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Adam Savage Calculates the Speed of a STAR WARS Blaster Bolt

Realistically, if you can see a laser pulse moving through the air, it probably isn’t a laser. Laser light moves, well, at the speed of light or 186,000 miles per second. But in Star Wars you can see every shot a stormtrooper or handsome rogue takes, so what are they shooting? And could you dodge it?

The next episode of Discovery’s last bastion of science programming, MythBusters, will attempt to answer that question. Adam Savage figures that the first step is to see how fast a blaster bolt really travels.

In the short video above, Adam uses footage from A New Hope to get the necessary comparison shots. By looking at the number of frames it takes a bolt to travel across a piece of set of known length, Savages calculates that a blaster shoots some kind of radiation at velocities between 130 and 135 miles per hour.

To put that into perspective, a blaster bolt moves at 0.00002% the speed of light and 20% the speed of a handgun bullet. That’s fairly sluggish for a laser — the movie wants you to actually see the projectiles after all — but it does mean Adam has a chance to dodge whatever is coming out of a blaster when Jamie starts firing an air cannon at him.

The MythBuster‘s second Star Wars special airs tomorrow night on Discovery.

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