apart Gravity, and now he has turned his sharp eye on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
There are some SPOILERS beyond this point.
The college professor, author, and host of Star Talk admits he’s more of a Star Trek fan, citing the harder science element of the series. He took to Twitter to expose some of the factual issues he had with the seventh installment of the Star Wars saga. His criticisms are all spot on, though some of them are bit obvious even to us lay folk, like how the was a noticeable lack of skidding on the sand and hard surfaces for the round droid BB-8.
The Force Awakens reiterates Han Solo’s previous claim that the Millennium Falcon, despite her junky appearance, once made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.
And Tyson points out the oft-stated fact that a parsec is not actually a measure of time but instead a measure of distance.
If you paid attention in science classes in high school, you know that sound travels as waves through air. You also know that space is a vacuum, where there is no air, hence, no sound. If the space battles in Star Wars were just shots of ships zooming around, blasting each other in silence, they would lack a certain gravitas, but Tyson still, rightly, points out the discrepancy that ships appear to make the same noises in space as in the atmosphere of various planets.
To power the First Order’s massive, planet-turned-weapon, Starkiller Base sucks the energy from a sun until it disappears. We all know that this, in reality, would be a very, very bad idea with disastrous consequences. But dammit it looks really cool, and gives the heroes a ticking clock looming in the sky.
I love Neil deGrasse Tyson, I think he’s a damn national treasure, but some of his movie criticisms are wee bit nitpicky. We get that cinema stretches the truth and is full of things are aren’t always strictly accurate, but this willing suspension of disbelief is part of the social contract we engage in when we got to the movies.
Such glaring flaws in the science obviously haven’t been an issue for moviegoers, as Star Wars: The Force Awakens has only been out for a few days, but continues to smash box office records, garner positive reviews, and delight fans of the saga the world over.