Science Friday: Space Weather and Lots Of Real Trek Tech

This week’s edition of Science Friday brings you a new Cassini Watch: tracking the saturnian storm, space weather from Google Earth, plus lots of modern day Treknology from isolinear chips to a universal translator and yet another tricorder! All this plus, of course, your gadget of the week: The NCC-1701 bottle opener! Read more after the break!

Cassini Watch: Tracking the Raging Saturnian Storm
As a powerful electrical storm rages on Saturn with lightning bolts 10,000 times more powerful than lightning on Earth, the Cassini spacecraft continues its five-month watch over the dramatic events. The Cassini Imaging Team and the team responsible for the Radio and Plasma Wave (RPWS) experiment have announced that this is the longest-lived continuously monitored electrical storm ever observed on Saturn, a storm that resides in a band around Saturn’s southern hemisphere affectionately called `Storm Alley’ because of its preponderance of storm activity. See for more.

Saturn’s raging electrical storm is immense, as seen in this image

Get Space Weather Updates From Google
Earth’s ionosphere is the uppermost part of the atmosphere, at the edge of space itself, which is constantly ionized by solar radiation. Google has announced a NASA-funded project just released to the general public: a new “4D” live model of Earth’s ionosphere. Without leaving home, anyone can fly through this layer of ionized gas. All that’s required is a connection to the Internet. First, download Google Earth, then visit and click on the ‘Total Electron Content’ link. Also, check out the demo video below which also explains a lot about why we care about the ionosphere.

Is Optical Data Storage the Future of Computing?
Light research is opening doors for optical storage and computing, the goal of which is to replace electrical components with optical in order to boost processing speeds and data storage densities by several orders of magnitude and take the information technology industry into a new era. Although the technology may not be as sophisticated as isolinear chips, today’s photonic (light-based) devices combine greatly improved performance with dramatically lower energy consumption, and could be the wave of the future as far as data storage and transport is concerned. See Science Daily for more.

Isolinear chips may truly be the future of computing

Universal Translator May Be Possible
The universal translator is a classic Star Trek plot device that makes encounters with alien civilizations much less awkward. “Alienese” goes in and American English comes out — at least on television in 1967. But, when a Professor of Biological Anthropology and Linguistics starts talking about it, that’s something worth taking a closer look at. Terrence Deacon of the University of California, Berkeley, posits that all language has a universal structure. Regardless of whether the aliens communicate with sounds, pictures or even odors, there must be a set of rules that govern the communication.

For sure a handy plot device

Real Tricorder Invented
New handheld medical scanners coupled with regular cell phones resemble “Star Trek” tricorders and could see what ails you with a push of a button. The invention, using off-the-shelf cell phone technology, would allow medical scanners could boldly go where none have gone before — to the aid of the roughly three-quarters of the world’s population currently without access to ultrasounds, X-rays and other imagers used for everything from detecting tumors to monitoring fetuses. See LiveScience.

Bones would be proud

Gadget of the Week: NCC-1701 Bottle Opener!
Okay, so this is a little less gadget/gizmo than usual, but how could we resist? Now you can transport your beer from your bottle to your belly in constitution-class style! What, your beers all have twist-off caps? Everyone knows if a beer’s worth drinking, you’ll need a “church key” to get that sucker open. This one’s well-suited to the job, transporting those bottle caps into the ether at warp speed. Get your piece of future history in June for $24. I’ve already pre-ordered mine! Engage!

Beer, the final frontier.

Science Quickies

Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.

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Very interesting stuff! Thanks for that.


That bottle opener shall be mine, oh yes. For, uh…root beer & stuff.

Bottle Opener!

The Google Earth is cool also!
4th dimension!

MMMMM, Romulan Ale….My one weakness.

Never realized how much the TOS universal translator looks like a pipe bomb.
I’d get my brother the E bottle opener, but I already got him a topless mermaid one.
It’s been nearly 40 years since I last saw an educational filmstrip (with convenient and not-at-all-annoying beep cue) and I have to say they haven’t really changed. That computer presentation looks totally aimed at the undecended testes demographic.

Thanks, Kayla! I’ll buy you a Fanta Orange soda the next time you’re in my neck of Nerd Town, USA.

I thought the translator looked like lightsa…almost said it.

