Star Trek Gadgets Become Reality
In the 1960s a bold new television series hit the air waves and became an immediate success. The show was Star Trek based on the fictionalized accounts of the intergalactic star ship USS Enterprise and its’ crew of 430 men and women.
Their five year mission was to “seek out new life and new civilizations” and “boldly go where no man has gone before.” Created by Gene Roddenberry, the show which ran from 1966-1969 was science fiction, but the concept of the ship and many of the futuristic gadgets used were founded on scientifically possible theories.
Matt Jeffries, an aviation artist, set designer and pilot was responsible for creating the 11 foot USS Enterprise used in filming the series. The model is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
Many of the gadgets introduced on the show nearly 50 years ago, such as the phasers, transporter and communication devices were things only dreamed about in that era. Although some devices like the ships’ transporter and warp drive system are still far from being a reality, some of the others are not.
Today, almost everybody carries a flip up cellular phone. They have a striking resemblance to Captain Kirks’ communication device into which he was habitually saying “Beam me up Scotty.”
But, even though cops and bad guys don’t run around dematerializing each other with phasers, there are tasers. Though not as powerful, they still get the job done. But, if one wants to get nasty about it, there are lasers capable of being used as weapons.
Then there was Spock’s Universal Translator. It was a device that recognized speech patterns and translated them into different languages. Not really that farfetched. Google is currently working on a speech-to-speech automated translator for Android phones.
And we can’t ignore Doctor McCoy’s medical department. On the show he injected medications with a little doo-dad called a hypospray. Today, “Jet Injectors” are replacing hypodermic needles which some find a little scary or painful. The jet injector eliminates that by using a high-pressure narrow jet of the injection liquid to penetrate the skin. Now, take a look at McCoy’s medical tricorder. Doesn’t the CAT and MRI scan perform much the same functions?
Remember, the sliding doors on the ship which always opened and closed with a whooshing noise? Well, automatic sliding doors are everywhere nowadays…only they don’t whoosh.
Of course, computer technology on the ship is what made their fantastic voyages possible. The ships computers used a touch screen or a voice-activated interface. Now, touch screen technology is everywhere…iPhones, iPads, GPS systems, etc. They were also voice activated, just like some in use today.
However, without the warp drive the USS Enterprise wouldn’t be going anywhere. Is warp drive technology possible? Some physicists say it might be, but it would have to achieve faster than light speeds which rocket propulsion can’t.
Einstein's theory of relativity proposes an object can't travel faster than light speed within space-time. Without going into the complexities, the theory asserts this limit exists only in space time, meaning the three dimensions of space plus the present time. But, perhaps space-time itself could travel.
The rule of general relativity, says any concentration of mass or energy warps space-time around it. That would mean gravity is a curvature of space-time causing smaller masses to fall inward toward larger ones, a bubble if you will. Some might find the idea impossible, if not ridiculous.
Marc Millis, former head of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project doesn’t agree. "The idea is to take a chunk of space time and move it…the vehicle inside the bubble thinks it's not moving at all. It's the space-time that's moving."Millis said.
One might say mankind has already “…gone where no man has gone before.”
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