Livin' on the MDedge

The Empire strikes out against one physician’s homemade star fighter


The force is with Ukraine, always

Of all the things we could want from Star Wars, a lightsaber is at the top of the list. And someone is working on that. But second is probably the iconic X-wing. It was used to blow up the Death Star after all: Who wouldn’t want one?

A real-life star fighter may be outside our technological capabilities, but Dr. Akaki Lekiachvili of Atlanta has done the next best thing and constructed a two-thirds scale model to encourage kids to enter the sciences and, with the advent of the war in Ukraine, raise money for medical supplies to assist doctors in the embattled country. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr. Lekiachvili, originally from Georgia (the country, former Soviet republic, and previous target of Russian aggression in 2008), takes a dim view toward the invasion of Ukraine: “Russia is like the Evil Empire and Ukraine the Rebel Alliance.”

Star Wars X-wing fighter made of Legos Richard Franki/MDedge

It’s been a long road finishing the X-Wing, as Dr. Lekiachvili started the project in 2016 and spent $60,000 on it, posting numerous updates on social media over that time, even attracting the attention of Luke Skywalker himself, actor Mark Hamill. Now that he’s done, he’s brought his model out to the public multiple times, delighting kids and adults alike. It can’t fly, but it has an engine and wheels so it can move, the wings can lock into attack position, the thrusters light up, and the voices of Obi-Wan Kenobi and R2-D2 guide children along as they sit in the cockpit.

Dr. Lekiachvili hopes to auction off his creation to a collector and donate the proceeds to Ukrainian charities, and we’re sure he’ll receive far more than the $60,000 he spent building his masterpiece. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to raid our bank accounts. We have a Death Star to destroy.

I’m a doctor, not a hologram

Telemedicine got a big boost during the early phase of the pandemic when hospitals and medical offices were off limits to anyone without COVID-19, but things have cooled off, telemedically speaking, since then. Well, NASA may have heated them up again. Or maybe it was Starfleet. Hmm, wait a second while we check. … No, it was NASA.

NASA flight surgeon Josef Schmid appears as a hologram on the International Space Station. Thomas Pesquet/ESA

The space agency used the Microsoft Hololens Kinect camera and a personal computer with custom software from Aexa Aerospace to “holoport” NASA flight surgeon Josef Schmid up to the International Space Station, where he had a conversation with European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who wore an augmented reality headset that allowed him to see, hear, and interact with a 3D representation of the earthbound medical provider.

“Holoportation has been in use since at least 2016 by Microsoft, but this is the first use in such an extreme and remote environment such as space,” NASA said in a recent written statement, noting that the extreme house call took place on Oct. 8, 2021.

They seem to be forgetting about Star Trek, but we’ll let them slide on that one. Anyway, NASA didn’t share any details of the medical holoconversation – which may have strained the limits of HIPAA’s portability provisions – but Dr. Schmid described it as “a brand-new way of human exploration, where our human entity is able to travel off the planet. Our physical body is not there, but our human entity absolutely is there.”

Boldly doctoring where no doctor has gone before, you might say. You also might notice from the photo that Dr. Schmid went full Trekkie with a genuine Vulcan salute. Live long and prosper, Dr. Schmid. Live long and prosper.


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