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The Feasibility of Star Wars Tech 712

pwnage writes "Forbes Magazine, not usually the the web's premiere source of all things geekish, has posted an interesting summary of Star Wars technology and its scientific feasibility. As a bonus, they also include a great set of Star Flops, including the infamous Jedi Arena Atari 2600 video 'game.'"
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The Feasibility of Star Wars Tech

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  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:34PM (#12510929)
    ...and not Star Trek, but in this vein, The Physics of Star Trek [] is one of my favorites. It's written by Lawrence Krauss [], a theoretical physicist from Case Western Reserve University. Beyond Star Trek [] was another good one from him.

    He dissects, from a scientific standpoint, some of the common plot elements and familiar staples (such as warp travel, transporters, phasers, etc.) to determine whether they'd be physically possible. An example of some interesting diversions along the way are demonstrating exactly how much data is contained in a human body, and how much bandwidth would be required for a "transporter" to work. It's a fun and interesting read, and includes content that would satisfy anyone from laymen to scientists. Being a fan of Star Trek is a prerequisite, though...
  • by CypherXero ( 798440 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:34PM (#12510932) Homepage
    The website is navagating automatically for me? What the hell?
  • BUT THE JEDI RELIGION IS A HOAX! Read The Force Skeptics Page []!
    Man, I love the way that guy writes, so seriously :)
  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:36PM (#12510949) Journal

    "The combination of medieval chivalry and modern lethal technology is pretty ridiculous," says Wilczek. "In real history, gunpowder--or even good crossbows--pretty much put knights out of business."

    And therein lies one of the problems I've always had with Star Wars and Star Trek. Are you telling me that in a world with hand-held weapons that can supposedly level/vaporize small mountains you are going to pull out your bat'leth or lightsaber and duke it out hand to hand? Heck -- forget the hand phasers/blasters -- you could kill them from orbit fairly easily with either SW or ST level technology.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, dramatic license and effect. I miss Babylon 5. Wait -- they had the Minbari using melee weapons too. *Sigh*

    • by Anonymous Coward
      you could kill them from orbit fairly easily with either SW or ST level technology.

      Uh huh...And then I suppose you're going to tell me they could make a planetoid thing that can blow up other planets, too, right?
      • Uh huh...And then I suppose you're going to tell me they could make a planetoid thing that can blow up other planets, too, right?

        Actually I have a hard time buying the Death Star just on the basis of the sheer amount of energy it would take to completely destroy an Earth-like planet. Somebody calculated it out once -- it would take the entire output of the Sun for one week. I don't see how you can possibly generate that much energy and still be within the laws of physics.

        But as far as killing people f

    • by Mad_Rain ( 674268 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:42PM (#12511027) Journal
      Yeah, and I suppose that to save the Armed Forces money, they should stop supplying the soldiers knives. It's not like they would actually use them for, say, hand to hand combat or something, when the y have guns and tanks and stuff.
      • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:52PM (#12511154)
        Well knives are essentially dead for combat. The main reason we issue our soliders knives is for utility work, anything from cutting food to cutting up a shirt to use as an emergency tourniquet. The only reason one would use a knife in combat is if you were totally out of ammo and support.

        Now in the case of the Bat'leth seems much less feasable given it's size. I mean a good knife isn't going to be over 12 inches total. That's easy to carry, and easy to use for non-combat operations. A bigass curved sword really isn't, you can't do much fine work with it and it's big enough to be a significant problem to carry.
        • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:41PM (#12511866) Journal
          Perhaps next you can explain why modern military small arms still have bayonets?
          • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:58PM (#12512078) Homepage
            To keep soldiers from leaning on them when they're supposed to be standing at attention.

            Next question?

        • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:07PM (#12512924) Journal
          As an ex marine, I have to disagree with you about knives. There are several reasons all marines are issued bayonets and/or k-Bars (a nice hunting knife-like combat knife).

          First, when you're trying to infiltrate an enemy base, or you're stuck behind enemy lines and have to get past somebody, or you see an enemy who hasn't seen YOU yet -- in other words, you have to kill an enemy quietly and quickly -- the safest, most effective way to do this is with a sharp knife (I'm not going to go into the actual how-tos, but we trained on, and practiced, several good ways of doing this).

