‘Please don’t all write about Star Wars!’Where Science and Science Fiction Blend

by Fran Donnellan

science papers‘Please don’t all write about Star Wars!’ came the directive from The Poor Print Editors. But it turns out that scientists have been ignoring such an order since 1977, no doubt making many a journal editor consider joining the Dark Side.

With the forthcoming release of the next installment of the Star Wars films, Science@thePoorPrint wanted to see how the rebels of the scientific community have managed to resist the power of the journals through a little bit of  fan-based pun fun.

If you go to a peer-reviewed literature database, such as Scopus, and search for Star Wars phrases some true gems can be found. I discounted some of the returned hits, for instance those explicitly about the Star Wars franchise in ‘Computer Graphics World’. The many discussions in psychiatry journals concerning the patterns of behaviours seen in various characters also weren’t quite what I was looking for.

I wanted the blatant shoehorning of Star Wars references into tenuously related scientific content.

The scientists of the world did not disappoint. Buckle up and prepare for some awful(ly nerdy) word play. Here is the top ten countdown of genuine, published, scientific, Star Wars-tastic papers:


I can find no logical reason behind this one, presumably it is simply pure fandom. I hoped it interacted with the protein in number 9, but sadly not.

‘Loss of Skywalker reveals synaptic endosomes as sorting stations for synaptic vesicle proteins’,
Uytterhoeven, V. et al (2011), Cell, 145,  1: 117-132


From reading the abstract, I can only guess that the reason for the name of this protein is that its function is to kill clones. D’oh. (It reduces the number of cells made from hematopoietic progenitor cells.)

‘Jedi – A novel transmembrane protein expressed in early hematopoietic cells’,

Krivstov et al (2007), Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, 101, 3: 767-784


Definitely a backronym.

‘The Joint Efficient Dark-energy Investigation (JEDI): Measuring the cosmic expansion history from type Ia supernovae’,

Phillips, M.M., et al (2006), Proceedings of SPIE – The International Society for Optical Engineering, Volume 6265 II, Article number 62652A


And another.

‘Upgrade of the MIT linear electrostatic ion accelerator (LEIA) for nuclear diagnostics development for Omega, Z and the NIF’,

Sinenian, N., et al, (2012), Review of Scientific Instruments, 83, 4: Article number 043502


Here’s a solid effort from the space scientists.

‘Darth fader: Using wavelets to obtain accurate redshifts of spectra at very low signal-to-noise’,

Machado, D.P et al, (2013), Astronomy and Astrophysics 560: A835.


These next two were among four hundred and twenty-six papers whose authors had the same idea: these two were at least about research actually related to the word ‘force’. Just about.

‘Mechano-sensitivity of ENaC: May the (shear) force be with you’,

Fronius, M., and Clauss, W.G.(2008), Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology, 455,  5: 775-785


‘May the force be with you: Unfolding lipid-protein interactions by single-molecule force spectroscopy’, Dowhan, W., et al (2015), Structure, 23, 4: 612-614


Subtle, but still spotted (Hint: Darth Vader to Obi-Wan Kenobi).

Exercise-dipyridamole myocardial perfusion imaging: The circle is now complete’,

Brown, K.A., (1993), Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 34, 12: 2061-2063


This author just went for it. Han would have been proud.

‘Chewbacca, we’ve made the jump to light speed…’,

Boyd, G., (2006), Radiology management, 28, 1: 45-46


And first place goes to this heroically bad pun, the relevance of which will forever remain unexplained as both abstract and paper were unavailable to read. However, considering the title, that might just be a blessing:

‘The colonoscope strikes back: A diverticular Darth Vader’  

Brown, A.F.T. and Bryant, A, (2007), Medical Journal of Australia, Vol 187,  11-12: 629


All puns aside, my favourite find was perhaps the following case where the Star Wars universe has actually facilitated research in an amazing way:

‘Dunes on planet Tatooine: Observation of barchan migration at the Star Wars film set in Tunisia’,

Lorenz, R.D. et al (2013), Geomorphology, 201: 1 264-271

The researchers were able to use the buildings constructed to be the city of Mos Espa on Tatooine as markers to be able to track sand dune migration in Tunisia. The best part of this is that not only did they use satellite images, but also the wealth of photographs found on the internet taken by Star Wars fans visiting the site since it was built in 1997 for the filming of The Phantom Menace.

Thank you scientists and Star Wars fans around the world, Obi-Wan would be proud. (N.B. I did search for Obi-Wan and there weren’t any puns. The challenge has been set.)


The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford. Written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff, new issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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