Science Friday: Real Mind Meld + Real Replicator + Real Enterprise + Real Cheap PADD + more

Welcome back to another fact-filled edition of Science Friday. This week, learn how even YOU can mind meld with your buddies, feast your eyes on the most accurate view of Mars ever, journey into space (almost) aboard the VSS Enterprise, and get a sneak peak at the next best thing to a real-life replicator. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: India’s $35 iPad killer!


The Real Life Mind Meld
It is commonly said that “great minds think alike.” It turns out, according to a recent study on blood flow over different regions of the human brain, that any two minds may think alike, so long as those two minds are communicating verbally. Princeton University neuroscientists Greg Stephens and Uri Hasson reported in this month’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that brain scans of a speaker and listener showed synchronization of their neural activity during storytelling. In essence, the two individuals were on the same conceptual ground with one another, not unlike the more intense Vulcan mind meld. It turns out that we humans mind meld every day!

There’s a bit of Vulcan in each of us

Most Accurate Mars Map Ever Constructed
A camera on board NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has helped develop the most accurate global Martian map ever. Researchers and the public can access the map to explore and survey the entire surface of the Red Planet. The map was constructed using nearly 21,000 images from THEMIS, or the Thermal Emission Imaging System, an infrared camera aboard Mars Odyssey controlled by researchers at Arizona State University’s Mars Space Flight Facility. The new map is available at: If your computer is powerful enough to handle images gigabytes in size, you can download the full-resolution map in pieces at:

Just a small piece of the best Mars map ever

VSS Enterprise Makes First Manned Flight
Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise has officially reached the stratosphere with a crew onboard for the first time. Eventually, the space ship will release from the mother ship and glide into space for a few minutes (not quite high enough for orbit). But it’s not yet ready to make the leap into space. This time, the Enterprise remained attached to her carrier, the VMS Eve. The crew onboard conducted tests of the systems and reported that they had achieved their objectives. Tests will continue through 2011, with no date currently set for the first public flights.

Space… the final frontier

Almost a Replicator: Food Printers
The replicators seen on all of the Star Trek series are one of those inventions that people have a hard time imaging ever coming true. Something out of nothing? Impossible! But, MIT has brought the world one step closer to just that with the food printer that creates nutritious and extremely precise meals. The product, called ‘The Cornucopia’, is a 3-D printer concept that fuses the digital world with the culinary one by storing, precisely mixing, depositing, and cooking layers of ingredients with no waste. Once the user makes their food selection (one can even adjust calories or carbohydrate content), Cornucopia does all the work from depositing ingredients to cooking and presenting the food. The next step will be assembling complex ingredients from basic elements or compounds. Then we’ll have a true replicator on our hands. Oh, and the machine will have to produce the product within like 10 milliseconds. That’s a tricky part, too.

Almost a replicator… but not quite!

Picture of the Week: Sky Diver’s View of a Shuttle Launch

Have a look at this incredible photo of a sky diver’s view of a shuttle launch from above the clouds.

Click to embiggen

Gadget of the Week: India’s $35 Tablet Computer
Engineers from India have recently announced a tablet computer that will sell for a measly $35! The device is about the size of an ebook reader or iPad, and it comes with a touch screen control and 2 GB of ram. There is no word yet on what kind of software will be able to run on these computers, which could be something that would potentially drive up the cost. Check out the video below for a display of the new gadget.


If you are on Twitter, you know there are plenty of amazing people out there tweeting away. And, many of them are scientists! Every Friday I’ll be bringing you a new list of great scientists, techies, and trekkies to follow on Twitter. This week…

  • @Starfleetmom: Your crazy, convention-going, sci-fi-loving Twitter mom!
  • @wilw: Wil Wheaton… why does that name sound familiar? Oh, I remember! It was his birthday yesterday!
  • @super_spock: Everyone’s favorite former Ferengi from Star Trek: The Experience.

Science Quickies
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a look.


TrekMovie’s Science Friday is an homage the the great NPR radio show Science Friday. Science Friday® is a registered service mark of ScienceFriday Inc.

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That picture is actually of a Delta rocket launch off Vandenberg.

The tablet was said to run Linux, and the $35 was the cost of the components, not a selling price.

@1. Source?

Cool stuff!

Facinating! (whether I’m first or not!) :)

I lost an ‘s’ above.. Fascinating! :)

Virgin Galactic needs some of that Obama money!
TRUE innovation! Wow!

@3 Google Earth and the fact that Florida doesn’t have a mountains on their costline near Cape Canaveral and I’ve been to Vandenberg.

Wouldn’t that Picture of the Week really be: “A Skydiver’s View of a Sky Diver’s View of a Shuttle Launch”?
After all, wasn’t it another skydiver taking the picture?

… or maybe “A Skydiver’s View of a Sky Diver Viewing a Shuttle Launch”

I’m probably putting too much thought into this.

Tremendous Simpsons reference there! (Points/cookies distributed to whoever else finds it)

I actually got chills from the Enterprise going to space soon. I hop fifty years fm now I can say to my grandchildren “When I first went to space… It’s was aboard the Enterprise”

Oh, and I’m currently out drinking so please fogive my spelling mistake :P

Science Friday is always fascinating. Like the new tweeters feature! Great idea!

Well, whatever rocket that is a picture of, it’s pretty awesome. Plus, I love the term “embiggen”.

#7 Don’t you mean printed money, or borrowed from China money.

OK, who’s gonna be the first to YouTube the VSS Enterprise either:

a) going into warp


b) with a daggered earth emblazened on its hull ?

Food printers? Sounds like it’d go with this:

Good stuff, Kayla! As always, you embiggen our minds.

Decloaking . . .

“Embiggen,” thank you Kayla, youv’e given me my new favorite word.

Recloaking. }:-D>


The real thanks should go to that silver-tongued devil Hans Sprungfeld, AKA Jebediah Springfield.

“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man!”

Sigh… a miss the days when The Simpsons was funny (and clever).

High altitude tandem sky diving with a brake shoot deployed?


@18: it’s a perfectly cromulent word.


Ever since Nixon removed the gold backing of U.S. currency, printed money has largely become meaningless as something fungible – more just numbers used as an excuse to reallocate “real”, i.e. tangible, resources. And even before that, the founding fathers, or more specifically, Benjamin Franklin, discovered the wonders of inflation associated with printed money with its marvelous ability to literally make a debt owed worth less.

Hmmm…Professor McInnes’ work (ENGINEERS PROVE SPACE PIONEER’S 25-YEAR-OLD THEORY) seems to indicate that there may be a way for Spacedock to, indeed, “hover” in orbit over San Francisco. Fascinating.

is it just me or is the “almost-replicator” really, really cool. I mean, it certainly is pretty dumb for MIT to be spending their time on trying to make a replicator……but it is still the coolest thing ever!!!


I’m not sure why you find it “pretty dumb”? Unless, possibly, you are ignorant of science-fiction’s legacy of first creating the concept which later inspires actual inventions?

The list of inventions seeded by science-fiction includes submarines, self-propelled dirigibles, robots, spaceships, cell phones, laser weapons, home microwave ovens, etc.

Also, is it possible that you are unaware “food” is just the latest application for this already successful printing technology which is already being used to manufacture functioning electronic components, 3-d models, and cell deposition substrates?

Besides, if you think about it, this is just a natural evolution of those sheet icing printers that allow your picture to be edibly “printed” on top of your birthday cake.

Or maybe it just seems preposterous now as it did 50 years ago that people would abandon Jiffy Pop for “microwave” popcorn?

The tablet should run a flavor of Linux like Ubuntu, with GNOME 3. Very LCARS-like.