          There WERE ways of doing this without a knife, but they were a lot trickier. For example, if you have some wire, you can make a garrotte, but that kills more slowly and the target might get a shot off, bringing all his friends down on you. Or you can break his neck in one of a few ways, but if you screw up the guy's gonna be pissed and try to kill you, or at least make a ton of noise and let his friends do it for him.

          Also, as far as "utility uses" you forgot boobytraps. Hard to sharpen a punji spike with your rifle... :)

          Finally, supposedly, during Viet Nam something like 50% of the firefights fought in jungle locations had at least SOME hand-to-hand component. It's really easy to close the distance when you can't see too far. This is why bayonet training is still considered important. It's kind of like staff fighting, but more streamlined.

          I'm quite delighted to say that my unit wasn't actually used in combat, so I never had to actually DO any of this... It was all pretty gruesome, very gory.
    • by Shky ( 703024 )
      A good Jedi can deflect a blaster shot back at the attacker. That's why they use them. Normal people couldn't block bullets with swords, nor could they stop a bullet with another bullet. That's what makes the Jedi in Star Wars cool -- they can defend against anything, as they are defenders, not attackers.

      (Someone nerdier than me can feel free to correct me if I missed something)
      • they can defend against anything, as they are defenders, not attackers.

        Just like Han Solo. Although he wasn't a Jedi, he was still DEFENDING himself! Oh, wait, nevermind....

      • And there's more.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by DG ( 989 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:57PM (#12511213) Homepage Journal
        A sword/lightsabre offers the user more options too.

        You can choose to just defend with it - protect yourself without threatening your opponent.

        You can also selectively wound with it as well, giving you the ability to disarm (heh, literally) your opponent without killing him. As a lightsabre cauterizes as it cuts, the opponent won't bleed to death (although I bet he goes into shock pretty hard...)

        It can also be used as a general purpose cutting tool - good for cutting through doors, cables, or whatnot.

        By comparison, a gun (or blaster) is an all-or-nothing deal. You can kill with it by blowing a hole in someone... and that's about it. You cannot parry with a gun. It's nearly impossible to selectively wound with a gun. And aside from its intended purpose, a gun can't do anything else.

        The gun's big advantages are ease of use (a gun does not rely on the strength or size of its wielder, at least not for reasonable calibres), its ability to kill at an extended range, and its near-unblockability. But given that Jedi can parry gunfire with their lightsabres (neat trick, that - how do you practice?) and are trained enough that "ease of use" isn't a factor... the lightsabre starts to look pretty good.

        In real life, sword loses to gun at all except close quarters - especially if the gun wielder doesn't know the sword is there. But against all other weapons, the sword's ability to parry and defend without necessarily inflicting lethal damage make it pretty attractive.

        • And aside from its intended purpose, a gun can't do anything else.

          Yeah, but the phaser...

          You could blast through things, use it to heat a rock for warmth, stun, hit somebody over the head with it...
        • But given that Jedi can parry gunfire with their lightsabres (neat trick, that - how do you practice?)

          I guess you've never seen Star Wars, where Luke trains with a hovering droid on the Millenium Falcon? :)

    • There's plenty of scope for chivalry and general heroics in an environment of lethal ranged weaponry. The flying aces of world war 1 -- the tank aces of world war 2 -- the assassins of the Cold War -- the mercenaries of the Biafran war -- the guy that just manages to sprint to within grenade distance of a machine-gun nest.

      As long as the two sides are roughly evenly matched, there's scope for both honor and ingenuity in deciding the conflict. It's only when the sides are mismatched that it becomes a metho
    • by hikerhat ( 678157 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:47PM (#12511096)
      The U.S. could destroy the middle east from orbit, but they have troops in there fighting with simple hand held weapons. Sometimes you don't want to kill every one. It's bad PR. And who would pump your oil when you're done?
    • by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:55PM (#12511182)
      As I've understood it, the lightsabers are made with the Jedi's use of the force to meld the component parts together, thus ensuring that only the jedi can construct lightsabers. The lightsaber, in addition to being a slicing and dicing weapon, becomes a focal point for the jedi to focus their force abilties upon. The Force is the jedi's ultimate weaspon, the lightsaber is simply a means of utilizing this weapon and through it deflect blaster bolts and such. Darth Vader, being a supreme master of the Force can use his own hand to block blaster bolts (as seen in TESB), and Yoda could absorb Force Lightning with his hand. However, regular Jedi like Obi Wan need lightsabers to block blaster bolts and absorb Force Lightning.
    • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:56PM (#12511195) Homepage Journal
      rusty quote...

