Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Star Wars. The Countdown. 2 Days. (a hodgepodge)


Top Ten Things Never Before Said By A "Star Wars" Character
10. C-3PO: "May the Force be with the Miami Heat--daddy's got 20 large riding on them."

9. Storm Trooper: "Ask your doctor or pharmacist if Cialis is right for you."

8. Ewok: "Seacrest, out!"

7. Darth Maul: "The only good thing ever to come from planet Earth is fish sticks."

6. R2-D2: "I just hooked up backstage with an ice machine."

5. Imperial Guard: "The only people more powerful than I are Emperor Palpatine and Oprah."

4. Chewbacca: "We got spaceships and lightsabers, but nobody can find me a damn razor."

3. Jango Fett: "Let's put on some Al Jarreau so me and you can get freaky."

2. Tuscan Raider: "How bad is CBS screwed without 'Everybody Loves Raymond'?"

1. Darth Vader: "I once used the force to open a jar of Vlasic kosher pickles."

Could you be a Jedi knight?





The Science Of Star Wars
Matthew Herper
Moviegoers are in for one final go-around of space-going swashbucklers slashing at each other with laser swords as they rocket from star to star. The last chapter in George Lucas' epic Star Wars series is here.

But could any exploits of these warriors of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ever have actually happened? Are the fantastical sights--the speeding spaceships, the chattering robots, lightsabers in every imaginable color--even physically possible?

It's not as silly as it sounds.

Science fiction has always played a role as a diviner of future trends. Sci-fi writers of the 1930s described moonshots and nuclear bombs, and Arthur C. Clarke was famously the first to conjure up the communications satellite. With the exception of warp drive and transporters, a lot of the technology in the 1960s Star Trek now looks antiquated. (Why, after all, is that guy with the pointy ears carrying such a clunky cell phone?)

Star Wars is, of course, a mishmash of B-movie and sci-fi conventions: laser pistols, hyperdrive ships and funny little men. But could it too, have some prophetic power?

Forbes.com contacted scientists to find out.

That's impossible!

"Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side," Han Solo told Luke Skywalker in the 1977 Star Wars.

He was right--not least because light sabers, like the famous laser sword Skywalker wielded, would never work.

Laser beams are made of light, and they continue until they hit something. They cannot be fashioned into sword blades a mere 2 feet long.

A bigger problem: Swords made of light would pass right through one another. Instead of having a swordfight, they would slice each other immediately in half.

In fact, the photon, or light particle, is renowned in quantum physics for its standoffish refusal to interact with anything. MIT's Frank Wilczek, a 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics, has joked that instead of photons, perhaps lightsabers are made of gluons--quantum particles that stick together with ease. These would not pass through one another, although they might explode.

"The combination of medieval chivalry and modern lethal technology is pretty ridiculous," says Wilczek. "In real history, gunpowder--or even good crossbows--pretty much put knights out of business." EDITOR'S NOTE: FINE. IF YOU ARE GOING TO POOPOO IT, THEN YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE.

Highly unlikely

When Han Solo wanted to fly his spaceship to a distant part of the galaxy, he didn't push his engines to try and get close to the speed of light.

Instead, he engaged a nifty gizmo called a hyperdrive, which made the stars streak by like scenery outside a train window. Without such a device, interstellar travel would be arduous and boring.

In 1994, Miguel Alcubierra, then a physicist at the University of Wales, proposed a way in which a hyperdrive could actually be built, without violating the rules of Einstein's general theory of relativity.

A giant mass would be dangled in front of the spaceship, pulling it forward. Then, a "negative mass," an area that weighs even less than empty space, would be placed behind the craft. Space would be warped by the intense gravity so that the spacecraft could move almost instantly from place to place.

Unfortunately, says Ken Olum, a professor at the Tufts Center for Cosmology, problems crop up immediately.

First, he argues, the space warp would have to be made before the ship--meaning that a pre-existing passageway, like a subway, would be possible. But a vessel that goes where no one has gone before would not.