A trimmer for Shat’s manly mutton chops?

Lots of great tidbits today. I hope our weather will be better than on Saturn so I can have my BBQ and test my new Enterprise bottle opener!

I always liked the idea of the isolinear chips in TNG. They were great as long as you keep Wesley Crusher away from them! Now, Wesley, you cannot pull out all the chips and play with them, ok!

Hmm, the NCC-1701 bottle opener looks very NCC-74656-like. :-) Coming at the end of June, eh? Looks as if I’ll be able to pick it up when I’m in England.

I want the Bottle Opener! NOW!

Viral campaign for Star Trek??

With Abrams’ history of using this marketing tool, and given how just about every movie is using it these days, I was wondering when are we going to start seeing more viral sites.

There was the one site linked to the official site right? But that’s been there for months without much change.

The wait for any kind of publicity shots, spy shots, or anything related to this movie is becomming unbearable.

continuing on viral sites….

i wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of myspace for starfleet academy cadets with blogs from the characters in the film….. maybe lost journals or something giving more background stories to relationships between the characters…

like maybe ahura’s diary with entries about her first meeting sulu and some fun they had at the academy or something….. you know?

No way ….enterprise bottle opener….now i can combine my 2 favourite things!

Make it so!

Bring on that medical tricorder. It would have saved me thousands of dollars and hours waiting in doctors waiting rooms. And it probably would help elevate my opinion of most doctors as little more than just medieval barbers and apathocaries which is basically what I think of them now.

And yes,….I need that bottle opener.

Love the bottle opener, just pre-ordered mine :)

Excuse me….apothecaries. Don’t want to insult someone and not spell their title correctly.

Andy — you forgot snake oil sellers and leech-ranglers.

Kayla, your column is the bomb – those Saturn images are incredibly beautiful. And that bottle opener will fit perfectly on my keychain.

Interesting as always. Keep up the good work.


Say, those are both good ones. I need to update my insult roster. Although your jibes seem to contemporize them a bit more and in my opinion that compliments and lends some unearned crediblity. But said snidley and contemptuously enough they could be sufficiently defaming. Thanks.

Oh and everybody,….don’t forget Assignment: Earth this weekend.

Andy, the more hi-tech the doc the more you can be sure you’re being ripped off. Don’t even get me started with in-vitro procedures. Huge money and zero guarantees.

is that a universal translator or are you just happy to see me…

sorry i had to. :)


CmdrR, I tend to agree with you on many things, but this time I don’t. While high-tecnology procedures do tend to be on the pricey side, they do often open doors into the future for even wider health coverage.

Though, you are right in some aspects. Many medical technologies that we deem as “excellent” don’t often carry a 100% guarantee. Our treatment for cancer, in the eyes of a 23rd century physician (i.e. Bones) would look on it and say “My God, man! Blasting him with radiation isn’t the answer!” Radiation and chemotherapies are good treatments for cancers, hell, one of my best friend’s mom is going to live because of it, but they don’t always guarantee.

I also recently had a family friend die of a brain tumor.

Hopefully as technology increases, human greed will stop running the medical business and the simple purpose of being a doctor to save lives will once again take over.


You may call me C-3P0, human-cyborg relations. I am fluent in over 6 million forms of communications.

So which language would you like your dirty talk? Wookie, British English, or Klingon? Then I can take that universal translator and



wookie, btw

I shouldn’t condemn all medicos everywhere… but, the greed factor is certainly huge these days. And I don’t see government regulation helping. Truly wonderful mecha? A med kit so simple and fool proof anyone could use it safely and effectively. Maybe we’ll find a semi-sentient healing plant on a planet circling Arcturus. Who knows…

Teleportation Girl#25- LOL! Good one, my sister.

Scotty, beer me.

24, 26, 29

Speaking just from my experiences….they’re still midieval barbers to me.

first teddy bears.. then bottle openers.. what will they think of next? ;-)

Ruh roh.. that Enterprise bottle opener better not be what the new E looks like. It’s not canon.

(snicker) yeah, I know, I know, it’s a bottle opener.

Kayla, how much are the NASA photos of the gas giants colorized? Are they a true color rendition if we were to see them with our own little two eyes while in orbit (pant pant, I wish)?