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Why we can’t have nice things like lightsabers?

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Why we can’t have nice things like lightsabers?

It’s Star Wars Day, guys! And as we hang up our Stormtrooper helmet decorations and prepare for the roast Wampa feast, we will be looking at some of the most iconic technology in movie history. 

From the moment the Lightsaber first appeared on screen, small children and like-minded adults have been hitting each other over the head with plastic replicas, with varying degrees of success. But engineers and fans alike have devoted countless hours to producing the real thing. 
The blade works via heat, rather than strength or sharpness. Therefore, the lightsaber should be able to melt anything it meets, be it armour, shield doors, or the hands of stroppy teenage Jedi. 

It only now occurs to me – Luke’s hand or arm doesn’t bleed and I can’t unsee it and it’s really bugging me.

To test this, Some engineers at Hacksmith Industries decided to build one, using a heady mix of Propane gas and Oxygen, a very expensive glass-blowing torch and a handmade hilt. It can indeed cut through a multitude of materials, but only at a slow and steady pace. The “blade” burns at 4000 degrees Fahrenheit so while it will melt a steel wall, it will melt off your face just as easily if you get too close. Also, it burns through the fuel so fast that any duels you plan on having would only last a few minutes. It is not a solid “Blade” either, so all in all, you could argue that it’s just a very pretty flame thrower.  

Now the more hard-core fans among you (or anyone capable of conducting a 10 minute Google) will know that the “Light” in lightsabers is actually Plasma. The science behind this is quite complex, so we will scale it back a bit for now. Basically, you use to heat and light at the same time. The light particles become electronically charged and can be shaped with a magnetic field. Unlike the Hacksmith sabre, this version, officially called a “Plasma sword”, doesn’t get very hot, but it can electrocute you right through the roof. It is not an efficient cutting tool and again, it is not a solid blade either. 
 

Disney, ever eager to get in on the action, have put their best boffins to work to also create a retractable, glowing lightsaber. I should explain that as it is Disney and they intend for the sabres to be used mostly by Disneyworld cast members, they cannot cut anything or heat up. However, it appears to be the best option so far. There is also an in-house “Experience” where for $200 you can join your fellow potential Jedi knights in building a lightsabre of your very own.  

Unfortunately, none of the above examples can produce the all-important “Fa-woom” noise. In fact, as it requires an additional machine to blow air through it, the Plasma sword version would drown out any witty mid-duel repartee. 

“It Is Time To Take You Place In The Dark Side!” 
“…WHAT?!” 
“I SAID IT’S….Nevermind…”

So while the lightsaber might be an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, I don’t think we’ll be playing fighting beautifully choreographed duels with one anytime soon, which is probably for the best in the long run. Waving your burning lightsaber around comic-con would probably be the best way to get kicked out. But if you just want to feel like you’re cock of the force-users, I would recommend the Disney version every time. Sometimes, its not about working out the science, or complicated engineering, or figuring out how to make your blade glow. Its about imagining, just for a little while, that there is a strange, otherworldly fantasy that we can all be part of. And I think we all need that now and again. 

May the Forth be with you! 

Love, the Lucidica Jedi.