      It kills the enemy. All of the enemy. And allof his family, and all of his oxen, and all of his cattle, and all of his manservents, and all of his maidservents...

      The point of WMDs, be they yielded by nations or terrorists, (distinction left to the reader) is that they conquer nothing, because they leave nothing. If there's a good purpose, they demoralize the enemy into surrendering, and prevent further bloodshed. The fearsome thing about the neutron bomb was that it would make nuclear war practical again, which was why Jimmy Carter cancelled it.
    • by Knara ( 9377 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:57PM (#12511205)
      Setting aside the issues raised by the loose conglomeration of plot elements that is Star Wars, you're missing a few points about the Jedi. The Jedi are an elite order with superhuman powers. They enjoy the endorsement of government during the Old Republic, and conduct themselves more or less as a royal order. They are not the front-line soldiers or mainline military forces. You'll note that those forces have rather elaborate technology in relation to exactly what you mentioned above.

      Since the Jedi have superhuman reflexes (possibly due to premonition skills if Qui-Gon's explanation in Episode 1 is to be accepted), hand-to-hand combat is commonly decided in their favor vs. a small number of armed opponents. However, as will likely be seen in Episode 3, the Jedi fall when systematically hunted down by large forces. When they no longer enjoy backing by the ruling powers, they are reduced essentially to the Star Wars version of ronin (rogue samurai), who are deadly in single combat, and influential in reputation (and in the case of the Jedi, powerful in the supernatural skills they learn), but aren't a formidable military force.

      (as for the Minbari, a similar thing is the case; the Rangers were not front-line troops, but rather couriers, clandestine agents, later diplomatic representatives, etc; the "Warriors" had suitably high-tech weapons)

    • "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid." Han Solo, outspoken skeptic of the Force
    • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:04PM (#12511292)
      Guns are great for ranged combat, but suck when someone's within an arm's length of you. You also want to limit your firepower when a missed shot would cause a hull breach. Breathing vaccuum can really ruin your day.

      In tight quarters (like on a spaceship), someone armed with a knife actually stands a pretty good chance against someone with a gun. Police officers are trained not to let someone with a knife get within 21 feet of them, because within that radius it's pretty likely that the guy with the knife will cut them before they can draw their sidearm and get off an aimed shot.

      In the Star Wars universe, the only reason the Jedi can get away with using lightsabers is because the Force gives them the ability to see a little bit into the future. This lets them block a shot before it's actually fired.

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:11PM (#12511368) Homepage Journal
      As occasional SF authors have pointed out, melee weapons make good sense in a spacefaring culture. Why? because if your boarding party's distance weapon pokes holes in the hull, you'll all be breathing space, and if you blast too many critical control circuits, you may find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere. So (unless the objective is simply destruction) it makes more sense to do your killing with a short-range or even hand-to-hand weapon, that is far less likely to penetrate the hull or damage critical systems (frex, life support and propulsion).

      Second, there is a certain "don't fuck with me" value in a hand-to-hand weapon, that tends to intimidate the unintiated. That's one reason why mundane cops carry billy-clubs.

      As to whether lightsabres make sense in a physics context [puts on cartoon physics hat] -- one could postulate a "mirror field" that reflects photons, and if you thus capture enough of 'em, you could wind up with enough mass to be "solid", but still with enough energy to burn the crap out of anything it touches.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @03:15PM (#12512315) Homepage Journal
      The primary issue is collateral damage. Note that we the USA often destroy things that are not targets in our pursuit of a global empire. On Babylon 5, they used PPGs which fired superheated gases in order to avoid the risk of holing the hull. Using melee weapons, similarly, is a good way to avoid hitting things behind your target. They will always have their place. Similarly, any weapon with enough energy to penetrate the atmosphere usually has secondary effects, and is unsuitable for detail work.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @03:16PM (#12512327)
      Never underestimate social forces. Yes, the knights went out of business, but they did not do so overknight. Long bows, crossbows, and yes, even firearms had been in use for centuries before the knightly orders were disbanded.

