A new hope for Star Wars fans: The Force (sort of) exists, says Winnipeg prof

University of Winnipeg professor explores 'the Force' as latest Star Wars movie makes its premiere

A new hope for Star Wars fans: The Force (sort of) exists 6:40


As any Star Wars fan can tell you, "the Force" is what gives a Jedi power — but it's also a complicated physics phenomenon in this galaxy, a University of Winnipeg professor says.

As Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theatres, University of Winnipeg professor and Canada Research Chair in quantum materials discovery Christopher Wiebe looked into a phenomenon in modern physics that resembles the mystical power from the immensely popular space-fantasy franchise.

The Force, as explained by Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first Star Wars movie, is an energy field created by all things that binds the galaxy together. Wiebe said quantum entanglement is a similar concept.

"It's a tantalizing idea to describe how different bodies can be connected," he told CBC Radio's Up To Speed.

Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon that connects particles over large distances if they have previously been entangled, then separated, Wiebe said, giving a hypothetical — and Star Wars-specific — example.

If Last Jedi baddie Kylo Ren hides a red lightsaber in one box, and hero Rey hides a blue one in the other, quantum theory dictates that those objects are neither red nor blue, he said.

Rey and Luke

Rey (Daisy Ridley) confronts Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at his Jedi retreat in a scene from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (Walt Disney Studios)

It's only when Rey checks the box and she discovers whether it's red or blue that the lightsaber in the other box becomes the other colour — in this theory, the two lightsabers are connected over a large distance, Wiebe said.

"It was seen as a controversial idea in physics when it was first proposed, but now physicists have done experiments to show that particles can be connected over a large distance," Wiebe said.

While they aren't nearly as complex as lightsabers, research has shown this concept in action in certain particles.

Force-based powers like telekinesis and telepathic communication are still outside the realm of possibility, unfortunately — at least as far as modern science has discovered.

"I don't think physicists will be reading minds anytime soon, or else they'll all be at the poker table in Vegas," Wiebe said

Star Wars space battle

Poe's Resistance X-Wing does what an X-Wing does in a scene from one of many space battles in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (Walt Disney Studios)

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