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Ethan Siegel on Star Trek's Technology

Posted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:49 pm
by lpetrich
Star Treknology: Imagining The Future Into Being : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR
... But given just a 30-year distance between Captain Kirk and his "communicator" and you and your flip-phone, how realistic is the rest of Star Trek's vision of future technology?

That's the question astrophysicist Ethan Siegel takes on with his delightful new book Star Trek Treknology. Siegel is an accomplished writer and explainer of complex science. But what makes Treknology different from other "The Science of..." books is his own delight in the subject.
For instance,
Siegel's discussion of warp drive is a good example of the strengths of his approach. After giving the Trekian timeline, Siegel provides a short and excellent account of why the velocity of light is a cosmic speed limit and how "bending" space a'la Einstein's general relativity might provide a work-around. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of how physicist Miguel Alcubierre reverse-engineered a solution to Einstein's equations for making a space-time "bubble" warp drive (the book comes complete with a nifty diagram). Of course, making something like this would require acquiring some "negative mass," which no one knows how to make.
I must say that some of Star Trek's technology seems less than impressive to me. Like the communicator. We've had walkie-talkies since World War II, and cellphones have gradually been developed since then. I have a very low-end cellphone, but it remembers phone numbers and it also does texting and shows the time. Star Trek's communicators seem very inadequate comparable to present-day smartphones.

According to Pre-installed apps: Apple iPhone X | T-Mobile Support, that smartphone has these apps preinstalled:

Mail, Calendar, Photos, Camera, Maps, Clock, Weather, News, Wallet, Notes, Reminders, Stocks, Videos, iBooks, iTunes Store, App Store, Home, Health, Settings, FaceTime, Calculator, Podcasts, Watch, Compass, Tips, Voice Memos, Contacts, Find Friends, Find iPhone

So that smartphone has several apps that the Star Trek communicator could use.

Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:10 pm
by crazyfingers
[quote=""lpetrich""]
I must say that some of Star Trek's technology seems less than impressive to me. Like the communicator. We've had walkie-talkies since World War II, and cellphones have gradually been developed since then. I have a very low-end cellphone, but it remembers phone numbers and it also does texting and shows the time. Star Trek's communicators seem very inadequate comparable to present-day smartphones.

According to Pre-installed apps: Apple iPhone X | T-Mobile Support, that smartphone has these apps preinstalled:

Mail, Calendar, Photos, Camera, Maps, Clock, Weather, News, Wallet, Notes, Reminders, Stocks, Videos, iBooks, iTunes Store, App Store, Home, Health, Settings, FaceTime, Calculator, Podcasts, Watch, Compass, Tips, Voice Memos, Contacts, Find Friends, Find iPhone

So that smartphone has several apps that the Star Trek communicator could use.[/quote]

Perhaps the hand-held communicators up through TOS. After that the communicators were their insignia badges and could not only talk to other people but to the ship computer so it's verbal connection to everything that the ship computer could access.

Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:00 pm
by Jackrabbit
[quote=""crazyfingers""]
lpetrich;682746 wrote: I must say that some of Star Trek's technology seems less than impressive to me. Like the communicator. We've had walkie-talkies since World War II, and cellphones have gradually been developed since then. I have a very low-end cellphone, but it remembers phone numbers and it also does texting and shows the time. Star Trek's communicators seem very inadequate comparable to present-day smartphones.

According to Pre-installed apps: Apple iPhone X | T-Mobile Support, that smartphone has these apps preinstalled:

Mail, Calendar, Photos, Camera, Maps, Clock, Weather, News, Wallet, Notes, Reminders, Stocks, Videos, iBooks, iTunes Store, App Store, Home, Health, Settings, FaceTime, Calculator, Podcasts, Watch, Compass, Tips, Voice Memos, Contacts, Find Friends, Find iPhone

So that smartphone has several apps that the Star Trek communicator could use.
Perhaps the hand-held communicators up through TOS. After that the communicators were their insignia badges and could not only talk to other people but to the ship computer so it's verbal connection to everything that the ship computer could access.[/QUOTE]
But verbal communication is itself low tech, relative to that far in the future. It should be some type of device to pick up and transfer thoughts.

