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The most important thing is what you see with your eye

Post #1148 • March 26, 2008, 12:35 PM • 1 Comment

Reddit links to a Popular Mechanics interview Grant McCune, who built R2-D2.



Chris Rywalt

March 26, 2008, 6:29 PM

My wife and kids and I were just in Philadelphia on Sunday to see the Science of Star Wars show, or whatever it's called exactly, at the Franklin Institute. I wasn't expecting much, partly because the King Tut show we saw a few months ago was pretty lame, and partly because the idea of trying to tie real live actual science to Star Wars struck me as pandering of the worst sort, especially from a science museum. Even though the Franklin Institute isn't really all that museumish anyhow.

I was wrong, though. It's a really cool exhibit. Rather than focus on the science of the Star Wars universe -- which is basically nonexistent -- it focuses on the moviemaking aspect. Which may not be science, precisely, but does involve a lot of intense craftmanship. The best thing is the show has a bunch of actual real live props and models from the movies. The models are mind-blowing, because you can see stuff like the airbrush splatters and glue which somehow became invisible onscreen. Heck, they have the model for long shots of Ben and Luke in the landspeeder, and Luke is made from a G.I. Joe! (Also, Ben not only has no pants, but no legs.)

In addition there is some science. Some stuff about the state of the art in prosthetics and so forth. Interviews with physicists about space travel. Some of the hands-on stuff is cool: Program a little R2-D2 to get from START to FINISH over different terrain using infrared sensors! It's a neat introduction to the trial-by-error nature of programming.

They also have costumes, like the original R2-D2 and Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Han Solo's outfit is pretty neat -- you can see how, just getting into it, Harrison Ford would be halfway to the character. I was surprised at how crude the stormtrooper armor is -- I mean, the black bits on the helmet really look painted on. The whole thing gave me a really good idea of how low-resolution film truly is.

Anyway, it was a fun show. William loved it, but he loves all things Star Wars. We could've spent all day programming R2-D2. And to think, I've been playing with Star Wars toys since I was his age.



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