The Jump to Light Speed Is a Real Killer (2023)

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the 1999 book The Science of Star Wars by Jeanne Cavelos.

Han Solo talks about making the "jump to light speed." If the Millenium Falcon is somehow jumping to light speed, it implies a nearly instantaneous acceleration. The Falcon might be traveling along at 50 miles per hour, and then suddenly it's traveling at 186,000 miles per second. Let BMW try to beat that acceleration! It's no problem for Han to accelerate the Falcon from zero to 60 miles per hour in five seconds. Inertia will push him slightly back in his seat. But accelerating from zero to 186,000 miles per second in five seconds will push Han back so forcefully that he'll become a splat on that fine vinyl upholstery.


The speed of light is so fast, that to accelerate to it safely would take months! We measure acceleration in g's, with one g equal to the acceleration caused by Earth's gravity—the acceleration of falling objects on Earth. The reason we measure acceleration in terms of gravity is because the two have the same effect. The gravitational force on an object is equivalent to the inertial force on an object undergoing a comparable acceleration. Just as gravity pushes you down against the Earth, inertia pushes you back against your seat.

We experience higher or lower g forces when we are rapidly changing speeds or directions. Normal humans can withstand no more than 9 g's, and even that for only a few seconds. When undergoing an acceleration of 9 g's, your body feels nine times heavier than usual, blood rushes to the feet, and the heart can't pump hard enough to bring this heavier blood to the brain. Your vision narrows to a tunnel, then goes black. If the acceleration doesn't decrease, you will pass out and finally die. The Air Force's F-16 can produce more g's than the human body can survive. We're forced to limit the acceleration of planes and spacecraft to a level humans can survive.

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If we need to accelerate for extended periods, the level we can withstand is even lower. We can withstand 5 g's for only two minutes, 3 g's for only an hour. For the sake of argument, though, let's try to tough it out at 3 g's for a little longer. For Han to take off from Mos Eisley and accelerate at 3 g's to half the speed of light would take him two and a half months—hardly the makings of an exciting movie. Even at 9 g's, it would take him nineteen days to reach half the speed of light, though he'd be dead long before the ship reached that speed.

Since Star Wars ships are constantly undergoing rapid accelerations and decelerations, they must have found some way to solve this problem. Perhaps they have learned to manipulate inertia. Just eliminating it for a fraction of a second could allow a rapid, effortless acceleration, after which point inertia could return and the Falcon could cruise at a constant, high velocity.

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Of course, the force that makes us stumble back as the subway car accelerates doesn't seem completely conquered on the Falcon. In The Empire Strikes Back, the Falcon's jump to hyperspace throws Artoo across the deck and into the open engine pit. Perhaps some of Han's "special modifications" need a tune-up.

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Can a human survive 10 gs? ›

Normal humans can withstand no more than 9 g's, and even that for only a few seconds.

Can the human body handle light speed? ›

So, light-speed travel and faster-than-light travel are physical impossibilities, especially for anything with mass, such as spacecraft and humans.

What's the most G's ever pulled? ›

A witness said it was "absolutely inconceivable anybody could go that fast, then just stop, and survive." But Stapp did—in fact, he went on to live another 45 years, dying quietly at home in 1999 at the age of 89—and he experienced a record-breaking 46.2 G's.

What would happen to your body if you traveled the speed of light? ›

Firstly, the physical consequence of traveling at the speed of light is that your mass becomes infinite and you slow down. According to relativity, the faster you move, the more mass you have. The same works on Earth when you're driving down the freeway.

What is the fastest speed a human can withstand? ›

Changes in speed are expressed in multiples of gravitational acceleration, or 'G'. Most of us can withstand up to 4-6G. Fighter pilots can manage up to about 9G for a second or two. But sustained G-forces of even 6G would be fatal.

How many negative G's can a human take? ›

The human body is much more tolerant to positive g forces, as a typical person can withstand 4–5 g, and pilots who undergo high-g training can withstand even 9 g [4, 5]. Conversely, the body cannot be trained to tolerate negative g forces.

How fast is 1 g force in mph? ›

For example: An acceleration of 1 g equates to a rate of change in velocity of approximately 35 kilometres per hour (22 mph) for each second that elapses.

How fast is 1 g in mph? ›

Calculate G Force FAQ

One G of force is equivalent to 22 miles per hour.

What is 1% the speed of light? ›

While 1% of anything doesn't sound like much, with light, that's still really fast – close to 7 million miles per hour! At 1% the speed of light, it would take a little over a second to get from Los Angeles to New York. This is more than 10,000 times faster than a commercial jet.

Can we travel back in time? ›

The Short Answer: Although humans can't hop into a time machine and go back in time, we do know that clocks on airplanes and satellites travel at a different speed than those on Earth. We all travel in time! We travel one year in time between birthdays, for example.

