The blogs under Wired's umbrella are apparently trying to out-geek each other on Star Wars. First we saw an analysis of the Battle of Hoth at Danger Room, then Dot Physics determined that Darth Vader weighs at least 520 pounds. Now, Underwire shows how Han Solo is a time-traveler. This is determined by his famous line about how the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”
According to Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, the Kessel Run was an 18-parsec (59 light-year) route used by smugglers to get around Imperial blockades. So why would Solo describe how quickly he traveled it using a word that described distance?
It turns out that the expanded universe of the Star Wars franchise — the additional books and content created within the Star Wars universe but outside of the films — contains an answer to that question. The Essential Atlas maps a Kessel Run whose path travels around “The Maw,” a cluster of black holes. To cut down on the distance traveled, pilots could dangerously skirt the edges of the black holes, while trying to avoid spaghettification. If Solo was a skilled enough — or crazy enough — pilot to deviate from the typical route and fly close enough to the black holes to cut nearly 20 light-years off his space odometer, then his ship was fast indeed — the power required to stay out of the gape of an event horizon is something worth bragging about.
So by being able to dance around singularities, the Millennium Falcon establishes itself as a fast ship — and Solo’s famous brag makes sense. But this brings up a bigger, more inherent problem: The Kessel Run that Solo completed covered nearly 40 light-years of cosmos. If the blasters and speeders and starships of Star Wars more or less follow the laws of physics, taking that famous run even once would change the entire chronology of Han Solo’s life.