back to article Hyperspeed travel looks wrong: Leicester students

Sorry, special effects people, you got it wrong: if the Millennium Falcon can actually do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs*, Han Solo and his passengers won’t see the stars stretching by. In fact, they won’t see the stars at all. In addition to slaughtering the inhabitants of the solar system at their destination, the …

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Unhappy

That blooper always annoyed me...

...even at the age of 12. I didn't know what a parsec exactly was, but I knew damned well it was a unit of length not frakking speed. Buh! Too much Heinlein at a young age I s'pose (Have Space Suit, Will Travel springs to mind here - it actually contains Dr E's equation for special relativity. In a book for 'young adults'. Harry Potter, eat yer heart out. I'm rambling now, sorry...

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Meh

Did someone

Did someone actually explain to these students that Star Wars is a film and that artistic licence has been used?

Why haven't they been working on something more important?

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Coat

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Podkayne of Mars was cute as well. The ending was quite moving (the revised one anyway).

Hot damn, I clearly bought the wrong paperbook when I got that at age 14. this is the cover I should've bought.

Mines the one with several of his books in my jacket :)

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Re: Did someone

Do you know what travelling at .99999995%c looks like?

No, then it was important, it answered a question that had an unknown answer.

The fact they used a science fiction film just makes it more accessible...no point doing the science if you can't relate what you find to the normal person.

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Re: Did someone

Artistic license means you can say that your spaceship goes faster than any spaceship is capable of, or that your main character can really jump that far and swing around a pole and still shoot straight.

It doesn't account for a script line which basically says that someone is "3 litres tall", or "wider than a cheetah's top speed". It's an error. And I don't see a lot of time wasted on it, but it's certainly wrong.

Part of the filmmaker's job is to suspend disbelief and make us think we are "there". Someone saying something completely nonsensical, stupid and wrong and NOBODY present in the movie questioning it does the opposite. We all just go "What? Did I hear that right?" and miss a minute of the film while we all laugh at it.

And, literally, the fix was to get someone in who knew the tiniest bit about space (I mean, literally, even a student spots the error!) on your space-themed movie and have them look things over. On a multi-million dollar budget, I'm sure you could hire, say, a PhD for a day just to look over your script.

This is basic diligence when writing scripts, also. Star Trek (the other nerd-franchise that I don't watch) used to have the script-writers write "insert techno-babble here" and then they'd pass it off to a real scientist who would insert the bits about Heisenberg Compensators etc. (which is what artistic license REALLY allows). It costs nothing, it aids in the suspension of disbelief, it stops you looking like an idiot, and it stops making X% of your fans CRINGE every time they hear the line.

If you want an example of this in the modern day - try getting something wrong in The Big Bang Theory. It would be stupid, and embarrassing but we still would give you an awful lot of artistic license when in comes to most stuff. But even Howard using the wrong unit, unless it was a plot element and picked up on by the other characters, would jar in people's heads and make them forget they are watching entertainment - and that's the ONLY job you have if you making TV or films.

I find it a real bugbear of mine that films where people do incredibly stupid things for no reason other than to support a badly structured plot really annoy me. It makes me switch off and not watch the film again. This is on a par with the "Oh, the chainsaw murderer is after us, so we'll all split up, not call the police, not prepare a defensive weapon, hide out in a convenient abandoned cabin, get killed off one-by-one through our own stupidity and separation, and then the last one will run through an empty, dark forest they don't know late at night while they know the murderer is outside and inevitably trip over something (and only then will we realise that the weird one in the group was the murderer all along). Then we might 'capture' the murderer, and lock him in a room with a nice large window and convenient replacement weapons."

By comparison, say, Aliens: "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit." Good man. Let's go. Even "The Thing": Let's gather everyone in a room, aim guns at them, formulate some sort of test and burn the hell out of whatever one turns out to be the alien (or just wait forever guarding them if we can't find out) - about the only "odd" point of that movie is locking a man they think is going insane in an outside hut while it all goes on, which is perfectly feasible in the circumstances, but a little odd that they forget about him so much.

You have to "believe" in the characters. The ones who do stupid things (and, let's face it, that line is there SPECIFICALLY to show off how fast his ship is, and fails to do that and everyone he speaks to takes it utterly seriously), you can't believe in.

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Happy

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

"Too much Heinlein" I think you'll find that is a oxymoron similar to "Too much Mozart"

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

From what I understand being able to do the kessel run in 12 parsecs was a proof of how good a navigator/pilot and the quality of his equipment rather than how fast the ship can go. As the kessel run is a series of black holes between 2 major space routes.

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Re: Did someone

@CB

0.99999995c = 99.999995%c

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Me too. In fact I was so riled I just wanted the next significant thing for Han to do would be to shoot someone first.

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

So, perhaps George needs a little defense, as he takes a battering over this all the time.

