Technology in Star Wars

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The epic space opera blockbuster Star Wars borrows many real-life scientific and technological concepts in its settings. In return Star Wars has depicted and inspired/influenced several futuristic technologies in existence and under development. While many of these technologies are in existence and in use today, they are not nearly as complex as seen in Star Wars. Some of these technologies are not even considered possible in modern times. However, many of the technologies depicted by Star Wars parallel modern real-life technologies, though with significant differences, but still using the same concepts.

Prosthetics[edit]

Luke Skywalker testing his new prosthetic replacement hand.
Main article: Prosthetics

Prosthetics was first seen in Star Wars in the fifth film of the saga (though produced second by date) Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This technology seen in the films bears an almost absolute resemblance to natural limbs and other body parts save for the distinctive material they are made of compared to organic material the natural limbs and other organs they replace. Such precision is not considered possible by current technological means, however the ability for prosthetics to produce feeling has become closer to reality according to recent research and development conducted at the Case Western University which produced prosthetic limbs similar to the ones seen in Star Wars.[1]

Another similar production even closer to natural organic limbs known as the DEKA Arm System and dubbed as "The Luke" after Luke Skywalker's prosthetic arm was approved for mass production by the US Food and Drug Administration after eight years of testing and development.[2]

Solar power technology[edit]

The Imperial TIE Fighter (left) using the same concept of solar based energy for ion propulsion as NASA craft Deep Space 1 (right) by the use of solar panels.[3]
Main article: Solar technology

Solar Power Technology is not commonly seen in the Star Wars universe except on the TIE fighters.[4] A distinct feature is that while TIE fighters are short-ranged, their solar panels still provide large scales of energy in propulsion as well as laser cannons for a set of just two solar panels limited in size.

An experiment involving electron transfer conducted by scientists in 2005 invovled a supramolecular TIE fighter ship design. It is not clear, however if the experiment managed to fullfill the desired results or not.[5]

Robotics[edit]

Star Wars beholds advanced robotics which parallels current robotics technology and more. Robotics in Star Wars is generally divided into two categories, as in reality: military and civil.

Civil[edit]

The robots in the Star Wars universe, whether military or civilian, are both multi-purpose use and single purpose types. For example 21-B is built for and functions for the sole purpose of performing medical tasks, ranging from basic to advanced.

Others, such as humanoid protocol droids like C-3PO are built for multi-task purposes from basic physical chores to translating between different languages and other forms of communication, including with sophisticated computers and other forms of artificial intelligence.[6]

Other non-humanoid barrel shaped robots such as R2-D2 are also built with multi-purpose features and capabilities which include repairing and programming advanced devices as well as maintaining them. The basic concepts and purposes for robotics in Star Wars as in real-life is to perform tasks to reduce human labor, assist humans with more sophisticated requirements as well as store and manage more complex data/information. Also parallel to the modern world is the use of robots for tasks and chores not considered safe or acceptable for humans. Robots are also seen as a source of cutting human labor costs.[7]

The Japanese radio control manufacturer Nikko developed a toy robot version of R2-D2 but mostly with very distinct features and limited abilities than the 'real' R2-D2. It can also respond to a small number of verbal commands. Most of the robots operations must also be done manually due to it's limited independent abilities.[8][9]

In 2010 NASA developed robots inspired by the hovering remote droids seen in the Star Wars films and comics used by the Jedi for combat training with a lightsaber. These robots were used in NASA space stations for experimentation.[10] Another individual hacker also developed similar robots based on the same hovering Jedi training robots from Star Wars but given the ability to float within a limited magnetic range.[11]

Military[edit]

See also: UAV

Military robots in the Star Wars universe are also built on the same principles as modern military robotics. While most military robots in the modern world are designed in various shapes and forms, depending on their primary specific purpose(s), the military robots of the Star Wars universe are primarily humanoid and built to imitate live organic soldiers, mainly human.

A major similarity between modern Earth military robotics and that of the Star Wars universe is that different robots are built and designed for different specific purposes, whether ground warfare, maritime warfare, aerial warfare or space warfare as seen in the Star Wars prequel films. Such uses are considered unpractical and unfeasible by current means given the sophistication and resources each individual unit would require.

