Thursday, July 28, 2011

Insane Imagery

Welcome to the late edition of Insane Imagery. This month I'm doing Star Wars, and focussing on the key elements of the films. These features include:

  • The Lightsabre
  • Blasters
  • Space Travel
  • Cloning
  • Aliens
The Lightsabre

We all know what a lightsabre is, the fantastic sword apparently made of extreme light and heat, which in all other aspect behaves like a sword. But is it a plausible weapon? Short answer: No. Any weapon which is made of light is not going to be solid enough to deflect other weapons, or blaster bolts, or anything else for that matter. Ever try to block a punch with a laser light?That doesn't even get into the idea of keeping the light in a very constricted shape, without the use of mirrors.

Of course, that isn't to say something similar will never be available. The characteristics of a Lightsabre are almost identical to those exhibited by a Plasma Sword. What's Plasma? Why, Plasma is the forth state of matter! Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma. If somthing doesn't fit solid, liquid or gas, it's probably plasma. Some examples are, FIRE! LIGHTNING! AURORA BORIALIS! AURORA AUSTRALIANIS! NEBULAS! and many others. Chemically, plasma is a state of matter in which all molecules are dissociated and most are ionized. Make any sense to you? Chemists, correct me if I'm wrong, but is that basically the nuclei (centres) of the molecules are not really connected, but the electrons are almost free moving? Sounds about right.

In any case, if enough energy was produced to superheat plasma, it could be drawn out and held in place with a ridiculously powerful electro-magnetic field. The EMF would cause the sword to strike other such swords as though they were solid, but would pass straight through a non-magnetic sword... although the superheated plasma would probably do some damage. Another advantage would be drawing magnetic weapons to it, melting or contorting them to be useless. This isn't seen in the movies, but would be cool to see in real life.

Despite the seeming simplicity of the concept, creating a "lightsabre" would be next to impossible, as the energy requirements for even short term use are astronomical. In order to create one with today's technology, you would need a nuclear reactor, several super computers and something the size of a tank to house it all. and that's for a normal length blade. We won't be seeing any lightsabres around here any time soon. Blasters on the other hand...


The other handheld weapon of the Star Wars trilogies is the blaster. In effect, a blaster is a handheld weapon of similar shap and size to our current firearms, the only difference being they shoot what looks like lasers. A more likely shot would be, you guessed it, Plasma.

Plasma guns do exist. They aren't military grade, and are VERY bulky, but they do exist. They are known as Dense Plasma Focuses or DPF, and shoot short lived high temperature, high density plasma in scientific experiments. If the design could be miniaturized, and the yield increased, so as to increase the life of the plasma shot, it might achieve a weapons grade. As it is, it is indescribably useful to science, and completely useless to the military.

The other big problem would be energy. It requires a large amount of energy to create the shots of plasma, and nothing we can currently create at a handheld level as anywhere near the levels of output required to run such a device. If a small portable fusion or even fission reactor could be designed, then we'd be much closer to the time of lightswords and ray guns. If we managed to create such a device, perhaps we'd have the energ needed for faster then light travel.

Space travel

First off, when designing the films, the distance between planets was not taken into account, or at least can't have been thought through. Most of the travel in the galaxy was by large starships going at light speed. Not only is this impossible, it is impractical. The faster an object moves, the more energy it needs to go faster; and the more energy it has, the larger it's mass. In order to go at the speed of light, an object would require an infinite amount of energy, and because of that it would have an infinite amount of mass. This is one of the things discovered by Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

The design of the starships witin the Star Wars universe are reminiscent of the rockets of old. They suggest that some fuel burning within a confined space would create a sufficient speed for galactic travel. This is not the case. Unless the fire at the back of the ships were plasma vents... A more realistic inter-planetary transport system would be an Alcubierre Drive, which is akin to the Warp Drive of Star Trek. A drive of this style creates a wave IN THE VERY FABRIC OF SPACE! Doing this would make the space around the ship move, not the ship itself, so it violates no Relativistic laws. Of course an Alcubierre Drive doesn't suggest the intricate maneuvers demonstrated in the films as possible. Though if it could be weakened and directed, there isn't any logical reason why it wouldn't work. At present, there are no known ways to create a spacial distortion event. Perhaps we'll find an alien species who knows a way...


This is an interesting question, are there aliens, and if so, what do they look like? The best thing about the films is that the aliens really do look strange. If aliens are out there, it is almost impossible that they'd look similar to anything we have on earth. The conditions of life on other planets would be different to Earth, just because it isn't Earth. They even have creatures that aren't sentient, which is how you would expect it to be, if they worlds there are anything like Earth.

I won't say whether there are aliens out there or not, because I have no idea. Whose to say just how likely a life starting event is? Or a sentience event? It's possible that we'll never find alien life, just as it it possible we'll find some tomorrow. I will remain agnostic to this question, as the evidence just isn't there for either side.

I have hopefully explained to you the various logical inaccuracies and potential real world applications of the science of Star Wars. I'm likely forgetting a lot, so if you notice something I forget, please comment on here so I can address it. Otherwise, comment of likes and dislikes, follow me if you want, and stay tuned for mor INSANE IMAGERY!

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