      We have tactical nuclear weapons right now, but we do not use them because of social forces. The use of depleted uranium in ordnance is highly controversial, to say the least. The same went for the crossbow for some time. It was internationally recognized as an "unethical" weapon, and those who went against the social stricuture were likely to find themselves in a world of enemies for having done so.

      Read about the Battle of Thermopylae. Yeah, ultimately the 300 Spartans, who eschewed the use of bows on chivalric grounds, were cut down by archery fire, but not until the battle had raged hand to hand for some days. There was a purely social aversion to winning with archers, even amongst those who valued and used them. Relying on them impuned ones ablity to win by merit of force.

      It was considered important not simply to win, but to do so by physically beating the crap out of your opponant, and Xerxes only resorted to archers when the 300 proved an embaressment by successfully opposing his hundreds of thousands by pure might of arm. In other words the embaressment of using archers eventually became a lesser embaressment than than being shown to be physically (and by implication, morally, in a might makes right society) weak.

      The first known military unit commisioned and armed with handheld firearms was formed in the early 1300s. The knightly orders lasted for another 300 years or so, and the concepts of chivalry were at their peak at that later time.

      And then they fell. Almost overnight. Not because of the existence of crossbows and firearms, but because there was a great change in society that made chivalry a pathetic and dead concept. Even the concept of an aristocracy was dealt a mortal blow, and it should be noted that projectile weapons are weapons of the "masses."

      We call that social change "The Plauge."

      • Yes and no (Score:3, Informative)

        by Moraelin ( 679338 )
        Firearms from the 1300, and in fact everything before the minnie ball (i.e., the rifled barrel) were pathetically inaccurate and short range.

        There's a reason why in all independence war movies you see them walking up to 100 paces, lining up, firing from there, then charging with the bayonets. Because that was the range of those muskets, and even at that range it was so inaccurate as to make the whole thing mostly for suppression.

        It also took a long time for those guns to start to penetrate a knight's armo
    • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @03:40PM (#12512600)
      The Dune series of books makes heavy use of knives over projectile weapons as well. The main reason given is that personal body shields had been developed that could deflect almost any energy blast or even a very fast moving piece of metal (such as a bullet or a knife that was frantically swung). This required completely subdueing an opponent and slowly "pushing" through his energy shield with a metal blade. Seemed like a nice explanation for it.
  • by cOdEgUru ( 181536 ) * on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:36PM (#12510950) Homepage Journal
    The Starwars Holiday Special!! featuring the happy family reunion of Chewbacca, wife Malla and son Lumpy(!!!!)

    The Jedi Arena!! Two rectangles swinging sprites at an orange glob!!!

    Christmas in the Stars!! featuring "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" and R2-D2 dishing out "We wish you a Merry Xmas"!!!

    It all makes sense now!!!

    But LUMPY!!! If I ever came up with a character name as "Lumpy", I would wilfully get eaten by a Dianoga []!!
  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:37PM (#12510967)
    You've gotta be a speed reader to read each mini-article at the slideshow's default speed. What dope at Forbes decided how fast his readers should read?

    That slideshow could make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.
  • ummm (Score:2, Funny)

    "The combination of medieval chivalry and modern lethal technology is pretty ridiculous," in regards to lighsabers....umm it's call the force you geek poser! Now excuse me, mother has just yelled down here into the basement that the brownies are done.
  • What the... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:39PM (#12510986)
    Hello?? McFly?? Did you miss the first line of every single movie??


    It's already happened, thus it's feasability is already established.

      It doesn't say that Galaxy was in our Universe. Could have been in a completely different Universe where the laws of physics are slightly different, allowing for photos to interact somehow.

      Maybe it takes place in the Universe where flightless birds are not affected by the laws of gravity, but witless canines are only when they realize they're not standing on solid ground.