The Kessel run was an 18 parsec long route, which Han Solo cut down to less that 12 parsecs. Yes, the parsec is a unit of distance. However, by moving closer to the black holes he had to travel faster in order to escape their gravitational fields - we can infer this as the escape velocity is inversely proportional to the square root of distance from the gravitational source.

Hence, although a parsec is not a velocity, the statement lets us know the Millenium Falcon is the fastest ship around and that Han has balls of steel to cut the journey so close to those black holes!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

How many lightyears across are these black holes supposed to be? Did ol' George (and one or two commentards) skip their trig lessons? Wouldn't they have to be the mothers of all black holes to extend a 12 parsec journey by 6 parsecs?!

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Stop

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Made-up-by-fans after-the-fact editing of reality doesn't change the fact that the original quote was just plain wrong. This was an attempt to explain away the error, and Han Solo was definitely talking about speed when he made it.

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Re: Did someone

But they are not travelling at 0.99999c

They are using hyperspace. Most describe it as knocking a hole to a slightly different universe with slightly different laws of physics and/or shorter gaps between the corresponding points in our space.

Do the students have a model for that?

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@Chris Beach

Actually, this is has been known for a very long time. My PhD in Physics was almost 30 years ago. I was in graduate school when Star Wars came out, and that was something everyone (in physics) went through since it was so obvious that George got it wrong.

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Two others beat me to it, but as they said, the black hole explanation is a fan whitewashing to try and make the line palatable. And it makes no sense (the idea that he was going so fast the event horizons of the black holes were effectively 6 parsecs smaller is hilarious).

But there's another, even more painful thing you're forgetting. In Star Wars their FTL travel is based on going to super-special-hyper-mega-other-dimension-space where they travel in straight lines, that means normal navigational hazards pretty much can't be there. So this run has to be done in normal space if he's beating hazards, where the light speed limit applies. 12 parsecs is about 40 LY. That means the trip, even at relativistic speeds, is going to take 50+ years. Hell, even in hyperspace it makes no sense, considering Han said the Falcon goes 1.5c. That's still 25 years.

Long story short, if you're awake while watching Star Wars there is a lot of jarringly stupid dialog that knocks you out of the movie. Either you can suspend disbelief enough or not, but it was pretty lazy on Lucas' part.

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Re: Did someone

FTA: "The point of the journal, the university says, is to teach students how to deal with refereed journals."

Their choice of subject matter is presumably irrelevant (but, in this case, entertaining).

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WTF?

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

In the name of all that is holy and good, Star Wars is NOT Science fiction. It's Space Opera, to the extent of having leitmotifs and everything. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's fun as hell to watch, but straining your brain to figure out how to make the dialogue work or why you'd design droids that needed interpreters is like trying to figure out how Alberich's ring could fit so many different-sized fingers. (Oo-er missus.)

It's not important. Move on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Surely space opera would require some singing?

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Flame

Because I heard it on The Nerd Channel...

"The Kessel run was an 18 parsec long route, which Han Solo cut down to less that 12 parsecs."

YES! HE ALSO SHOT NOT FIRST!!!

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Re:I just wanted the next significant thing for Han to do would be to shoot someone first..

ROFL. Good one.

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

As I recall from reading The Making Of Star Trek, the term "parsec" was invented by the writers as a form of semi-believable sci-fi pseudo-tech-speak, and meant "parallax of one second".

Strictly technically speaking, the students at Leicester U. are right, although in a film or TV show, it wouldn't look as cool as having space travelers seeing the stars stretch out in front of them.

This is the same reason why in Star Trek, you heard that little "whoosh" whenever the Enterprise sped by, and in Star Wars, you heard that low, menacing rumble in the opening scene where the massive Imperial battle cruiser passes over the camera, seeming to go on forever. Technically, there's no sound in the vacuum of space, but if those scenes had been technically correct, there would've been no excitement or drama to them.

This isn't to say that a technically-correct scene taking place in space can't have any tension or drama to it. The EVA scene in Kubrick's 2001, in which HAL takes control of an empty pod and uses its robot arms to rip out the oxygen hose from Poole's suit and fling him into space, is a prime example. The quick cutaway shots of Poole thrashing and struggling to reconnect his oxygen hose as he tumbles wildly into deep space -- accompanied by complete silence -- are among the most tensely dramatic in the whole film.

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Podkayne of Mars was cute as well. The ending was quite moving (the revised one anyway)...

Hot damn, I clearly bought the wrong paperbook when I got that at age 14. this is the cover I should've bought.

Day-am. "Cute" is not the word that comes to mind for me.

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Re: Did someone

I find it a real bugbear of mine that films where people do incredibly stupid things for no reason other than to support a badly structured plot really annoy me. It makes me switch off and not watch the film again...

