An answer here got me looking for the answer to this question.

I did find the related question Why are blaster bolts in Star Wars moving slower than speed-of-light? but it does not seem to address the reaction speed of the Jedi.

Jedis use Light Sabers to block things coming at them FAST while I am not an expert on how fast those might be coming. It would seem they would need to move at or near the speed of light to block some of the weapons. Can a Jedi move faster then the speed of light?

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    I can't find a reference for it, but I believe I've seen mention that part of the Jedi's ability to deflect blaster bolts is using the Force to anticipate where the blasts will strike. So they actually can start the block before the blast is fired. – Beofett Sep 30 '14 at 13:05
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    Technically, every time a Jedi enters hyperspace he is moving faster than the speed of light. :P – William Jackson Sep 30 '14 at 13:11
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    @WilliamJackson not necessarily. If Hyperspace consists of an alternate dimension, then whilst in hyperspace they may not be moving very fast, or even at all. – Moogle Sep 30 '14 at 13:27
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    @phantom42 I'm pretty sure that was just for the sake of streamlining dialogue. It would have been incredibly awkward if Qui-Gon stated, "You must have the capability of a Jedi to sense future events via the Force and therefore appear to have a faster reaction time than ordinary humans." – Doresoom Sep 30 '14 at 14:28
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    You have severely underestimated the speed of light. – Boann Sep 30 '14 at 15:47

10 Answers 10

up vote 119 down vote accepted

Remember what Qui-Gon said about Anakin's Pod-racing skills in Phantom Menace:

He can see things before they happen. That's why he appears to have such quick reflexes. It is a Jedi trait.

What you're perceiving as a reaction to a shot is actually the Jedi knowing about the shot before the shot is fired. It doesn't matter how fast a blaster travels if the Jedi is prepared to defend against the shot before the trigger is even pulled.

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    Most of these answers are saying the same thing, but +1 for the quote from canon. – Omegacron Sep 30 '14 at 17:39
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    The force is kind of a knock-off from Dune's spice precognition. – Mark Rogers Sep 30 '14 at 21:23
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    @MarkRogers Really? It seems like standard precognition. I'd say it's more of a knock off of mystical east-asian martial arts mumbo jumbo than anything else. The precognition in Dune was far more powerful and an acquired trait, rather than an inherent one. It was also more about long-term events and history - the Force gives very short term precognition. – mechalynx Sep 30 '14 at 23:15
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    @ivy_lynx - Good points, makes sense. On a side not I got bored and googled around Lucas and Dune and got this mildly interesting article moongadget.com/origins/dune.html – Mark Rogers Oct 1 '14 at 16:15
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    I love that the gist of this answer is: Don't worry, Jedi don't violate causality by moving faster than light. They avoid the need for FTL by violating causality by canon. – Ben Jackson Oct 3 '14 at 18:35

Well the average speed of a blaster bolt (according to this article) is around 78mph. This is far far below the speed of light, and is in fact about the speed of a baseball pitch.So a Jedi deflecting a single blaster bolt is about the same as a baseball player hitting a baseball.

As we see, Jedis don't just deflect one bolt, they deflect a barrage in a short space of time. So their reactions of clearly far greater than that of a human. But this is still far below the speed of light (the speed of light [3x10^8 m/s] is about 8.5 million times faster than the average blaster bolt in Star Wars [78mph/35m/s]).

Add in the fact that accelerating to near the speed of light requires a unfathomable amount of energy. Not to mention the inertia of accelerating to, and decelerating from, the speed of light in the space of a few metres. And that travelling at the speed of light is theoretically impossible. It's pretty conclusive that no, a Jedi can not move faster than the speed of light.

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    Not to mention the consequences of near-c speeds in atmosphere – Brian S Sep 30 '14 at 14:18
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    @BrianS also it would be impossible to react if the bolt were travelling at the speed of light, as you would only be able to see them when they were already at you. – Moogle Sep 30 '14 at 14:19
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    This is interesting, but I doubt the 78mph is canon. Presumably it is just how blaster bolts are depicted so the audience can understand what is happening visually. Unless you can site some canon that they really do travel that slowly. – ThePopMachine Sep 30 '14 at 14:54
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    @Moogle: Technically it's conclusive that they don't have to travel faster than the speed of light. That's not conclusive of anything. – ThePopMachine Sep 30 '14 at 15:01
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    They don't have to travel FTL + there's no evidence that they can travel FTL + plus it's theoretically impossible for the to travel FTL. I'd say that's as conclusive as we'll get without a direct canonical quote. – Moogle Sep 30 '14 at 15:46

Remember the blast shield in A New Hope: Luke was deflecting bolts without seeing them. Using the Force a Jedi essentially "knows" where the bolt will be so the lightsaber is moved to position. A Jedi's quick reflexes are more proactive than reactive.

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    This should be the top answer, as it doesn't rely on anything being said in the prequels. ;-) – DevSolar Oct 1 '14 at 7:32
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    @DevSolar The prequels are just as canon as the sequels. – TylerH Oct 1 '14 at 13:10
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    @TylerH: Canonically, yes. Personally, no. ;-) – DevSolar Oct 1 '14 at 13:45

My entirely unsubstantiated view is that the Jedi are not reacting to the blaster being fired, they are reacting to the intent to fire on the part of the creature carrying the weapon. Consequently they have significantly more time than the bolt traversing the space between them and the gun in which to react - although it would still call for very fast reactions, obviously.

  • This sounds more like a comment than an actual answer. – Mr Lister Oct 5 '14 at 8:43

No, Jedis can sense where a shot will be fired and reacts before the shot. Here is Luke training blind with Obi Wan.

