“Oh, this is where the science I like is.”
September 20, 2014 12:19 PM   Subscribe

How Long Does It Take to Get to Tatooine? [The New Yorker] "We use much more brainpower on subjects that interest us."
posted by Fizz (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Spoiler: If you want to find out how long it takes to get to Tatooine, you'll have to figure it out for yourself. Have fun!
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:38 PM on September 20, 2014

Twelve parsecs. Duh.
posted by biffa at 12:40 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you know the way to Tatooine
I've been away since I was just a teen...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:44 PM on September 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Good article about a good book. Thanks for posting.
posted by YAMWAK at 1:09 PM on September 20, 2014

It took the Rolling Stones until 1981 to get to Tattoo You.
posted by chavenet at 1:11 PM on September 20, 2014

This article doesn't answer the question in the title?
posted by Greg Nog at 2:08 PM on September 20, 2014

"Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no."
posted by effbot at 2:27 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think we can figure this out with some reasonable assumptions. If we assume "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away", and we assume that life with midichlorians took roughly as long to evolve as our life forms did here; roughly 4 billion years, then we've got a pretty good baseline.

I think we can also assume that Tattoine orbits a population 1 star, which makes it likely to be less than 10 billion years old. There has to be a reason why farmers are trying to wrest vapor out of the air, there must be a mining operation somewhere, which suggests a population 1 star with metals. This suggests that events on tattoine are likely to have happened less than 6 billion years ago- 10 billion for the star system, and four billion for life to arise.

I imagine then, that we know that Tattoine is either in Alpha Centauri (at 2 million light years), or at most 6 billion light years away. There would be no other way for Lucas to get the pictures from his giant radio telescopes- not enough time to get the signal back to Earth by 1976.

(I'm assuming that some sort of gravitational lensing effect is why it took so long to get the prequel movies, as well as the obvious relativistic distortions in the character of Jar-Jar Binks.)
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:25 PM on September 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I guess I'll take a crack at this:

First, to Tatooine from where? Since it's unspecified, the best assumption is "from here", ie, Earth.

Ok, so how far away is Tatooine? Well, we know that it's in "a galaxy far, far away". All galaxies are, by definition, far far away, but I think we can assume from the construction of the sentence that it is meant that the galaxy is far away even for galaxies.

The furthest galaxies we have detected gave light that has been traveling toward us for ~13.5B years, which might suggest that they are ~13.5B lightyears away. However, the expansion of the universe means that it's actually closer to 30B lightyears away. So, that gives us our distance.

Next, we need our speed. Since we're traveling from Earth, we aren't using hyperdrive, just good old-fashioned rockets. We also presumably want to get there as quickly as possible, so we need to send something small, like a probe. To date, the fastest probe (or for that matter, the fastest *anything*) is the Juno spacecraft, currently en route to Jupiter at ~25 mi/s, or 90,000 mph. In human terms, that's very quick indeed, but still quite slow for space. At that rate, it would take Juno 7610 years to travel a single lightyear.

In other words, it would take over 228 *trillion* years to get to Tatooine. This is long enough that expansion of the universe would have pushed it further away still, but as this trip would already be some 16 times longer than the age of the universe itself and *long* past the point that Tatooine's sun(s) would have burned out, I think we can safely answer the question "How long does it take to get to Tatooine?" with the answer "Too damn long."
posted by tau_ceti at 5:27 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can cut that down to 15 billion years by going backwards in time to the Big Bag when all matter was in one location. Probably not very nice to hang out there, but the question didn't specify.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:00 PM on September 20, 2014

I think we can also assume that Tattoine orbits a population 1 star

I don't know much about the lifecycles of stars, but Tattooine has two suns. Seems like that would impact your calculations.
posted by I've a Horse Outside at 7:22 PM on September 20, 2014

Since Tatooine is a fictional planet, the time it would take to physically reach it from nonfictional Earth is NaN.

"How long is a piece of string?"
posted by El Mariachi at 8:47 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by five fresh fish at 12:16 AM on September 21, 2014

by going backwards in time to the Big Bag

The universe was bought at Bloomingdales?
posted by yoink at 6:34 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

How long does it take to get from the real to the mythical?

Well, how long does it take to get from Tataouine to Taooine?

According to Google Maps, about 6 hours and 39 minutes.
posted by eye of newt at 1:44 PM on September 21, 2014

Still trying to parse "a NASA physicist turned full-time cartoonist".
posted by mazola at 11:36 PM on September 21, 2014

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