5 Times Star Trek Predicted the Future of Real-Life Science

Thursday, 08 September 2016 - 6:07PM
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Thursday, 08 September 2016 - 6:07PM
5 Times Star Trek Predicted the Future of Real-Life Science
Today is the 50th anniversary of one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all time, and one of the most prescient. Star Trek is not only a great TV/movie series, but it's also served as an inspiration for scientists for the last five decades, and our current technology wouldn't be where it is today without it. There are too many scientific studies inspired by Star Trek to count, but here are the five most exciting scientific advancements inspired and/or predicted by the beloved series:

Replicator


This technically hasn't happened yet, but NASA is looking to "replicate" this iconic Star Trek tech as we speak. According to panelists at Escape Velocity this year, NASA is currently working on a way to improve food in space by making a replicator out of microbes, or "working with microbes that will use organic matter to synthesize meat-like products."

Transparent Aluminum


In Star Trek IV, transparent aluminum was a huge feat of engineering, and even composed the viewports of the USS Enterprise-D. Then in 2015, scientists actually made armor made out of transparent aluminum—or Aluminium oxynitride (AlON). Like the material in Star Trek, it's extremely hard (4 times harder than fused silica glass), and as a result of its structure, can be molded into windows, plates, tubes, you name it. Now, it's being used to make bulletproof armor. 

Tractor Beams



We can't exactly "beam up Scotty" yet, but we do have tractor beams. Rather than using a graviton interference pattern, this tractor beam discovered last year uses acoustic waves, but it's still pretty damn cool.

Tricorders


We don't have anything quite as comprehensive as the tricorder, which could scan for anything from diseases to molecular composition. But NASA uses a handheld scanner to detect unwanted microorganisms like E. coli on the International Space Station, and doctors have developed handheld gadgets that can measure your heart function, as well as miniature MRI machines. At Phoenix Comic Con this year, scientists said that cutting-edge portable biomedical technology already includes smartphone integration, and that it's only a matter of time before we have a real-life tricorder. 

The cell phone


The best inventions are always the most elegant. Star Trek "invented" wireless communicators long before we had cell phones, as well as flat technological interfaces before we had tablets. We're not saying that Apple copied Star Trek or anything, but they copied Star Trek.
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