Star Wars deflector shields are physically possible, sort of

Contributed by
Jun 30, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

Who hasn’t imagined themselves as a Jedi Knight piloting an X-Wing, weaving through space, dodging laser fire from the Death Star? And even if your fighter is hit, you can (sometimes) trust your ship’s deflector shield to protect you from serious damage. This might feel like literal science fiction, but at least one part of that scenario has been shown to be physically possible: a group of students at the University of Leicester has proved the feasibility of Star Wars-type deflector shields (at least theoretically) and have also pointed out how we’re already taking advantage of some of the concepts that make these shields possible. 

The theory about how deflector shields would work is this: you'd set up an extremely strong magnetic field surrounding your ship. This magnetic field would be powerful enough to contain a large amount of plasma, which is heated up to a specific frequency. The plasma prevents radiation from passing through it, protecting the ship from laser fire, as long as it's "tuned" to match the frequency of the lasers.

Obviously, this is completely theoretical, as we don’t yet have spaceships to fire lasers at. However, the basic idea comes from over-the-horizon radio communications, a form of radar that can detect targets at significant distances. This technology already works in similar way to the proposed spaceship deflector shields. The magnetic field part of the concept is based on what we know about Earth’s magnetosphere and how it protects us from radiation from the Sun. This means that we could start building deflector shields now.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this theory. Because the magnetic field is so strong, it requires a huge power source, limiting space inside the ship. Also, because the shield would deflect all visible light radiation, no light would reach the cockpit, basically leaving the pilot flying in the dark. Fortunately, this isn't a problem for a Jedi. 

Via University of Leicester