Another significant recognizable distinction of the robots in the Star Wars universe, whether military or civilian, is their stronger sense of independence and self-awareness compared to the robots of the modern world. Despite their current limited abilities, Dr Jonathan Roberts, director of CSTRO Autonomous Systems Laboratory proclaims that the role of robots in assisting humans is going to increase, similar to what is seen in Star Wars.[12]

The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2011 that an American blogger, out of patriotism, tried to raise money to build an AT-AT walker robot for the US military. Heikko Hoffman, a robotics expert from HRL Laboratories, but not associated with the project, claims that AT-ATs are possible, though some of its designs should be changed from those seen in the Star Wars universe for safety as well as financial and operational costs. The project was eventually cancelled, due to copyright concerns from Lucasfilms.[13]

In 2012 the United States Navy built a robot they claim was modeled after C-3PO but appears to function for both military and civilian purposes.[14][15]

Laser Technology[edit]

Main articles: Laser and Physics and Star Wars

The use of laser technology in Star Wars are almost entirely in the form of weapons as seen in the movies, though there are some side-story books written that mention the use of laser cannon vehicles for the purpose of burning through ice and snow such as the fifth book in the Jedi Prince series Queen of the Empire. The laser weapons in Star Wars use the same principle concepts of a laser being a light source. Light sources produce light in a series of waves. The waves spread in all directions, unless controlled. Controlling or containing the direction of light energy is also known as synchronization. This concentration of energy in one direction gives it strong and sometimes powerful intensity.[16] Lasers have different uses for military purposes, many of which strongly differ from what is seen in Star Wars, but still follow the same concepts of concentrating energy and/or material within a limited magnetic range.[17]

A major difference is that current laser technology does not emit lasers in separate bolts, but single rays; whereas Star Wars depicts both. Additionally Rhett Allai, associate professor of physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, argues the energy bolts fail to fit the definition of laser and explains that in many ways the laser cannons in Star Wars actually defy the rules of physics.[18]

Researchers in Poland in partnership with the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw, however claimed to have developed lasers in bolted form and caught on camera. The professionals claimed that the lasers were so powerful and intense, resulting in them being ionized. The interaction of the pulse with the plasma generates light of many different wavelengths.[19][20][21]

The American Air Force Research Laboratory is currently working on on long term developments of aerial laser weapons. Their aim is to make fighter aircraft laser capable by the year 2030. The laser cannons use the same concept of ion-based technology as seen in Star Wars.[22][23]

The United States Navy has begun to induct laser weapons in its fleet since late 2014. The weapons will be used for both sea-to-air and sea-to-sea purposes.[24]

Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems claimed in 2014 that it is close to developing laser shields named Iron Beam, which company spokesman compares by similarity to the lasers of Star Wars. The company claims that Iron Beam can deflect drones, missiles, rockets and mortars.[25][26]

A 1995 paper by Richard E.Russo from National Laboratory in Berkley, California discusses the functions of lasers and mildly argues the Star Wars depiction of lasers as accurate.[27]

Interstellar Transport[edit]

Rocket and Missile Technology[edit]

Forcefield Technology[edit]

Cloning and Genetic Engineering[edit]

See also: Clone trooper

Star Wars also features the process of cloning and genetic engineering, though far more advanced and sophisticated compared to modern scientific and technological standards.

Cloning was first mentioned in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and its novelization. It was first seen on film in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. There are major differences however between the current ability to clone humans and those seen in Star Wars.

Current human cloning methods need to use the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) which requires an unfertilized egg from a female donor and have its nucleus removed, resulting in an enucleated egg. DNA from the subject being cloned would need to be extracted and electronically fused together with the enucleated egg. A surrogate mother needs to be impregnated with the embryos to give birth to the clone.[28]

Cloning in Star Wars does not seem to use this process and instead depicts advanced machinery that directly processes the human subjects DNA and directly produces the clone or clones by the thousands if desired. The clones in Star Wars can also be genetically altered to have their growth and learning accelerated as well as their independence and self-consciousness restricted.[29]

According to Jeanne Cavelos, a science fiction writer and former NASA astrophysicist who is also author of the book The Science of Star Wars, all of this is future possibility with the progress of science and technology. What is not possible according to her is the ability to accelerate the growth of clones or their ability to learn faster.[30]

