Science Friday: a moon, a cloak, a meteor , a laser and ‘Spock’s Brain’ a reality?

Kayla, your TrekMovie science gal here bringing you your weekly dose of Science Friday! We have Cassini headed for the geyser-filled moon Enceladus, new developments in material science from cloaking technology to something (allegedly) resembling a Klingon disruptor, a meteor caught on video and a “Spock’s Brain” themed gadget of the week. Yes, something good came of “Spock’s Brain”! Don’t believe me? Read on!

Cassini Watch: Enceladus and Saturn’s Giant Sponge

We continue this week’s Cassini Watch featuring Trek’s new science advisor with a look at Enceladus, the moon that just keeps on giving. Back in November of 2005, the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn discovered majestic water ice geysers erupting from the surface of Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Since then, the geysers have continued providing new insights to Saturn. First, they were found to be responsible for the content of the E-ring. Next, the whole magnetic environment of Saturn was found to be weighed down by the material spewing from the geysers, which becomes plasma – a gas of electrically charged particles. Now, scientists confirm that Saturn’s A-ring is absorbing the plasma like a sponge. The plasma particles shoot from Enceladus’ interior, become charged (ionized) by sunlight, and in turn, feel Saturn’s magnetic field. After bouncing around from pole-to-pole, the fun ends if their bouncing path carries the particles inward towards Saturn’s A-ring. There they stick and become, in essence, part of the ring. This discovery was made during the closest ever A-ring fly-by from Cassini. On March 12th, Cassini will make its next fly-by of Enceladus, and scientists hope to learn even more about this wondrous moon.

Stay tuned for our next Cassini Watch update. But, until then, be sure to check out the CICLOPS website for images and more!

A false color image of Enceladus’ water ice jets

Cloaking Devices Here Soon?

Imagine a black so black you can’t even see it. That’s the idea being utilized by researchers who are attempting to create Harry Potter-like cloaks from a newly created paper-thin material that absorbs 99.955 percent of the light that hits it. This would be, by far, the darkest substance ever made – about 30 times as dark as the government’s current standard for the blackest black. The material is made of hollow carbon fibers which absorb all surrounding illumination giving those who gaze on it a dizzying sensation of nothingness. Another trick in transformation optics is using material which can bend light rays “backward,” a weird phenomenon thought to be impossible just a few years ago. This technique is identical to that used in Star Trek’s cloaking devices. Not only can this technology render an object (or star ship) invisible to the human eye, but it can deflect other kinds of radiation (microwave, x-ray, gamma ray, etc.). It also makes it impossible for enemy vessels to triangulate your position on their sensors. The US Military realizes this potential, too, and is funding the project in order to reap the inevitable benefits; making objects invisible to laser beams used for weapons targeting, for example, or rendering an enemy’s night goggles useless because objects would be invisible to the infrared rays those devices use. Read more at WaPo.

This is all well and good for fruit, but what about Romulans?

Camera Catches Meteor Flash

A meteor that streaked across the skies over the Pacific Northwest sparked a flood of calls to police, the FAA and television stations early Tuesday morning. “It looked like 100 transformers blew up in front of me and all the Cascades lit up, my barn lit up and everything around me lit up and then it was gone,” said one Washington resident. A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Seattle, Mike Fergus, told The Associated Press that a Horizon Airlines pilot saw the meteorite hit earth about 5:45 a.m. Of course, we all know it was probably a Borg sphere, so be on the look out and make sure to set your phaser to a rotating frequency modulation.

Super Bright Laser Beam Sets Intensity Record

If you could hold a giant magnifying glass in space and focus all the sunlight shining toward Earth onto one grain of sand, that concentrated ray would approach the intensity of a new laser beam made in a University of Michigan laboratory. The HERCULES laser system creates a beam with 20 billion trillion watts per square centimeter, and contains a total of 300 terawatts of power. That’s 300 times the capacity of the entire U.S. electricity grid. The laser beam’s power is concentrated to a 1.3-micron speck about 100th the diameter of a human hair. Not only is this a record for man-made laser beams, but this is believed to have set the record for the most intense light known to exist anywhere in the universe. “We can get such high power by putting a moderate amount of energy into a very, very short time period,” Yanovsky said. “We’re storing energy and releasing it in a microscopic fraction of a second.” Perhaps this is one more step toward futuristic close combat weaponry? Of course, we all know that phasers are based on the rapid nadion effect, whereby energy is passed through a special phaser crystal resulting in a discharge of short-lived nadion particles (I dare you to try and school me on this). But, a “laser phaser” would be more analogous to a directed energy weapon like a Klingon or Romulan disruptor. asks the question, “What if I get caught in the beam?” Karl Krushelnick, a member of the team running the experiment says, “You’d get a bad burn,” But it wouldn’t be horrific, he adds — the pulse lasts for only 30 femtoseconds, and you’ll have ten seconds to move the 1.3 micrometres needed to get out of the way before the next pulse comes along. Read More.

It’s even green like a disruptor weapon!

Gadget of the Week: Spock’s Brain in Real Life

This week’s gadget looks like something straight out of Spock’s Brain, a third season episode of Star Trek TOS. Emotiv’s brain reading headset allows you to interact with video games like never before. It serves as a controller and actually allows you to control elements of the game with your mind and facial expressions. The ultra-modern minimalist design is a nice touch, too. Emotiv reps are reporting that it will be on the shelves before the end of 2008 with a price tag of $299. See IGN for more.

An astonishing resemblance!

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Brain and Brain! What is Brain?!!!

If my kids wear the Emotiv headset, can I use the remote to make them go up and clean their rooms?

I’d like to slip this on my wife while she sleeps & program her stop b$ing me around!

