Even though Firefly has been cancelled for over 10 years, we still feel it’s necessary to warn you: Spoilers ahead!
Kyle Hill, a Firefly fanboy and Environmental Engineering graduate, was justifiably upset at the death of Wash in the TV series’ film spin-off, Serenity. Rather than cursing Joss Whedon for killing every character we’ve ever loved like the rest of the world, Hill decided to take matters into his own hands and attempt to nullify Wash’s death with the magic of science.
The ensuing article (republished by Wired) reads like a scientific journal crossed with the naivety of wistful fan fiction. After describing in detail just how crushing the death of Wash was to his psyche, Hill begins to breakdown the science behind it. Wash was killed off at the end of Serenity, a victim of a Reaver spear that blasted through the spaceship’s forward-facing windows. After analyzing NASA forums, technical reports, and glass manufacturing data, Hill concluded that there was a chance the spear would have been unable to pierce the impact-resistant glass surely present on a futuristic aircraft built for space flight.
Hill found that present-day shuttles have windows built to withstand impact during travel. A typical space shuttle is equipped with glass that is 2.5-inches thick — the thickest window that can be made while still allowing for clear visibility. The current system of impact shielding seems to be working rather well as a shuttle window has never been breached by an impact. Working with the presumption that mankind would continue to develop and improve our technology, Hill assumed that Serenity’s front window would be of equal or greater strength than our current shuttles are built with.
What follows is a mathematical rundown of velocity and mass as Hill strives to disprove Wash’s fictional death. Unfortunately for Hill, calculating the impact scenario of the Reaver spear meant rewatching the agonizing death scene over and over again for research purposes. All you Firefly fans out there know just how unpleasant that would be. In the end, Hill arrives at a solution to the question of Wash’s death and decides whether or not it was possible for him to be impaled by that fateful projectile. We won’t ruin the conclusion for you as the article is really worth a read for Firefly enthusiasts of all intensities.