We are really excited to explore the science of Star Wars with author and scientist Jon Chase for this year’s Midlands Science Festival. How long before we get a Star Wars speeder off the ground? What exactly is the Force? How could Kylo Ren stop a blaster shot in mid-air? How could we live on a gas giant like Bespin? Nature versus nurture: How does it play out in the making of Jedi? How much would it cost to build the Death Star? This is the Science Week event you’ve been waiting for !! Suitable for Padawans and Jedi alike.
We caught up with Jon to find out more….
Jon, we are delighted that you will be participating in this year’s Midlands Science Festival. You are a passionate science communicator who is on a mission to spread the messages of science in your own unique way. What methods do you use to do this and how do you make science more exciting and interesting especially for young children?
I make workshops to engage in hands on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as well as science shows to entertain, including plenty of humour where I can. I also make raps about STEM as another way for people to become informed about STEM whilst being entertained at the same time. I generally try to keep things as light hearted as possible.
Was there a particular moment when you started to see the connection between music and science?
I suppose the closest thing to that would be when I produced a rap for NASA Astrobiology Magazine in 2008. My lecturer at the time heard a random rap I wrote, which included references to the scientific method, He highlighted my ability to one of the producers of the magazine and next thing I knew I was producing a rap and video for them. There was a lot of interest in what I did and from that point on, I was officially regarded as a science rapper. I even ended up doing my dissertation on the topic of Science raps.
Using some basic principles of science, your book, ‘The Science of Star Wars’ co-written with Mark Brake, unlocks some of the secrets behind the epic George Lucas movies. What can Star Wars fans expect from your upcoming virtual Science Week event with Midlands Science?
Lots of Science facts about the lifeforms and technologies seen within the movies, as well as an exploration of what humans currently know about space and how that impacts on the Universe of Star Wars. Answering questions like how big is space, how old is it, could we find life out there, what’s the best space ships, how close are we to producing various Star Wars technologies?
You are known for cracking stereotypes about science. What can we do to make science more accessible to people and make sure people are less scared of it and more curious about it?
I think most people are curious about science but that feeling can also be linked with a fear and wariness of it. Much of science fiction has been really good at helping us to explore these fears, by helping us to imagine not only the future potential of STEM, but also the sometimes dire consequences. It’s important to be honest with regards to science, i.e. Science is a way of thinking and doing things, and seeks to understand nature through that particular way of thinking and doing (known as the scientific method). Science does take time and effort to do, most people don’t find it easy but they work at it because they enjoy it (I liken it to playing a challenging computer game. You stick at it because even though it’s hard, the end outcome is personally rewarding for you). Most importantly, you don’t have to be good at science to engage with what it reveals about the world. You just have to find the access point that works for the person, whether it be formal education, shows, movies, magazines, workshops, raps, computer games or whatever.
You have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a BSc in Science and Science Fiction. What would you say to a young person who is considering a career in science but might have been discouraged about it for some reason along the way?
Find different ways to surround yourself with science. In particular, think about the things that inspire you most about STEM. Is it the future possibilities or its ability to solve real world problems now, do you like to know how everything works or are you fond of doing experiments and testing ideas? We’re fortunate nowadays in that we can access information about all aspects of STEM via the internet, with people providing loads of different ways to engage with it. Seek out the STEM messages and activities that inspire you and use that inspiration to motivate you through the various challenges you might encounter. Remember, just like a computer game, you’ll embark on a journey that will be frustrating at times but personally rewarding overall as you overcome challenges one step at a time.