Seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens could arouse your scientific impulse. Michael Greshko serves up some surprising examples of research studies, from plasma physics to psychology, inspired by the saga. Pulling on pop-culture can be a surprisingly effective teaching tool.
Consider: A pair of Danish physicians tapped Darth Vader’s rattle to help med students diagnose respiratory illness—complete with a peer-reviewed study blaming the hot gases he inhaled on Mustafar. “The findings point to the suit being an unorthodox, wearable pressurized hyperbaric chamber, designed to force air into his lungs.”
Psychiatrists have joined the fun, too, drawing on the “archetypal characters everyone can relate to” to help students learn how to diagnose mental illnesses ranging from borderline personality disorder (we’re looking at you, Anakin Skywalker) to depression among the elderly (poor Obi-Wan Kenobi).
And winning points for most clever title, Matthew Muterspaugh and Maciej Konacki dubbed their quest for circumbinary planets The Attempt To Observe Outer-planets In Non-single-stellar Environments—TATOOINE, for short.