  • Jedi Arena (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Medieval ( 41719 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:39PM (#12510988) Homepage
    Actually, I enjoyed Jedi Arena
    • Re:Jedi Arena (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chyeld ( 713439 )
      I did too, it was one of the few two player games for the Atari 2600 that actually let both people play at once and didn't have horrible glitches like Combat! did. I remember spending hours playing Jedi Arena with my brother.
      • I remember my brother and I hitting one another in the face with the paddle controllers for hours after particularly heated games.
  • tech talk (Score:5, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:40PM (#12510995)
    "In real history, gunpowder--or even good crossbows--pretty much put knights out of business."

    And Ben Kenobi referred to laser beam swords weapons of a more civilized age.

    I dunno, if blasters are supposed to be "more random", how come Jedis are still able to block their shots?

    This makes as much sense as Chewbacca, a wookie, living with Ewoks on Endor.
    • Re:tech talk (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shinob1 ( 882656 )
      Yes, I am sure cutting someone's hand off with a lasersword is much more civilized then shooting them in the chest with a lasergun. I mean come on! It would really suck to get sliced up by a laser sword. Then again, it would cauterize the wound so maybe that's why it was more civilized???
    • And Ben Kenobi referred to laser beam swords weapons of a more civilized age.

      Yeah, beheading someone with a laser sword is very civilized. You have the honour of watching someone die while covered in their blood. It's so civilized, indeed.

    • Re:tech talk (Score:4, Interesting)

      by avalys ( 221114 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:31PM (#12511722)
      "An elegant weapon from a more civilized age," said the old man, shortly before hacking some drunk's arm off in a bar.
  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:42PM (#12511032) Homepage Journal
    Someone will come up with a non-slashdottable web server.

    "Twenty miles . . . twenty miles . . . twenty miles. Eight thousand cube miles of rackspace, powered by fifty sub-atomic reactors, all designed to respond to the subconcious urges of the ancient Krell web-surfers."

  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:44PM (#12511052)
    Man, Forbes must be desperate for readers to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon now.
    Lightsabers are not lasers or simply light, they are directed concentrated energy fields that can cut better than a Ginsu knife.
    A better reason for saying lightsabers are not feasible is due to the problems encountered when accidentally firing up one. Many Jedi and Sith limbs have been lost due to carelessness and showing off. Lightsaber safety is a serious issue, and people should not dismiss their potential dangers!
  • by jkujawa ( 56195 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:48PM (#12511109) Homepage
    Is one of the worst things I've ever seen on the web. And they've been doing it for fucking *years*.
    Have they ever actually done any usability studies on it?

    ObTopic: I always assumed a "real" lightsabre would be something closer to magnetically-bottled plasma, which would explain its ability to deflect other lightsabres.
  • by geomon ( 78680 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:50PM (#12511126) Homepage Journal
    I liked the first three movies, tolerated the latest three movies, and was annoyed from day one on the hype surrounding the entire Star Wars phenomenon.

    It would have been nice to have lived through only one Star Wars flood of commercial crap, but instead we have had to live through decades of Star Wars toys, drink cups, board games, etc.

    I'm glad it is nearly over. Now I only have to tolerate the nostalgia periods that will pop up every decade or so.
  • by Emperor Shaddam IV ( 199709 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:50PM (#12511129) Journal
    Ships and weapons make sound in a vacuum in the Star Wars/Star Trek universes. Defying the physical laws of this universe.

    Never quite go over this. However, the 1968 movie 2001 space odyssey, got it right!
    • Except for the date, that is.
    • Well you need entertainment over accuracy in movies, espically SF movies. Quiet ships just seem wrong, it unnerving not to have anything make any sound, we aren't used to it.

      Also along those lines in X-Wing and Tie Fighter, your ship manuvers more like a plane or a sub than a spacecraft. Your engines must be on to continue forward motion, otherwise you'll slow to a stop as though there was friction. If you alter your course, your old momentum dies out quickly and you are moving only in the direction you ar
    • Ships and weapons make sound in a vacuum in the Star Wars/Star Trek universes. Defying the physical laws of this universe.

