THE REAL SCIENCE INSPIRED BY 'STAR WARS’
From Darth Vader's breathing to the dual sunsets of Tatooine, we take a look back at the real studies inspired by the “Star Wars” universe. (Full story: http://on.natgeo.com/1mq9cgF)
- •How to Blow Up the Death StarNot only has the Death Star fascinated economists and policy analysts, who have found it to be a wasteful boondoggle of galactic proportions; the complexity and destructive force of the Empire's "ultimate weapon" also darkly fascinates scientists and engineers. Guy Walker, a civil engineering professor at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University, applied real-world techniques to the notoriously explosion-prone Death Star, as an example for his students of analyzing flaws in big engineering projects.
- •Healthcare in a Galaxy Far, Far Away“Star Wars” is rich with medical imagery. The Skywalkers, in particular, get close attention: Luke, for his remarkably advanced robotic arm, and his father Anakin, who arguably has cinema’s most iconic respiratory ailment. Ronan Berg and Ronni Plovsing, physicians at Denmark’s University Hospital Rigshospitalet, have used the Sith lord’s distinctive rattle to help teach medical students how to diagnose respiratory illnesses, given that Vader appears to have them all.
- •Getting Inside Darth Vader’s HeadThe ailments of the "Star Wars" universe aren’t just physical. In recent years, psychiatrists have turned to the cast of "Star Wars" in an effort to better explain the hallmarks of mental illness to medical students and the broader public. “These are archetypal characters that everybody can relate to,” says Ryan C.W. Hall, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine. The psychiatric literature is fascinated in particular with Anakin Skywalker.
- •The Mind’s Phantom MenacesEarlier this year, Hall and Susan Hatters Friedman of the University of Auckland published three sweeping papers that analyze a vast array of "Star Wars" heroes, villains, and supporting characters. Jabba the Hutt, for instance, seems to display the signs of a clinical psychopath. The freewheeling Lando Calrissian might have a gambling addiction. And the original trilogy’s sweetly sad Obi Wan Kenobi could help illustrate the signs of depression among the elderly.
- •Finding the Real Tatooine"Star Wars" opens with Luke stuck on Tatooine, a barren desert planet rife with scum and villainy. But even this desolate outpost offers up unexpected beauty, in the form of a marvelous, alien double sunset. Tatooine is an oddity called a circumbinary planet, and astronomers are on the hunt for real-world lookalikes. Researchers find binary star systems fascinating because of their turbulent gravitational environments, which complicate how planets clump up from motes of interstellar dust.