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The science behind Star Wars.

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2CN PM The science behind Star Wars


MARK COLVIN: It all happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But even though the opening credits say Star Wars happened in the past, the films are better known for their vivid depiction of life in the future.

The Star Wars series features talking robots, spaceships that travel at light speed and giant bases in outer-space capable of destroying entire planets. A travelling exhibition visiting the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney looks at the science of the popular film series, and how it relates to science in the real world.

Timothy McDonald prepared this report.

(Sound of the opening credits of Star Wars)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: One of cinema's most memorable themes opens one of Hollywood's best loved films.

In fact, some local fans feel so strongly about Star Wars that they're volunteering their time at the new exhibition, and they've even brought along their own costumes. There's everyone from Darth Vader to Princess Leia.

FEMALE STAR WARS FAN: She's a princess. Every girl wants to be a princess, especially one that can kick arse.

(Sound of intergalactic sound effects)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: There's even one of the sand people, who can be scared off easily but will soon return, and in greater numbers.

MALE STAR WARS FAN: Definitely, definitely. Me and my cousins will definitely come. Old Ben, he hasn't come and scared me yet but possibly soon.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The films were peppered with less sophisticated creations like the sand people and the ewoks, but it's clear a large part of their appeal has always been the gadgets, the spaceships and a vision of life in the future.

(Sounds from the film)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The new exhibit looks at how fictional science interacts with the real thing.

Peter Garland from the Museum of Science in Boston is the touring exhibition manager.

PETER GARLAND: The goal of the exhibit was to compare our real world to the world's that have been portrayed in the Star Wars films. It's to show how far we may have yet to go to achieve the technical creations that you've seen in the imaginary worlds.

(Sound of dialogue from Star Wars)

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: So how much is science and how much is fiction?

Powerhouse museum curator Kerrie Dougherty says we're unlikely to travel at the speed of light any time soon, and a robot as sophisticated as C3P0 is a long way off.

KERRIE DOUGHERTY: Look at a robot like C3P0 in Star Wars. You know, he's virtually a human being but what are our robots in the real world like? Where are we at with them and how are we ever going to get to create a robot like C3PO?

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Kerrie Dougherty says some of the science of star wars is becoming a reality.

KERRIE DOUGHERTY: It's going to be a long time before we see a humanoid robot like CP30 doing the housework for us but robots are increasingly being used in areas like medicine and that's something that this exhibition explores in very interesting ways. Aspects of robotic technology are actually being used to help develop prosthetics for people who've lost an arm or a leg.

In fact, I can talk from personal experience. My grandfather 40 years ago had a wooden leg and when I compare that wooden leg with the amazing light weight prosthetics that are now on display in this

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exhibition with micro-processes in the knee that actually help the way the person walks, you know, you're talking about a chalk and cheese development.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: And Kerrie Dougherty says it's two way street- science provides inspiration for fiction, but it also works in the opposite direction.

KERRIE DOUGHERTY: There are a lot of scientists that you will talk to now and engineers who will say, and astronauts too in fact, who will say that they were influenced into their careers by watching Star Trek or Star Wars.

And in fact, I'll tell you a little something that very few people know. The very first people who developed rockets back in the early part of the 20th century, all admitted openly to reading Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and being inspired by their stories to actually try and develop real rockets.

MARK COLVIN: The Powerhouse Museum curator Kerrie Dougherty with Timothy McDonald.

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