Has anyone ever time traveled? ›

Although many people are fascinated by the idea of changing the past or seeing the future before it's due, no person has ever demonstrated the kind of back-and-forth time travel seen in science fiction or proposed a method of sending a person through significant periods of time that wouldn't destroy them on the way.

How many G's is 100 mph? ›

Conversion number between standard gravity [g0] and miles per hour per second [mph/s] is 21.936851288475.
standard gravity to miles per hour per second conversion chart.
standard gravitymiles per hour per second
9 more rows

How many G's before you blackout? ›

We are most vulnerable to a force acting towards the feet, because this sends blood away from the brain. Five to 10 seconds at 4 to 5 g vertically typically leads to tunnel vision and then loss of consciousness.

How many Gs did Tom Cruise pull? ›

Zipping at 6.5 G's — more than twice the G-forces some astronauts endure during rocket launches — Cruise felt the blood drain from his head. He vomited in his fighter-pilot mask. He agreed to make the film.

Is anything faster than the speed of light? ›

Nothing can travel faster than 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second). Only massless particles, including photons, which make up light, can travel at that speed. It's impossible to accelerate any material object up to the speed of light because it would take an infinite amount of energy to do so.

Does light ever stop traveling? ›

Nope! Light is a self-perpetuating electromagnetic wave; the strength of the wave can get weaker with the distance it travels, but as long as nothing absorbs it, it will keep on propagating forever.

Is light faster than darkness? ›

Darkness travels at the speed of light. More accurately, darkness does not exist by itself as a unique physical entity, but is simply the absence of light.

How fast were ancient humans? ›

Mr McAllister's analysis of the footprints suggests that this group of humans were capable of running at up to 23 mph, bare foot and over soft mud in their pursuit of prey.

Can a human go Mach 10? ›

Sure, there are hypersonic weapons, most of them in testing stages, but to date not a single human was capable of reaching Mach 10 in an aircraft while inside the atmosphere.

Can humans survive Mach 5? ›

Can a human survive Mach 5? The target is a speed of Mach 5.1, but this research is strictly for unmanned planes. At those speeds, the acceleration is just too much for a human being to withstand.

How many G's can you survive in a car crash? ›

Modern cars are made with crumple zones, which are meant to absorb some of the energy of the crash before it can reach a vehicle's occupants. Beyond 50 Gs, the risk of serious injuries or death is significant.

What does 9 gs feel like? ›

Under 9G's, the world appears to shrink until it looks like you're viewing it through a toilet paper roll. Blood is being pulled out of your head towards your legs and arms, resulting in the loss of peripheral vision.

How do fighter pilots not pass out? ›

G-suit. This tight-fitting garment applies pressure to the pilot's legs and abdomen using air pressure (like getting your blood pressure). It is attached to the actual jet, measures the amount of Gs the pilot feels, and then automatically applies the appropriate pressure to prevent them from passing out.

Can you survive 100 g-force? ›

Any time that an object changes its velocity faster than gravity can change it, the forces will be greater than one g. At zero g, you would feel weightless. And past 100g, you're almost certainly dead. Forces that intense can crush bones and squash organs.

How many G's does an airplane pull? ›

For example, on the typical commercial flight and only during specific maneuvers, passengers typically experience no more than 1.3 Gs of force on their bodies and no less than 0.7 Gs.

How fast is 10g force in mph? ›

G/10 = 3.2 ft/sec/sec = 2.2 MPH per second (3.2*3600/5280=2.2 approximately!)

Is there g-force in space? ›

Whether around Earth, the Moon or in the depths of space, every object still experiences the force and acceleration of gravity.

How fast is 10gs in a jet? ›

To withstand "g-forces" of up to 10g , caused by suddenly pulling out of a steep dive, fighter jet pilots train on a "human centrifuge." 10g is an acceleration of 98 m/s2 98 m / s 2 .

How fast is 1g in a jet? ›

One G of force is equivalent to 22 miles per hour.

Is sound faster than light? ›

Light waves travel much faster than sound waves. Light waves do not need a medium in which to travel but sound waves do. Explain that unlike sound, light waves travel fastest through a vacuum and air, and slower through other materials such as glass or water.

What is faster than light in the universe? ›

Particles whose speed exceeds that of light (tachyons) have been hypothesized, but their existence would violate causality and would imply time travel. The scientific consensus is that they do not exist.

Can we go 10% speed of light? ›

“Based on the physics that has already been accrued, velocities beyond 10% the speed of light will be very difficult to achieve,” Millis says. “We are not in danger yet.

Does the past still exist? ›

In short, space-time would contain the entire history of reality, with each past, present or future event occupying a clearly determined place in it, from the very beginning and for ever. The past would therefore still exist, just as the future already exists, but somewhere other than where we are now present.

