The Lightsaber: Science v. Fiction

An elegant weapon from a more civilized age, the lightsaber has fascinated fans and inspired scientists, but will the Jedi here on Earth ever have a chance to wield one?

The premiere of the ultimate weapon of the future (past?) in the 1977 film Star Wars changed backyard battles around the world, transforming everything from wrapping paper tubes to broom handles into glowing, vwooming, bone slicing sabers. Surely this was something science would solve by the time you reached adulthood, but alas, it was not.

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Oh, but they have been Ron. In fact, scientists and engineers these days grew up playing saber battles themselves, and have, in fact, been trying to perfect a weapon that seems like it could only be fantasy.

Michio Kaku, famed theoretical physicist, co-founder of string field theory, and all around super (cool) nerd, even took the time to write an entire book about how possible, or impossible, science fiction technology, like lightsabers, and Death Stars for that matter, really are.

Physics of the Impossible covers everything from phasers to precognition, breaking down how possible these things are. Kaku discusses the basics of lasers, which it can be assumed a lightsaber is, and the need for some sort of medium through which light must travel in order to lase, including things like gas or crystals. In the films, and subsequent expanded universe, the Jedi and Sith use Kyber crystals in their sabers, but according to Kaku, crystal based lasers would be a bad idea, unless you don’t mind the occasional explosion.

Aside from the likelihood that Kyber crystals would not be able to withstand the power needed to create a light beam like those in a saber, the design has two other major obstacles. One, it is impossible to solidify light, and two, light beams do not stop mid-air, but rather continue on indefinitely.

lightsaber
XKCD Created by Randall Munroe, XKCD.com

Kaku does go on to explain that we need not give up all hope,

“There is a way to construct a kind of light saber using plasmas, or super hot ionized gas. Plasma can be made hot enough to glow in the dark and also slice through steel. A plasma light saber would consist of a thin, hollow rod that slides out of the handle, like a telescope. Inside this tube hot plasmas would be released that would then escape through small holes placed regularly along the rod. As the plasma flowed out of the handle, up the rod, and through the holes, it would create a long glowing tube of super hot gas, sufficient to melt steel. This device is sometimes referred to as a plasma torch”

Sadly, the device would not be wireless as it would require so much power that it would have to remain plugged into a power source. Kaku classifies the Light Saber as a Class 1 Impossibility, meaning it is possible, but not probable. He does however, speculate that within the next century new technology could arise making it more likely.

SpacePak by Mike Ridolfi expands on Kaku’s point in this informative and entertaining video;

While many are satisfied with a new generation of usable replicas, there are still many who refuse to give up on the dream. The solution? Change the design.

Since the technology does not really exist yet for a “real” laser or plasma based lightsaber, some adventurous engineers over at Sufficiently Advanced have re-designed the saber using technology that does exist, chemical fuel-based fire.

While this “Saber” is essentially a really bad ass torch lighter, it fulfills several of our requirements. It sounds cool, it looks cool, and it’s actually pretty dangerous. But since none of these weapons are getting through Con security, Jedi and Sith alike have a couple of alternatives.

Many die-hards choose to follow the path of the Jedi and build their own sabers. While the task can seem daunting, with a little ingenuity and imagination one can construct a saber even without the power of the force on their side.

A quick google search opens up a slew of options. Budget-minded Jedi can take a trip to the local hardware store and stock up on  just a few tools and supplies, and be ready to battle the Sith in no time. Herbert Pocket created this easy to follow info-graphic from a design on Instructables by one Nagle, which is said to be so simple a determined ten-year-old could accomplish the task.

how to make a lightsaber
via Herbertpocket.co.uk

If you come from a royal family on Naboo however, there are a few companies that sell custom design metal components, as well as sound and motion chips that run the gamut from $$ to $$$$.

Ultrasabers and Saber Forge, two companies many hardcore Star Wars cosplayers use and recommend, offer both parts and full models in a variety of styles. Saber Forge also has a separate page, Saber Parts,  for those content constructing their own Sabers from refined parts.

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The light sabers of old may not yet be within our grasp, but every fan knows that the old wrapping paper tube still comes in handy in a pinch.

Show us your sabers!! We want to see what you’ve got. Comment below or visit Grizzly Bombs Facebook page and show us what you’ve got. And, as ever, may the Force be with you all.


Images: Imgflip, XKCD, Youtube,
Lucasfilms, Disney, DreamWorks Pictures

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