It’s May 4, So Happy Star Wars Day – The Fourth May Stay With You!
One of the iconic scenes from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Fighting with tattoos at Sarlak Pitt, the home of a giant animal waiting to eat things lying in its sand dunes. (No spoiler warnings: It’s been almost 30 years JD’s return Theater hit. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re probably not going.)
Luke Skywalker is captured by the guards at Jabba The Hut. They are on a scaffold above the sarlock pit, and Luke is standing on a plank, pushing the animal into the mauve. The R2-D2 is a short distance from Jabbar Pal Barge – and he’s keeping Luke’s lightsaber. Now for the best part: at just the right moment, the R2 launches Luke’s lightsaber so that it flies into the hole to catch Luke. When this happens, Luke jumps off the board and turns around. He grabs the edge of the plank and uses it for the springboard and flips towards the skiff. Now the war begins.
I’m going to look at these two speeds – the lightsaber toss and the plank flip – and see if it’s possible for a normal person to do it, or if you have to be a JD like Luke. But I’m going to make a big guess about this scene, and you may not like it. I’m going to assume that the gravity of the surface of the planet Tatooine is equal to that of Earth, so g = 9.8 Newtons per kilogram. This means that a leaping man and a thrown lightsaber will follow the same course on both planets.
Oh, I understand: Tattoos are not like the earth. But in the movie Shows Much like Earth (you know why), and it lets me do some real calculations. Let’s do it.
The speed of a lightsaber
I’m going to start with the Lightsaber that launches towards the R2-D2 look. What do we understand from this part of the action sequence? Well, let’s start with some information.
First I am going to get the total flight time because the lightsaber goes from R2 to Luke. The easiest way to do this is to use a video analysis program; My favorite tracker. With it, I can identify the video frame that the weapon came out of the head of the R2-D2 (which is kind of weird when you think about it) and then identify where it goes to Luke. It gives a flight time of 3.84 seconds.
I’m going to assume that the actual flight time is not. Why? First, the light service stays in the air quite a long time. Also, a lot is happening during that shot. In the sequence seen in the movie, R2-D2 shoots Saber and we see it rise. The skiff cuts the look onto a front flip. Cut-to-look landing, then a shot from the lightsaber fell on him. The final shot shows Luke holding a weapon in his hand. It’s a lot of cuts, and so it may not be a real-time sequence. Don’t worry, it’s okay. That’s what movie directors do.