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Star Wars Physics - Junior SPARK

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Do you love the Star Wars movies? Did you know that all of the coolest stuff in Star Wars (tractor beams, force fields, invisibility, lightsabers!) are based on basic ideas of physics and astronomy? Does the idea of learning about how a blaster bolt might work, and where the idea for it comes from, sound interesting to you? Then this might just be the course for you. In this course, we will look at some of the most thrilling parts of Star Wars, the basic ideas and science that they are based on, and we'll investigate the relationship between the science, the movies, things that we experience in daily life (and more).

This course will introduce the basic scientific ideas behind some of the more exciting technology and events in the Star Wars movies; using clips from the movies as examples, and discussions on the real-world extensions of these physical concepts. We will draw upon the imagination of students to connect the science and the movies to determine what exactly is going on, and how it might be related to events in daily life.

While the list of possible topics is as long as each is fantastic, the course will try to hone in on a set of particularly appropriate topics. We will discuss lightsabers and lasers, then talk about their relationship with light, heat, and how lasers are used in current technology. We will discuss robots, the basics of robotics, and the connection of robots in Star Wars with the history of robotics. We will discuss the movement and construction of hovercraft and different spaceships in Star Wars, vacuums, and why Battlestar Galactica's depiction of movement in space is more accurate. We will discuss the Death Star, what it might take to build it, and various puzzles related to its construction, as well as the idea of building space stations in space rather than on Earth and why we might do so. We will discuss the basics of astronomy, the suns of Tatooine, the habitability of planets, gravity, artificial gravity, and the idea of colonizing Mars. We will discuss the many different and strange species that appear in Star Wars, their connection with animals found on Earth, their possibility, and what kind of conjectures we might make about these different species. We will discuss light speed and time travel, the idea of existing in a four-dimensional world, and basic ideas of resulting limitations. We will discuss the force, and the possibility of the different powers that it grants Jedi.

There will be ample freedom for students to bring their own questions about the science behind the movies to class, & the course will allow flexibility to discuss those subjects which are most exciting to the students.

The central idea for this course is to take an engaging & iconic piece of popular culture & to use it as a gateway & lens into an array of interesting scientific questions. Rigorous formal physics is difficult to understand without calculus, but the concepts which physics are built around are far more accessible, & just as important at building scientific intuition. The course will focus on developing engagement, excitement, & passion for science through linking science with imagination & a particularly fun application of physics in popular culture. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to understand a range of basic physical problems, have a greater understanding of the universal importance of science, & will probably know a whole lot about Star Wars.

This course has no formal prerequisites, though a comfort with mathematics is useful, as is an interest in science and science fiction.

*This Senior SPARK course is designed for students currently in 8th grade (entering 9th grade Fall 2014). Younger students are encouraged to register for our Junior SPARK courses.