Posted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 5:12 am
by dancer_rnb
The Voices In My Head! Make Them Stop......

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:31 am
by frazier
It's a TV show!!!

If they could communicate through thoughts, or implanted chips, or whatever, the plot holes would be insurmountable. Much of their retro-tech is to provide explanations to the audience. Speculate about future tech all you want, but stop overthinking mass-market entertainment. Jeez.

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:08 am
by Jackrabbit
[quote=""frazier""]It's a TV show!!!

If they could communicate through thoughts, or implanted chips, or whatever, the plot holes would be insurmountable. Much of their retro-tech is to provide explanations to the audience. Speculate about future tech all you want, but stop overthinking mass-market entertainment. Jeez.[/quote]
It would be trivial to let the audience overhear the mental communication, with an echo-effect or some shit. There have been plenty of movies that have done that. It wouldn't be the first time telepathy had been portrayed. The first five minutes of the first episode would be enough for the audience to get the idea. Hell, there have been countless times where the audience could hear characters thinking about shit even not in science fiction and got the explanation that way. Or for that matter, the character simply narrated in the background throughout.

It appears the overthinking is on your part.

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 5:41 pm
by dancer_rnb
It's bad enough when Amber Alerts go off on my cell phone at night. Imagine them going off in you head while sleeping.

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 9:11 pm
by Jackrabbit
They can always be turned off. How many license plates can you see when you are asleep in bed? It's pointless for you to be alerted in that situation.

Posted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 6:52 pm
by dancer_rnb
What makes you think the government will let you turn them off?

Especially it they are listening to your thoughts..... :eek: :evil:

Come to think of it, hasn't there been some concern cell phones are always broadcasting your location?

Posted: Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:13 pm
by Jackrabbit
[quote=""dancer_rnb""]What makes you think the government will let you turn them off?

Especially it they are listening to your thoughts..... :eek: :evil:

Come to think of it, hasn't there been some concern cell phones are always broadcasting your location?[/quote]
Sorry, wasn't explicit. I didn't mean turn the phone off. I mean turn Amber alerts off. There is a setting for it. You can turn them back on the next morning.

Can't help you with the "listening to your thoughts" part, unless you can turn your brain off too. Though, admittedly, some people have never had them on for their entire lives.

Another stooge quote, a parody of the chinese laundry "no tickee, no washee" when Curly is about to be brainwashed: "No brainee to washee!"

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 12:25 am
by Jobar
In the mid-sixties, TV network executives considered science fiction way too cerebral for the mass market at which they were aiming. Gene Roddenberry had hell's own time getting Star Trek aired; he had to pimp the series as 'Wagon Train to the stars.'

Even in that day, science fiction was far advanced over what the writers could manage to present in ST. Many writers and fans sneered at how juvenile both the plots and the level of scientific literacy were. So IMO we should blame the TV system for the lack of imagination and scientific progress shown in TOS.

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 12:42 am
by crazyfingers
Or sometimes the writers.

Like a parsec is not a speed but a specific distance. Love seeing Star wars fans try to explain that away. Or how they can go across a galaxy at 1.5 light speed.....

Next to Star Wars, Trek at lease tried to base stiff in some science.

The Heisenberg's uncertainty principle would make transporters impossible so they needed a Heisenberg compensator.

Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:41 am
by Jackrabbit
Yeah, making the Kessel run in X parsecs was always one of the funniest lines in Star Wars. Unintentionally. But what do you expect from space opera? You oughta read the old Doc Smith stories, wars between entire galaxies, armadas of a million ships and such. He invented space opera. First the Skylark series and then the Lensman series. I think that was the order. The Lensmen were kinda like Jedi, though their power came from their Lens, a device they wore on the wrist, rather than the Force. Though the wikipedia article has a section indicating they were more like the Green Lantern Corps.

Pretty much every SF movie or TV show made the bonehead mistake of spacecraft that go wooosh in space. 2001 and Gravity are the only two I ever saw that got that right. And 2001 played classical music in the background so people wouldn't think the sound had failed.