Every Star Wars fan knows the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1. Or rather, that’s what C-3PO told us. The truth is we have no idea if Han Solo was really as good (or lucky) a pilot as we always thought. It might have been far easier to survive those asteroids than we’ve been led to believe. Because when you take all of Threepio’s big screen odds together the numbers say the most dramatic droid in the galaxy far, far away was making up his math.
C-3PO gave specific probabilities three times in the Skywalker Saga. In addition to his asteroid assessment in The Empire Strikes Back, he also told Princess Leia (allegedly via R2-D2’s computations) the chances of surviving a night outdoors on Hoth were 725 to 1. And in The Last Jedi, Threepio informed Poe Dameron the possibility of finding another way out of the old Rebel base on Crait was a whopping 15,428-to-1. Yet, despite those seemingly insurmountable odds, our heroes overcame them all three times.
And that’s essentially impossible. The odds of surviving any single one of those events was miniscule. But surviving all three is mathematically ludicrous.
You don’t need to be a statistician if you want to know the odds of multiple events all happening. You simply multiply them. For example, what’s the probability you’ll get “heads” on two straight coin flips? Both individual flips have a 1 in 2 (0.5) chance of landing that way. So the odds for two “heads” in a row is 1/2 times 1/2. That equals 1/4 (0.25), or 25%. Three straight “heads?” Easy, that’s 1/8 (0.125), which is 12.5%.
However, that only works if you ask the question before either action takes place. If you flip “heads,” the odds of getting “heads” a second straight time is 50%. The previous flip has no bearing on the second. Once Luke and Han survived their night in a Tauntaun, that 725 to 1 probability became irrelevant for whether or not the Millennium Falcon would avoid those asteroids.
But as Star Wars fans trying to determine if C-3PO was throwing out random numbers because he was an attention-craving robot, we can ask what were the odds of his friends surviving all three events. And that number is 41,609,316,000 to 1.
Yes, more than 41.6 billion to one. Check for yourself. Multiply 3,720 x 725 x 15,428. I’ll wait while.
…Told ya! C-3PO was full of rancor dung. That number is equivalent to winning an Oscar while a shark eats you! (We don’t have the numbers on winning an Oscar while a rancor does. Sorry.)
What’s that, you say? “Maybe Threepio wasn’t wrong? Maybe the Force made the seemingly impossible totally plausible?” In the words of man wise enough not to listen to C-3PO’s made-up odds, “That’s not how the Force works.”
The explanation is far simpler when you consider what we know is unquestionably true about Threepio: he was a drama-loving droid afraid of everything and anything. It’s why the only thing worse than his outrageous odds were his definitive statements. He constantly screamed things like, “We’re doomed!” or “We’ll be destroyed for sure!” and “It would take a miracle to save us now!”
Forget 41.6 billion to 1. You can do the math on the odds of literally being wrong about everything all the time. That works out to “total nonsense.” Which is exactly what all of C-3PO’s possibilities were.
I’ve spent a long time thinking C-3PO was full of crap, and the numbers back it up. And yet, somehow, despite all the drama and made up stats, Threepio is not Star Wars most mathematically challenged character. That title goes to Rey, who in The Rise of Skywalker said to C-3PO, “You know the odds better than any of us.”
We can say, with absolute, 100% certainty, nobody in the galaxy far, far away was ever more wrong about anything.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.