Bogus Math

Today’s very fun Friday guest blog is, as usual, from HS, where I rediscovered this funny rant on George Lucas’ mathematics. As usual, click the link to view the entire post; it’s been shortened for SWL.

The most fun math is what I call bogus math. I use the term to refer to anything unconventional and especially fictional. For example, there was this time that I calculated the population of Coruscant. Today’s particular bogus math I wanted to talk about, now that you’re all paying attention, is again Star Wars related. I know you’re all thinking, “She wants me to believe she’s got dyscalculia but likes computing all this stuff?” Well, I have a superpower called Wolfram|Alpha, which I can use to calculate anything.

In Astronomy and the Bible, I read that it would take 100,000 years to cross the galaxy at the speed of light and I suddenly began to wonder how long it would take at Han’s boasted, “She’ll make .5 past light speed.” Thus I found out that Wolfy will calculate ly speeds for me ! I asked for lightspeed +50%, and it replied 1.5c. (Which caused me to remember the question that inspired this blog: What is the propulsion system on the Death Star? In researching the Death Star, I found a book that said its maximum speed was 1.2c, and nothing would tell me what c stood for! It’s speed of light in vacuum.) Then I asked what it would take to get to Alpha Centauri at a rate of 1.5c — 35 months. This got me thinking about the sublight run for Cloud City from Hoth in ESB. Well, I got out my map of the Star Wars galaxy, which is conveniently scaled that 1 pixel = 15 parsecs = 48.9 ly, and counted four pixels between Bespin and Hoth. Unfortunately for Lucas, this comes up to 195.6 ly, and a 130-year journey for our heroes.


If the Millennium Falcon went into lightspeed, its passengers will be too old to do anything when they get back.

This is ridiculous, George! He really seems to use hyperdrive and lightspeed interchangeably: “sublight” is non-hyperdrive. Piett tells Vader, “If the Millennium Falcon went into lightspeed, it could be on the other end of the galaxy by now.” But as I believe I have demonstrated, even the smallest possible distance, 15 parsecs, would take 32 years to travel at the boasted .5 past lightspeed! I can’t even justify it by thinking maybe Han should have said “she’ll make five times lightspeed,” because that’s still 9 years to go 15 parsecs. I understand George rarely knows what he’s talking about and there are a lot of tips in the movie to demonstrate this, such as when everyone exclaims how impossible it would be to shoot a two-meters-wide target from a snub fighter. Pretty obvious George has no idea what a “meter” is. Han’s “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” has drawn a lot of flak and George has tried to cover it up a variety of ways, but frankly, it’s just because he didn’t know.

Another thing! Timelining! It is insane how George condenses the saga. You think my math is bad? For George, 25 + 30 = 63 (Obi-Wan is 25 years old in Episode I; 30 years pass between E1 and A New Hope; Alec Guinness was 63 in ANH). George actually shed four years in the timeline, whichhe really needed. In 1977, Luke Skywalker was “about twenty,” maybe as old as 22. Somewhere in the intervening two decades, he became 18. Luke is born just as the Empire is founded, which means that his age must equal the years between E3 and ANH. If Luke is 25, Palpatine has a nearly-quarter-century-old empire. If Luke is 18, the empire is a mewling teenager. Also, a more mature Luke in ANH = a Luke more on par with Mark Hamill’s actual age and appearance in ROTJ.


Obi-Wan, Owen Lars, and Aunt Beru age in astonishing and horrifying way if you leave 18 years between E3 and ANH; I pointed out Obi-Wan’s unpleasant aging (you’d think Jedi would age slower than the general population!), but Beru and Owen? Even if he’s older than Anakin, Owen can’t be older than 25 in E3. He’s barely in his 40s and looks like a craggy old man in ANH! Let me help you out, George — again. Anakin is 9, Padmé is 14, and Obi-Wan is 25 in E1. Give them 13 years before Episode II, and say they’ve worked with Padmé again within the last ten years. That gives her and Anakin some more footing. That makes Anakin a comfortable 22, Padmé a realistic 27, and Obi-Wan a mature 38. The Clone War is an established three year event, putting their ages at 25 (Anakin), 30 (Padmé), and 41 (Obi-Wan) at the birth of the Empire. Call Luke 22, which parallels neatly with Anakin, and this makes Vader 47 and Obi-Wan 63 — the exact age of the actor who played him. You’re welcome, George.

I know, you didn’t think this was going to descend into Star Wars, but honestly, it was inevitable. Now I’ve got a serious jonesing to go watch Star Wars . . . I haven’t done that in like three weeks!

Bogus Math and George Lucas via Hundredaire Socialite.


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