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Light Side vs. Dark Side

These are the famous words of Jedi master Yoda to Count Dooku when he faces his old Padawan in Attack of the Clones. Based on these words, Liverpool University held a special event about the Physics of Star Wars to explore what is science and what is fiction in the famous movies. Hundreds of local high school students, university students and staff came on campus on 20 November 2019 and learned how world of Star Wars is connected with current antimatter research and accelerator-based science in general.

Physics of Star Wars took place in the award-winning Central Teaching Laboratory, which was turned into a teaching space from a galaxy far, far away. The event started with an engaging lecture by AVA Coordinator Professor Carsten Welsch who immersed the participants into the Star Wars universe. He said: “I selected iconic scenes from the movies that everybody will immediately recognise, and used real-world physics to explain what is possible and what is fiction. However, this short scene from ‘Star Wars’ was just the introduction, the appetizer, to make the participants curious and discuss science. I then linked what I had just shown in the film to our current research.”

After the lecture, everyone was able to explore the science of Star Wars themselves through a range of hands-on experiments that were prepared by staff and students of Liverpool University, including several AVA Fellows.

Just like the imbalance between the Light Side and the Dark Side, scientists within the AVA Marie Skłodowska-Curie innovative training network are trying to solve the question of why there is an imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Why the universe we see today is made entirely out of matter, remains one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics. The event participants learned about how antimatter particles are trapped and prepared for precision experiments via optical and mechanical Paul traps.

They were also shown how particle accelerators are used to produce antimatter in a laboratory environment and how this allows probing the fundamental laws of nature. The AVA Fellows explained how they study the detailed properties of these exotic particles, for example how they react to the gravitational field of the Earth and how they interact with matter particles.

Many other exciting developments, including novel plasma accelerating techniques, medical accelerators and upgrades to the world’s largest particle accelerator were discussed at this unique event which was deemed a roaring success. The day was an excellent example of how Star Wars fiction can inspire and train the next generation of researchers.

Yoda also said to Count Dooku “This is just the beginning!” and this is no doubt true in the case of science as well: Many more researchers will be needed in the future and Physics of Star Wars helped fascinate many more.


This is not an official Disney/Lucasfilm event, but planned, organised and run by Liverpool staff and students. The kind permission of Lucasfilm to use film excerpts as part of the seminar is acknowledged.