Facts amongst Star Wars fiction  

There is a temptation to view the most popular science fiction movie franchise of all time as ‘hokum' – escapist nonsense that introduces the viewer to fabulous worlds and wacky characters. But, believe it or not, a lot of the fiction portrayed in the Star Wars films (all six of them, with more in the pipeline) is actually grounded in fact. So what aspects of these blockbusters can be termed ‘science fact'?
One of the most exhilarating sequences in the Star Wars movies was the speeder bike scene in Return of the Jedi, the third film in the series. This involved what looked like a cross between motorcycles and hovercraft racing across a deeply-forested landscape, zig-zagging between trees. For a lot of adolescent fans, the closest they came to emulating the action was to furiously pedal their bikes along woodland trails, making the appropriate sound effects with their excitable mouths. However, a New York-based development company called Aerofex are currently involved in research into what they call ‘low altitude tandem duct vehicles'. The best way to think of these is scaled-down Hawker Harrier jump jets – the world-renowned Royal Air Force fighter jets that can take-off and land vertically. These craft would be ideal for navigating across inaccessible regions, such as the Australian Outback, or East Africa, and would be suited to flying doctors. At a present price tag of up to $100,000, the casual movie fan might have to wait awhile before purchasing one to keep in the garage.
The staple of the battle scenes in every Star Wars feature has been laser guns. Emitting piercing bolts or light, they mow down the dreaded Imperial storm troopers at a fearsome raye. The US Navy has been testing laser cannons mounted on warships, known as the ‘Laser Weapon System (LWS)'. One advantage of this potentially-destructive future artillery is cost. Laser beams cost a fraction of the price of missiles, the latter costing several hundred thousand dollars per weapon, putting the soldiers aiming said devices under considerable pressure!
Unlike the movie versions of laser firefights, where bolts of light streak across the screen accompanied by striking sound effects, the reality is somewhat more staid. Because lasers travels at the speed of light, the beams fired from these LWS arsenals are invisible to the naked eye. They are also silent.
As for the potential for a weapon with the capability of destroying an entire planet – hopefully that doomsday scenario remains in the realm of science fiction for some considerable time!

 

Top