New hope: how to create a lightsaber?

Elegant weapons ... of a more civilized era. So the lightsaber was presented to the audience about 40 years ago. As an unchanging element of the entourage of any Jedi, the luminous sword has been kept for thousands of years in the galactic republic. Along with the first public appearance in 1977, when the first Star Wars movie was released, the characteristic buzz of a lightsaber and the epic battle between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi remained in the audience's memory for a long time. A senior scientist at the Fermi laboratory is working on real options for bringing a lightsaber to life. And, as Don Lincoln says, he will certainly appear.

Build a lightsaber

Given the impact of the Star Wars franchise onsociety, it was inevitable the emergence of a segment of society that wanted to make a lightsaber and even train with it. But what technology could form its basis? From here began the first attempts to reverse-engineer this device. The reverse engineering, in this context, is thinking about how this can be done ... and not build one such sword.

Admit it would be nice to get such a sword ina gift for the New Year. But Star Wars, whatever one may say, is science fiction. What could scientists and engineers do to build such a sword (on the screen, of course, it is beautiful, but it is almost impossible to limit the laser beam in this way).

The film shows that lightsaber bladesextend 1.2 meters in length. They definitely contain colossal amounts of energy and can melt huge volumes of metal. This weapon clearly has a powerful and compact source of energy. They can cut flesh without any difficulty, but their handles are not particularly hot to burn the hand that holds them. Two lightsabers do not pass through each other, and the blades also have different colors.

Given the name and appearance, the firstobvious thought: probably these lightsabers include some kind of laser. But this hypothesis is easy to rule out. Lasers do not have a fixed length, which is easy to check with a simple laser pointer. In addition, if the light does not somehow scatter, the laser beam is essentially invisible. None of these characteristics describe our sword.

Plasma Blades?

More realistic technology would be plasma. Such material is created after knocking out electrons from gas atoms, in the process of so-called ionization. Plasma is the fourth state of matter, after the well-known solid, liquid and gaseous. You also saw many examples of plasma in your life. Glow of fluorescent light - plasma, neon lights - too.

This plasma seems very cold becauseYou can touch the handset and not burn your fingers. But usually the plasma is hot, with a temperature of several thousand degrees. However, the gas density in the fluorescent light tube is so low that even at high temperatures the total amount of heat energy is very low. An additional complication is that the electrons in the plasma have energy much higher than the ionized atoms from which these electrons emerged. The thermal energy of a cup of coffee (whose temperature is much lower) is significantly higher than the energy contained in fluorescent light.

Some plasma, however, producessubstantial heat. In the plasma torches. The principle of their operation is the same as that of a light bulb, but with a large amount of electric current. There are many ways to make a plasmatron, but the simplest involves two electrodes and a conductive material, usually a gas such as oxygen, nitrogen, or something like that. High voltage on the electrodes ionizes the gas, turning it into a plasma.

Since plasma is electrically conductive, itcan transfer powerful electric current to the target material, heating it and melting. Such a device is called a plasma cutter, but in reality it is an electric arc (welding), and the plasma acts as a conductor of electric current. Most plasma cutters work well when the material being cut is a conductor, since the material can then close the circuit and send electric current back to the device through the cable connecting the torch to the target. There are also double cutters, between which electricity passes, they allow you to cut non-conductive materials.

So, plasmatrons can generate areasstrong heat, but require a huge amount of electric current, and lightsabers seem unable to provide such a current. Maybe then lightsabers are just tubes with super-hot plasma? No, too, because the plasma acts as a hot gas that expands and cools, like an ordinary fire (which also often happens to be plasma, if only because it glows). Thus, if the plasma will underlie the lightsaber, it will need to be held in some way.

Fortunately, there is such a mechanism. A plasma consisting of charged particles (at high speed) can be controlled by magnetic fields. In fact, a number of the most promising technologies related to nuclear fusion use magnetic fields to confine plasma. The temperature and the total energy contained in the synthesized plasma are so high that even the metal vessel containing them would melt.

Maybe lightsabers will do. Strong magnetic fields coupled with super-hot and dense plasma offer a possible way to create a lightsaber. But we are not done yet.

If we take two plasma tubes, whichheld magnetically, they will pass through each other ... there will be no epic duels. Therefore, we need to figure out how to make a solid core with swords. And the material of which it will consist of must be resistant to high temperatures.

Perhaps ceramics that canexposed to high temperatures without melting, softening or warping. But the solid ceramic core has a problem: when the Jedi does not use the sword, he hangs from his belt, and the handle is 20-25 centimeters long. The ceramic core should jump out of the handle like a hell out of a snuffbox.

Brute force

That's how I (Don Lincoln) imaginebuilding a lightsaber, although my project has problems. In Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi chopped off an alien's hand with a light, laid-back movement. This moment silently indicates how hot the plasma should be.

In Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. ”Qui-Gon Jinn inserts his lightsaber into a heavy door, first making a deep cut, and then simply melting it. If you look at this sequence and assume that the door is steel, taking into account the time spent on heating and melting the metal, you can calculate the energy that such a sword should possess. It turns out somewhere around 20 megawatts. Given the average consumption of a household electrical network - about 1.4 kilowatts - with one lightsaber, you can power 14,000 ordinary houses until the battery runs out.

A power source of this density is clearly beyondthe limits of modern technology, but perhaps we can assume that the Jedi know some secret. In the end, they travel faster than the speed of light.

But there is a physical problem. Such energy implies that the plasma will be incredibly hot and only a few inches from the hand of the owner of the sword. And this heat will be radiated in the form of infrared radiation. The Jedi's hand should be charred instantly. So, some kind of force must retain heat. And again, sword blades use optical wavelengths, so the force field must hold infrared radiation, but transmit visible.

Such technical studies inevitably lead toto the need for unknown technologies. But at least we can simply say that a lightsaber consists of some kind of concentrated energy enclosed in a force field.

Memory tells you how Michael Okuda, technicalStar Trek franchise consultant explained the new technology that made transporters possible. He said there were "Heisenberg compensators" supposedly necessary to correct problems caused by Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. This is the famous quantum-mechanical principle, according to which you cannot simultaneously know the location and speed of a particle with high accuracy. Since a person consists of many particles (atoms and their components), if you ever try to scan someone to find out the location of all his atoms, you will not be able to accurately measure their position and movement. So, when you try to rebuild someone, you will not be able to accurately collect protons, neutrons and electrons together. At a deep and fundamental physical level, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle says that such transporters are impossible. But who is Heisenberg for the creators of Star Trek? When Time reporters asked how such a device works, they answered "very good, thank you."

Nevertheless, it was interesting to know howmodern science is close to creating iconic sci-fi technology. In the case of the lightsaber, the best that modern technology is capable of is a plasma weapon enclosed in a magnetic field. Yes, he will also have a ceramic core that uses a very dense source of energy, as well as a force field that blocks infrared, but not visible radiation. Ugh, just spit.

It remains to ask the engineers how difficult it will be to do all this. But they can, right?