Where And When Does Star Wars Really Take Place?
In trying to determine when the Star Wars movies take place, many believe that our best clue is the famous opening text: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” In the new book The Physics of Star Wars: The Science Behind a Galaxy Far, Far Away, Georgetown University professor Patrick Johnson assumes that this intro is being written from the perspective of 1977 and tries to determine where in the distant past the Star Wars movies take place.
Of course, it’s also possible that this story is being told from the distant future and “a long time ago” refers to a period long after our present reality. In any case, a recently published excerpt from Johnson’s book attempts to determine where in the past the series might be set—by considering the big bang, atomic elements, subatomic particles, and other mind-bending scientific concepts.
While Johnson initially claims that the series must be set no sooner than six billion years after the big bang, he eventually concedes that even that timeline is uncertain, arguing that Star Wars might even take place before the big bang. “This may sound like an impossible suggestion, but the big bang just marks a point in history when our current laws of physics didn’t work,” he explains. “It is possible a universe existed before the big bang; it would have been very hot and dense and collapsed upon itself. In this scenario, all of space and time were crumpled up together in an unrecognizable fashion. This is not science fiction—some theories suggest this.”
Johnson is also open to the possibility that Star Wars plays out in a parallel universe. “Some interpretations of quantum mechanics indicate that our universe is just one of an infinity of universes,” he writes. “The idea of a multiverse is often explained by considering a block of Swiss cheese. Each universe is one of the holes in the cheese expanding outward. Unlike Swiss cheese, though, the multiverse itself is also expanding so none of the universes will ever collide with each other. In these other universes things could be identical (as far as the laws of physics are concerned) to our universe.”
While this line of inquiry seems unlikely to yield definitive answers any time soon, you can search for clues in the trailer below.