Blaster bolts don't move at the speed of light. Moogle mentions this but not why. It's because blaster bolts are not lasers, which do move at the speed of light. Blaster bolts consist of highly charged Tibanna gas particles that are shot out by magnetic propulsion and shaping. So it's more accurate to say that a blaster bolt is like a super-heated bullet.

To be fair, 78 mph seems too slow, since 78 mph is a slow pitch from a modern baseball pitcher (which ordinary humans can be trained to deflect), but pretty much nobody but Jedi actively dodge blasters (I'm not counting evasive maneuvers, only when somebody actively recognizes a bolt and dodges/blocks that bolt.)

It's still quite impressive that Jedi can block them, but it doesn't involve anything traveling at the speed of light.

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    This answer does add a little information, but doesn't directly answer the question. As a new member, think about whether your contribution should be a Comment or an Answer, especially when there's already an accepted answer – Sindi Oct 2 '14 at 23:52
  • As a new user, I cannot comment on the original post. – Jeutnarg Apr 1 '15 at 20:56

Hmm... Maybe with Telekinesis (as seen in so many other Force powers), it would be possible to create a localized effect similar to an alcubierre field. Or they could be using the Force to slow down incoming blaster fire (see: Bullet Time). Or they could be dodging/diverting most of the bolts and only deflecting the ones that are too accurate/powerful to dodge/divert (which are few enough that they could see them coming and prepare a parry).

And this all assumes that they're using their Lightsabers to deflect blaster bolts, rather than it being a psychosomatic Force effect (like personal-scale deflector shields) that they need to use a Lightsaber as a focus for (that is, they're only pretending to deflect blaster bolts with a Lightsaber when it's actually a personal force field, and they've convinced themselves as well as everyone else). Or there's a giant Jedi conspiracy to convince people that they aren't as ludicrously powerful as they actually can be.

Yes - as long as the force is strong within the individual. The speed of light can be easily be defeated by the force.

"May the force be with you"

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    Do you have any references to back this up? – Monty129 Oct 2 '14 at 21:08

The Jedi can of course move faster then light but only under the retrospective Laws of Lucasneed. Being retroactive, these Laws are impossible to predict for us mere mortals since their alteration instantly alters past as well as future. Thus: we can never differentiate what has been changed by insouciant translight Jedi from that which has evolved by natural, well-crafted, sincere sub-Jedi endeavour. Some say the secret lies in Big Sur... most, sadly, are - metaphorically - wholly content with the I5.

  • Funny answer, but without some improvement or change you'll probably get some downvotes. – Mark Rogers Oct 5 '14 at 16:13

Nothing can move faster than the speed of light. This is a fundamental law of Physics.

Quick layman's definition of the speed of light limits:

The speed of light, (or the speed of a photon) in a near-perfect vacuum is exactly 186,282 miles per second. We perceive photons (light) traveling at this speed because they are massless (the have no weight).

Every particle in our universe (including photons) move through the Higgs field. As a result of this interaction, particles acquire their mass. Different particles interact with the Higgs field with different strengths, which is why some particles are heavier (have more mass) than others. Photons move through, but do not interact at all with the Higgs field. Thus attaining no mass.

Since photons don’t interact with the Higgs field, it means they aren’t bound by any speed limit. They’re free to move at the fastest possible speed – their own “light” speed. Why isn’t the speed of light slower or faster than 186,282 miles per second? It’s because that exact speed is a fundamental constant of our universe.

Wondering why light doesn’t travel at a different speed is like wondering why gravity isn’t reversed or what it would be like if our universe only had 2 spatial dimensions instead of 3 (4 if you include time). Those constants, along with the speed of light, were set in place when our universe was created at the moment of the big bang.

So photons (light) is able to travel at light speed.

Well? This is all fine and dandy... What about the Jedi?

Particles that have mass require energy to accelerate them. The closer to the speed of light you get a particle, the more energy is required to go faster. This is because the particles themselves get more massive in proportion to the increased velocity. In short, the faster you go, the heavier you get.

Thanks to this, if you wanted to accelerate a single electron to light speed, you would need an infinite amount energy due to the electron becoming infinitely heavy. There isn’t enough energy in the entire universe to propel just a single electron to the speed of light. It's a catch 22.

If this is the case for a single electron, you can begin to see the problem with a Jedi moving faster than the speed of light. Let alone moving AT the speed of light itself.

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    If nothing can move faster than light, how do we account for hyperspace travel in Star Wars? – phantom42 Sep 30 '14 at 16:29
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    @phantom42 A wizard did it. – Beofett Sep 30 '14 at 16:39
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    Hyperspace travel in Star Wars is defined as using tachyonic matter (theoretical faster than light particles) to achieve faster than light speeds. This is fine for the tachyons but the ships and the people in them are not made of tachyons, are they? Besides, even tachyons are starting to lose their luster lately in theoretical physics: See here – MikeV Sep 30 '14 at 16:48
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    The expectation at Science Fiction and Fantasy is that answers will conform to and be relative "In Universe" Arguing the physics from our universe prohibit something does not make it prohibitive in the characters universe. – James Jenkins Sep 30 '14 at 18:42
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    @phantom42 the reason that they have to travel through hyperspace, rather than just travelling at FTL speed in normal space, heavily suggests that nothing can travel at the speed of light in the SW universe as well. In hyperspace they are entering another dimension of space. So within hyperspace they haven't actually travelled at FTL speeds, only when they return to normal space does it appear that they've travelled at FTL speeds relative to normal space. This is all perfectly consistent with M-theory. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-theory – Moogle Oct 1 '14 at 9:10

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