When Was "A Long Time Ago"?

The Star Wars saga takes place “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” which should put it completely out of the reach of human interference. But fandoms don't work like that, particularly one as large as the Star Wars fandom. Geeks gonna geek, and now Georgetown University assistant physics professor Dr. Patrick Johnson is speculating about the "when" of "A long time ago." In his new book The Physics of Star Wars, Johnson creates a timeline from the beginning of the universe.

The first galaxies were formed around a billion years after the big bang, so that cuts out a billion years. The films depict many star systems with mature planets and intelligent life. It took the solar system about 500 million years to form, and it formed 4.6 billion years ago, so it’s reasonable to assume that Star Wars is about 5 billion years after the formation of the first galaxy1. There are also fully formed multicellular creatures of many different shapes and kinds. It took about 2 billion years for single-celled organisms to evolve into multicellular organisms, and another billion years before those took the form of life that we could recognize as creatures.

Although it took billions of years for life to evolve on Earth, that does not mean the process would always take billions of years. The first eukaryotic cell is thought to have formed from a bacterium entering a prokaryotic cell and living symbiotically rather than being destroyed by its host cell. This was a random fluke that took millions of years to happen. If that event had happened on the first day of prokaryotic life, it could have shaved off a significant chunk of time for evolution.

That pegs the Star Wars story at least at big bang plus nine billion years, but Johnson is just getting started. Read more about the possibilities of the Star Wars timeline in a book excerpt at Wired. -via Uproxx


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