Physics of Star Wars – Fact or Fiction?

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Light sabres, hyper speed and droids – will they be made possible with the latest Big Data research? With the imminent launch of “The Last Jedi” Professor Carsten Welsch was exploring the “Physics of Star Wars” in an event that introduced cutting-edge science to hundreds of high school children, undergraduates, PhD students and university staff.

Professor Welsch explains his approach: “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. For example, a lightsabre, as shown in the film, wouldn’t be possible according to the laws of physics, but there are many exciting applications that are possible, such as laser knives for high precision surgery controlled by robot arms and adaptive manufacturing using lasers for creating complex structures in metals.”

 “Making the kind of intelligent droids featured in Star Wars such as R2D2 and C-3PO requires a huge amount of data and the ability to analyse it. We have just launched the LIVDAT big data science centre for doctoral training which includes a machine-learning strand. For this we task machines to respond to change by looking at the data and finding their own approach. So again, there is a link that you can create quite easily between the cutting-edge research we are doing and the famous movies.”

After the lecture, all participants were given the opportunity to understand the science behind Star Wars through numerous hands-on activities in our award-winning Central Teaching Laboratory. This included laser gravity, augmented reality experiments and two full-scale planetariums which immersed the participants into the world of Star Wars.

Professor Welsch and the LIV.DAT fellows who joined him on the day had the kind permission of Lucasfilm to use film excerpts; these were complemented by Lego Star Wars models, a real cantina as found in the movie, stormtroopers and even Darth Vader himself! BBC Focus Magazine,  BBC Radio Merseyside (from 1:26:11), the Warrington Guardian, Physics World and the UoL Staff News have already reported the event bringing LIV.DAT to the attention of hundreds of thousands throughout the galaxy.

Many thanks to all who have helped make this fantastic event possible!

This was not an official Disney/Lucasfilm event, but planned, organised and run by Liverpool staff and students.