For Science!
Star Wars: This Is How You Defend The Ridiculous Crossguard Lightsaber

CJ Miozzi | 3 Dec 2014 18:00
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Star Wars Crossguard Lightsaber

To anyone saying that the crossguard lightsaber from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer is impractical, this is my response.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer has been received with mixed emotions: awe, outrage, derision, excitement, and probably every emotion a Jedi is forbidden from experiencing. Memes have ensued, and the most common butt of the joke is the crossguard lightsaber, which has come under great criticism.

Some don't like the crossguard design from a visual perspective - fine, you can't argue with personal taste. Some don't like the design because, in terms of hand protection, there are better alternatives - fine, but you have to admit that it's better than no protection at all. But some don't like the crossguard design from a practicality standpoint, and that's where I feel the need to add my two cents, as someone who has vociferously attacked the possibility and feasibility of popular fictional concepts - for science, of course.

Here's the thing: those who are complaining about the practicality of this lightsaber are griping about a dragon with four wings.

Dragons? Sure, we can accept that dragons exist in a given fictional setting. But a dragon with four wings? Preposterous!

What I'm trying to say here is that a lightsaber, even without a crossguard, is an incredibly impractical weapon. I already have to suspend my disbelief in order to accept that Jedi can use their attunement with the Force to not instantly kill themselves while wielding their signature instruments of death. So it's not much of a stretch for me to accept what is arguably a slightly less practical version of an already impractical weapon.

I grin at comments made by people claiming that the crossguard lightsaber is more likely to kill its wielder than an opponent, thanks to those added side blades. That very argument has been used against the lightsaber itself for decades!

Lightsaber duel

The biggest issue with the lightsaber is that it is not a balanced weapon. When we discuss traditional swords, the "feel" of the weapon is very important, and the weapon's balance is key to determining how you wield it. Most swords have their center of balance just slightly above the hilt, toward the bottom of the blade - in other words, you can balance the flat of the blade on your finger at that point. This is a deliberate design choice, and the blade and hilt are weighted to strike this balance.

Let's talk swords intended for swinging, rather than thrusting - since lightsabers are more often used as swinging weapons. If a sword is too blade-heavy, then it becomes a clumsy weapon, like a baseball bat; it requires a lot of effort to get it moving in one direction, and it's difficult to change that momentum. If a sword is too hilt-heavy, then it becomes a weak weapon, because your energy is not being transferred as effectively into the swing.

Put simply, swords are levers. They are rods that pivot around a fulcrum (the center of balance). Humans discovered the power of the lever thousands of years ago and have since used this simple machine to amplify an input force in order to provide a greater output force. In other words, you can impart a small amount of force on one end of the lever in order to exert a much greater force at the other end - you're getting the lever to do the work for you. In fact, the very word "leverage" - as in, to gain an advantage over something or someone - is derived from the use of a lever.

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