Then there's the problem of "negative mass," stuff that's emptier than empty space. That's slightly more possible than it sounds. Scientists have created experimental setups that show such negative mass is possible to create in small quantities. But the amount of mass and energy needed to do so probably preclude ever moving a spaceship. Even if enough negative mass could be made, Olum says, it probably couldn't be set up in a way that would allow hyperspace travel.EDITOR'S NOTE: THAT WE KNOW OF TODAY.

Bionic Limbs
Already here

In Star Wars, limbs lopped off by lightsabers are easily replaced with robotic parts.

Luke Skywalker's hand was replaced with a robotic appendage at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, and Darth Vader was, in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, "more machine than man." His legs and arms were robotic.

As far-out as they may sound, robotic replacement limbs are actually tantalizingly close.

Hugh Herr at the MIT Media Laboratory for instance, developed a robotic knee and lower leg that allows patients to walk almost normally and even rollerblade. Herr's devices are being tested at Brown University under a $7.2 million grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thanks to a chip that reads nerve signals sent to the muscles that remain, the new robotic leg even climbs stairs. A commercial version of the knee, called the Rheo Knee, made by Iceland's Ossur Therapeutics, hit the U.S. market on Feb. 1.

Other researchers are working on ways to connect robotic limbs directly to patients' brains. The first steps have been taken, at least with primates. Miguel Nicolelis, a researcher at Duke University, trained monkeys to operate a robotic arm using a chip in their brain without moving a muscle.

Holographic Messages

In a galaxy far, far away, they didn't use telephones or e-mail. Instead, messages tended to be sent by 3-D holographic projections. A holographic distress call sent by Princess Leia started off the first Star Wars movie, and Darth Vader used the holo-phone to call the emperor.

Three-dimensional displays are a real possibility, says Michael Halle, a researcher in Harvard Medical School's radiology department. But the kinds of holograms used in the movie are impossible, because they were projected into space. Every type of hologram that currently exists is bound to a flat surface, like a plate of glass or a screen. The screen could be behind the hologram or in front of it, but it would have to be there.

The problem is the same as the one with lightsabers: Photons, or light particles, tend to do pretty much as they please.

"Many lay people assume that given enough time, any scientific accomplishment is possible," writes Halle. "But the universe as we know it would be very, very different if photons could be steered around without passing through an optical element or huge gravitational source of some kind." A 3-D image, either a hologram or some other kind of 3-D screen, would be possible, although so far "holographic movies" have yet to really materialize.


The original Star Wars movie made nebulous references to "the Clone Wars," relying on a sci-fi trope, which said that someday it would be possible to Xerox people.

But when George Lucas finally got around to explaining what the Clone Wars were in the 2002 Attack of the Clones, he settled on a somewhat realistic scenario.

Cloning has been a hot topic in recent years. Researchers have talked about the potential to create stem cells through cloning in order to treat disease.

Some groups, like the Raelian religious movement and the Kentucky in vitro fertilization expert, Panos Zavos, have even talked about cloning infants to the widespread horror of the scientific community.

As of yet, no human has been cloned, but the cloning process, which involves injecting genetic material into an egg cell, has worked in other mammals such as sheep, mice and cats.

In Attack of the Clones, the clones are all cloned from a single person and then given some time to grow to full size. The major barrier here would seem to be creating a technological replacement for the mother's womb. (All animal clones have been brought to term in living mothers.) But doctors have become better at taking care of increasingly premature infants, and it's not inconceivable that someday the whole developmental process could take place outside a mother's body.

At least it's more likely than lightsabers. EDITOR'S NOTE: YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE, YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE. HA HA HA.

Star Wars Fans Flock to Paris
PARIS (AP) - Darth Vader has been spotted working the crowd in Paris, posing for photos on a red carpet behind a velvet rope line - to the glee of adoring European "Star Wars" fans.

The French aren't about to be outdone in the mania over the premiere of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."

At least 3,000 fans of the famed sci-fi series flocked to a Paris movie theater Friday for the start of a three-day convention ahead of its release this week.

The convention is billed as the first of its kind in Europe and a first in a country often known for shunning Hollywood hype.

President Jacques Chirac has promoted the idea of France's "cultural exception" - a policy of state support for homegrown art, cinema and music to counter the influence of American pop culture.

