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Physicist Brian Cox Corrects Neil Tyson, Explains How Lightsabers Could Work

If you’re going to throw down with Neil deGrasse Tyson—pop culture hall monitor—about something like the physics of lightsabers, then you better come prepared with facts and observable phenomena. This man isn’t falling for any Jedi mind tricks.

Back in July of 2013, Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote a tweet stating that “If LightSabers are made of light, they would just pass through one another. Useless for defense.” And at first, it seemed like another classic FKO (Fact Knockout) delivered by Tyson. But then, out of nowhere, physicist Brian Cox challenged his assertion by claiming that lightsabers would still work in theory “if the photons are sufficiently high energy.” And, needless to say, that caused a great disturbance in the geek force.


But that was a long long time ago on a social media network far far away, and on Tyson’s science-focused talk show, StarTalk, the two physicists sat down with each other to clarify their positions on the matter. And in the chat, it seems that Cox was able to do something almost as preposterous as break the laws of physics: prove that Neil deGrasse Tyson was incorrect.

Cox says in the discussion (video above) that “there’s a process that I’ve studied… photon-photon or gamma-gamma scattering we call it… [and] at very high energies,[in] high-energy collisions, there’s a probability that photons will kick off each other.” If lightsabers were made of super high-energy light, they could bounce off of each other instead of pass through each other. Cox also says that this phenomena has been observed in particle accelerators, which means it’s not only theoretical.

What do you think about Brian Cox’s lightsaber defense? Let us know in the comments section below!

Image: StarTalk

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