A Conversation for Star Trek - the Science Fiction Phenomenon

Star Trek Inventions

Post 1

Ballynac

Star Trek has always been coming up with new gadgets - many of which have become reality such as:

Automatic Doors
Palm Pilots
Laser Surgery

Anything else??


Star Trek Inventions

Post 2

Smij - Formerly Jimster

In a way, the personal communicaiton devises of Star Trek and other shows have come to exist in the form of mobile phones (at least in Star Trek all they do is give off a little beep, instead of a tinny version of "Tocata and Fugue" or "Baby One More Time"...).

One of the biggest and bravest things it did was show a crew who were not racists. First ever interracial kiss on American TV was on Star Trek - and the US networks BANNED it! Bringing in Japanese and Russian crewmembers was a sharp move too, especially so soon after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Oh, and they predicted how trendy 1960s fashions would be in the future too smiley - smiley

Jims


Star Trek Inventions

Post 3

Steve K.

It could be that the details of some of the inventions in Star Trek are still being worked out. None other than Stephen Hawking said "Today's science fiction is often tomorrow's science fact. The physics that underlies 'Star Trek' is surely worth investigating." This is in the foreward to "The Physics of Star Trek", an interesting book by physicist/astronomer Lawrence Krauss.

Hawking's foreward begins, "I was very pleased that Data decided to call Newton, Einstein and me for a game of poker aboard the Enterprise. Here was my chance to turn the tables on the two great men of gravity, particularly Einstein, who didn't believe in chance or in God playing dice. Unfortunately, I never collected my winnings because the game had to be abandoned on accout of a red alert. I contacted Paramount studios afterward to cash in my chips, but they didn't know the exchange rate." smiley - ok


Star Trek Inventions

Post 4

Saturn Girl ~ 1 of 42 (Borg Queen A761708) ~ Gollum's keeper + some ~ [1*7(0!+2)(0!+1)=42]

About 5 years ago I was doing a research paper for my english class, and I had chosen a topic of Star Trek technology, and how likely is it to become fact. There were a couple of interesting things I found.

1) Apparently at the time Canadian doctors had been working with a type of medical tricorder intended to be used on burn victums.

2) Someone had managed to convert an ameoba to enegry (but not back again.)

I haven't taken the time to check up on these things, and see how they've progressed since then, but I'd be interested in hearing anything if anyone has heard more.


Star Trek Inventions

Post 5

Hoovooloo

Devices and concepts from the original "Star Trek" which did not exist in the 60s but do now:

*needle-less hyposprays for drug injections
*data storage media the size and shape of a floppy disk
*computers the size of a book with a pen driven interface
*flexible long range communicators the size of mobile phone
*online diagnostic "biobeds" for intensive care patients
*reusable space vehicles
*computers with voice recognition and speech synthesis
*cloning and genetic modification
*multiracial, multigender spacecraft crews including cooperation between Russians and Americans
*doors that go "shh" and open automatically when you walk towards them (!)

I'm sure there are more, but there's a list to get you started.

H.


Star Trek Inventions

Post 6

Researcher 198131

Recently in the news I heard that some Australian scientists had teleported a message-encoded laser beam from one end of an optical communications system to the other, a distance of about 1m. It was the first time the experiment had been reliably performed anywhere in the world.

Could be the first micro-step towards teleporting people?


Star Trek Inventions

Post 7

Hoovooloo

It could be the first micro-step towards teleporting *information*, but not, unfortunately, people.

If you read "The Physics of Star Trek", there's a very good explanation of why the transporter is by far and away the least likely of all Star Trek technologies to make it into reality - MUCH less likely than a faster than light warp drive, for example.

There are two main problems: data acquisition, and storage and transfer. The transporter on the Enterprise D, for example, has a total turnaround time (from transporter initiation to the signal that transport is complete) of five seconds. The first 0.3 seconds or so are taken up with diagnostics and scan verifications, before the scan of the target begins. So, in less than 4.7 seconds, this machine is supposed to scan, store and verify the position, velocity, quantum state etc. of every single proton, neutron, and electron in every atom in every molecule in every cell of the body (and clothing!) of the person on the pad, deconstruct them (ouch!), transmit that stream of matter up to 40,000 km, then reassemble them atom by atom.

At current data storage densities, storing the data for an average sized person would need a pile of hard disks... 40,000 light years high. Put another way, it would have to stretch from here to the centre of the galaxy. Actually transmitting the data from the scanner to the storage medium at even the fastest rate we can envisage would take more than the projected lifetime of the universe.

All of that assumes that you could collect the data in the first place. You can't. There's this annoying feature of nature called Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The velocity and position of a particle are related by it. Measure the velocity, inaccurately, and the position becomes a bit more uncertain. Measure the position with any certainty, and it becomes physically impossible to measure the velocity. It's a trade off, and you absolutely cannot have both. Except, to make a transporter work at all, you NEED both. The Enterprise has a gadget called a "Heisenberg compensator" - the writers *know* they're cheating! When someone asked how they work, their answer was "very well, thanks!". That principle is the death knell for transporters...

