Event Review: The Dome Awakens: A Star Wars Celebration

 

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It’s a Saturday afternoon at the San Diego Public Library. I am here for the Worlds of Star Wars Talk. The speakers, Lisa Will and Shane Haggard, are both professors at San Diego City College. Lisa specializes in astronomy and physics. Shane specializes in chemistry. They are already on stage when I enter the auditorium. Shane is dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of spectacles that don’t seem to sit right on the cliff of his nose. When he’s not fiddling with his shirtsleeves, he is awkwardly adjusting his glasses. Lisa is wearing a star wars t-shirt with teal lettering. As we near the appointed time, Lisa takes her place behind the podium. Shane moves stage right, intending, it seems, to direct the audience’s attention toward the screen. I can’t help but wonder why he doesn’t have a light pointer. It is, after all, a Star Wars event.

There is a little boy sitting behind me, leaning forward now and then, pausing in the corner of my eye to see if I notice. When I turn around, he smiles and returns to his seat. Other children are sipping soda from long straws, as their parents adjust their costumes (the little girl dressed as Rey wins the costume prize later in the day).

IMG_1657The light entering from a bay of back windows shines on the screen, dulling the images as bubbles float by outside. As Lisa begins to adjust the microphone, the melange of children laughing, screaming, and making light saber sound effects competes for everyone’s attention; however, there is an almost immediate hush when she begins the talk about Jakku, a desert world, addressing the science behind Jakku’s economy, and the likelihood that Rey could live on that world as a scavenger and survive. The issue of rust is introduced and science fiction meets science fact. We learn that the wreckage would eventually rust due to the arid environment. This gives the audience exactly what the want, a sense that Star Wars is possible, that the worlds could actually exist.

We are all astonished when she informs us that the gas giant Jupiter has 60 moons, that it is not that different from many of the worlds of Star Wars. She explains that the ideal planet for human life would be like Earth with vegetation and water. An example of such a planet is Dagobah, which is lush and green. Another indicator of habitability is the almost mystical aurora, which is caused by solar wind and magnetic fields—the different colors are due to different elements in the upper atmosphere. An image of Earth at night is shown on the screen as Lisa tells us that many of the planets in the Star Wars universe are shown at night to communicate their technological advancement, which is a subtle way to suggest that we are not far off from similar achievements. From the naturally occurring aurora to the artificial lights, Lisa and Shane want you to know that “you can learn a lot about a world by looking at its sky.”

The image of Earth is replaced with an image of Luke on Tatooine, looking upward at the suns that keep watch over his world. Shane explains that Tatooine is not exceptional. In fact, Kepler 16b is like Tatooine. It has 2 stars, which is not uncommon. There are triple star systems, too, he points out, and we are each awed by this information.

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As the discussion comes to a close, Shane answers the audience’s questions. Someone wants to know if Star Killer Base could exist. Shane lowers his head for a moment and then smiles, “I have nothing to say about the science of Star killer base.” After a pause, “It was cool,” he admits. An older gentleman proudly stands in the back: “What about the creature in the asteroid that tried to eat the Millennium Falcon?” Both Lisa and Shane agree that they can’t justify its existence. “Anytime you have a button that makes you go faster than the speed of light . . . that’s magic,” Shane says, which seems to be an answer everyone is happy with—the overall theme of magic bringing out the child in all of us as the kids play with Styrofoam lightsabers in the aisles.

As everyone begins to clear out of the auditorium, there is a sense of reinvigorated eagerness to get outside and join the cosplayers before the guy dressed as Darth Vader leaves.

 

By Erica Spriggs

 

 

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