5 ½ Unreal Star Trek Technologies

by Geek Squad Agent on ‎07-07-2009 09:03 PM (16,301 Views)

But what about the technology that’s not presently here, or even “right around the corner”? Star Trek contains a starship’s worth of super-science well beyond our current physics and engineering. Let’s take a look at some of this unreal Star Trek technology and why it’s not likely to show up on the shelves of your local Best Buy any time soon.


Warp Drives


One of the staples of the original Star Trek series was Captain Kirk ordering Mr. Sulu to take the Enterprise to warp factor 3. In the show’s fictional history, Earth’s warp drives were created by Zefram Cochrane, as seen in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. Warp power allowed Starfleet ships to travel many times the speed of light by “warping” space itself around the ship.

Physicists have long been fascinated by the possibility of travelling faster than light, and many theories have been proposed on how to accomplish this dream. Even NASA created a “Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Program” in 1996. However, most warp drive theories tend to rely heavily on fantastically theoretical elements (like particles with negative mass or mysterious “dark energy”). NASA shut down the program in 2002.


Still, if science does produce a feasible warp drive, we’ll be the first in line for the refit on our Geekmobiles.


Artificial Gravity


Anyone who’s watched video of astronauts floating through the International Space Station knows one of the challenges of space travel is the lack of gravity.


In Star Trek science, artificial gravity is achieved through the use of “gravity plating” along the ship’s deck, which emits a localized gravity field roughly equivalent to that of Earth.


In the real world, engineers would most likely first use rotating sections to produce the feeling of gravity. Much like the force you feel in your car when you drive through a curve at high speed, rotating living sections would help reduce the issues of weightlessness.


Other more exotic methods of artificial gravity have been proposed, such as the use of extremely powerful magnetic fields. However, the technology to affect even a small object requires expensive superconductive materials, outrageous amounts of electricity and magnetic equipment weighing thousands of pounds more than the object being manipulated.


While it’s true that the technology of the far future may reduce the weight and power effectiveness of these devices in the future, the engineering of “gravity plating” will still prove to be a challenge even for Scotty.




One of the most popular pop-culture catchphrases attributed to Star Trek is “Beam me up, Scotty!” However, much like “Play it again, Sam” and Casablanca, it’s a phrase that was never actually said exactly that way in the series. It only goes to show how popular the idea of instantaneous transportation is, with the ability to cut out waiting in airports or being stuck in traffic.

According to Star Trek science, transporters work by converting a person into a pattern of energy (dematerialization) and then “beaming” that energy to a location where it is reconverted or rematerialized back into matter.


Although physicist Michio Kaku has declared that teleportation will be invented within the next 100 years, there are a fair number of technical hurdles to jump over to transport even simple matter. The science of quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle would have to be overcome in order to allow the precise measurements needed to recreate a person down to the subatomic level at the other end of the beam.


Massive amounts of energy would need to be tied into computers thousands of times more powerful than all those currently on the Internet – combined. That kind of power would be needed to accomplish the sheer number of ways that transporters bend (and even break) our current understanding of physics.


Of course there’s also the philosophical and theological arguments to be made over whether that rematerialized person is really the original, or just a copy.


Needless to say, Doctor McCoy’s reluctance to use transporters, with all the questions and issues surrounding them, is pretty understandable.


Dilithium Crystals


With all these strange and powerful technologies used in Star Trek, it’s no wonder that the engineers in the future had to find a new way to power their super-science.


In the real world, dilithium is a molecule made up of two lithium atoms covalently bonded together. In Star Trek, dilithium is a rare chemical element that occurs naturally and cannot be replicated. Scotty is often seen talking about the dilithium crystals at the heart of the Enterprise, which creates plasma used as a power source throughout the ship.


In fact it’s this very “electro-plasma power system” that brings us to our last bit of unreal Star Trek technology …


Exploding Consoles


Nearly every dramatic battle scene in Star Trek involves the ship getting hit by weapon fire that causes a power fluctuation in the electro-plasma power system, with a chain-reaction that ends with a console on the bridge exploding in a shower of sparks and noise, often injuring or even killing the crewman manning that station.


This has lead to plenty of geek humor about how for all the advanced technological development of the 24th century, they’ve apparently lost the knowledge of how to manufacture electrical fuses.


On the other hand, with the number of news reports of laptop and cell phone batteries allegedly exploding, I’m starting to wonder if this isn’t the most believable Star Trek technology of all.

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