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Physiology, Physics, and the Force

By Chris Knight

What are Midi-Chlorians?
Midi-Chlorians and the Force
Force in the Family
Time, Space, and the Force
A Final, Force-ful Exit
Concluding Remarks

Time, Space, And The Force

"It's energy surrounds us, and binds us."
-- Yoda, "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back"

Toss a pebble into a still pool. When it hits the water's surface, tiny waves ripple outward from the point of contact. Now close your eyes and toss another pebble. Open them after you hear the "plunk": you did not see exactly where the pebble hit, but from where the waves are now radiating outward, you can get a very good idea where it did.

One of the consequences of Einstein's theory of relativity is spacial curvature, which depending on who you listen to and what "unifying theory" is in vogue, is either the cause of or caused by gravity. However it is, it's easy to model in two dimensions if not impossible to visualize in three. Imagine a thin sheet of rubber stretched out: this represents empty space. Now take a tennis ball and place it on the sheet. The rubber will bend inwards, giving in to the mass of the tennis ball. What was once a straight line across the sheet is now curved as it approaches the location of the ball. Put a bowling ball on the sheet and there will be more curvature: more mass is causing space to "cave in" that much more. Plunk a convenient black hole onto the sheet and the line curves inward, never to come out again!

Curvature of space around mass
"Weight and see!": space curving around mass

We won't need to go into the crazy physics of collapsed stars here. But the "rubber sheet" model of space is a good analogy to the Force in many ways. Remember on Dagobah when Yoda was teaching Luke to totally feel objects, like that rock, through the Force? Because the Force surrounds and binds everything, Luke was picking up on the rock's presence in the Force, feeling the Force's contours and embrace around the rock. When the Millennium Falcon was pulled into the Death Star, Darth Vader sensed Obi-Wan Kenobi's presence in the Force as something of a "tremor". Obi-Wan's close vicinity, and Vader's longtime familiarity with his presence, made his impression in the Force perhaps as distinguishable as a fingerprint. Obi-Wan was more likely than not using the Force in some way too (he certainly did with the stormtroopers at the power relay), and that would be even more obvious to Vader. In The Empire Strikes Back, it was Leia's untrained ability with the Force that picked up on Luke's distress, leading to his rescue. The ability to sense through the Force doesn't seem restricted to "real space" either: witness Obi-Wan's feeling the destruction of Alderaan in A New Hope, despite being in hyperspace at the time.

Every thing in existence in the Star Wars galaxy seems to have a relationship with the Force, and perhaps even moreso than with physical space. We can't understand the physics behind it, but the Force allows for manipulation of the physical environment in violation of known physical laws. Maybe that's part of the metaphor of the Force: the spiritual being stronger than the material, the life being more powerful than the unliving. But again, that's left as an exercise for the viewer.

But if everything has that presence in the Force, and if drawing from the Force increases the presence, then why didn't Yoda and Mace Windu realize that Palpatine was Darth Sidious? As of this writing, we aren't 100% sure that Palpatine and Sidious are one and the same, but the evidence is overwhelmingly leaning towards it (and producer Rick McCallum has stated so... but let's keep some mystery alive for awhile :-) There are two possibilities. The first is that Palpatine simply chooses not to exert any use of the Force near the Jedi, which may be easier said than done. For a long-time Force user, anything might draw more from the Force than a normal being. The other possibility, far more intriguing, is that Palpatine is using the Force actively to "shield" himself from detection. He might be able to manipulate the Force's swirls around himself so that to the passive viewer, there is nothing extraordinary about him at all. If he is doing that, and tricking all twelve Jedi Council members, plus Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan learner Anakin -- no slouch in detecting the Force either -- then Palpatine's strength is even more terrible. He's casting a "phantom menace" around him: looking ever benign, until it is too late...

