How close is Star Trek tech from reality? Part 5

In 1966 Captain James T. Kirk and the Starship Enterprise began to boldly go where nobody has gone before. The show was groundbreaking. Not only was it a rare case where a Hollywood studio asked for a second pilot but its cast broke racial and gender barriers. Key to what the crew of the Enterprise could do was the technology that they used as they sought out new worlds and new civilizations. In 1966 it seemed so far ahead of its time but now 50+ years later how close are we to using what Mr. Spock or Dr. McCoy used?

With a ship as complex as the Enterprise all kinds of work need to be done to keep it running efficiently. That necessitated having a small computer to take with you so that you did not have to keep running back to a console to check something. On the Enterprise-D it was called a Personal Access Data Device or PADD. We know them today as a tablet computer.

Getting from ship to planet or ship to ship is not as easy as it looks. The models that were required to show this on TV were expensive to build and operate. To cut costs the transporter was devised. It would break down a body into information and send that information to its destination where it would rematerialize. We have all dreamed about how much easier a transporter would be. There would be no more waiting in long lines at the airport or sitting in traffic jams that can be miles long. Getting to work would take only a few seconds. The transporter itself is not close to coming to fruition but scientists have successfully teleported atoms at the molecular level. They did not disappear and rematerialize but instead were sent using quantum entanglement which created an exact duplicate at the destination while destroying the original. Since the human body consists of 15 trillion cells it may be awhile before this is perfected and we can say “Beam me up!”

One piece of technology that the Federation never developed was the cloaking device. It’s principal enemies the Klingons and the Romulans had them but not the good guys. It seems that it was a diplomatic and not a scientific snafu but who are we to criticize future diplomats? The benefits should seem obvious, being able to hide in plain sight with an invisible screen. Hiding something like this is not new. False bows were painted onto warships to disguise their sizes and camouflage is used by every armed service around the globe but that isn’t true invisibility. While today we do not have the technology to hide a ship we are close to the technology to hide a person. An invisibility cloak has been developed that is able to reroute light to create the illusion of a straight object onto a bulky object. The material used can make an object the size of a cell appear disappear and can delay light and its reflection. The implications of this should be obvious and militaries around the world are paying attention.

It is amazing to see what technology is capable of by people who know what they are doing. Many of these inventors and scientists were inspired by the show. For the rest of us mere mortals we can sound smart as well. The Star Trek Technobabble Generator can help us sound just as smart as the really smart people, check it out.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top