...or else check to see if there's an MST3K version. (;^>

Actually, out of nearly all the sci-fi movies I've ever seen, 2001 is pretty much the only one where the filmmakers did such an awesome job of "getting it right" that I actually didn't have to suspend disbelief -- except perhaps for The Slab, and the final scenes ("Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite"), of course -- and even then, it was so different from your standard-issue sci-fi movie alien encounter that suspending disbelief was a fairly easy job. They weren't green, ugly, slimy, murderous, or any of the usual crap. The aliens and their artifacts in 2001 were presented in a way that "made sense" in the context of suspended disbelief.

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Mushroom

WAY off the mark

A nice rant, but unfortunately a load of typing wasted.

Artistic license also allows you to have a character who is a bit of a Wide Boy, prone to making boastful claims some of which may be exaggerated or just plain bullsh*t, potentially from a place of ignorance.

Like the dick down the pub who says his car has over 200 torque when he means horsepower but is too stupid to a) know the difference or b) realise that the people he is talking to will know more than him and easily spot his bullsh*t.

That line establishes that Han Solo is boastful and for all you know it also deliberately identifies him as less well informed about units of measure than you might expect.

Does Luke know and internally peg this Solo character is a bit of a douche ?

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. Or maybe Luke doesn't know any better either and is quietly impressed.

But either way, it doesn't affect the story one bit - whether based on the "parsec" bullsh*t or simply the fact that this Solo dude is a swaggering boastful, smug S.O.B, Luke has his opinion of Han right from the start.

As for your other soapboxes...

The "techno babble" in Star Trek was not passed off to scientists (tho that may have been the idea originally), it was simply handled by script writers who had a knack for dreaming up credible SOUNDING psuedo-scientific lingo, allowing the scripts to be written with story and character as the primary focus without the writers getting bogged down in the "science bit". Science bits which - again - weren't relevant to the STORY, but just had to sound plausible.

Big Bang Theory - a show about science and knowledgeable scientists damned sure better get it right, obviously. But Star Wars isn't that show. Neither is Star Trek for that matter. The only thing Star Trek wasn't allowed to contradict was itself, not real science.

As for people doing incredibly stupid things in movies... they do it in real life all the time. Is real life made up too ?

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

...Long story short, if you're awake while watching Star Wars there is a lot of jarringly stupid dialog that knocks you out of the movie. Either you can suspend disbelief enough or not, but it was pretty lazy on Lucas' part.

True, but let's face it -- Star Wars didn't exactly break any new ground in science fiction, or even basic storytelling, for that matter. When you strip away all the cinema tech advances, modernized visual style and effects gee-whizzery, what you've got left is just a remake of an old Flash Gordon pulp serial from the '30s.

It's not exactly THX 1138, that's for damn' sure.

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Perhaps the 'Kessel run' is simply test in which a ship accelerates to and then decelerates from a predetermined speed. In which case '12 parsecs' would make sense. I imagine some extended universe book/game ruins that retcon though.

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The term "parsec" is not from sci-fi, it's from real science.

The word "parsec" does not come from sci-fi. It is a term made by astronomers when they were first able to measure star distances using the "parallax" method - measuring the position of a nearer star relative to much more distant ones six months apart (when the Earth has moved to the other side of its orbit) - near stars appear to have"changed" position, the lines Earth-star-Earth makes a triangle, angles can be computed and trigonometry gives you the distance. A star whose parallax angle is one second is said to be a "parsec" away. Actually no star is within one parsec, even Proxima Centauri is farther. Astronomers use the parsec in their computations much more often than light years, because of its geometrical definition.

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Pint

Do you know ...

how the Millenium Falcon was powered and propelled? No? Then it wasn't important. In fact, are those actually clear ports on the MF or are they repeater screens? If the latter then how would you know what they would show? I would agree that a "starbow" would be a cool effect, but seriously.

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WTF?

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

You plainly either didn't read the text accurately or the authors lied. The parsec, which does stand for "parallax second" is a standard unit of distance in astronomy equivalent 3.26 light years roughly. A bit of research indicates that it has been in use since 1913.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WAY off the mark

@Jolyon Smith: "A nice rant, but unfortunately a load of typing wasted."

Erm... So? I think you'll find that applies to the whole of El Reg...

i.e. The WHOLE of El Reg (the bloggy bit as well as the commentardery).

:-B

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Meh

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

Lol, I think the story is. It's classic teenage stuff with a female lead who is somewhat naive and 'cute'. But I agree that cover goes somewhat beyond 'cute'. My copy has a far less racy image:

Boring.

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Stop

Re: That blooper always annoyed me...

"In the name of all that is holy and good, Star Wars is NOT Science fiction. It's Space Opera"

NO NO NO NO NO!

