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Quiz: Star Wars Tech, Then and Now

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Is Wookie your third language? Do you feel there's an Evil Empire out to get you? Do you find yourself wishing you could just wave your arm and say "These are not the droids you're looking for " when confronted by a pair of unfriendly traffic cops and move on? Do you feel that Jar Jar Binks was the worst character inflicted on humanity since Howard the Duck? If you also have enough confidence to declare that you too can "bullseye a wamp rat target that size back home," you might just be able to answer these questions. Even if your mitochlorion count doesn't turn out to be high enough to enter the Jedi Academy, you may find you know more than you'd think about the technologies featured on this classic science fiction classic series. Take our geek quiz to test your Star Wars savvy. Use the Force!

1. In Return of the Jedi, the Rebellion had the tough task of yet again destroying one of the Empire's planet-destroying battle stations, a new and improved Death Star. The force field coming from a generator on the nearby forest planet of Endor meant, however, that the new Death Star needed to remain in the same position. What sort of celestial body does that make it?

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2. The handheld communicator that C-3PO excitedly uses to talk with Luke while he's being garbage compacted in the first film is now about as widespread as can be, even showing up in certain preschoolers' backpacks and of course under teenagers' texting fingers. What "essential" device is now owned by hundreds of millions world wide?

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3. While the Japanese robotics industry hasn't developed a protocol droid to match C-3PO, the small cleaning bots that scurried around on space ships and stations in Star Wars have a modern day parallel in many geeky households. What is it?

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4. Even if aspiring light saber duelists can't buy hovering practice drones like the one that Luke practiced against on the Millennium Falcon under Obi-Wan's watchful eye, there are real-world examples of interface devices that allow a user to manipulate objects in virtual reality. And no, we're not talking about the Wii remote. What is the "handy" device that facilitates tactile sensing and fine-motion control in robotics and virtual reality?

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5. Hyperspace drives are still a bit out of reach, sadly. That's not to say we're not trying. In June 2007, for instance, German physicist Jochem Hauser and an Austrian colleague, Walter Droscher, wrote a paper called "Guidelines for a space propulsion device based on Heim's quantum theory" that suggested a theoretical means by which a spacecraft in the future might travel to Mars in just three hours or to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days. ( Here's the story ). What "attractive" force might be implemented in a drive that a future Han Solo will curse for malfunctioning some day?

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6. If R2D2 plugs into a corporate network and starts opening locked rooms or stopping internal mechanical processes as he does again and again to save the day in three different films, what could the little bot be accused of being?

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7. What might R2D2's universal plug and play I/O device, the wee arm he extends to, literally, plug in to networks, now be closest to? How about a standard that allows users to attach peripherals of all kinds, including removable hard drives that can hold applications or media files like those the clever little droid downloaded or manipulated? What is it?

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8. General Grievous, one of the villains in the third and final prequel, had four arms, a racking cough and a very nasty attitude towards Jedi. What was he?

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9. Both Luke and Anakin are equipped with prosthetic hands when they, in stark parallel, each lose their "sword hand" in a lightsaber battle. Darth Vader actually manages to have it happen to him twice. What might be overlooked in that graft is the connection between the hand and Skywalker's brain, a nearly magical technological feat. Amazingly, DARPA has now achieved the first real-world examples of this kind of relationship, as research subjects have been able to move cursors on external screens with their thoughts. What do you call this connection?

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10. Both Princess Leia and the Sith Lord, Darth Vader, used this 3D imaging technology to communicate, as a secret message hidden in R2D2 from Leia to Obi-wan or Vader delivering an order to the commander of an Imperial AT-AT on the ice planet Hoth. While I can't capture one of these and send it as an optical disk or network attachment as a message for Dad on Father's Day quite yet, there's no question that we're seeing more of these in the real world. Some research scientists even think this sort of thing could be used in storage technology. What is it?

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Once you've finished the quiz, make sure to visit StarWars.com . George Lucas, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the first film of the series, has provided visitors to StarWars.com with access to a video editing tool from Eyespot and more than 250 scenes and music clips from all six movies in the series. Perhaps bowing to the inevitable, perhaps feeling generous, Lucas is allowing and encouraging Star Wars fans to mashup the movies with other scifi and fantasy, user-created video and whatever plays to their geeky hearts.

This was last updated in July 2008
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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