TACO Tuesday—I Want More Trek Tech
Today, The 'T' In TACO Stands For Tech
Following last week's TACO Tuesday foray into a preview of Superman: Red Son, I had intended to remain with the purview of entertainment by dedicating today's post to my personal take on Star Trek: Picard.
However, aside from something much shorter than a full-blown review, I thought I would take a different tack instead, simply because another topic has been on my mind of late. So, instead of tackling the show, I'd rather look at Trek Tech instead—what we have of it, what we don't have, and what's taking so dang long, anyway!
Star Trek: Picard
Weekly episodes began on CBS All Access (online subscription) back on January 23. Three shows in, and I have to say, I like it. A lot. CBS has been looking at its backlog of hit shows it seems (revamps of Hawaii Five-O, Magnum P.I. and MacGyver have been hitting primetime for a while now) and they've decided, as far as Star Trek material is concerned, they've got enough to keep pushing the boundaries.
Picard follows the mixed success (second season was a little better received) of Star Trek: Discovery, which took place several years before the original Star Trek story begins. I say took place, since the last episode of Discovery took the ship and a good chunk of the crew into the far flung future. That show has been on hiatus of late, so now Picard has arrived in its stead.
Picard begins years after the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Captain Jean-Luc Picard makes his debut as the commander of the USS Enterprise. Apparently, things have not gone so well for Picard in the intervening time, especially after a group of synthetics destroys a rescue armada intended to aid evacuation of Romulus after its sun goes supernova.
Interestingly enough, this is not something that took place in any of the TV series, nor in any movie, but it is the premise behind the reboot of the new Star Trek films that results in an alternative timeline.
So, Picard is tackling the event, albeit many years later, following Picard resigning form Starfleet over a disagreement of leaving the Romulans, who are still enemies, to their fiery fate.
Patrick Stewart, who reprises his role as Picard, is himself 79, so action sequences involving him (so far, anyway), are keeping in line with his age. He's not running, diving, tackling, jumping, etc., like a younger man might. Still, because of what's unfolding in the storyline, he feels compelled to leave his retirement on his vineyard estate (Chateau Picard) and get to the bottom of a mystery that just won't go away.
No spoilers here, but if you are a fan of Star Trek, Science Fiction, or just compelling drama, I think Star Trek: Picard might be for you.
And I may very well do a proper review of it in the future.
For now, however, let's get to the Trek Tech.
Because I've been watching Picard, I've been seeing Trek Tech used again, and I realized that to some extent, we do have some of it, but much of it still evades us.
For instance, communicators went from handheld devices in the original Star Trek series to inside the Starfleet insignias all personnel where with The Next Generation. Most of us don't have wearable communicators, but I've seen law enforcement with two-way radios that come real close. Even so, with cell phones, people are no longer tethered to a landline and can communicate from many more places across great distances.
Tricorders don't exist exactly, either, but again, smartphones—and tablets, too—can be used to scan different things, even humans, and come back with all kinds of information, including medical.
With Amazon Echoes and other voice assistants, we see the beginning of the interface with central onboard computer Starfleet and other vessels have. While there's still a long way to go with all of that, it's still cool to see voice activation happening in my lifetime (mostly over the last five years).
Trek Tech I Want
However, there is a lot more that we don't have, that as far as I know, we're not even close to producing, beyond maybe on a very small scale. Things such as transporters, replicators, and warp drives. These are all supposed to be theoretically possible, even if it stretches known science in at least one instance.
As far as Trek time goes, transporters and warp drives have been around since the original Star Trek debuted back in 1966. That's over 50 years. And obviously, they were conceived of many years before that as a part of ongoing science fiction fare.
The replicators came later, sometime between the original Star Trek and The Next Generation, though there were versions of it, mainly some kind of a sequencer. Even so, it's been nearly 33 years since the The Next Generation first appeared on television. So, where are we with all of that other tech? I mean, who wouldn't want to replace their microwave with a replicator, or be able to simply walk onto a transporter pad in one place and show up miles and miles away somewhere else?