Star Wars is REAL otherwise how did we get the message from the Galactic Empire about the Death Star plans?

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Re: That blooper always annoyed me... @relpy

Ah, good point. My mistake. Real it clearly is.

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Paris Hilton

How the Kessel Run was run

Maybe this is enlightening.

http://scifi.about.com/od/starwarsglossaryandfaq/a/Star-Wars-Faq_Why-Did-Han-Solo-Say-He-Made-The-Kessel-Run-In-12-Parsecs.htm

Paris, just because.

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Re: How the Kessel Run was run

Interesting ways to explain it.

I still reckon Georgie boy made a cock up, but the second 2 explanations make some sense.

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Alien

Re: How the Kessel Run was run

I always thought that the official explanation was that the Millenium Falcon was the only ship fast enough to navigate a 12 parsec route due to it passing by black holes, and it is clever people trying to point out that speed and distance measurements are incompatible. It is a bit like a snowmobile driver being able to take a shortcut across a lake where a skier cannot. The snowmobile pilot could make that run in 200 yards, where the skier may have to ski around the lake and take 400 yards. The timing of the runs is not relevant as the increase in speed itself causes a change in the possible route. Simple and not at all confusing.

Also, the warp drives in Sci-Fi do not allow the spacecraft to fly faster than light, they allow the space they are in to be warped to the point that relativisticly, the craft appears to be travelling faster than light. As any fule kno, one cannot travel faster than light so how does the millenium falcon "make point 5 past light speed"? it does it by bending time and space so that it can just use its normal engines.

How warped space would look is another issue.

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Boffin

Re: How the Kessel Run was run

"Also, the warp drives in Sci-Fi do not allow the spacecraft to fly faster than light, they allow the space they are in to be warped to the point that relativisticly, the craft appears to be travelling faster than light."

Yet in effect, they do move information from one point to another faster than causality allows. It's not so much the "how" that's the question, but the fact that doing it will make the answer precede the question ;-)

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Re: How the Kessel Run was run

Its all a matter of names - The Spacetime Origami Entanglement Engine

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Coat

Re: How the Kessel Run was run

As long as we're being theoretical here, I've always believed that anything that could travel at the speed of light WAS light, so the problem is not so much achieving that speed, but slowing down and reconstituting yourself.

Someone told me a story once about how many advanced civilizations were able to achieve light speed, but could not return from it. That's why, when we have difficult tasks to perform, we turn a light on it — to bathe in their advanced intelligence!

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"A Slower Speed of Light"

Last October some MIT people released a 'game' called "A Slower Speed of Light" free PC/Macs (you'll need a powerful system for smooth framerate) which demonstrates what happens when you slow down the speed of light - basically everything goes a bit trippy.

Video of it in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu7jA8EHi_0

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Re: "A Slower Speed of Light"

Somebody read "Redshift Rendez Vous" (John Stith), eh?

(Fair warning: don't read for literary qualities. But it _is_ a wonderful view of Relativity.)

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Re: "A Slower Speed of Light"

Or they could read "Lost in Transmission" by Wil McCarthy.

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Coat

Re: "A Slower Speed of Light"

"Or they could read "Lost in Transmission" by Wil McCarthy."

Or they could watch "Lost in Translation". Or at least, time tends to slow down for me when I'm watching that, waiting for something to happen...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "A Slower Speed of Light"

The giant mushrooms as part of the scenery certainly hint at some of their inspiration for said game... ;D

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Trollface

Re: "A Slower Speed of Light"

Lorentz 'shrooms! Now with increased apparent mass!

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Re: "A Slower Speed of Light"

You get a slower speed of light if it's not passing through a vacuum. In fact it's possible to drive a car faster than light (if that light is travelling through-270 degree sodium: the light will be doing 38 miles per hour.

Link

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Intense x-rays?

Wouldn't the intensity of the blue-shifted x-rays be proportional to the intensity of the visible light when at "rest?"

Space is pretty dark, without a whole lot of photons to start with. Even Doppler-shifted to x-rays, I'm not sure why they'd add so much to the "normal" radiation outside the Earth's magnetic field.

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Devil

> Space is pretty dark, without a whole lot of photons to start with.

LOLNO. First you are in a heatbath of 3K cosmic microwave background. And then there is any other frequency you want. Go fast enough and they can all rip the electrons off your body.

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Anonymous Coward

"Go fast enough and they can all rip the electrons off your body."

That happened to me once... I found it quite a positive experience.

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"go fast enough & rip electrons"

Please (somebody) correct me if i'm wrong. But isn't c constant regardless of your own speed? Isnt that Physics 101? That is, if i'm travelling in my car towards you the speed of light from the headlamps is still c. The same must hold true at 0.99c in the MF. I believe light is red shifted not due to a celestial body moving rapidly away from us, but rather due to the expansion of the intervening space.

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