Mar 20, 2007

You Know Your Guy's A Winner When...+ A Piece of Star Wars Trivia + The Theory of Relativity

You know your guy's a winner when you're sharing a tender moment, he takes off his glasses, and in his best James Earl Jones voice says, "Just for once...let me look on you with my OWN eyes."

A piece of Star Wars trivia: When Han Solo says the Millenium Falcon "made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs" in may seem like a mistake, as a parsec is a measurement of distance. Well, it turns out that he's right on the money (what do you expect from Han?). You see, in the Kessel System...actually, I'm going to copy a big chunk of info from Wikipedia, even though I know that nobody except probably Nate will find this interesting:

The Kessel Run is a pathway from planet Kessel past the dangerous Maw Black Hole Cluster, then through "The Pit" before finishing in a jump to light speed in the fictional Star Wars galaxy used frequently by smugglers in the transport of precious Glitterstim spice.

A well-known but confusing description of the Kessel Run is made by Han Solo in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when he boasts to have made the run with the Millennium Falcon in "less than twelve parsecs." A parsec is a unit of distance, not a measure of time or speed (and in fact Attack of the Clones contains a scene in which a parsec is acknowledged as a unit of distance), although in the real universe the consequences of special relativity on spacetime allow for interchangeable units of time and space on an astronomic scale. Under special relativity, Lorentz contraction would shorten the length of the Kessel Run as observed by a vessel moving at fractional light speed. The faster the vessel, the shorter the Kessel Run distance and such a comment would make sense. However it is unknown how relativistic laws apply in the Star Wars universe, particularly as Han appears to be discussing hyper-luminal travel beyond the scope of relativity.

There has been much speculation regarding the Kessel Run comment. On his audio commentary of A New Hope, George Lucas finally commented on the oft-discussed misinterpretation. Lucas explained that, in the Star Wars universe, traveling any distance through hyperspace requires careful navigation to avoid stars, planets, asteroids or any such obstacles. Since no long-distance journey can be made in a straight line, the "fastest" ship is the ship that can plot the most direct course through space, thereby traveling the least distance. This depends on the skill of the navigator and the sophistication of the ship's navigational computer.

Learn something new every day, hm? My favorite bit is "oft-discussed misinterpretation". I love that in the mind of the person who wrote this, it really is a serious matter.

I remember quite specifically the moment when spacetime/relativity/whatever all made sense to me. We were watching a movie about it in Mr. Watson's physics class. It lasted for a good three minutes and then I never thought about it again. Eleventh grade is the last time I'll have to worry about it, I expect. Which is kind of a shame. I love when things suddenly make sense like that. My favorite one being, of course, the day that I discovered calculus. Understanding the basic concepts of calculus opens up this whole new world. And a beautiful world it is.


Anonymous said...

We are doing the theory of relativity in physics right now. I don't know if I get it or seems kind of improbable, but physicists CLAIM to have proof...I'm never sure how much to trust them. And look, I would never doubt a word that came out of Han's mouth (well...ok, I would. But come on, he's HAN.).


Nathan said...

First of all I'd like to echo that the world with calculus is a beautifull one. You would not believe how often Dereck and I use caluculus to describe the forms in our drumline show. It combines the two great sorces of happiness in this world.
Anyways, I don't really know much about the theory of relativity, but I still found the article interesting, even if (as you said) I was the only one.