Physics and Star Trek

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The science-fiction media franchise Star Trek has borrowed freely from the scientific world to provide storylines. Episodes are replete with references to tachyon beams, baryon sweeps, quantum fluctuations and event horizons. Many of the technologies "created" for the Star Trek universe were done so out of simple economic necessity — the transporter was created because the budget of the original series in the 1960s did not allow for expensive shots of spaceships landing on planets.

Outside observers have used both Star Trek's strengths and its weaknesses for educational purposes. Physicist Lawrence Krauss has written The Physics of Star Trek, a book which postulates what phenomena might make some Star Trek technology feasible, while detailing the blunders the show has made. He followed this book with a sequel, Beyond Star Trek, which applies the same approach to Independence Day, The X-Files and others. Astronomer Phil Plait takes a similar attitude in his "Bad Astronomy" website, a regular feature of which is reviews discussing the scientific mistakes in popular movies and TV shows. Software developer and hyperreality theorist Alan N. Shapiro has written Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance, examining the physics and computer science of all major Star Trek technologies, as well as posing the sociological question of why exactly our culture is so interested in building these technologies.

Discovery Channel Magazine stated that vanishing spaceships, faster-than-light travel and dematerialised transport were only dreams at the time the original series was made, but physicist Michio Kaku believes all these things are possible.[1]


See also

Star Trek technologies

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