Trekkies versus Wookies

by Paul Jay, CBC News online

Festivities are under way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, which some consider to be an all-time science-fiction classic and others decry as the beginning of a bloated marketing exercise.

But Star Wars has tended to fall short is the science part of science fiction. While Star Trek has inspired future technology like Tricorders or matter-antimatter fuel, Star Wars has given us...what, Wookie crossbows?

A couple of years ago Forbes and National Geographic both took at a stab at peering behind the science of Star Wars, and neither source could find too many examples of real science at work in the galaxy far, far away.

Our favourite example is the governing planet Coruscant, located according to the scripts in the heart of the galaxy. As Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, told National Geographic:

In general, you don't want to be quite in the "heart" of any large galaxy, as that's almost invariably the site of a massive black hole, and an active nucleus that will fill nearby space with corrosive radiation guaranteed to ruin your whole day.

No wonder the Empire won.

Bob McDonald gives a great defence of the franchise, however, by pointing out the importance of even bad science fiction in inspiring space travel.

Which still doesn't excuse Mission to Mars.