The “Star Wars” franchise is the gift that keeps on giving. Forty years after the release of the film that started it all, “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope,” the franchise continues to deliver commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies, including the recent blockbuster “Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi.”
Ever since “Star Wars: Episode IV” captivated audiences, the “Star Wars” technology has inspired tangible developments in modern science. Here’s a look at which “Star Wars” ideas have become reality and which ideas are still in the works.
Robotics has taken some big leaps and bounds the past few years, figuratively and literally. Boston Dynamics’ famed humanoid robot Atlas now performs backflips. But as Wired observed, despite this stunning jump forward, Atlas and other humanoid robots struggle with the human hand’s ability to manipulate objects, not to mention they have battery life issues that make smartphone batteries seem like they’re powered like the Energizer Bunny. SoftBank’s Pepper not only chats with retail customers but it can also dance and roll on the floor, according to Recode.
C-3PO would be impressed.
Luke Skywalker was given a bionic hand after losing his right one in a light saber duel with Darth Vader in “Star Wars: Episove V The Empire Strikes Back.” Fittingly, the U.S. government has developed LUKE (Life Under Kinetic Evolution), a state-of-the-art robotic arm that uses computers, sensors and motors to restore simple functions, according to the New York Times.
Two U.S. Army veterans now benefit from the bionic arm, which might soon be sold to consumers, said the New York Times. LUKE is the first bionic arm that “intuitively moves many joints at one time,” whereas other bionic products prohibited fluid movement.
Lasers and the Lightsaber
The U.S. Navy has developed a laser weapon that would stand up against the lightsaber. The LaWS (Laser Weapons System) is fully operational on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, said CNN. Its laser moves at the speed of light, which is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile, as CNN reported. “It is remarkably precise, which the Navy says could limit collateral damage in wartime.”
Although toy lightsabers exist, the lighstabers of “Star Wars” aren’t yet a reality. As Space pointed out, a lighstaber would actually be made of plasma, as lasers are “essentially invisible as [they pass] through the air.” Unfortunately, we don’t have a safe way of harnessing the plasma, but scientists aren’t giving up hope; they just haven’t made it past the conceptual stages yet.
The Death Star can only be categorized as “Star Wars” technology, as it also isn’t a reality yet. Though according to Engaget, “Scientists have developed a technique that uses diamond to merge multiple laser beams into more powerful ones,” which could be utilized to destroy space debris or help the military take down drones and missiles.
Three private companies — including ventures backed by billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson — are in a race to potentially put humans on Mars. Unfortunately, according to Space, no one on Earth has yet figured how to send ships through extra-dimensional space so they can travel faster than they would through real space, which the Millennium Falcon and other “Star Wars” ships do with relative ease.
It’s easy to overlook, but we have accomplished tremendous steps in space travel in the past 60 years: From Sputnik’s orbit of the Earth in 1957 to the current International Space Station (ISS) — spearheaded by five international space agencies. ISS astronauts incidentally watched the most recent “Star Wars: Episode VIII” while in orbit.
The element at the very heart of “Star Wars” is the Force, which Obi-Wan succinctly described in “Star Wars: Episode IV” as the “energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
The Force enables “Star Wars” characters to communicate telepathically and move objects with their minds. We currently don’t have a way to do this, but as Space neatly observed, a quirk in quantum mechanics called quantum entanglement will link two particles in a special way, separate them and then have them affect one another over large distances.
How does that apply to “Star Wars?” Well, it speaks to Obi-Wan’s belief that everything is entangled in some way in the galaxy. Does it mean we are indeed surrounded by the Force? Scientists haven’t confirmed that — yet.