[Aside - quantum physics joke. Werner Heisenberg was stopped for speeding by a traffic cop. The cop leans into the window and says "Do you know how fast you were going?". Heisenberg says "I've absolutely no idea, officer - but I knew EXACTLY where I was!" Physicists really are wild and crazy guys, huh?]

The experiment of which you speak is actually probably the first step towards the "subspace radio" communications system you see in Star Trek. In the real world, lightspeed limitations cause a noticeable and significant delay on communications with people who are only as far away as the surface of the moon (it's about a five second round trip to the moon for a radio wave - imagine a conversation where between every sentence there's a five second delay...). Having a continuous conversation with someone in orbit about Jupiter would be completely impossible, because even at lightspeed (the speed radio waves travel) it would take HOURS for the message to travel from here to there, and HOURS for the reply to return.

But if (and it's a big if) you can teleport a laser instantaneously, then you could, potentially, build a "subspace radio", which would allow you to have a continuous conversation without delays with someone on the Moon, in Jupiter orbit, or on the other side of the galaxy. What this does to simultaneity or the laws of cause and effect is not yet clear. It's certainly an exciting development, Treknologically, but it's not a transporter, very probably never will be.

H.


Star Trek Inventions

Post 8

Steve K.

Nice post, H. It's been a while since I read "Physics of Star Trek", but I sort of remember that part.

I don't recall if the book covered "Star Trek Voyager" (I think not) and I was never much of a fan, but I think a central element was a "Worm Hole". I saw a public TV show recently with physicists and astronomers talking about such things. As I recall, Carl Sagan was writing a novel and needed a way to travel LONG distances, made impossible by the limit of the speed of light. So he contacts Kip Thorne, a physicist at Cal Tech, and asks if going through a black hole would be a good idea. Nope. No one could survive that.

But Thorne suggested a worm hole, and evidently believes that the laws of real world physics allow this. He even demonstrated how someone passing through a worm hole might end up in the past, future or present - I wasn't sure what determines which. smiley - bigeyes

I think in "Voyager" the worm hole was fixed in space. But I got the idea that this may not be necessary, that it may be possible to "generate" a worm hole in any location. Which may be the way around the speed of light for intergalactic travel.

Or not. smiley - online2long


Star Trek Inventions

Post 9

Catweasel

Re-usable space craft!!!


Star Trek Inventions

Post 10

Hoovooloo

See posting 5, item 6.

H.


Star Trek Inventions

Post 11

Catweasel

Thank you for the reminder ... but not the tone ... you have inadvertantly mistaken me for someone who knows what he is doing rather than someone that joined this site today and feels like a zit in a chicken pox hospital


Star Trek Inventions

Post 12

Researcher 198131

WOW! What a lengthy and in depth reply! Well done. Sorry, I should have made it clear I was joking about the teleportation of people. (Probably should have used a smileysmiley - blush). I have read 'The physics of Star Trek' and already knew most of that. (Though didn't remember it in such great detail!) When the news broke here in Australia the media came up with ludicrous headlines like "Uni breakthrough the first step to teleporter" and "Beam me up, Scotty: science fiction a step closer to science fact". I found it hilarious but rather the predictable that the media would put that slant on it. I assumed the international news would too.

I hadn't thought about it being the first step towards "subspace radio", but quite like the idea. Would have been just as exciting if the media had used this as a slant.

I guess we can only hope for the future. Who know's they may eventually find a way around HUP. One that works better than Heisenberg compensators.

Love the quantum physics joke, by the way.


Star Trek Inventions

Post 13

Oh_sigh00

One of the largest problems in Star Trek is the warp drive(which is now an official term in the english language). The biggest reason being that an object can't travel the speeed of light, let alone faster than it, in a vacuum. The reason being of course that an object in said state would have infinite mass and would therefore require infinite energy to move itself. Star Trek's excuse is the warp field. But since in an episode of TNG the basically said that the field only diminishes mass by a certain degree, this idea wouldn't work at all.
Another really stupid idea is how the Voyager can land without using anti-grav jets.
-oh_sighsmiley - zen


Star Trek Inventions

Post 14

Estelendur (AKA Esty)

If you want to know why warp drive isn't possible, or at least very improbable, just ask my friend Daniel. I think he knows more about the laws of physics and what happens when you get near light speed and so on and so forth than anyone else in my school, including the teachers! Come think of it, I should ask him to maybe type up his complicated explanation so I can put it on here.


Star Trek Inventions

Post 15

Sapien

Okay, fellas, especially H (not Lawrence H. Krauss by any chance..?), now write me a book entitled "The Physics of Von Braun's Moonmen and His International Spacestation" - and write it in 1938!

I'm shocked that people like H are going around forums saying "..not, unfortunately.. [possible]". Each time, he forgets to say "..given today's undertanding". Supersonic aeroplanes, in 1938, were broadly considered laughable. Communicators in the 60s, the same.

For cryin out loud, please don't adopt the arrogance of assuming that we have reached the zenith of all possible human understanding (even in July 2002). Or would you close all the research establishments around the globe? ("Of course we don't know what we're doing; that's why we call it research." A Einstein)

It seems to me that a useful way of travelling faster than light - given the infinite mass problem - would be to remove the factor causing the mass. Yes?


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