What futuristic technology is theoretically feasible?
There have been many changes in the world since Gene Roddenberry created star trek in 1966. Everyday luxuries like cell phones, computers, and the Internet had yet to become a reality, and even massive space-related events had yet to happen, like the moon landing. It was an exciting time of exploration and wonder, gazing at the stars and wondering “what if”. star trek was an amalgamation of all these thoughts, looking far into the future of humanity and imagining what wonderfully utopian things humans would do. Part of that is sci-fi technology thrown at audiences left, right, and center, some of which has even influenced the technology available to modern society today. The electronic tablets are based on the technology imagined by The next generation, as well as visual aids reminiscent of a certain chief engineer. But what could be the next step for humanity? What star trek imagined gadget or gadget could be developed and made available to potential consumers now?
Over the past six decades, a host of exciting real-world scientific advances have been made, bringing society closer to a whole host of star trek inspired things (however cowardly). Here’s an exploration of some of the top contenders, ranging from the most unlikely to see anytime soon to the most.
This one is still a long way off, but there have been some exciting theories and concepts on how to achieve this over the past few years. Warp speed has become a narrative necessity in star trek for a very simple reason: the space is really big. To get from one end of the galaxy to the other, the writers didn’t want it to take years (the time it would take when traveling at the speed of light), so they came up with a nice technology of science fiction. star trekWarp Engine allows starships to move faster than the speed of light by bending space around the ship, dramatically shortening distances.
In the real world, this technology is still in the theoretical stages, but in 1994, a physicist named Miguel Alcubierre came up with the very first mathematically realizable and theoretically feasible concept, aptly naming it “Alcubierre Warp Drive”. The problem, however, was that it required an incredibly large power outage to operate and relied on negative energy to function, something scientists still don’t know whether it exists or not. Despite its criticisms, it was the first step on a long journey to achieve warp abilities and evolved multiple times over the years.
In 2011, former NASA scientist Dr. Harold White (founder of Limitless Space, a company dedicated to warp drive) refined Alcubierre’s equation to massively reduce the amount of energy negative – still inaccessible, but at hand. Last year, physicist Erik Lentz came up with an exciting solution to the problem of negative energy, suggesting and showing how possible (or normal) energy could be used instead. The warp speed would still require a massive amount of this energy, equivalent to one-tenth the mass of the sun, to produce a warp “bubble” 200 meters away. The theory isn’t fully fleshed out yet, but it’s a huge step towards ever being able to achieve warping as shown in the star trek universe.
While not potentially the flashiest or most interesting of all the tech featured throughout the franchise, it’s one of the closest to being achievable. (Apologies to anyone hoping for carriers on this list; they won’t be available anytime soon.) Thanks to vital signs sensors, the crews of various Starfleet ships are able to pass through any planet they find, scan it and collect a lot of data on plant life and the atmosphere, but also detect any signs of animal life. Things often get in the way, like proton storms or various other scanner-blocking shenanigans, but the technology is still very advanced.
Although such technology seems simple on paper, achieving it has only recently become possible, in 2021. The University of Bern, in collaboration with the NCCR (National Center of Competence in Research), has developed secret equipment but functional sensitive enough to detect life. organisms from a helicopter 2 kilometers in the air, while traveling at 70 km/h.
The device was designed to detect a very specific chemical structure called “homochirality,” which has a 19 out of 20 chance if successfully detected to be a biological organism. It’s not yet advanced enough to be able to detect what specific organism it is (e.g. a spacecraft couldn’t use it to detect if a life form is Human or Gorn), or provide detailed information other than the fact that a form of life exists. However, it’s still a huge step forward to have fully functional star trek style life signs detectors.
At the forefront of all trypanophobes (those afraid of injections) is the favorite tool of Starfleet doctors such as Leonard “Bones” McCoy of Kelvin’s timeline: hypospray. This little gadget is a time and pain saver capable of administering medication by injecting it via a non-invasive method. Although considered a luxury fantasy for anyone who has recently had a blood test, the Hypospray (or Jet Injector) has been around since the 1960s. It worked by shooting the drug through the patient’s skin at an enormous 1,200 psi pressure, virtually pressing liquid into and through the skin, eliminating the need for the needle.
While needles are still more commonly used today, in 2009 the PharmaJet Stratis needle-free injector was approved by the FDA in the United States, then later in 2013 it passed WHOPQS (World Health Organization’s Performance Quality Safety). The injector delivers any medication normally injected with a needle in 1/10th of a second. While widely used in the 1980s by the US military, they went out of use as the risk of infection was much higher than with needles. A traditional, commonly used needle is sterilized, used, then discarded, where needleless jet injectors are used again and again. All it takes is a small amount of blood to enter the device and it can spread from person to person. During the 1980s, an outbreak of hepatitis B occurred, linked to a weight loss clinic that used contaminated injectors. With modern advancements, however, and the fairly recent approval of a new type of jet injector, hypospray may be in common use much sooner than society realizes.
While all of these advancements are somewhere on the horizon for humanity, there are a few honorable mentions worth noting. Photon weapons are unfortunately being developed, and in more peaceful news, massive advances in universal translator technology are underway. It’s amazing how unapologetically influenced all of this is by the creative minds who dreamed up these imaginary things for star treksomething that Roddenberry would surely have been proud of.
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