I’m betting you could go up to just about anyone on the street, ask them what Darth Vader sounds like, and get a decent impression. Everyone knows that iconic wheeze, but no one really knows why the Sith lord sounds like that. Is it his suit? Is it his lungs? Chronic Pulmonary Force Disorder?
In my latest Because Science, we are figuring out the source of the famous tic. Vader’s mechanical suit and his breathing rate are pretty big clues. Because his breathing is so labored, we can assume that the suit is helping Anakin compensate for some kind of respiratory condition. And because this labored breathing changes with stress—Vader breathes at a faster rate when he finds out the Death Star plans are missing, for example—the suit is most likely augmenting his breathing process directly.
So Vader’s suit could be a giant BiPAP or Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure machine—a machine that makes it easier for people with chronic respiratory conditions to breathe by changing the pressure of the air inside a mask. When Vader breathes out, the suit is at a low pressure, and when he breathes in the interior atmosphere is at a higher pressure. This difference would effectively force (haha) air into and out of his lungs.
But why does Vader need a suit like this in the first place? You’ll have to watch to find out. Because you know why.
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