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Tom Simpson, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

Original 'Star Wars' Script Settles Age-Old Debate

Original image
Tom Simpson, Flickr // CC BY NC-ND-2.0

If you thought you knew Star Wars, think again. A copy of an early shooting script for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was recently found in the University of New Brunswick Saint John’s library. The document, dated March 15, 1976, is said to be a fan-made copy. The script was never used in production, and it shows just how dramatically the final story changed from George Lucas' early drafts. Some of these changes are already well known, such as Luke’s renaming from “Starkiller” to “Skywalker,” and the revision of the film's title from “Saga I” to “Episode IV." However, one discovery has finally settled an age-old debate among Star Wars fans.

During the notorious fight between Han Solo and Greedo at the cantina, Han fires at his opponent after Greedo, a bounty hunter for Jabba the Hutt, corners him. The 1977 release of the film made it look as if Han fired before Greedo; the 1997 rerelease, however, included a clear shot of Greedo firing on Han first. (Lucas reportedly inserted the frame to prevent audiences from viewing his hero as a cold-blooded killer.) So what really happened? Who shot first?

According to Kristian Brown, the librarian who found the document, the newly-unearthed script reveals Lucas' original plans for the gunfight. Quipped Brown, “I can tell you 100 percent, Han shot first.”

[h/t CBC News]

Electric Eels Use Their High-Voltage Shocks to Locate Prey

Electric eels use special electricity-emitting organs to stun their prey, and a scientist recently discovered they use these same mechanisms to locate their food in the dark. A study published this week in Nature Communications [PDF] illustrates how these nocturnal creatures use energy fields to “electrolocate” their prey as well as paralyze them with a charge of up to 600 volts.

Ken Catania, a neurobiologist at Vanderbilt University, conducted a series of laboratory experiments in which he observed this shocking behavior in action. He presented the eels with anesthetized fish, blocked from the predators' electroreceptors with plastic bags. When Catania forced the fish to twitch with an electrode, the eel emitted its electrical attack. But after that, it was stumped. The eel lunged towards the movement in the water but made no attempt to devour the fish.

Things got even more interesting once Catania introduced an electrically conductive carbon rod to the tank. After releasing its charge, the eel initially moved towards the direction of the fish only to change its mind and dart towards the rod instead, wherever it had been placed. When Catania moved the rod onto a rotating wheel and removed the fish from the tank entirely, the eel was further confused, writhing to suck up the rod that it perceived to be its prey.

This behavior suggests that electric eels are able to simultaneously use their electric charge as a predatory attack and a tracking system. Catania published a separate study in Science last year that showed how an electric eel’s shock can stimulate its prey’s motor neurons and cause involuntary muscle spasms. After a couple of electric volleys, the helpless fish will have revealed its location before the eel goes in for the kill. The eel sucks up the prey within milliseconds of the attack, which we now know it does by using its high-voltage charge to pinpoint its exact location.

These recent findings place electric eels in the same league as bats, sharks, and other creatures who use a type of “sixth sense” to locate their prey. Sharks and rays can sense the electric fields emitted by other creatures, while bats and some whales use sonar to detect reflected sound. But eels are the only creatures whose locating sense doubles as a weapon, making them even more awesome (or terrifying) than we previously realized. 

[h/t: National Geographic]

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