The Fastest Hunk of Junk in the Galaxy

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

The Star Wars franchise is a cult classic amongst science fiction movies, spanning 9 movies, 3 spin offs, countless tv shows and books. This series has been in our lives for more than 44 years, almost as old as my father! Many aspects of the franchise we just wish were integrated in our daily life from ‘the force’ to light sabres. Especially the icon of the franchise - the Millennium Falcon which is Han Solo’s beloved spacecraft used to explore the galaxies. Don’t we wish we had a spacecraft that could just jump to hyper space and reach the other end of the galaxy in just a matter of seconds? But, how does the Millennium Falcon do that?

The Millennium Falcon uses hyperspace in order to travel from one end of the galaxy to another. Hyperspace ‘is a way for spaceships in the Star Wars universe to travel great distances in very little time.’ Hyperspace is achieved when the ship would travel faster than light speed. In physics light speed refers to the speed of light ( 3 x 10^8 m/s) in vacuum. In the star wars universe ‘light speed is a slang referring to the threshold at which a starship first entered hyperspace, although, the potential velocities achieved whilst entering or travelling within hyperspace needs to surpass the speed of light.’ Even if objects travel at the speed of light they would still take a few years to travel from one end of the galaxy to the other. In fact light takes 8 min to reach earth from the sun, hence in order for hyperspace to be possible, the ship would have to travel much faster than the speed of light.


Another idea of hyperspace is that it involves extra dimensions, i.e. travelling through other dimensions would allow the ship to take a short cut through space and hence reach its destination in a shorter time. Moreover, according to Star Wars lore, the definition of hyperspace states ‘Hyperspace was a dimension of space-time alternative to that of realspace. It could only be accessed through molecular displacement, which was achieved by breaking the speed of light.' But , how do we reach the threshold for Hyperspace travel?


First we need to determine the speed at which the millennium falcon travels. The acceleration is 33,922 m/s^2. Which is incredibly fast. Refer to the links in the references for the calculations done to reach this value. Han Solo also comments that it can go as fast as .5 past light speed. Admiral Piett also mentioned “Lord Vader, our ships have completed their scan of the area and found nothing. If the Millennium Falcon went into light-speed, it'll be on the other side of the galaxy by now.”

Since its travelling so fast , why haven’t the passengers felt any g force or die by being squished to death? ‘The Millennium Falcon has some type of "inertial damper" that allows people inside the ship to accelerate without dying.' Most internal dampeners work on the concept of sustaining and absorbing the natural inertia of a vessel as it rapidly accelerates or decelerates.


How do we achieve this speed or even the speed of light? Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity famously dictates that, ‘ no known object can travel faster than the speed of light in vacuum’ but, new research shows that there are ways to surpass this speed or reach close to it with our current technology. Nasa has declared 3 ways in which we can achieve light speed is through electromagnetic fields, magnetic fields and wave particle interactions.


Great right? Nasa has declared this to be possible so problem solved! However, this can only work for sub particles, ie their mass needs to be really really small. The amount of energy needed to transport massive objects such as spaceships would be enormous, and not only that, to create such massive amounts of energy is extremely dangerous and if the source is radioactive, a lot can go wrong. Similarly according to new research proposed by ‘Erik Lentz at the University of Göttingen suggests a way beyond this limit using conventional energy.’ However, this method of transit requires a lot of energy as well. It would work as a ‘space bubble - contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind’ .

Another problem is Time. The time frame on the ship is different from the time frame outside the ship. We may end up reaching our destination too soon or too late. This connects to Einstein’s theory of general relativity - an event which occurred at the same time could occur at different time frames for people moving at different speeds. This is why a person running feels that time is moving faster than a person sitting. That 3 km which you finished in what you think is 5 min is actually 20 min in real time. Additionally , heavy objects would spin and distort the space- time around it. This could create a lot of problems with the space time continuum- I mean we don’t want the TVA coming for us and claiming that we messed up the sacred time line.


Even if we travel at the speed of light it can take upto 100,000 years to travel from one end of the galaxy to another. This is where the theory of hyperspace being a gateway for inter dimensional travel makes sense. Hyperspace can work as a wormhole. Similar to what I have discussed in my ‘Marvel Multiverse Madness’ post (that theory though has been proven false with the pilot episode of Loki *sad cat face*)


This idea of hyperspace being an alternate dimension, works with Lentz’s idea of light speed travel in a way i.e.contracting the space around the spaceship in order to reach the destination faster. This may create a rift in the space time continuum and act as a way to access a worm hole or curve through space time. However, in order to curve through space time, we would need ‘exotic matter’.

Exotic matter basically refers to any matter that doesn’t follow the laws of physics, the ‘Bose- Einstein condensates’ - which is considered the 5th state of matter - is also a type of exotic matter. The exotic matter which we will consider for the millennium falcon is ‘complex mass’. “A hypothetical particle with complex rest mass would always travel faster than the speed of light." These particles are called Tachyons. However, no evidence of tachyons have been found till date.

This leaves us with a theory that, The Millennium Falcon would somehow be accessing the properties of tachyons in order to reach hyperspace and travel through a wormhole which negates the time difference. The wormhole acts like a tunnel which allows us to take a shortcut to our destination. The effect of the hyper speed travel would be negated on the travels due to the internal dampener which would compensate for the intense accelerations felt in the space craft. With new research on exotic mass and methods for particles to reach the speed of light, we may not be very far from our own millennium falcon.




References:

https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Hyperspace

https://www.news.gatech.edu/features/science-star-wars

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/three-ways-to-travel-at-nearly-the-speed-of-light/

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160429-the-real-reasons-nothing-can-ever-go-faster-than-light

https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Lightspeed

https://physicsworld.com/a/spacecraft-in-a-warp-bubble-could-travel-faster-than-light-claims-physicist/#:~:text=Albert%20Einstein's%20special%20theory%20of,which%20is%20299%2C792%20km%2Fs.&text=Unlike%20objects%20within%20space%E2%80%93time,or%20warp%20at%20any%20speed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachyon#Mass

https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Inertial_compensator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exotic_matter

https://www.wired.com/story/the-physics-of-the-millennium-falcons-jump-to-hyperspace/

https://www.space.com/36273-theory-special-relativity.html

https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Inertial_damping_system

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