May 4th, Happy Star Wars Day – may the fourth be with you!

one of the iconic scenes Star Wars: Return of the Jedi It’s the Tatooine fight at Sarlacc Pit, home to a giant creature waiting to eat what’s dropped into the bunker. (No spoiler warning: it’s been almost 30 years Return of the Jedi Hit the theater. If you haven’t seen it now, you probably won’t. )

Luke Skywalker was captured by Jabba the Hutt’s guards. They were in a small boat above the Salak Pit, and Luke was standing on a plank about to be pushed into the creature’s mouth. R2-D2 was some distance away on Jabba’s sailing barge – he kept Luke’s lightsaber all the time. Now the best part: at just the right moment, R2 fires Luke’s lightsaber, flying it over the pit for Luke to catch it. When this happened, Luke jumped off the plank and turned around. He grabbed the edge of the plank and used it to flip itself over to the dinghy. Now the battle begins.

I’m going to look at these two moves – lightsaber throw and plank flip – to see if it’s possible for a normal person to do it, or if you have to be a Jedi like Luke. But I’m going to make a big assumption about this scene, you might not like it. I will assume Tatooine planet has the same surface gravity as Earth, so g = 9.8 N/kg. That means jumping humans and throwing lightsabers will follow similar trajectories on both planets.

Oh, I get it: Tatooine is different from Earth.However, in the movie looks Much like Earth (you know why), this allows me to do some actual calculations. let’s do it.

movement of lightsabers

I’ll start with the lightsaber that R2-D2 fired at Luke. What conclusions can we draw from this part of the action sequence? Well, let’s start with some data.

First, I’ll get the total flight time of the lightsaber moving from R2 to Luke. The easiest way is to use a video analysis program; my favorite is the tracker. With this, I can mark the frame of the video that shows the weapon leaving the R2-D2’s head (which is kind of weird when you think about it), and then mark the frame where it arrives at Luke. This gives a flight time of 3.84 seconds.

I’m going to assume this is not the actual flight time. Why? First, the lightsaber has been in the air for quite a while. Also, a lot happened in that shoot. In the sequence seen in the movie, R2-D2 shoots the saber and we see it go up. Cut to Luke doing a front flip on the dinghy. Cut to Luke landing, and the lightsaber is fired at him. The final shot shows Luke’s hand catching the weapon. That’s a lot of clips, so it might not be a live sequence. Don’t worry, it’s okay. That’s what film directors do.