Designing Long-Range Rockets with Your Hands

Holographic Hand Gesture Interfaces Iron Man

By Yonatan Gordon

Last week we asked if anyone had article ideas. While the science fiction series has been fun, surely there’s got to be other things that readers would like to hear about?

Whether he consciously was aware of it or not, Elon Musk was generous enough to provide us with the topic for this article. As you might remember, this was not the first time, as we also recently spoke about his proposed Hyperloop. So evidently, he’s been busy. Which is good, because again, we were looking for something new to write about.

Now comes the trivia. Does anyone remember our previous article that discussed the inner symbolism behind hand-gestured computer interfaces?


It’s okay if you don’t. As mentioned in the news stories themselves, Elon Musk’s new way to design rocket parts using hand gestures, will probably share similarities (or even make use of) the Leap Motion hand sensor. We spoke about this device back in January, in our article entitled, “2013, Leap Motioning into the New Year (The Leap Motion in Concept).”

Before we move forward, what is it that Musk is making? As the picture above depicts, the idea was borrowed from the Iron Man movies. But here’s what Musk wrote about it, including a response to the producer of those movies:

Short and Long-Range Weapons

Now that we’ve hopefully laid some of the foundation, what gives? Why are we so interested in the idea of making rocket parts using hand gestures?

In order to begin answering this question, maybe we should begin with another question: Why are new technologies trying to do away with direct contact interfaces such as the keyboard and mouse?

As we spoke about in our Leap Motion article, people are looking for ways to “leap” into their potential. To take something that seems limited (like our interface with computers and technology), and experience some unbounded result. If computers use binary logic to ascertain what their next move should be, we as humans want to be able to skip, hop, and jump forward past this rational sequentiality. To make use of technology, but not be limited by it.

So hand gesture technology, is yet another way that we as creative humans, are working to foster this creativity. To take a medium that otherwise seems limiting, and use it as a means toward exponential growth and self-betterment.

To rephrase this idea a bit, our aspirations are to take something that at first seems “short-range” (i.e. the movements of our hands), and turn it into something “long-range” (i.e. a rocket that will be more advanced than anything we’ve ever seen).

Short and Long-Range Weapons

Unlike the main weapon of war, the sword, which is used in hand-to-hand combat, the bow is a long-range weapon. Many times, the archer does not even see the enemies he is firing at because of the distance.

Because of this, the bow is described in the Zohar as a weapon of faith. The archer shoots the arrow, but then must place his faith in the Almighty, that He will guide it to the target. The sages use the bow as a metaphor for petitioning God to answer our needs during prayer; it is as if we are shooting our words out into the air, full of faith that God will guide them to the correct destination [i.e., will accept our prayer].

Related to our discussion, the standard way to interface with technology can be seen as abiding by rationality. As with hand-to-hand combat, there is nothing speculative about the way we type on a keyboard. If I press the letter “z,” I expect to see it appear on the screen.

But with long-range interactions, the results are not always so clear and present. Like the archer who may not see his enemies, the person making something out of hand gestures may not immediately know what’s going to happen. The fact that Musk is combing hand-gestures, with the creation of long-range weapons, is a doubly compounded reference to this concept of the archer. Why Musk’s story so interesting? Because it depicts a way to transcend the normative order of things.

The threat of long-range rockets is something unfortunately most prevalent today. But it’s important to keep in mind, that perhaps even more than hand-to-hand combat, the way to combat long range threats is through prayer.

With prayer the Creator can be approached in a way that leaps over, or supersedes the laws of nature. In short, prayer begins where man ends. Prayer is an admission of human limitations, while strengthening our resolve to combat adversaries in a miraculous or super-rational way.

Aside from reciting Psalms and other prayers, there is one very great long-range weapon that women have been igniting for thousands of years. The Hebrew word for “weapon” (נשק) also stands for the initial letters of the “candles of the holy Shabbat” (נרות שבת קודש). And indeed, as is tradition, prior to saying the blessing over the Shabbat candles, a flowing gesture of the hands is made before covering the eyes. As if vanquishing all the enemies of the Jewish people from before our midst.

Shabbat Shalom!

With material from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh’s


2 thoughts on “Designing Long-Range Rockets with Your Hands

  1. Please excuse my boldness; I am not Jewish so perhaps your interpretation of the woman’s hand gesture over the sabbot candle is of merit; however, from my perspective as a blind guy, the intent of such a movement by myself would be to gather as much light as possible and pour it into my eyes as in the verse: “open my eyes that I might see wonders”. Regards, angelo DeMarsico

    • The verse you quoted is also a very good one to have in mind. More specifically, the motion is attributed to the welcoming of the Shabbat Queen (from

      After lighting the Shabbat candles, women traditionally wave their hands three times in front of the candles, semi-circular inward-leading hand motions. The hand waving is a symbolic greeting for the “Shabbat Queen,” ushering her holy presence into the home. After the third wave, the hands end up over the eyes, and the woman recites the blessings on the candles.

      The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that all we have to do is “open our eyes” to see Mashiach. In some ways, the world may seem dark for all of us. The challenge then is again, as you said, to endeavor to welcome in more light. Then, as it was at Mount Sinai, all the blind will be cured, and we will all see the great light of redemption together.

      Incidentally, the Talmudic term for a blind person is “sagi nahor” (“full of light”).

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