The cliche: "Star Wars, meet science," wrote The Atlantic Wire's Uri Friedman yesterday. That was nice, Uri, but they've met before. Many times. People got quite a kick out of NASA's announcement yesterday that they had discovered a planet orbiting two stars. "While the planet's officially called Kepler 16b, astronomers are already referring to it as Tatooine, after the home planet of Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, which also had two suns," Friedman wrote. Funny, that reminds us of a news item we read just a month ago. In August, scientists discovered a planet that only reflects about 1 percent of the light that reaches it, making it "black as coal." That became "the Darth Vader planet." In May 2010, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught closeup footage of Saturn's "Mimas" moon, and due to an odd similarity with a certain evil spacecraft, they dubbed it the "Death Star moon." In December 2009, touting the capabilities to discover new planets, NASA announced that habitable moons, like, oh I don't know, the forest moon of Endor, might soon become "scientific fact."
Where's it from? The origins of this cliche begin "a long time ago" in a galaxy known as "the Reagan years." In 1983, President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative that would put devices in space to defend against a missile attack. Critics criticized it as far-fetched and expensive, dubbing it the "Star Wars" initiative. So even as the film trilogy was being completed, people were reappropriating it for their own means (and perhaps courting the "nerd" vote).