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How Is Chewbacca’s Bowcaster So Strong?

We’ve known for some time that Chewbacca’s weapon of choice, a modified wookiee bowcaster, is pretty darn badass. But we hadn’t seen how powerful it is until Han got his hands on it in The Force Awakens. So what makes a bowcaster so strong, and how does it work?

In my latest Because Science, I’m breaking down the physics of a bowcaster to figure out how it really works. According to the canon, the weapon magnetically accelerates metallic projectiles called quarrels to stormtrooper-tossing velocities. But, at least in this galaxy, we’ve only come up with two ways to weaponize magnets, and the first—a “railgun”—doesn’t fit with what we see in the Star Wars films. (Not a whole lot does, to be honest, considering that the bowcaster string doesn’t move.) A railgun is more like what you’ll use in the Mass Effect universe.

The second way to magnetically accelerate projectiles is a much better fit for Star Wars: with coils of conductive wire called solenoids and a magnetic projectile. If Chewbacca’s gun worked like these “coilguns,” then it could in fact pack a lot more punch than a blaster. Enough to impress even Han Solo.

To find out exactly how a wookiee bowcaster could work with physics, though, you’ll have to watch my latest episode above!


Check out my last video on how lightsaber colors prove the weapons aren’t “laser swords,” subscribe to this playlist to stay current with the show, buy a Because Science shirt, mug, or collectible pin (you know why), and follow me on Twitter or Instagram to give me a suggestion for the next episode!

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