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Reality or Fiction: Learning science via Star Wars

ByAlice Wiersma

Sep 30, 2017

A short, bite-sized episode on the science of lightsabers. What more could your inner child ask for? Well if you’re here for mind-blowing science at a university thinking level, you might definitely be left wishing for more from Science and Star Wars.

However, for the younger audience this Facebook based show is a fantastic introduction to modern technological developments.

Over the last few years the internet has seen a boom in educational material. Anyone can teach anyone, anyone can learn anything.

There are many more resources available designed to get people involved in science, so what is so special about this particular show?

Well, with so many videos or articles to choose from and so little time, getting people to watch, let alone stay tuned, requires a hook.

And what better advertiser than Star Wars, the kingpin of sci-fi?

When George Lucas’s film series began in 1977 it immediately became a classic. It was cool to like sci-fi, a genre that had always been relegated to the geeks and nerds, and now, despite some rocky moments with the prequel trilogy, it is one of the most recognizable movie series.

Everyone knows it, which is a huge boost when it comes to getting kids involved in science.

This new web based show captures the iconic moments of the movies and explains the science behind them in layperson’s terms.

In the first episode, host Anthony Carboni and his artificial intelligence aid, Watson, jump right into describing the fictional parts of a lightsaber and its power source, Kyber crystals. Today’s closest equivalent is plasma.

After quickly explaining the work two labs in Zurich and California are doing involving this fourth state of matter, Carboni and his guest Taylor Gray test out a thermic lance using steel wool and oxygen.

The episode ends with a recreation of the “cutting a circle in a steel door” scene from the movies. Pretty cool huh?

Understandably, given the format of the show, there is only so much that can be packed into one episode.

Five minutes is not a lot of time to set up the show, introduce new science concepts and current technologies, and then do some real-world testing.

This means that the audience either has to be knowledgeable on the subject, or willing to sit back and just watch what happens.

The advantage of such a short running time is that it holds the viewer’s attention and does not let it wander. The target audience is much more likely to watch a five-minute clip related to their favourite movies, than an unknown full-length documentary.

And this is where science and Star Wars particularly succeeds.

Although Science and Star Wars does not teach much in terms of factual information, it piques the curiosity of the viewer and drives them to do further research into the subject.

It acts as a catalyst in bringing the everyday Star Wars fan closer to modern science and interesting technological developments.

Episodes of Science and Star Wars are available to watch every Tuesday evening on the Star Wars Facebook page, or later in the week on the Star Wars YouTube channel.

Image: ColiN00B


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