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Why Do We Have Lasers, But Not 'Star Wars'-Style Lightsabers?

'Star Wars' may be sci-fi, but is it so much to ask to have working lightsabers here in the real world?
Drake Anthony poses with his 6-watt "laser sword."
Drake Anthony poses with his 6-watt "laser sword."Styropyro / YouTube

Star Wars may be science fiction, but is it so much to ask to have working lightsabers here in the real world?

Laser weapons are a real thing, after all. But, sad to say, experts seem pretty sure that the ones you see in Star Wars just aren't feasible.

"You just can't trap a beam of light like that," said Drake Anthony in a call with NBC News. Anthony is a student at Southern Illinois University whose homemade laser weapons and contraptions have garnered millions of views on YouTube. "It just seems completely out of the question. And if it was a plasma the operator would just die from all the radiation."

"And handheld directed energy weapons? You need a lot of power for those things," he said. "I would put it in the kilowatts at least."

Boeing senior technical fellow Brian Tillotson, who has worked on laser technology for years, agrees.

"When you look at something that would be mounted on a spaceship, sure, maybe," he said. "But when Han Solo draws his pistol? Unless he's got a little antimatter in there, I can see maybe one or two shots, and even then it would be red hot and he'd be killed by the gamma rays coming out."

Don't get your hopes up for a Death Star either, he said.

"A weapon that could vaporize a planet — I did the calculations right here and you couldn't get enough energy even in something the size of the Death Star. It takes a lot of energy."

Of course, just because we can't build planet-killing lasers doesn't mean we can't make them useful — or entertaining — on a smaller scale.

"The great thing about a laser is it's about a dollar a shot, and you don't run out of ammo," Tillotson said. "You're not firing a million-dollar missile every time. We will certainly see lasers on the battlefield real soon."

Related: Watch Boeing's Portable Laser System Knock Drones Out of the Sky

Boeing's Silent Strike system isn't meant for blowing holes in spaceships, but rather knocking down incoming missiles or downing enemy drones. The Navy and Air Force are both working hard on putting lasers to use, Tillotson said.

Anthony, who describes himself as "a pyromaniac at heart," is hard at work on his own next big thing.

"If I can get my design to work, I'm hoping to make a roughly 160-watt laser rifle," he said. "That's way bigger than my laser shotgun."

That may not pose a threat to X-Wings or AT-ATs, but let's hope the same can be said of Anthony's parents' garage.