I decided to go looking for actual versions of Trek Tech to see where we might be with it. I have to say, I'm disappointed. Just like the hoverboard we were promised with the Back To The Future trilogy, replicators, transporters and warp drives haven't gotten very far.
For the most part, Star Trek showed crewmen ordering their desired food or beverage using a replicator. However, in theory, a replicator could be used, with some exceptions, to create any inanimate matter. Providing a record of the molecular structure of the desired item existed, anything from food, to medicine and spare parts could be produced. A replicator takes existing matter and resequences it into something else. Thus, it would seem as if these things were materializing out of thing air.
My search for a working replicator, even in theory, turned up this video:
It's essentially a 3D printer that uses a resin that is sensitive to certain types of light. In the video, using an off the shelf projector, they are able to create a pocket-sized version of The Thinker statue originally carved by Auguste Rodin.
Okay, cool, but can it do this?:
For another take on replicator technology, there's this article from Forbes.
The transporter and the replicator, apparently, are similar technology as the latter is supposedly derived from the former. The idea that matter can be deconstructed on one point, sent along in a data stream of some sort and then re-molecularized at another point, in theory, is possible, but doing so with an organism as complex as the human body goes beyond what we are capable of doing right now. Basically, we can move some protons around.
That's fine. In the shows, there always seemed to be something going wrong with the transporter, or something else making it extremely difficult to lock on to whoever needed beaming up.
But even if this form of travel proves impossible, there needs to be advancements in transportation beyond what we have right now. Something that will take seconds instead of minutes, and minutes instead of hours. Something that won't put significant strain on the human body.
Ground transport technology seems to be centering around faster trains and self-driving cars and alternative fuels. There's only so much they will be able to do to get you from A to B, however, and for them to really get fast, better infrastructure (rails and roads) will be needed. So, the cost of the technology goes beyond the vehicle or transport itself.
As you might imagine, given that the first two aren't making much headway, warp drive doesn't exist either. But unlike the pitfalls of a transporter, warp drive, using what is known as the Alcubierre Metric is feasible. The idea puts a vessel inside a 'warp bubble', with space in front of the vessel contracting as space behind it expands. In this manner, a vessel could potentially travel faster than the speed of light, by moving space-time, rather than moving through space-time. Apparently that last bit is a no go as far as physics and general relativity are concerned.
Now, warp drive might seem a little superfluous given that you kind of need to have some place far away to go, and aside from satellites now at different points between home and the edge of the galaxy, trips to the moon and back, and a rover or two on Mars, we don't necessarily know of any major destination, like a rendezvous on Rigel III.
Or, in the case of the video, getaway as fast as possible from a planet you just violated the Prime Directive on.
That said, as far as Star Trek is concerned, the warp drive is met for exploration. Seeking out new civilizations and worlds. Going where no one has gone before.
Other Tech I Want
If this Trek Tech really isn't feasible, at least any time soon, there's more I'm interested in. Here's a short list.
A wearable HUD (headup display) of some kind would be cool, like Iron Man's helmet, only subtler.
Actually being able to charge my phone, or any rechargeable device without anything attached to a power cable.
Better yet, just having the device constantly powered by electromagnetic current or something else found naturally. While I'm dreaming, I'd like my house and car to run on it, too.
Devices (hardware and software) that are interoperable. Mac works on Windows, open source with proprietary, with no need for hacks, workarounds, alternate booting, etc. Just plug and play.
A global digital currency, I could use anywhere, for anything, like Federation credits. Something decentralized, transparent, immutable, free, fast, etc. (Okay, you know where I'm going with this).
A lot of this future tech has been around for decades in some form of media. It's time to take them from theory and make them reality.
Preferably, within my lifetime, please.
Images from wallpaperaccess and unsplash. Video links to YouTube