Cybernetics[edit]

Levitation Technology[edit]

Carbonite freezing[edit]

Computers and other artificial intelligence[edit]

Holography[edit]

Main article: Holography

Holography was first seen in the first Star Wars film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Holographs were used for various purposes, mainly communication. At the time of the release of the original Star Wars films, holographic technology in 3D format as seen in the films were not available. However, according to MailOnline, recent technological breakthroughs have made 3D holograms a possibility. MailOnline goes to further state that 3D holographics as seen in the original Star Wars films could be built for less than £350 British pounds.[31]

Neowin reports that research conducted by Microsoft has brought about the creation of 3D holographic technology. The technology is intended be used for various kinds of purposes such as plotting data on maps.[32]

ExtremeTech reports that smartphones created at HP labs are now bringing 3D holographic technology from Star Wars closer to reality.[33]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Science Has Built Luke Skywalker's Robotic Hand, Touch and All". Gizmodo. Gawker Media. 
  2. ^ "Star Wars-style robotic arm approved for mass production". rt.com. 
  3. ^ Star Wars Tech (documentary)
  4. ^ "TIE Fighter - Star Wars Glossary - What is a TIE Fighter". Amelia Hill. About.com Entertainment. 
  5. ^ http://www.worldscientific.com/doi/pdf/10.1142/S1088424605000812
  6. ^ http://www.livescience.com/48209-star-wars-droids-drones.html
  7. ^ "Star Wars meets agriculture". dairyherd.com. 
  8. ^ http://www.allonrobots.com/r2d2-robot.html
  9. ^ http://www.cnet.com/news/nikkos-nerdtacular-star-wars-r2-d2-gear/
  10. ^ "NASA - NASA Expanding Tests of Star Wars-Inspired "Droids"". nasa.gov. 
  11. ^ "Hacker Builds Floating Jedi-Training Remote Droid". WIRED. 
  12. ^ "May the Fourth be with you, from CSIRO Robotics.". Michelle Starr. CNET. 
  13. ^ "Does America need a full-size, fully functioning AT-AT? Do we even need to ask?". Jeremy Hsu. The Christian Science Monitor. 
  14. ^ "U.S. Navy builds robot modelled on Star Wars character C-3PO to fight fires on board warships - Daily Mail Online". Mail Online. 
  15. ^ "Star Wars robot joins the Navy?". Washington Post. 
  16. ^ "How can a laser be a weapon? - HowStuffWorks". HowStuffWorks. 
  17. ^ "Military Lasers - HowStuffWorks". HowStuffWorks. 
  18. ^ "An Analysis of Blaster Fire in Star Wars". WIRED. 
  19. ^ "People Are Researching How To Make a Star Wars Laser Pistol". IGN. 
  20. ^ "‘Star Wars’-style laser blast caught on camera". Allison Barrie. Fox News. 
  21. ^ http://www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2014102221520026.html
  22. ^ "Star Wars Era to come: US Air Force to employ laser cannons on jets by 2030". stratrisks.com. 
  23. ^ "Star Wars-Style Lasers Will be on Fighter Jets in 2014". Mashable. 27 January 2013. 
  24. ^ "Star Wars to become reality as US Navy on course to arm ship with laser". The Independent. 
  25. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2559358/Israeli-arms-company-reveals-Star-Wars-laser-capable-shooting-rockets-sky-beam-energy.html
  26. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.574284
  27. ^ http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/sas/sas/1995/00000049/00000009/art00001?crawler=true&mimetype=application/pdf
  28. ^ "Creating a Human Clone - How Human Cloning Will Work". HowStuffWorks. 
  29. ^ Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  30. ^ "The Science of Star Wars: The Clone Wars--Q& with Author Jeanne Cavelos". Adam Hadhazy. scientificamerican.com. 
  31. ^ "Star Wars-style moving holograms are no longer lightyears away after breakthrough in 3D technology". Mail Online. 
  32. ^ "Microsoft Research reveals Holograph, brings 'Star Wars' Leia hologram to life". Neowin. 
  33. ^ "Leia aims to bring interactive Star Wars holographic displays to your phone - ExtremeTech". ExtremeTech. 

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