Letter For the Science Party:

George Lucas was inspired to create Star Wars from the writings of Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. According to Campbell, the hero’s archetype follows a similar narrative arch:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Arguably, this framework is as old as storytelling itself. Jack and the Beanstalk, King Arthur, Beauty and the Beast are famous fairy-tales that share similar themes. But why has Star Wars endured and captured generations of fans imaginations? And how can we find parallels into our lives while here on board the JOIDES Resolution?

As a Star Wars fan puritan, my obvious character of choice to analyze for this piece is Luke Skywalker. Raised on a “small town” remote planet, he longs to leave home to join the rebel resistance. However, beyond the first movie of the original tribology, we follow Luke’s journey into one that is less of lightsaber wielding action and one that is more emotionally dynamic.

Luke’s story follows a painful reckoning of his past and many lessons learned of sacrificial love and forgiveness. George Lucas in interviews states that this was an intentional story arch for the main character to follow. In particular, he did this to trick young boys into watching a story that teaches a lesson about thoughtfulness and feelings, something that especially for those times was not a typical story theme for boys.

The lessons of Star Wars, according to Lucas, was that the most important value, love, is shown to solve the ultimate problem. Luke learns that he does not have to follow the same path of his father, and in turn, his father’s love saves his life. That value is shared in-between the lacing of tie fighters, lasers, fantastic aliens, and explosions.

Effective science communication was told to me once as the art of hiding the vegetables. How similar this seems to me what George Lucas did for Star Wars. Each of us on this ship, one way or another, is a science communicator. We also are all on our own Hero’s journey. I have no idea the journey that has brought each of you to this exact moment, but we each are all part of a story that shares a love for science.

EXP397T geochemist Dr. Rajneesh Bhutani stands on the dock in from the the JOIDES Resolution.

Your path will eventually leave this ship and what you have contributed to the pursuit of science here will be part of your hero story moving forward. You will share your stories, through your highs and lows, hopefully in a way that sparks a similar love for science and our planet that inspires others. My wish for all of you is to remember the grand story you are a part of (9 movies, at the very least!) and how very important your Hero’s journey is.


Maya Pincus
Maya is a science communicator in every sense of the word. When she is not at sea, she is at home in Brooklyn teaching Earth Science to high school students. In her free time she likes to hike, run, and climb whatever rocks are around.
More articles by: Maya Pincus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


JOIDES Resolution