— M. Dunne
Let's not stop our nerd-out there. Let's go full-on dweeb for a second. And why not? "Star Trek: Into Darkness" debuted this week.
To answer your question — and discuss other "Star Trek" technologies ranging from tricorders to photon torpedoes — we wrangled David Saltzberg, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles — and an advisor for the sitcom "The Big Bang Theory."
That's right. We're giving you yet another "Big Bang"-on-"Star-Trek" mashup. Bazinga me up, Scotty.
We asked Saltzberg about your particular hangup first — transporter beams.
"We've known since the 19th century that light has pressure," Saltzberg points out. "You can make tweezers out of light. People actually are using light to grab things."
In other words: A transporter sometime in the future? Not a completely crazy idea.
But what about...
"This is a problem that every science fiction story has had to overcome somehow, because things in space are just so far apart. Even at light speed, it would take you 4 years to get you to the closest star. Lawrence Krauss, who wrote 'The Physics of Star Trek,' tries to explain it in terms of general relativity. Creating a warp connects two pieces of space together. But the amount of energy that would create is unfathomably large, and so, probably, you would die in the process. I wouldn't mind going on record as saying that warp drive is probably impossible. I might bet that in 400 we wouldn't have warp drive, but I wouldn't know how to collect."
Unless, by then, we have...time travel?
"Then you have other senses: smell, taste and touching. That's more problematic from a scientific point of view.
"I would imagine that it, in the future, it would probably be easier just to access the brain directly, delivering the tactile cues, the smells, the tastes and the auditory cues, by pumping that information directly into the brain, eventually."
(Photo: REX USA)
(Geek bonus points: Just last year the brainiacs behind the X Prize announced a competition to, yes, come up with a real, live, working tricorder. This is going to happen, people!)
Curve ball! In 'Star Trek IV,' Scotty discussed transparent aluminum. Doable?
"For short times you can make metals transparent at a particle accelerator. If you remove an electron from every atom of aluminum without disrupting the crystalline structure, you can make something transparent.
"It only lasts for 40 femptoseconds. For quadrillionths of a second, you can make it transparent."
And you know what that means, folks. Any day now we'll be boldly going.
Tweet your Burning Question @yahoomovies.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Star Trek
- David Saltzberg