"'Star Wars' is really different," said Romain Berteau, 23, a social housing manager outside Paris, wearing a Jedi robe. "In some ways, it's flattering to France to draw all these fans from around Europe."

Dozens of "Star Wars" buffs, many wearing storm trooper gear or wielding ersatz light sabers, kicked off the festivities Friday by parading along a Paris boulevard to the Grand Rex theater for a concert of series theme music performed by the Paris Cinematographic Orchestra.

The three-day pass cost $101 - a pittance for fans accustomed to paying thousands of dollars to reconstruct Darth Vader costumes or build up figurine collections. Some traveled from thousands of miles away.

Fans were treated to special effects demonstrations, mock light-saber fights, home movies based on a "Star Wars" theme, and question time with actors Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett).

"It's just the craziness of it all," said James Cork, 21, a decorator from Montreux, Switzerland, dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi, as he showed a plastic light saber that he sculpted. "I had to come."
Others were looking for business.

Abel Lasserre, 30, and partner David Guivant, 29, made the trek from France's South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia to distribute trailers for Star Wars spinoff films they have dreamed up.

Lasserre said he put more than 500 hours into assembling his authentic-looking Boba Fett costume out of plastic resin weighing more than 30 pounds.

While France is accustomed to its art-house films, Guivant said big-budget entertainment films like those in the Star Wars series have their place, too.

"It's rare to see films of this magnitude in France," he said nostalgically. "Sometimes it's nice just to be entertained - our French films sometimes lack a little razzle-dazzle." EDITOR'S NOTE: BUT EVER SO MUCH MORE NUDITY.

LFL Head of Licensing Talks Star Wars TV Series
IESB talked to Howard Roffman, head of Licensing at Lucasfilm, about the future of Star Wars on TV & Films.

Here's a clip from the article:During the premiere of Revenge of the Sith in Los Angeles we caught a glimpse of Howard Roffman, Lucasfilm's head of licensing, as he was going in through the non-celebrity red carpet entrance.

Roffman acknowledged that this is a very exciting time for Lucasfilm. The live action and animated television series will provide a forum that will allow the exploration of many more Star Wars characters and storylines.

However the question remains, is Sith truly the last of the Star Wars films?

Roffman gave, what I truly believe to be a very honest answer. He stated that although making another trilogy would take 10 years out of George Lucas' life, that they can never say never and they must take it one step at a time. EDITOR'S NOTE: BUT OH YOU TEASE.

Forget Anakin -- for die-hard 'Star Wars' fans, Boba Fett rules
Peter Hartlaub
When Aaron Proctor started his Boba Fett Web site as a teenager in 1996, the San Francisco native wasn't expecting many visitors. After all, the "Star Wars" bounty hunter had only five lines in the original trilogy, and his apparent death in "Return of the Jedi" was the interstellar equivalent of slipping in the bathtub. EDITOR'S NOTE: IGNOMINIOUS, NO QUESTION.

A year later, http://www.bobafett.com/ became so popular that Boba himself came calling. Jeremy Bulloch, the man behind the mask in the films, showed up on Proctor's birthday.

"He was in town for a convention," Proctor recalls. "He invited me to sit at the table with him and Darth Vader. I can't even tell you how special that was."

For thousands of "Star Wars" fans, Proctor's opportunity to roll with Boba Fett is better than anything short of a moment alone with Princess Leia in her Jabba the Hutt slave costume. In the movies, the bounty hunter does little more than deliver Han Solo's frozen body to the aforementioned Hutt. But Boba Fett collectibles are still among the most expensive, his fans are among the most passionate and the moviemakers treat him like a star -- Boba was the main image on the official "Star Wars" Web site this week, even though he isn't in the new movie, "Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," opening Thursday.

Bulloch, living proof that there's no such thing as a small role, is as baffled as anyone about the phenomenon.

"I originally was told that the role of Boba Fett was to take just a few days," says Bulloch, who spends several weeks each year signing Boba Fett photos and memorabilia on the convention circuit. "At the time, I never thought the name Boba Fett would be talked about so much. ... I am now getting letters from Poland, Hungary and all over South America."

