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
Midi-Chlorians and The Force
"I need a midi-chlorian count."
-- Qui-Gon Jinn, "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace"
It would be easily within the realm of symbiosis if life created the Force and
in return, the Force created midi-chlorians. Think about it: a living mass
generates a living energy, which generates living mass to bridge the gap between
the two. It would also solve all our problems about midi-chlorians in one fell
When Qui-Gon tells Anakin that life couldn't exist without the
midi-chlorians, he could have more accurately said that life doesn't
exist without midi-chlorians present... or that wherever the Force is made to
grow by life, there are midi-chlorians also. Again, midi-chlorians do not create
the Force, and just having more mid-chlorians would not make someone more attuned
to the Force (discussed further in the next section).
What if midi-chlorians were necessary for all life? Then, there would be
no real symbiosis between life and the Force, because the Force would simply be
another "waste product", albeit an energy one, from life. Midi-chlorians would
be some sort of residue-dispersal structure of cells. But we know that the
Force, although a kind of energy field, has as much "life" as the life it springs
Here is the process as it might happen (in the Star Wars saga, anyway). A
cell begins to generate its presence in the Force. It has its own special
"signature" that it adds to the Force as a collective. The greater Force
symbiotically adds a bit of itself to the cell by organizing organic matter at
its most basic level into structures that are "in sync" with the Force. This
manipulation of matter is the smallest manifestation of the Force possible, and
also its most natural. Just as cells are the basic unit of life, so too is this
interaction between life and the Force the base for all other interactions
between an organism and the Force. And the amount of midi-chlorians generated
would be proportional to the Force being created: the more Force a cell makes,
the more midi-chlorians the Force produces in kind. Why it would do that... who
knows? Maybe midi-chlorians are a kind of adaptation to the energies of the
Force... it would fit within modern thought about species adaptation to changing
environments (often just to stay in "one place" as a species: the "Red Queen"
Believe it or not, there is actually some real-life evidence for this
relationship. Cosmologists have theorized about a mysterious "quintessance"
behind the order of the universe that is causing galaxies to rush away from each
other at greater speeds than should be expected. In theoretical physics too
mind-boggling to even approach in space devoted to fantasy biology, it is now
thought that the universe as we have come to understand it, with three dimensions
of space and one of time, might have ten dimensions. And at the heart of
the relationship between traditional space and this "extra" space are "strings":
bits of matter, and no one knows for sure how big they are, but they are believed
to defy normal limits of space-time. These "strings", wherever or whatever they
are, could be the source of the forces that are speeding up universal expansion
past traditional calculations.
If the Force could be said to be beyond the limits of space and time,
might midi-chlorians be a way for it to "reach out" into the physical realm that
it originates from? Might midi-chlorians be both a way for a living cell to be
accommodated to the Force and also to encourage its continued growth so that the
Force will thrive more? Maybe that's what midi-chlorians are: organic "strings"
connecting every individual to the living Force, connecting them to the galaxy
And if midi-chlorians are products of the Force, then we might wonder if
just as our cells produce the Force, if the Force produces midi-chlorians as
its cells, its organic representation. Every individual's presence in the
Force comes across as being unique (after all, Leia picked out Luke easily on
Bespin, and Darth Vader knew that Obi-Wan specifically was nearby on the Death
Star), just as every individual's identity in the Force remains unique after
death. If the Force is generating midi-chlorians within the cell, the
midi-chlorians might be unique to that cell and that person. But all
midi-chlorians would have to share a kind of "sync" with the Force, because
they all spring from the Force. Although it would be a stretch to say such,
midi-chlorians might be the closest thing that the living Force has to DNA, for
the life-Force relationship seems to be keyed to this microscopic interaction
just as our cells are dependent on DNA to encode their essence.
Having a physical basis for the Force-life relationship would explain
much. It would be the reason why a Jedi requires calmness of mind to feel the
Force's flow through him or her. Midi-chlorians would be the receptors to the
Force but they are also a physical limitation of a sort: if they weren't there,
the Force would flow unhindered, perhaps undisciplined through a person.
Midi-chlorians might be a "gateway" measure to keep things in balance. It's
when a person needs the Force that a disciplined mind would allow for the Force
to come as needed. When Luke tries to lift the X-wing out of the swamp in The
Empire Strikes Back, he was allowing doubt to cloud his ability to let the
Force stream out of him great enough to lift it out of the water. Yoda, because
he has studied the Force and has faith in its abilities, has no such doubt: his
midi-chlorians pour it on, allowing him to do the deed. It's not that Luke
can't do it, but he won't allow himself to let the Force do it for him... a
strong parallel to some real belief systems.
So, if midi-chlorians are created by the Force within the cell, what do
they look like? George Lucas implied that they were much like mitochondria.
It would make sense if they were... they might even have been mitochondria
originally before the Force "modified" them. Remember how fast Obi-Wan and
Qui-Gon escaped the droidekas in The Phantom Menace? A normal human
would be deliriously out of breath because of the demand his body would put on
the mitochondria. Our two Jedi heroes put Carl Lewis to shame with their spring
and are none the worse for wear, and Krebs cycle be darned! Perhaps that's where
the Jedi extension of physical limits derives from: mitochondria-turned
midi-chlorians letting the Force use the body's energy more efficiently than
usual. Or perhaps midi-chlorians are something else, and are letting the Force's
flow augment all tissues in a body uniformly. Again, it's left as an exercise
for the viewer.
One thing though: how did the Jedi originally come to associate
midi-chlorians with the Force? A scene in The Phantom Menace might
hold a clue. When Qui-Gon transmits Anakin's blood sample to Obi-Wan for a
midi-chlorian count, the young Padawan is looking at a screen that's
loaded with tiny dots. Obi-Wan is either looking at a lot of
midi-chlorians, or he's entranced by some guy's homepage devoted to
glow-in-the-dark fruit flies on whatever the Republic has for the
There is an interesting branch of imaging called Kirlian
photography: objects are exposed to an electrical field, which then is
transposed to film. When developed, the object has an "aura" around it. Living
tissues seem to have an especially strong aura... might this be the Force being
Kirlian photos of a woman's hand (left) and seeds (right)
If the Jedi have determined that this aura is physical proof of the
Force, then something like "Kirlian microscopy" could be used to detect the
midi-chlorian affinity for the Force. It would also provide a means of rapidly
counting midi-chlorians in a cell. Admittedly, as "hokey" as some fans thought
it sounded for the Jedi to be hunched over microscopes and examining each others'
blood, it begins to make sense (early detection of an individual's natural
strength in the Force would be necessary, given the length of training required
to become disciplined in its use... hence the testing of infants for
Force-ability in the Republic. Though presumably the parents would have a
say-so in the matter as well :-)
What about "keeping it in the family"? Go to
the next page to find out!
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!