In order to avoid disappointment later on, let's just get this out of the way right off the bat: No, science has not yet created the lightsaber (goddammit). But, as we've mentioned before, scientists are doing their absolute nerdiest to make Star Wars a reality every single day, despite the fact that nothing in the film was created with realism in mind. A generation of scientists and engineers who grew up with the trilogy has already given us ...
The speeder bike scene in Return of the Jedi taught adolescent boys everywhere two things: First, all it takes to defeat the highly trained soldiers of an evil empire are some conveniently placed trees and a few hairy dwarfs. Second, it's not only the lingerie section of Mom's Sears catalog that can cause confusing feelings in your Underoos.
To this day, we still want to make sweet love to that scene.
Mark DeRoche, head of a company called Aerofex, was apparently a big fan of that scene as well. But unlike most of us who spent years of our childhoods pedaling our bikes between trees while making swooshy sounds with our mouths, DeRoche actually has the wherewithal to make it happen:
Via Larry Bartholomew/Aerofex
Free hairy dwarf included with every purchase!
Yep, that's not a Photoshop -- his company is in the process of perfecting a "low-altitude tandem duct aerial vehicle" that's sure to have every Star Wars nerd scrambling to auction off his NIB action figure collection for the cash to snag one. When you watch the Aerofex hover bike in action, it's easy to see why DeRoche says it's "probably a tribute to George Lucas' team":
So, are you ready for the bad news? It'll be a while before you can go down to a dealership and get one. At a current price tag between $50,000 and $100,000 and a target market of "agriculture, search and rescue, border control and transportation ... the Australian Outback, East Africa, a doctor going between villages," the odds of us everyday folk scoring one of these bad boys aren't looking real favorable.
Still, we're going to latch on to that faint glimmer of hope and hold it in a death grip -- because the potential payoff of simultaneously fulfilling our childhood Skywalker fantasies and our present-day "unobstructed commute" fantasies is just too good to let the dream die that easily. Now, if only science would come up with a laser cannon that we could duct tape on there to make it truly movie-authentic ...
Lasers have to be technology's biggest disappointment. For half a century, sci-fi taught us that in the future, guns would shoot glowing beams of energy that could blow the shit out of anything in our way. It's 2013: We thought we'd be living an entirely laser-based lifestyle by now, and instead they're just key-chain-size cat tormenters. How are we going to blow fighters out of the sky with that shit?
All we wanted was to die getting shot by something like this. Is that too much to ask?
That's right: The U.S. Navy has tested out a warship-mounted laser cannon (officially and uber creatively dubbed the Laser Weapon System, or LaWS) and successfully used it to destroy drones and smaller boats at a cost of a meager buck per shot (whereas firing off missiles costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop). The first of such laser weapons will be deployed on the USS Ponce in early 2014, after which they'll presumably start sticking them on, just, everything, because holy shit it's a laser cannon.
Sadly, there's no accompanying "pew-pew" sound effect, and unlike in the movies, the weapon doesn't fling out a visible laser-turd that a 10-year-old jump rope expert could effectively dodge (because in real life, light travels at the speed of light). But to give you a better idea of what's happening just before the drone bursts into flames, here's the scene depicted using the very latest in '90s PC gaming technology:
"Damn, I don't remember MS Flight Simulator being this hard."
In addition to the "zap you straight to Davy Jones' Locker" setting, the laser cannons will reportedly also feature a "dazzle" setting, which we assume still zaps you just as dead, but does so like C-3PO: fabulously.