Gravity, Alternative Physics, and the Force in Star Wars
by Ash Navabi
With all the hype about the new Star Wars movie, I’ve been becoming more interested in the franchise. Specifically, I’ve become more interested in the concept of the Force.
According to Wikipedia, the Force ” is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas…. can enhance natural, physical, and mental abilities, including strength (such as during a “Force jump” or to slow a fall from an otherwise dangerous height) and accuracy… other Force powers are demonstrated in the film series including telekinesis, telepathy,levitation, deep hypnosis, enhanced empathy, reflexes, precognition, and enhanced speed.”
So the Force isn’t just the ability to control objects at a distance, it’s something that seems to permeate the entire being of a person possessed with it, including their emotions. Sounds pretty mysterious, right? It’s almost like magic. At least, I always thought so. And others in the Star Wars Universe seem to think so as well.
But what if there was a non-mysterious, rational, and physical explanation for the Force, as opposed to mysterious metaphysical magic?
Mainstream Physics and Gravity
Let me start by flatly stating that I am not a physicist.
My knowledge of physics is limited to a few high school and university courses, and some TV shows and Youtube videos.
With that said, here is my take on the standard explanation of gravity:
The question of gravity is this: how can it be that two objects that are not connected to each other by anything be pulling towards each other? Why, for instance, does an apple fall down from a tree towards the Earth? Or why does the Moon orbit the Earth?
Mainstream physics claims to have the answer to these questions. Gravity is the force with which one object attracts another object. But objects exist in an environment called spacetime: the “woven”, “four-dimensional” “fabric” of space and time. Objects have gravity because they bend and distort spacetime by their mass; the more massive an object, the more it bends spacetime, the stronger its gravitational force. Gravity draws objects towards each other when one object falls into the distorted spacetime of the other.
Here are some pictures that illustrate this understanding of gravity:
In summary, gravity is the shape of spacetime.
This is the standard, mainstream, popular (perhaps physics PhDs have a more nuanced view of the matter) explanation of gravity. Of course, there’s nothing in the real world that everyone in the world agrees on. There are several alternative explanations of gravity, but there’s one which has struck a chord with me–and I think should strike a chord with Star Wars fans as well.
Bill Gaede and the Problems of Mainstream Physics
(Note: Let me be clear that I am not passing judgment on either mainstream physics or this alternative explanation, as I am grossly unqualified as a physicist. I am just trying to tell a story.)
The Rope Hypothesis is the brainchild of former AMD electrical engineer and US-Cuban double-agent Bill Gaede. Gaede’s story about mainstream physics vis-a-vis his own worldview is fairly persuasive to contrarians: according to Gaede, physics ought to be the study of the physical world; and modern, mainstream physics, with its obsession with mathematical models, has lost the plot and now describes a world that does not and cannot exist.
Gaede constantly pleads that a physicist must be able to draw and illustrate his theory; however, much of modern physics, from quantum mechanics to special relativity, is said to be beyond the imaginative powers of humans. Four-dimensional spacetime is impossible to imagine. Therefore, gravity itself is impossible to imagine. The illustrations of spacetime above are mere imperfect metaphors. According to Gaede, this leaves many questions unanswered. But he’s figured out how to solve them.
The Rope Hypothesis
But Gaede claims to have solved this problem, by making a return to what he calls “rational physics”. His hypothesis is simple: there must be a physical connection for one object to physically influence another. His theory is as simple as one could expect: every atom is connected to every other atom in the universe with (extremely tiny) ropes.
Each rope has two threads: an electric thread, which intertwines with a magnetic thread. It’s the tension on these electromagnetic ropes that gives rise to gravity. The further away two objects are, the more ropes overlap and effectively act like one rope with a constant pull. But as two objects come closer to each other, the ropes fan out and exert increasing pull. (For more details on this theory, see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvWeYJg9Oxs).
Since these ropes connect everything, they also make up what we see as visible light (see here for more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-NB5vg7woM), and their interactions also influence every other physical aspect of the universe.
The Force is the Rope Hypothesis in Action
Before we get too tangled up with the intricacies of the rope hypothesis, let’s return to its basics: the rope hypothesis’s main contention is that everything in the universe is connected by electromagnetic ropes, and it’s the interactions of these ropes that give rise to all physical phenomena, from light to gravity.
What does this have to do with Star Wars?
What if the Force is the ability of some to control these ropes?
Imagine that some people in the Star Wars universe are born with the ability to control these invisible ropes. This will easily solve the telekinesis riddle of the Force. If electromagnetic ropes can attract planets and stars together, why can’t someone learn attract a lightsaber to his hand, or crush the windpipe of an insubordinate from a distance?
And since the rope hypothesis says all atoms in the universe are connected to each other, we can also explain Jedi mind tricks as well. So long as our mind is controlled in some way by the atoms in our brains, a Jedi sufficiently in tune with his internal mind ropes can access the neurological pathways of others, influencing their thought processes.
Summary and Conclusion
The mainstream model of modern physics says that the universe is made up of a “fabric” called “spacetime”.
An alternative model of the universe is the rope hypothesis. The rope hypothesis posits that every single atom in universe is connected to all other atoms via electromagnetic ropes. And its interactions between these ropes that give rise to physical phenomena, such as gravity and light.
But we can use the principles of the rope hypothesis to also explain the Force as used in the Star Wars franchise. If these ropes exist, it might be the case that some people are born with an ability to be more sensitive to the electromagnetic perturbations. It might further be possible to train oneself to gain some control over these ropes, so that not only can they manipulate gravity such that it mimics telekinesis, but they can also manipulate the atoms in other people’s neural transmitters, which gives the impression of mind control.
In conclusion, while the rope hypothesis may have its detractors, one thing is for certain: It can help immensely with the understanding of the Force.