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The science of Star Wars - and how it has changed movies forever
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17 December 2019
Our experts weigh in ahead of The Rise of Skywalker release
How sound is the science of Star Wars? What will the end of franchise mean for fans? University of Sydney experts in film, pop culture and astrophysics weigh in.

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This week’s release –The Rise of Skywalker – will mark the end of a nine-movie saga stretching back decades, which with an estimated combined box office revenue of more than $US9 billion ($13 billion) is the second highest-grossing film franchise of all time.

“This generation’s Star Wars franchise completes this summer with the much anticipated The Rise of Skywalker. In the wake of 2017’s The Last Jedi, critics and fans will fast be trying to take stock of the legacy of the Star Wars phenomenon,” said film studies expert Dr Bruce Isaacs, who has researched Hollywood’s dominance of the movie industry.

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“While Star Wars is fantasy, it’s impossible to watch it without a scientific eye,” said astrophysicist, cosmologist and sci-fi fan Professor Geraint Lewis.

“The results? Some science is good, some is bad and much is downright awful. Sounds in space, magical forces and dogfighting battles, Star Wars has everything to make a physicist groan.”

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Astrophysicist and asteroseismologist Professor Tim Bedding has also looked into the science – and science fiction – of Star Wars, and says there is at least one thing the series got right.

“Thanks to NASA's Kepler space telescope, we know that circumbinary planets – planets like Tatooine that orbit two stars instead of one – are a real thing. The Kepler mission has found several. So, while most of Star Wars is pure fantasy not based in science, that was actually a good prediction,” he said.

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Among the moviegoers flocking to cinemas to watch The Rise of Skywalker this week are likely to be members of the practising Jedi population in Australia.

According to Professor of Religious Studies Carole Cusack, Jediism as a new religious phenomenon debuted with the 'Jedi Census' e-mail campaign in 2001.

“In Anglophone countries including, but not limited to, Australia, New Zealand and the UK scores of thousands of people put 'Jedi' as their religion in the 2001 Census, despite government threats of legal recriminations,” Professor Cusack said. 

“Jediism is now nearly 20 years old and has evolved as a complex and viable ethical faith, with real-world temples and orders supplementing online communities.

“Studying Jediism offers insights into the 21st century spiritual quest, contemporary masculinities, and the value of elective communities. The Jedis of today have moved some way from the Star Wars films that originally inspired them, but retain important connections to the fictional world created by George Lucas.” 

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Media and PR Adviser (Science)

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