      Yeah, and another thing that annoys me...where's all that damn music coming from?

      Seriously, that's what we call dramatic license.

    • Also, I've always been amused by how people are quite happy to cope with so many things in Sci-Fi, but not sound in space. how do you know that the "sound" isn't just the "camera" picking up and vocalising vibrations in sub space? (note: I realise that last thing I said is stupid, but no more stupid than most things said in star wars/trek)
    • Is it safe to assume that you watch the space scenes with the sound muted for "authenticity"?
  • by william_w_bush ( 817571 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @01:54PM (#12511173)
    light sabers.
    he doesn't get it, they aren't "made of light", they just look like they are. take a 1mK ion source, have it output out of the long end, give the blade a very strong magnetic field that bends that ion stream along the blade but does not touch it. place a weak magnet on the hilt to reabsorb the ions to be charged again.

    a. this thing would probably about as hot as the sun, so touching would be double-plus ungood, even on the hilt. the charged ions would repel each other like in the movies, as long as the charge density was high enough.

    b. omfg the power needed would be huge to create a blade of any intensity, ion plasma streams have been created in a tokamak, but not for any length of time or intensity, so youd need a serious cryonic ion storage tech, and that would be used up fast, and youd still get an arc-ing effect if it came near anything. think ball-lighting on crack.

    c. i doubt you could move it easily, and if it touched a solid object the charge would be dissipated and the blade and other object would explode... a lot.

    so the photon blade idea, no, and the gluon idea was pure 100% columbian grade crack from someone who never finished reading that neat book about physics, cause gluons don't really work that way. i'm sure someone could fix the engineering problems i have so far with a little effort.
  • Come on! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tenebrious1 ( 530949 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:02PM (#12511263) Homepage
    The only reason the Jedi were effective with the light saber, was because the damn Storm Troopers couldn't hit the side of a barn with their blasters. Seriously, there's only so many blaster shots a Jedi can deflect at one time. Maybe if he's real good, he can block two shots at once. But if you had three troopers fire at the same time... ON TARGET... then there'd have been many less Jedi around.

  • Last I checked.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Buzzwang ( 265168 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:06PM (#12511307) Journal
    ...light sabers were powered by a plasma power cell in the hilt. The 'blade' is composed entirely of plasma, with the frequency of the electronics controlling the plasma dictating the blade color. The plasma is ejected around the edge of the opening of the weapon, and some kind of electromagnetic field bends it back in on itself and pulls the plasma back down and into the center of the opening on the weapon. A big loop basically. As I recall, we already have the technology (on a room size scale anyway) to control and redirect plasma flows without mechanical controls. I would assume that a further improved technology (say 200 years or so) would shrink that down to something a person could hold in a hand, much like computers have shrunk in size over the last 80 years.

    I read the first slide about these, and I loved the comment about how it isn't possible to make light do things without a large gravity source or some thing to redirect it through.

    That being the case then... Why does the road or a desert horizon shimmer on a hot day? Heat from the road or the sand is causing the light to shift.

    And the whole faster than light travel thing.... Didn't some french researchers prove that warp drive (ala Star Trek style) was possible just a couple years back? Haven't scientists just lately made light travel at speeds faster than light in a lab (in the USA I believe)? If it's impossible, then did all these researchers lie?

    I'm thinking that maybe Forbes should get a real science writer that will actually do a bit of research into things before he/she/they start putting things to print.

    Further... They said that teleportation (ala Star Trek transporters) were impossible just 10 years ago. Just last year, researchers teleported light particles across a laboratory on multiple occasions. As I recall reading, there were going to start working with more massive particles on larger scales this year.

    All I'm saying is that people should really stop and think before they say something is impossible. Flying was supposed to be impossible. Landing on the moon (or even people in space) was supposed to be impossible. Lasers were impossible. Your everyday microwave oven was born from science fiction and most people that work in an office setting have printers, copiers, scanners or even fax machines that all use lasers to do what they do. That bar code scanner at the grocery store uses a laser, so does the one at the fuel station and the scanner that the freindly UPS and FedEx people use.