Can we go in future? ›

Traveling into the Future

While it's not possible (yet) to travel to the future fast than the rate at which we're doing it now, it is possible to speed up the passage of time. But, it only happens in small increments of time. And, it has only happened (so far) to very few people who have traveled off Earth's surface.

Why can't we go back in time? ›

The law of causality follows from the fact that nothing can be faster than the speed of light. The law states that the effect of an action can only occur after the cause, which would make time travel into the past impossible.

Is it possible to go back in time and change the past? ›

We know that doing these things—indeed, changing the past in any way—is impossible.

Can a time machine be built? ›

To create a time machine would require negative energy, and quantum mechanics appears to allow only extremely small regions of negative energy. And the forces needed to create an ordinary-sized region with time loops appear to be extremely large.

How many gs is 700 mph? ›

How many gs is 700 mph? With acceleration at 0.3g, reaching 700 mph may only require 15 kilometers, or around nine miles, of track.

How many G's does Earth pull? ›

This results in Earth having a gravitational strength of 9.8 m/s² close to the surface (also known as 1 g), which naturally decreases the farther away one is from the surface.

How many G's does an f1 car pull? ›

Formula One drivers usually experience 5 g while braking, 2 g while accelerating, and 4 to 6 g while cornering. Every Formula One car has an ADR (Accident Data Recorder) device installed, which records speed and g-forces.

What does 1G feel like? ›

1G is the acceleration we feel due to the force of gravity. It's what keeps our feet firmly planted on the ground.

What is Mach 10 speed? ›

As the final X-43A flew, blistering temperatures created by the nearly Mach 10 (7000 mph) speed were in the neighborhood of 3600 degrees, the hotspot this time being the nose of the vehicle.

How do fighter pilots handle G-force? ›

Pilots wear anti-gravity flight suits, which automatically squeeze their legs when they do particularly violent manoeuvres, to help push blood towards the heart. With training and practice, pilots can withstand more than twice the G force that made me pass out.

Can a human pull 10 Gs? ›

Normal humans can withstand no more than 9 g's, and even that for only a few seconds. When undergoing an acceleration of 9 g's, your body feels nine times heavier than usual, blood rushes to the feet, and the heart can't pump hard enough to bring this heavier blood to the brain.

Does Tom Cruise own a jet? ›

Along with the P-51 Mustang, the actor also owns a Gulfstream IV jet valued at $20 million, which includes a Jacuzzi and a screening room. The commitment to realism has been a common theme in every Tom Cruise movie. Interestingly, Top Gun: Maverick isn't the only time he has piloted an aircraft on camera.

What does Mach 10 mean? ›

That is it least five times the speed of sound. So Mach 5 flight is considered hypersonic flight, which is five times the speed of sound and anything above that is also considered that. So Mach 10 would be 10 flying at 10 times the speed of sound.

What moves faster than light? ›

So, according to de Rham, the only thing capable of traveling faster than the speed of light is, somewhat paradoxically, light itself, though only when not in the vacuum of space. Of note, regardless of the medium, light will never exceed its maximum speed of 186,282 miles per second.

Do thoughts travel faster than light? ›

Thought is finer than ether, the medium of electricity. Thoughts excel light in speed. While light travels at the rate of 186,000 miles per second, thoughts virtually travel in no time.

Is anything faster than darkness? ›

Does darkness really have a speed? Nothing's faster than the speed of light.

Is time a illusion? ›

According to theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, time is an illusion: our naive perception of its flow doesn't correspond to physical reality. Indeed, as Rovelli argues in The Order of Time, much more is illusory, including Isaac Newton's picture of a universally ticking clock.

Does light live forever? ›

In all the Universe, only a few particles are eternally stable. The photon, the quantum of light, has an infinite lifetime.

What is light made of? ›

Light is made of particles called photons, bundles of the electromagnetic field that carry a specific amount of energy. With sufficiently sensitive experiments, you can count photons or even perform measurements on a single one.

How many G-forces has a human survived? ›

The typical human body can withstand about 5 Gs, which can commonly be experienced on your average roller coaster. Military pilots and astronauts, however, undergo intensive G-force training that acclimates their bodies for 9 Gs.

How many Gs has a human ever survived? ›

There are isolated incidents of humans surviving abnormally high G-forces, most notably the Air Force officer John Stapp, who demonstrated a human can withstand 46.2 G's. The experiment only went on a few seconds, but for an instant, his body had weighed over 7,700 pounds, according to NOVA.

How long can humans survive 10g? ›

How long can you survive 10 gs? At 1 second exposure a well-trained sitting human will survive 10g unharmed and will suffer severe injuries above 30g.

How strong is 10 g's? ›

Humans can tolerate localised G forces in the range of 100 G for an instant. However, sustained G forces above 10 G can lead to permanent injury or even death. When flying MiG aircraft you can experience G forces up to 9 G.


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