After six television series, thirteen movies, and 50 years, 2016 is the year to celebrate the golden anniversary of the Star Trek challenge to, "Go where no man has gone before." Scientist and author Mark E. Lasbury declares that "the legacy of Star Trek and the role it has played in driving research and researchers must be honored." He achieves this in his new book, The Realization of Star Trek Technologies.
Lasbury explains how the producers actually hired physicist Harvey P. Lynn as a consultant to vet the science and to view designs, such as of the starship USS Enterprise. He made suggestions for terminology to use and let the TV team know when the writers' and designers' vision did not match the science of the day. Subsequent production teams continued to rely on consultants to ensure that the science and technology were at least plausible.
Some technologies such as cloaking devices were deemed to tread a moral tightrope – it would not be fitting for heroes to sneak around – so were only used by the evil empires. Lasbury explores related innovations under development today, such as active camouflage by the military and a "plasmonic" or "light-cancelling" cloak demonstrated by researchers in 2012.
In the same year, the QualComm Tricorder XPRIZE competition was launched, with the aim of awarding ten million dollars to the creators of a portable, non-invasive medical diagnostic device of which "Bones" McCoy would be proud. Last year, a UK research group developed a Star Trek-inspired tractor beam. Using "holograms" made of sound waves, their system is able to grab hold and move small objects without touching them.
Many of these advances take their inspiration from nature. Lasbury affirms that what Star Trek has done so well is to illuminate the possibilities in nature and technology and show us how they might be used to improve our lives.
Lasbury says, "Star Trek may be entertainment, but it is entertainment with a sociological and technological edge. The public needs to be aware of the amazing science that is behind the sci-fi technologies that entertain and amuse them. This is the reason I wrote the book."
Mark E. Lasbury is a science and history writer and former Assistant Research Professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He writes a life sciences education blog, As Many Exceptions As Rules, and is co-founder and contributor to the popular science blog, The Scope.
Mark E. Lasbury
The Realization of Star Trek Technologies
1st ed. 2017, XXII, 320 p. 77 illus., 69 illus. in color
Softcover $39.99, €39,99, £22.50
Also available as an eBook ISBN 978-3-319-40914-6