    People keep saying things are impossible, and then 5 or 50 years later someone makes it reality. Writers should think before they start labeling things like that, or they should really be prepared to get laughed right out of town when they are suddenly shown to be quite wrong. I'm not saying that any Star Wars technology is possible today, or even 50 years from today, but someone will make it or something very much like it work one day. I'd rather not be the guy that said (very publicly) that it was impossible.

    • by Manchot ( 847225 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:58PM (#12512083)
      Actually, the scientists didn't make light go faster than c, they made its group velocity go faster than c. There's a big difference, the main one being that no information can be transmitted this way. One useful analogy is a line of people saying a word to each other. If each person says the word the precise moment they hear it from the person before them, then the information (the word) obviously travels at the speed of sound. On the other hand, if everyone has a watch, and is told to say the word at a precise time, you can make it appear that the "signal" travels much faster than the speed of sound. If you could do it precisely enough, you could even make it look like it is traveling faster than c! However, no information is actually transmitted this way: everyone already had the information.

      Another good analogy is spinning a light source around, so that a focused beam sweeps out a circle. When the light source is millions of light years away, it will appear to the alien viewer there that the beam is travelling much faster than c. However, once again, no usable information travels this way, as any info encoded in the beam of light is travelling from the light source to the alien, and not from one alien to another.
  • by uberjoe ( 726765 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:09PM (#12511345)
    Clearly they've not seen this article: []
  • Stupid slide show (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mithrandir3791 ( 447811 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:10PM (#12511361) Homepage
    Try this []. That should effectively stop the slide show.
  • When I studied waves at college, I got the impression that stationary waves could be fashioned out of any form of waves.

    Why can't (in theory, the engineering behind it is another matter) we keep a stationary wave of light with poles coincident with the ends of the blade and thus create a lightsaber? I know it would not *look* like a lightsaber (you wouldn't see the light coming through) but I'm pretty sure that if you could make such a wave, out of ,say, CO2 very powerful laser.... anything that goes in the middle would be badly burned.


  • by wazzzup ( 172351 ) <astromac AT fastmail DOT fm> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:14PM (#12511407)
    Really. A slideshow. How nice.

    [Fade into dream sequence]

    "You are part of the Frontpage Alliance and a hack! *cough* *choke* *gasp* [web designer's corpse thrown to the floor] "Take him away!"

    [Fade out of dream sequence]

    *sigh* Back to work I guess.
  • by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @02:18PM (#12511478)
    Either everybody's got a babelfish stuck in their ear, or the folks in that galaxy have the inborn ability to understand a seemingly million different sounding languages (though yes, sometimes requiring an interpreter), a totally different alphabet (see the control panels of the shuttle at the beginning of Episode 6), but yet use Arabic numbers for describing distances.
  • Truth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @03:06PM (#12512183) Homepage Journal
    The simplest truth is that every year we disprove a limitation that stood in the past. Next year I suspect the same.

    All our science is realtive to our observations up to this point. I would assume that until we find the grand unifcation equation, or the Hitchihikers Guide to the Galaxy, that it's more likely that the fact that we can imagine it, implies (or is it infers in this context)that there is some possibility of it just based on the fact that we can conceptualize it.

    Remeber that within some of the readers lifetimes space travel was sciene fiction and impossible. There was such impossibilities as Nukes came to be. Who would, 80 years ago fathomed that 2 softball sized chunks of material could in fact blow a city away? And long before those, the world was flat, the sky a dome, and the stars in the sky jewels set in the dome of heaven by Gods who had nothing better to do then turn into swans and have sex with hotties.

    "With one language (math) that which man could imagine was..."
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Thursday May 12, 2005 @03:10PM (#12512231) Journal
    For example if Annakin and Padme had had access to contraceptive technology Annakin might never have turned to the dark side and billions of lives would have been saved.
  • by Lester67 ( 218549 ) <ratels72082&mypacks,net> on Thursday May 12, 2005 @04:42PM (#12513304)
    The Star Flops section got me to wondering about a 33 1/3 record that was released many moons ago called "Encounter on Ord Mandell", that occured between IV and V. Why is it the internet is rife with copies of the Christmas special, but I can't seem to track down audio of this (supposedly good) peice of Star Wars history?

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder