Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)


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Smartphones outshine Kirk’s communicator

Those data include measurements such as blood pressure, temperature and breathing rate. The device has to accurately diagnose 12 diseases or health conditions. These include diabetes, pneumonia and urinary tract infections. It also must be able to tell if a patient has none of those conditions. And it has to weigh no more than 2. As a physician in the emergency room, he often sees patients who would have benefited from having troublesome symptoms identified early. He says a tricorder may help future patients in big ways by doing just that. The tricorder may be on the horizon, but another Star Trek -inspired device is already here — the tractor beam.

Well sort of, anyway. Much, much smaller. The tractor beam first showed up in an episode on the first season of Star Trek. When they detected life aboard it, they decided to investigate. To hold the other ship in place, they used a tractor beam. When the crew first encountered Balok's ship, they couldn't seem to get away. Balok had used a tractor beam to trap the ship.

Those tractor beams on Star Trek were streams of particles called gravitons. In the real world, scientists have never observed or measured gravitons.

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But tractor beams do exist. Instead, they use light. Grier, at New York University, led the development of the first one. That's roughly one ten-thousandth of an inch, or the width of a large virus. After all, he was doing serious science, not working in science fiction. The science behind his invention goes back more than years. This force is called radiation pressure. The idea that light can nudge tiny particles is exciting to scientists. It means they can move miniscule objects around under a microscope, or in experiments, without having to physically touch them.

He showed how a focused laser beam could hold particles in place.


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In the s, Grier began running his own experiments with optical tweezers. By changing the shape of the beam of light, he was able to get it to pull, rather than push, particles.

Going to space

Grier ran a lot of unsuccessful experiments. When he finally got the device to work, it moved a small plastic particle two micrometers upstream. A micrometer, or micron, is one-millionth of a meter.

Smartphones outshine Kirk’s communicator

Two micrometers is about one-tenth the diameter of the thinnest human hair. Now, he says, he can drag particles nearly a millimeter 0. In theory, a scaled up tractor beam might one day draw some object to its source from up to about one kilometer 0. NASA is working with Grier to use his tractor beam technology in future missions. The physicist sees his tractor beam as a tool that should be able to help scientists better study matter at the smallest scales. So does another emerging technology that played an important role in Star Trek — laser weapons.

The first laser was created in Ever since, lasers have been a staple of science fiction — often used in ways beyond the reach of modern science. But science is at last catching up. On Star Trek, characters used the lasers from handheld phasers to heat objects, stun assailants and kill enemies. The Enterprise also could fire powerful lasers to stop or destroy enemy ships.

Lasers are now almost ubiquitous — but usually not as weapons. Surgeons use lasers to perform precise operations, as on the eye or the spine. Lasers can even be used to remove tattoos. And millions of cat owners occupy their pets with tiny laser toys.

The Science of Star Trek | NASA

This aeronautics company designs and builds new weapons for the U. The company has already built a laser defense system that can be used on land, in the air or on the sea. Using precise, powerful lasers as weapons has long been a goal of the U. In March , the company demonstrated a laser that could burn a hole through 5 centimeters 2 inches of steel in a few seconds.

That's powerful enough to stop a truck or an incoming missile. But that's only the beginning: The company is now developing a laser twice as powerful. According to Lockheed calculations, the weapon system is precise enough to burst a beach ball perched on the Empire State Building — in New York City — using the beam from a laser on a bridge in San Francisco, Calif.

I'm Working on That: A Trek from Science Fiction to Science Fact

The system uses light, lenses, mirrors and computer programs to aim and focus the beam. Such a laser requires a lot of energy.

Star Trek Surgery - Science Fiction to Fact - Yoav Medan Technion lecture

Lockheed Martin's system is so large it has to be mounted on the back of a truck. In order to develop handheld phasers like the ones used on Star Trek, scientists will have to figure out how to pack a lot of energy into a small space.

Not every idea on Star Trek is destined to become real. We may never teleport objects. But other once-fascinating gadgets have already become ordinary, such as communicators or universal translators think smartphone. Others may join them in just a few years. Grier says he hopes another idea from Star Trek catches on. The author explores gravitons that could be used as deflector shields and tractor beams, the use of plasma and electromagnetic shields, the technological state of play of computational linguistics and the Universal Translator UT. Harvey P.

Lynn, , was the honorary science consultant in the early days of Star Trek, who graduated as an electrical engineer and worked at the RAND Corporation as a liaison officer between RAND and projects for the U. Air force. It was his critical input that adapted scripts to be both technically plausible and as it turned out, quite prophetic. Lynn is often credited with inventing the term "phaser", based on laser technology. Andre Bormanis followed in his footsteps for the the modern spin-off Star Trek live-action productions, while Jesco von Puttkamer also served as as science adviser on the earlier Star Trek:The Motion Picture.

Each helped root Star Trek into science fact while launching our imaginations into science fantasy. When crewmembers of the USS Enterprise made contact with alien races, they often used what they called a universal translator to, well, translate between the languages. For a starship that was traveling far beyond its own solar system, it was a necessary plot device. Today, speech recognition and speech translation software is translating known languages for us and some fictional languages, too.

The trouble is that what we have available to us translates from one known language into another known language. Reporters will ask me when are we going to get a universal translator?

Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek) Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)
Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek) Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)
Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek) Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)
Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek) Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)
Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek) Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)
Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek) Im Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (Star Trek)

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