Physics students devise concept for Star Wars-style deflector shields

Posted by ap507 at Apr 30, 2014 01:20 PM |
Students discover that technology for protecting spaceships from laser fire is scientifically feasible today - but would leave pilots blind
Physics students devise concept for Star Wars-style deflector shields

Source: Wikipedia; The Death Star, which protagonist Luke Skywalker successfully destroys in the Star Wars franchise while piloting an X-Wing fighter

If you have often imagined yourself stepping into the shoes of a Jedi knight and piloting your X-Wing fighter on an attack against the Death Star, you’ll be reassured to know that Physics and Astronomy students have demonstrated that your shields could take whatever the Imperial fleet could throw at you.

In anticipation of Star Wars Day on 4 May three fourth-year Physics students have proven that shields, such as those seen protecting spaceships in the Star Wars film series, would not only be scientifically feasible - but that the science behind the principle is already used here on Earth.

They have published their findings in the Journal of Special Physics Topics, a peer-reviewed student journal run by the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Jar Jar Binks
Source: Wikipedia; Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan, would surely benefit from a laser-proof shield in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace during the Battle of Naboo
In the Star Wars movies - the latest of which began filming in April and whose confirmed cast has recently been revealed - spaceships are protected by a shield defence system that deflects enemy laser fire. In order to recreate this type of shield, the students assumed that a surrounding field of super-hot plasma would be used, held in place by a magnetic field around the ship. The denser the plasma, the higher the frequency of electromagnetic wave (or laser radiation) will be deflected.

The principle can already be seen, not in a galaxy far, far away, but in the atmosphere around our own planet. It is seen in ‘over-the-horizon’ radio communications, used for decades in early warning RADAR systems and for long distance communications where satellite communications are not feasible.

The students calculated that the magnet strength required was definitely feasible, but would need a large power source that would restrict space in your ship. Another major restriction would be that a shield designed to deflect light radiation would prevent any light reaching the pilot, leaving them effectively blind.

While the technology might not be ready to protect your starfighter just yet, though, there are more down-to-earth applications that we could see in the future.


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