Are we any closer to star trek technology?

Sep 11th, 2018
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  1. Are we any closer to star trek technology?
  3. - Computing is the only thing which stands out. We saw tablet computers used in star trek, and we have such devices today. But even so, computing today is not fundamentally different from computing in the 1960s, when startrek was first broadcast. Computing may be faster and smaller now (in 2018) than it was then, and with a more ergonomic interface, but otherwise it is the same basic technology. It's merely a refinement of something we already had in the 1960s.
  5. Furthermore, I think it's wrong to focus so much on computing. It's a relatively minor part of startrek technology. But of the other technologies we saw in startrek, I feel we have made no advancement towards realising any of them, over the past 50+ years. They're all still fantasies.
  7. - Communicator. Portable shortwave radios existed in the 1960s. Communicators can be compared with these, but with the ability to "dial" specific persons. Mobile phones are indeed much better at dialing, but these too only partly describe the communicator, because in other ways they are a step back from shortwave radio. Mobile phones rely on a backbone network, rather than being peer-to-peer devices, and they also have a much more limited range compared with shortwave radio. They wouldn't function very well on another planet, for example. Consider an away-party communicating with a star ship, 1000km up in orbit. Or two away-party members 10km apart on hilly alien terrain. I think you'd be more successful with a shortwave radio than with a mobile phone... and that already existed in the 1960s.
  9. - Replicator (and recycler when operated in reverse). It's laughable to compare 3d printing with replicators. Replicators need to work on the molecular level - not just squirting molten stuff onto a plate to build up a solid shape. Imagine taking raw materials (chemical elements and basic molecules), and creating complex molecules and structures with them. Imagine being able to disassemble waste (grass clippings, building rubble, broken smartphones) down to base materials, and then restructuring those back into familiar usable products (food, tools, clothing). That's what this process is all about. The ultimate factory.
  11. - Tricorder. A handheld computing device with an array of sensors, allowing detailed scans to be made of it's surroundings. The computing part of this is certainly viable, but the sensor part is still very speculative, and is (to be honest) the most important part.
  13. - Warp engines. Or some other "faster than light" travel. There have been no prototypes of such drives created, and no successful experiments of relevant theory. There will be no "star" trek without them. No venturing beyond the solar system in any meaningful capacity.
  15. - Impulse engines. A cheap "slower than light" drive to move around within a solar system, or lift a vehicle from a planet surface. Traditional thruster based propulsion has sluggish acceleration and/or a very limited fuel supply. We have no technology like this, and no sign of it even approaching.
  17. - Fusion power. Conventional power sources are still very primitive, being either: unclean and limited in supply (fossil fuels, nuclear fission); unreliable and low power density (solar, wind). A lesser consideration is feasibility in a spacecraft, but for ground based power that's not an issue. Fusion power is the obvious contender, but we have yet to create a viable fusion reactor. Every decade for the past 50 years we have been promised it is "just around the corner", and it has failed to materialise. If not fusion power, then some other power source equally versatile.
  19. - Antimatter reactors. Given energy, antimatter can be created and stored. Whenever that energy is required, the antimatter can be annihilated. Antimatter has a very high power density, and could potentially form the ultimate battery, or backup power supply. 1 gram of antimatter has the energy of hiroshima. Imagine even 1 millionth of that in a AA battery! In current times, producing antimatter is costly and inefficient, and we have great difficulty storing more than a few atoms of it. If not antimatter reactors, then some other way to store vast amounts of energy in a very small amount of "fuel".
  21. - Subspace radio. A way to communicate over large distances, without the delays associated with the speed-of-light. Conventional radio may take one hour to cross between two planets in a solar system, while we'd prefer this to be about one second so a conversation can be held normally, as we see in star trek. Over interstellar distances, conventional radio would take years, while we'd prefer to reduce that to days at most. In both cases "subspace" communication is about 1000x faster than conventional radio. We have nothing like this.
  23. - Forcefields. A switchable energy barrier that permits/blocks the passage of matter. Forcefields could form the basis of shields to protect a space ship from physical damage, or form the basis of containment systems for the aforementioned antimatter. In star trek we saw them used in emergency safety systems, to contain explosions and other hazards. We say them used in hangar bays in parallel with hangar bay doors, to prevent the air escaping into the vacuum of space. Forcefields are usually depicted as a transparency, but even if we are flexible on this detail, we still have nothing like it.
  25. - Artificial gravity fields. We are familiar seeing the crew and objects aboard the space station floating around. If the space station operates it's thrusters or changes it's orientation, then the interior will feel the effects of those applied forces, and will be flung to the walls. An artificial gravity field is something which addresses this, to maintain an apparent gravity that is relatively constant, no matter what forces are applied to the craft as a whole. The technology could maybe be exploited for other uses - deliberate holes in the artifical gravity field might enable hovering/levitating carts to exist, to allow frictionless transport of cargo around the ship.
  27. - Phasers. These are not just weapons; they saw many uses in star trek. They are versatile tools that can prove useful in all kinds of situations: cutting, drilling, heating, fusing, etc. Phasers are cleary an imaginary evolution of lasers. But it is hard to define exactly what they are, or how they differ from lasers. Lasers could indeed perform these same functions to an extent.
  29. - Photon torpedoes. Some kind of tactical weapon. These are so much in the realm of fantasy that we can't even define them. A fictional weapon for penetrating imaginary defences of the future.
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