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BLOGScience & Human Behavior... mostly

  • Writer's pictureArnie Benn

Was Han Solo Simply Lying?

Updated: May 8, 2023

I don’t think he did the Kessel Run at all!

A bold claim, certainly, but hear me out. Let's compare that galaxy 'far, far away’ to our own.

Our galaxy is so incredibly HUGE that…

  • it has over a quarter of a TRILLION stars!

  • the very NEAREST other star to us is a whopping 4.25 light years away.

  • that would take the space shuttle literally tens of thousands of years!

  • at the speed of light, a radio message sent there would only receive a response after 8.5 years.

  • at very near the speed of light, we would still have to wait a decade or more for a ship to go there and back.

  • since the edges of our galaxy are tens of thousands of light years away, tens of thousands of years might pass before a message there can receive a reply. If not 100,000 years. If the signal is even strong enough to reach that far.

  • going to another galaxy is so many orders of magnitude further away as to make it impossible, for all practical purposes. Even at the speed of light.

  • and wormholes do not exist! They are pure fantasy, based upon a misapplication of one of the analogies that is sometimes employed to explain gravity.

Interestingly, Relativity dictates that time becomes stretched, exponentially, as one approaches the speed of light. That means the crew of a near-to-light-speed ship will not experience the trip’s duration the same way that those of us watching from Earth will. If they traveled to our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri — a distance of 4.25 light years — at a velocity of 95% the speed of light, it would look from Earth as though it takes the crew about 4 and a half years to get there, returning after about 9 years. The crew, however, will only experience just under 1 and a half years of travel time, from their perspective, in each direction, and they will therefore return 6 years younger than those they left behind. If they travel faster and/or further, the age gaps will widen more dramatically. As in the case of Han Solo.

This is a reality that is rarely reflected in science fiction accurately. Let's consider how it might affect Star Wars?

Han Solo claims, in boasting about the speed of his light-speed-capable Millennium Falcon, that he did the infamous Kessel Run in only 12 parsecs. But a parsec is not a length of time; it is a distance! According to the 'lore,' a parsec is known to be a distance, but Solo was able to short-cut a 20-parsec trip down to a 12-parsec trip. Frankly, I think that is apologetics, after the fact, for an embarrassing slip-up by the writer. Further evidence?

Solo emphasizes, "Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”

Obi Wan coolly asks, “Should I have?”

Solo leans in dramatically, “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. I’ve outrun Imperial starships... She’s fast enough for you, old man."

A short time later, he assures Luke that, “She’ll make point five past light speed.” This certainly makes it seem as if he is bragging about the speed, as opposed to his geometric astro-navigational skills.

But even if we assume the Kessel Run to be a 12-parsec distance, that equates to just over 39 light years. If the Millennium Falcon could travel at light speed, it would mean the following. Once attaining light speed, Solo would make the crossing instantly, from his perspective — one of the boons of Relativity. While he would not age on such a journey, everyone he left behind would have aged 78 years by the time of his return. Everyone the smuggler knew could, in fact, be long deceased. Better be some valuable cargo, that!

And, unless Leah went with him, that would also spell the end of that romance. Unless he was done with all that Kessel running by the time he met her.

Furthermore, when Han Solo claims, "Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other," it means he would have returned more than 100,000 years after he left. That much time away, and his species may well have evolved on without him!

Interstellar travel is going to play havoc with relationships.

1 Comment

Mynk D
Mynk D
Jan 21, 2023

So, romance in the interstellar age is not about being on the same wavelength, it's about being at the same speed. Maybe Leah (and the smuggler's other contacts) had secret lives of untold travels 😀

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