Star Trek Physics


The funny thing about the Star Trek universe is how they pushed technology and some of it has even come true. Here, I look at some of the tech they use and how it relates to where we are.

Communicators

I have one in my hand almost all the time: it’s called a smartphone. Not only can I make a voice call, but I can also use it to make a video call, I can use Skype or Signal. It’s with me 100% of the time. On earth, I think landlines are dead. I only have one because BT says I have to have one. It has Wifi.

Tricorders

On the subject of tricorders, see above. It knows where I am, what the weather is going to be like (more or less), can identify plants and birdsong, do my banking, if I were female, keep track of my periods. It can show stars in the sky. It can track my cycling and daily steps. When coupled with a smartwatch it can keep track of a lot more of my health data like blood oxygen.

Tablet Computers

The original Star Trek had these. Is this where the idea came from? This can store my photos, let me produce great art, play games, do my shopping, do office apps and so much more. Largely stylus-free.

Universal Translators

True story. About ten years ago we were in Hong Kong meeting friends who only spoke Cantonese. We only spoke English and Mandarin. Guess what, alongside a little writing, Google Translate got us through a meal and beers. I suspect ten years on now, it’ll be even better. I use it today to decipher Welsh. I want a Babelfish.

Hypospray

These are coming. The technology is asymptotically approaching something useful.

They’re just taking time to come to market.

Cloaking Device

This is almost here. I’ve seen cloaks that let us blend into backgrounds, not just blue screen effects. If anyone does it, it’ll be the military.

Indeed they are all over it.

Replicators

Another technology that appeared to arrive, was useful to a minority and seems to have faded. We can 3D print things (slowly) in plastic. I’ve seed 3D food printers, but more excitingly machines that can 3D print buildings. Scale that up and it’ll be a game-changer.

From a few years ago.

Sonic Showers

Some news fragments floating ideas a few years ago, but nothing since then. File under Too Hard (for now). Some cleaners use sonic cleaning but the item needs to be wet, defeating the point.

Beaming

Beyond the quantum level, forget it.

Warp Drive

You cannae change the laws of physics. I’ve just been reading about space and learned that the vacuum of space is made of stuff and something about that prevents us from going faster than the speed of light. Ever wondered why aliens haven’t contacted us? It’s a long way, which means it’s a long time. That said, the stuff we know a fair amount about is only 5% of the universe. We know nothing about dark matter or dark energy. *Maybe* when we do, breaking the speed of light becomes possible. After all, during the big bang, the universe exceeded the speed of light. Briefly. Wormholes are an intriguing idea, too.

Tractor Beams

There were some news items 5-10 years ago about tractor beams on the micro-scale but nothing since.

NASA is on it. Don’t hold your breath.

Artificial Gravity

I don’t think that’s going to happen. Revolving spacecraft, maybe, but that’s not the same.

Again, NASA is thinking about it.

Phasers

This is probably down to the military.

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