Maybe one day we can get our own cloaking device and follow 3 of 6 into his regeneration chambers to see Cornelius!

1. “Brain and Brain! What is Brain?!!!”

They make mighty fine tasting sweetbread—yum!

Now they need to make a remote control to go with the headset.

i agree with #3 and you could program her to do other stuff…

… hyoptheticly of course

Spock’s Brain a reality? I’m still adjusting to the idea that it’s an episode! :)

-Now i really miss tng’s romulan warbirds…!

I want the headset. No, scratch that, I NEED the headset.

Well, that’s not quite like the headgear in Spocks Brain.

This one won’t work without a brain in skull.

Makes me think of the TNG episode “The Game”…


I don’t know. My kids and their friends seem to enjoy their video games without using their brains. (a joke, gamers)

(world record attempt for say “their” the most in one sentence)

Well, unfortunately for us ‘Star Trek’ fans the episode known as ‘Spock’s Brain’ WAS a reality.

To tell you the truth, I remember liking parts of that episode when I was a kid. Spock had some great sarcastic lines. However, as I got older, that episode lost what little charm I had previously thought it possessed.

#12 Totally! I’d forgotten about “the game”! Luckily, though, you can cure weeks, months, even years of cerebral programing with a strobe light for about 5 seconds. Whoo!

From the end of the WaPo article:

> Pendry added a cautionary note about invisible cloaks,
> making a real-life distinction from the stuff of fiction:
> People inside them will not be able to see out. …

– Wow…green light……….

Come on, people, no one wants to take me to task on my technobabble? I’m disappointed!

arrrr… good old science…

but a thingee on me head that read my emotions or whizwhats to control a game? People be wondering why me character is drinking so much and propositioning tha pixelated lasses…

then ask why me character is relieving himself in tha middle o’ battle…

Go Cassinni! It’s great ta see that reality is as vivid as the made up planets in ST….


I think the new trek movie is a remake of Spock’s Brain. Heads down the best Trek episode EVER!

Sound of near silence with crickets chirping in the background.

So if Spock’s brain was controlling everything why didn’t he just let Kirk and crew in the front door and knock the chicks out with some kinda sleeping gas?

Actually, the brain reading headset is kind of the opposite of the device from the Spock’s Brain episode. In that episode, Spock’s Brain was stolen, and they had to install that device on his head to control his motor functions and find his brain.

Craig, you are trying to make sense of something that is charmingly nonsensical…lol!!!

And yeah, I agree Spock’s Brain is the single greatest episode ever. It should be the template for making quality Trek!


If you read the IGN story, this ends up sounding more like the virtual game from the TNG episode “The Game”. It’s almost scary. Is this Emotiv really some entity planning to take over the world (or at least the gaming world)?

People are willingly turning themselves into The Borg.

I saw the meteor as it flew overhead. Pretty cool but this is the 2nd time in the last couple years that this has occured here in the great Pacific Northwest.

Aren’t Disruptors supposed to be soundwave weapons? Or Microwave Weapons? or Plasma/Antimatter Weapons?

I prefer the latter, but I never heard of Disruptors being lasers before.

…And how does that new headset thing bear resemblence to the thing that controlled Spock’s body? It’s something for the Wii or somesuch.

Hmm… This could be fun….

Lieutenant Dax, raise the cloaking device and give me one of those headset things and a Wii. Set a course for Saturn.


Oh, and get me a carrot!

Great job on the article Kayla! The segment of the cloaking devices is very cool.

Kayla, you’re coming up with some very cool science tidbits – I had read something a few months back on the “cloaking device”/invisibility screen testing going on with the military. Your explanation was easier to understand and visualize – kudos!

“Of course, we all know that phasers are based on the rapid nadion effect, whereby energy is passed through a special phaser crystal resulting in a discharge of short-lived nadion particles (I dare you to try and school me on this). But, a “laser phaser” would be more analogous to a directed energy weapon like a Klingon or Romulan disruptor.”

Wow, you really know your science, Trek and non. Kudos.

The emotiv thing really does seem eerily similar to the device in “The Game.” That’s kinda simultaneously cool and creepy….

wow – this is some very fascinating stuff!!!

Kayla correct if im wrong but the moon Enceldus is one of the place that they think life of some kind might be found since water is in evidence there. If there is water vapor Geysers erupting, it stands to reason that there must be considerable volumes, maybe oceans of water beneath the surface of the moon. The surface would be frozen sheet of Ice and I would Image that there is little if any atmosphere on that moon, due to the fact that moons gravity is not strong enough to hold down an atmosphere and Saturn’s far greater gravity would draw off any gases that were present. But under the frozen surface there might be life, lacking sun the life could be sustained by Chemosynthesis rather then Photo synthesis. On earth her we have the vent ecosystems of the in sunless dept of our own oceans. Something like that could exist under the ice on that moon.
Covergent evolution might have occurred on this moon, in otherwords forms though not the same ancestry but similar forms.

My gosh, YES! I’m glad you brought this up, too. This is one of the reasons that Enceladus is of great interest to scientists (especially astrobiologists) right now. We are discovering all the time that life can life in very very extreme environments. We are continually pushing the boundaries of where we previously thought life could exist. This is always giving us more hope that there is other life right here in our own backyard. Somewhere like enceladus would be very exciting. Of course, we don’t have anywhere near the technology needed to do actual exploration for life there right now, but we are learning a lot through remote observation.

Kayla I think an a maned expedition Enceladus may not happen in our lifetime but finding life there would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that life could exist elsewhere in the universe. We have to figure that in a place as vast as our galaxy and vaster still the universe, there has to be other worlds where conditions have given rise to life even intelligent life . It seems very unlikely that we are the only ones in the whole universe, it certainly would depressing if this turned out that we might be alone.