The Star Wars series might often be considered "science fiction," yet it often emphasizes the second word in that phrase far more than the first word. Despite putting storytelling above scientific realities with every installment, a scientist claims that The Last Jedi features one of the most scientifically accurate sequences in the entire saga, as Vice Admiral Holdo's ship tears through a First Order vessel and creates absolutely no sound.
When speaking with Smithsonian.com, Georgetown University physicist and author of The Physics of Star Wars Patrick Johnson detailed that, due to a lack of atmosphere in the depths of space, sound cannot travel, even if it's the sound of a massive explosion.
"Sound requires a medium to move from one place to another," Johnson pointed out. "And in space, there's mostly nothing. So it doesn't have a medium to move through, and it can't propagate. Therefore, as the catchphrase for Alien was: 'In space, no one can hear you scream.'"
The Star Wars saga began breaking the rules of science all the way back in 1977 when it showed the Death Star blowing up, paired with the sound of a massive explosion. When Holdo eviscerated the First Order's fleet, some audiences were so surprised by the silence of the scene that they believed it was a glitch, resulting in movie theaters displaying warnings to audiences so they knew this was an intentional sound effect.
The Smithsonian also pointed out that, for an explosion to take place, air is also necessary to create the impressive pyrotechnic display. Johnson pointed out that there could be enough oxygen in each ship to result in the massive combustion.
"I would imagine that, due to the vacuum of space, once that first bomb blows a hole in the side of the ship, you would get a rush of oxygen coming out, and then a flame jet that would peter out pretty quickly," Johnson said of the bombing run of the Dreadnaught-class Star Destroyer early in the film. "This is just me speculating."
Given his love of science and Star Wars, you'd think Johnson would be incredibly bothered by inaccuracies, but the author claims his love of movies allows him to suspend that disbelief.
"I'm okay with having a spectacular explosion in movies," Johnson noted, "because that makes for a more dramatic scene."
He added, "Ultimately, they're trying to make an entertaining piece of culture, rather than a 100-percent-accurate scientific document."
You can see Holdo's heroic act in The Last Jedi, in theaters now.