In what may be my favorite Star Wars-themed science article ever written (and that’s saying a lot), Kyle Hill analyzes Han Solo’s oft-criticized description of completing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs … and discovers he was probably a time-traveler.
The problem arises because a parsec is a unit of distance, not time. So Han’s statement implies that he found a Kessel Run shortcut. In the Star Wars universe, this famous smugglers’ route skirts dangerously close to some black holes. So if the Millennium Falcon can keep from being sucked in, it must be really fast.
And that’s where it gets cool:
So for the purposes of calculating the Kessel Run, let’s say the Millennium Falcon is the fastest ship ever. Somehow able to withstand the forces involved (perhaps it has something to do with that sweet tractor-beam tech), we can calculate what happens when Han and his baby go 99.9999999 percent the speed of light, or 0.999999999c.
Funny things happen to time when you start traveling close to the speed of light. Time runs normally for you, but everyone else moves forward at an increased rate, covering years while you only experience minutes. What does this time dilation mean for Han?
Because the shortened Kessel Run spans 12 parsecs (39.6 light-years), a ship traveling nearly light-speed would take a little more than 39.6 years to get there. Factoring in time dilation, anyone watching the Kessel Run would see Solo speeding along for almost 40 years, but Solo himself would experience only a little more than half a day.
If you haven’t picked out the potential pitfall for the Star Wars timeline I’ll spell it out: In the time it takes Han to complete just one Kessel Run, the rest of the galaxy battles, negotiates, and force-chokes its way through almost 40 years — and pushes the date of Solo’s birth 40 years further into the past.
It gets better. Go read the rest at Wired.com.