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Midi-Chlorians:
Physiology, Physics, and the Force

By Chris Knight


Introduction
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


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 swoop.

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 from.

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" model)

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 entire.

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 Galaxy-Wide-Web.

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 generated?

Kirlian photo of handHey, it's 'Aura Seed'!
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!

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