On a daily basis, Ben Kittrell translates the jargon-filled world of technology for clients of his tech consultancy. The Words that Frustrate (WTF) series aims to offer readers some clarity in an industry dominated by techies’ confusing argot. In this special edition, Ben geeks out over Star Wars tech as the franchise’s latest installment thrills audiences around the globe.
There’s no shortage of amazing technology dreamed up by George Lucas in the ’Star Wars’ franchise.
In honor of the series’ newest installment — ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ — I’ll be covering a few familiar fictional technologies in this special WTF.
The most iconic technology to come from ‘Star Wars’ is most certainly the lightsaber.
As most of you probably know, this is the weapon of choice for Jedi Knights and Sith Lords. It takes tremendous skill to wield a lightsaber and Jedi consider it to be superior to a blaster (laser gun).
A lightsaber works by focusing a beam of energy that bends back towards the handle making a long thin loop. This energy feeds back into the power source, so the saber is only actually using energy when the beam is broken from cutting something. A lightsaber can cut through pretty much anything including metal, glass and limbs … lots and lots of limbs.
Each lightsaber has a power source and a crystal that focuses the beam. The color of the lightsaber blade comes from this crystal. After the Empire outlawed lightsabers, Luke Skywalker had to build his own. Using the schematics of Obi-Wan’s saber he used the force to forge the crystal and construct the weapon.
Let’s say you want to get from Alderaan to Coruscant — it’s a 5000 light year journey.
In the Star Wars universe, travelling that distance sans hyperdrive would normally take up to 16 hours, depending on traffic and interplanetary conflict. The hyperdrive allows characters to travel faster than light, allowing them to arrive at their destination faster than you can say “parsec.”
According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. The Star Wars universe, however, created an alternate state of reality called hyperspace, where relativity doesn’t apply.
The Millennium Falcon Owner’s Workshop Manual — part of the Star Wars franchise’s fan-created background that makes up what aficionados call the “Extended Universe” — states that “… a hyperdrive-equipped ship would propel off these ripples to “jump” into hyperspace, allowing it to traverse the galaxy at speeds of hundreds or even thousands of times the speed of light”.
Hyperspace travel can be very dangerous without the proper preparation, because only Jedis can dodge planets and asteroids at that speed. Thankfully, a navicomputer or a droid like R2D2 can map out sub-space so you can travel safely (like a GPS). It takes a few minutes to do the proper calculations but you should be fine, as long as you don’t have a TIE Fighter on your tail.
This moon-sized space station was created by the Galactic Empire to be the “Ultimate Weapon” and display of Emperor Palpatine’s power. It’s about 75 miles in diameter, features 357 levels and houses an estimated two million people. The Death Star is so big it had it’s own gravitational pull, forcing TIE Fighter pilots to correct their course.
The Death Star’s main feature, the “Ultimate Weapon,” is a large, crater-like disk that shoots out a laser beam capable of destroying an entire planet. The beam is powered by a hypermatter reactor, which takes matter from hyperspace and destroys it (similar to an Earth-bound nuclear reactor), unleashing enormous amounts of energy.
A group of students at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania recently estimated that the Death Star would cost $8 quadrillion dollars to construct and take 833,315 years just to produce enough steel to build it.