Who can say no to a holiday built on puns? May 4 (or “May 4…”) has been designated as “Star Wars Day” by Star Wars fans. The idea has grown so popular that it has split into purist sections who celebrate the day as a traditional function of all things Star Wars and stricter, more orthodox sects who only recognize the Light Side on May 4 and then devote a day to all things Dark Side on “Revenge of the Fifth.” Whatever side of this religious debate you’re on, there’s one thing we can all agree on: lightsabers are cool.
The lightsaber is, without a doubt, the best fantasy weapon ever created. It’s iconic, it’s readily recognizable (even by sound), and it’s been a cause of emotional frustration for devoted fans for decades. They’ve been a puzzle for engineers and cosplayers alike, from toys that don’t quite cut it to DIY attempts at the real thing. Let’s look at many of the mythology and reality around the ultimate Jedi weapon and how near we are to using it in the real world.
The original lightsabers were made entirely by hand.
George Lucas was a brash young director with billionaire ideas and a hundredaire budget in 1977, so he had to get inventive. This was before Disney opened its vaults to buy the Star Wars universe, so he had to get imaginative. Antique cameras provided most of the raw material for the initial lightsaber hilts, which were cobbled together from literally leftover components. Darth Vader’s, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, and Luke’s (actually, Anakin’s) sabers were all created from flash handles, with Luke’s and Obi-coming Wan’s from an ancient Graflex and Vader’s coming from an MPP Micro flash. Obi-saber Wan’s was a shambles, fashioned from of components from a jet engine, a World War I rifle grenade, and a faucet knob, among other things.
Some of the trademark lightsaber shine as a result of practical considerations.
The original prop lightsabers used a unique way to offer the actors something substantial to fight with and give the special effects department something to work with when adding post-production firepower. Small motors were built into the hilts, which spun long carbon fiber blades covered in Scotchlite. Because Scotchlite is shiny, it bounced light while the sequences were shot, giving the FX team a reference point when it came time to add colour. The reflecting carbon fiber blades were removed in later installments of the franchise, and the majority of the appearance was achieved using CGI.
Disney is about to release the most real lightsaber yet.
In April, Disney teased a fresh new, hyper-authentic lightsaber toy. However, the business has provided a closer look at the device, which will make its debut in 2022 with the Star Wars lightsaber: Galactic Starcruiser hotel. Unlike Hasbro’s Rey lightsabers, which are essentially light tubes that turn on and off with accompanying sound effects, the new service will have a simple hilt that unfurls a glowing blade, similar to how they appear in the movies when not in use. Intrepid enthusiasts were able to track down the toy’s patent, which uses a flexible LED “spool,” as well as a video of a magic act that used a similar “unfurling” technique to demonstrate how it would function.
Lightsaber blades are really popular right now.
Fans will remember Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn melting down gigantic metal blast doors with his lightsaber in The Phantom Menace, so these things are bound to be hot.
But it’s difficult to say how hot it is because we don’t know what those doors are made of or how difficult it is to cut off an Aqualish’s arm. However, when Force rookie Rey split a boulder in half in The Last Jedi, it provided a solid foundation for astronomy and engineering aficionado Brandon Weigel to figure it out. The temperature of a lightsaber blade is 20,566 Kelvin (36,559.13 degrees Fahrenheit).
This information makes one wonder how the characters manage to keep their brows from singing off while wielding sabers. Some fans believe that sabers (or the Kyber crystals that power them) produce a force field that prevents the weapon’s holder from exploding into flames as soon as they turn it on. Why not, right?
Why aren’t actual lightsabers available yet?
Actual, real-life lightsabers are essentially impossible due to two issues. One, there is currently no battery small enough to put inside a lightsaber hilt that has anything near the power required to generate 20,566 Kelvin of heat. Second, we don’t yet have the technology to create a laser beam that comes to a halt at a specific height. Lightsaber “blades” fire to a sword-perfect size, while the lasers we have in the actual world just keep running endlessly (and are light beams, so they wouldn’t truly “slice” through anything). They could, however, heat anything till it explodes!).
Plasma may hold the key to creating a true lightsaber.
Plasma could be the secret to creating a lightsaber that resembles a genuine thing. The high pressureized state of matter found in our sun and in a lightning strike is known as plasma. Suppose you could make a handle that didn’t melt as soon as you turned it on and a magnetic field that kept the plasma in a perfect sword form and length; it could make a fine lightsaber blade. However, once you have those, changing the hue is a breeze. It all depends on what kind of gas you put into the plasma (similar to how a neon light works)—you could use neon for a red Sith saber, krypton for a green Jedi saber, or even mercury for a purple Mace Windu-style blade. Of course, a mercury light would emit ultraviolet rays, which would likely cause you to become blind.