Why is Anakin so good at podracing? Because, untrained though he is in the Force, his extra midi-chlorians put him much closer to the flow of the Force than most other people. When Qui-Gon tells him to "feel, don't think," he's not telling Anakin to guide the pod without conscious thought but instead to let the living Force provide senses that eyes cannot. If the Force is created by all living things and is alive after a fashion, then the Force will seek to protect that life which strengthens it... if Anakin lets it flow, the Force won't allow for Anakin to be hurt. And his increased reception to the Force will give him the ability to pick out things at high speeds that his physical body, on its own, would not.

Go Annie go!!!
Force-ful competitor: Anakin races the Boonta Classic

Anakin's ability at podracing seems to derive from his anticipation of future events. But is Anakin really seeing things before they happen? Although the Force is flowing in one direction towards the future, apparently not even it is omniscient enough to know precisely what that future will hold. Yoda said that "difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

Let's go back to our pebble model: you can predict the future of the waves with great accuracy at the point of impact with the water, but the further out you look on the surface, the less you can predict where the wave will go. It might hit another wave and the two will cancel each other out. It might hit a wall and reverberate back. The longer you look towards the future, the less clear it becomes... even in a pool of water.

The real world is even worse. Instead of a still pool, it's more like the Mississippi River. And it's not just one pebble but whole rocks and the occassional boulder being thrown into the water. One wave, unhindered, would be easy to predict, but in our daily lives there are millions of "waves" affecting everything we do: which shirt to wear, what route to take on the way to the store, what to make for dinner. And anything we do might set off more waves which will affect someone we don't even know. It's the "butterfly effect" of complexity theory: a butterfly flaps its wings in Hong Kong, and the weather changes in New York.

But somehow, all the little nuances click together and lead to great things happening, despite the odds. Star Wars has a lot of that theme: that things work out for the best in the end. What if the hyperdrive on Amidala's ship had not given out? There would have been no reason to land on Tatooine. Qui-Gon would have never met Anakin. Anakin would never have been trained as a Jedi or turned to the Dark Side. Without him getting so close to the Emperor, there would be nothing strong enough to defeat Palpatine. If Lando had not lost the Millennium Falcon to Han in that BIG game of Sabaac, Han and Chewie might never have met Luke and Obi-Wan. There would probably be no rescuing of Princess Leia. Without Han's last-second intervention, Luke might have been shot out of the sky... by his own father. In all of these instances and more, the Force was providing for and guiding those who were working towards it, whether they realized it or not. It also makes for the case that there really is no "Light and Dark" sides of the Force: there is evil use of the Force, but the Force also makes sure that it is defeated in the end.

Whatever the Force encounters along the way to its goal, the "wave in a stream" model might be a good one to keep in mind. Why is Anakin so good at podracing? He's "feeling" the current of that stream more than anyone else because of his midi-chlorians. Why could Luke hit the seeker with his eyes covered? Because he learned to stretch out and touch the same stream, and to let it carry his actions through. Why can Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon deflect all the droidekas' blasts? Because the Force allows them to sense incoming energy the same as they would detect matter... through the Force, they can perceive the "ripples" better than their own eyes could, and allow the Force to defend them accordingly. Why can Luke and Yoda perceive the future, however dimly? Because through their sensitivity to the Force, they are "seeing" all the ripples throughout the galaxy as a whole and gauging the future of those waves, just as we can gauge the future of a wave in the pool.

Well, we've looked at how the midi-chlorians and the Force affect the world of the living... now maybe it's time to look at how they affect the world of the DEAD! Forge ahead, intrepid scholar!

Concepts in these pages are derived from material created by Lucasfilm Ltd. and George Lucas. While these pages discuss Star Wars, they are NOT to be considered "canon". This is merely a theory. As for the true nature of midi-chlorians, as Mark Hamill once said, "only George knows." Most of the ideas presented here are my original thoughts about midi-chlorians to the best of my knowledge but some, such as theoretical physics and Kirlian photography, are in the province of those who discovered them. Otherwise, the layout, structure, and interpretation in these pages is Copyright ? 2000 Chris Knight and TheForce.net.

Got questions? Comments? Suggestions? Think Chris has WAY too much time on his hands? Let us know!

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