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May This Course Be with You

Class on Star Wars studies the science and more behind popular media franchise

For Star Wars fanatic Joshua Brenner, ’26, a galaxy far, far away turned out to be a lot closer than it seems.

The Bridgewater State history and secondary education major doesn’t need to climb aboard the Millennium Falcon. He needs merely to walk to physics instructor Joseph Doyle’s second-year seminar called the Science of Star Wars.

“I’ve been a fan of Star Wars for my entire life,” said Joshua, whose father introduced him to the pop cultural phenomenon. “The chance to take a class about the thing I love the most is something I’m not going to pass up.”

Joshua and his classmates watch and analyze excerpts from the film. Their wide-ranging discussions cover an eclectic mix of disciplines such as English, history, film studies and, of course, science.

Doyle, who has been a fan since the first Star Wars movie debuted in 1977 and earned a degree in Earth science from Bridgewater in 1992, developed the course a couple of years ago.

“It sounded like a fun topic to teach. It’s not conventional,” said Doyle, noting Star Wars’ longevity helps bridge gaps between generations. “I’m always looking for interesting things.”

Students examine how closely the Star Wars universe resembles real-world science. They study the role of gravity and explore how aspects of the Force (the source of power for the good guy Jedi) may be explained through quantum entanglement, a concept stating that particles can be connected and affect one another even when they are far apart.

“There are very few things in Star Wars that can’t be explained,” said English major Jonathan Gillis, ’26.

Class discussions are open-ended, leading students to study cinematography, how the Empire is based on Nazi Germany, and the inclusion of strong female characters.

Students write papers where they make an argument about something related to Star Wars, an assignment that hones skills applicable in many other classes.

“They’re learning how to support arguments with evidence,” Doyle said. “And papers are short, so they have to focus.”

Jonathan and Joshua appreciate their new understanding of concise but effective writing.

They also enjoy interacting with the variety of students in the class. Some are fellow Star Wars fans while others are experiencing the film for the first time. And they come from majors across the university.

“It’s a space for STEM kids to learn aspects of humanities and humanities kids to learn aspects of STEM,” Jonathan said.

That is a powerful force indeed.

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