All for a character whose dialogue was limited to the following 28 words:

"As you wish."
"He's no good to me dead."
"What if he doesn't survive? He's worth a lot to me."
"Put Capt. Solo in the cargo hold."

When director George Lucas released his tricked-out remastered trilogy last year, Boba Fett's screen time was expanded appreciably -- but he still appears for only 95 seconds in "The Empire Strikes Back," 34 seconds in "Return of the Jedi" and a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo in the original film. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND LET'S NOT FORGET HIS CARTOON INTRODUCTION IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT OH SO INFAMOUS TVSPECIALTHATSHALLNOTBENAMED.

During his time on screen, Boba fires six shots with his blaster, five of which can be seen missing their intended target. He briefly entangles Luke Skywalker with a grappling hook, but it's a hollow victory -- in a bit of bad acting that was common to Mark Hamill's performance, EDITOR'S NOTE: GRRRRR......TEETERING TO THE DARKSIDE.....Skywalker keeps his arms on his sides and pretty much allows himself to be ensnared.

So why have more than 25 separate Boba Fett Web sites emerged over the years? And why does the "Official Price Guide to Star Wars Memorabilia" list Boba's "The Empire Strikes Back" action figure as the most expensive (worth up to $280), while C-3PO costs $115 and Lando Calrissian maxes out at $90?

Proctor, now an aspiring cinematographer at UCLA, said his initial attraction to the character was visual: Despite some weird-looking accessories (is that a blaster on Fett's left arm, or an ATM?), Boba Fett's battle-worn armor makes him cooler-looking than anyone else in the series. Proctor points out things such as the T-shape on the face of his helmet and the artful insignia that he wears as sort of a brand logo on his shoulder guards.

"There's this high sense of design and mystery that goes along with Boba Fett," Proctor says. "He's somebody to the side of the spotlight. Somebody who is there and aware, and then jumping in and reacting when it's necessary."

Star Wars conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie had a hand in creating Boba, but the final Fett design is credited to "The Empire Strikes Back" art director Joe Johnston, who discusses the character in "Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays."

"I painted Boba's outfit and tried to make it look like it was made of different pieces of armor," explains Johnston, who went on to direct his own feature films including "Jumanji" and "Jurassic Park III." "It was a symmetrical design, but I painted it in such a way that it looked like he had scavenged parts and had done some personalizing of his costume; he had little trophies hanging from his belt, and he had little braids of hair, almost like a collection of scalps."

Whatever the attraction, Boba's popularity is undeniable. Proctor says he gets between 1,000 and 1,500 hits per day at http://www.bobafett.com/, and receives regular contributions from Bulloch and Daniel Logan, who played Boba as a child in "Episode II -- Attack of the Clones." There are more than 70 pieces of "fan fiction" that invent new stories for Boba Fett, and one of the most popular features is a fan-made video that blends clips of the bounty hunter with rap music.

Among the Bobaphiles, there is still much anger surrounding the character's demise -- a slapstick moment during the fight on Jabba's barge during "Return of the Jedi." Near the end of the battle, a blind Han Solo accidentally sets off Boba's rocket backpack, and the character whizzes like a deflating balloon into the Great Pit of Carkoon -- which contains a creature that resembles enormous female genitalia and slowly digests its victims for 1, 000 years.

Notoriously unapologetic "Star Wars" creator Lucas -- who still owes the world an "I'm sorry" for Jar Jar Binks and "The Star Wars Holiday Special" -- has admitted he was wrong to let Boba die so unceremoniously, and contemplated adding a scene where Boba crawls out of the pit.

"In the case of Boba Fett's death, had I known he was going to turn into such a popular character, I probably would have made it a little more exciting, " Lucas explains on the "Return of the Jedi" commentary track. "... For having such a small part he had a very large presence."EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE, ALL THE FANS OF THE EU KNOW THAT HE DID IN FACT LIVE, EVENTUALLY ESCAPING FROM THE SARLAC'S TUMMY. AND HE FLITS IN AND OUT OF STORIES THROUGHOUT HE EU, EVEN SHOWING UP AS A BIT OF A HERO DURING THE RECENT YUUZHAN VONG CRISIS.


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