Friday, June 10, 2005

Physics of Star Wars

Almost exactly a week ago, I got around to seeing Revenge of the Sith. I think I would rather have seen Hero on the big screen and waited to see the last Star Wars installment on the small screen, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Even more entertaining, at least for me, where my falling-asleep thoughts about the movie over the past several evenings, which I will share with you now.

What is the Force? Well, to first approximation we might guess that it is related to the Displacement in the Ether. Yes, I know that the ether hasn't been in vogue for quite some time, but this was a long time ago, right? Besides, Lucas doesn't appear to be terribly bothered by the details of modern physics, which is perhaps just as well -- in our universe, a sword made out of bosons would be pretty ineffective, and relativistic effects would make the chronology of the Star Wars universe much harder to understand. But I digress. The point is that the Force is related to the Displacement, but nobody talks about the Displacement. Why?

One reason why people might not mention the Displacement is because it is terribly small. If the Displacement is small but the Force is not small, then perhaps the Ether is stiff? The stiffer and less dense the Etheris, the faster disturbances in the Displacement (and thus the Force) would travel. In the movies, these disturbances seem to travel very quickly indeed, since events at one end of the galaxy are rapidly detected at the other end. Characters manage to travel from one end of the galaxy to another sufficiently quickly that they can take a fighter craft with no restroom facilities, so perhaps it's not that far -- but again I digress.

I really should non-dimensionalize, but the voice of Yoda echoes in my head, saying Dimensionless constants, you need not. Ridiculous crap, making up you are. Trust your feelings, you should.

So much for the propagation of disturbances in the Force: they are doubtless governed by some wave equation, though it would be difficult to ascertain the nature of the equation without either a Jedi (who would probably ignore me) or a Sith Lord (who would probably decapitate me) to help with some experiments. This brings us to our second question: how are those disturbances in the Force generated in the first place? I have a hypothesis for this as well, which I do not think I could have made before watching the prequel trilogy. Perhaps I got more out of this prequel than I thought.

In Episode 1, we learned that the Force is somehow connected to mitichlonines (sp?), which are like mitochondria but with more mystical significance and less certain spelling. Mitichlonines spend all their time doing jumping jacks inside your cells and making waves in the Force. You would expect, then, that any being sufficiently endowed with mitichlonines would be able to do things with the Force, like lifting a spaceship from a bog or strangling a foe. But what if there's an impedance mismatch between the Ether and the stuff that human beings are made of? If the impedance mismatch is sufficient, then nearly all of the waves generated by the mitichlonines would be reflected back into the being generated them, leaving barely a ripple on the outside world. Thus, most people will be supremely indifferent to the Force, no matter how enthusiastic their mitichlonines might be.

But what if the jumping of the mitichlonines generated a resonant behavior? Then the reflected waves might constructively interfere with each other inside the body, generating fearsomely large trapped disturbances in the Force. Eventually, this resonance might grow to the point where an appreciable amount of it leaked out into the surrounding Ether. Since the resonances of a cavity depend both on the properties of the material in the cavity and the size of the cavity, perhaps it is no coincidence that most of the Jedi Council seem rather stiff -- except Yoda, perhaps, and he's small.

I wonder, if there were a medium with an even greater impedance mismatch to the human body than the Ether, what would happen to the unlucky Jedi trapped in such a medium? Presumably even more of the mitichlonines' energy would go into trapped standing waves. In unlucky cases, might spontaneous Jedi combustion ensue? I'm also inclined to wonder if, when the Displacement is sufficiently large, the wave equation governing the behavior of the Force becomes nonlinear; and, if so, what the nature of the nonlinearity might be.

No, this isn't going into my thesis.

    Currently drinking: Russian Caravan