Here's Why Lightsabers Don't Burn Your Hands Off

Friday, 26 August 2016 - 2:15PM
Physics
Friday, 26 August 2016 - 2:15PM
Here's Why Lightsabers Don't Burn Your Hands Off
As we all know, in the Star Wars universe people get their hands cut off—a lot. So much, in fact, that it's become more of a running joke than a motif:



So we know that lightsabers are capable of cutting your hand off if you come into direct contact with them, but why doesn't the heat burn your hand when you're holding the handle? If the plasma is hot enough to cut someone's hand off or burn a hole through their chest, then why doesn't it hurt your hand as much as a tiny burning match? Nerdist's Kyle Hill sought to answer that question in the latest episode of Because Science:



In the above video, Hill explains that the high-temperature particles in the lightsaber could theoretically avoid transferring heat to the user's hands, probably through the same mechanism that the plasma would be able to be wielded like a blade. Hill hypothesizes that the lightsaber has some sort of containment system for the plasma particles that wouldn't allow heat through, much like a tokamak, a magnetic confinement device that keeps plasma in the shape of a torus. 

Opening quote
"Even though plasma that is hotter than the core of the sun is buzzing around the center of a tokamak, its walls don't melt. Walls that are blast door-thick. And that's because of those magnetic fields which prevent high-temperature particles from bumping into the walls and making them hotter. 

If a lightsaber had a similar containment system, then your hands would be like the tokamak's walls—relatively safe."
Closing quote
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