Science Saturday: Treknology for a Modern Starship Enterprise

What might a modern day Enterpsie look like? This week we take a look at some up and coming technologies that draw some intriguing parallels to 23rd century Star Trek. The line up: Google’s Knowledge Graph as the Enterprise computer; New military translation tech as the ship’s UT; Antimatter engines to fuel the Enterprise; Pulsar navigational charts for use in Stellar Cartography; Asteroid mining and hazard mitigation; and quantum teleportation for use in the ship’s communications array.


Google’s Knowledge Graph One Step Toward Trek-Like Computer System
Google recently unveiled the Knowledge Graph, a new tool implemented into the Google search engine that promises to provide highly relevant and in-depth search results. How will Google achieve this? By turning their search engine into a knowledge engine. The Knowledge Graph knows that words have meaning beyond simple search queries that actually apply to real-world things, which are part of a web of knowledge. Watch the video below for a demo of what this tech can do.

Real, Usable Star Trek-like Universal Translator
Many companies have been attempting to develop Trek-inspired UT devices for the past few decades. The military has an obvious interest in this technology, which would allow soldiers to communicate with locals anywhere in the world without the need for translators. Well, this defense-driven UT technology is basically a reality, says’s Allison Barnie. Raytheon’s BNN TransTalk is a portable two-way translation device that promises to automatically translate speech between English and several languages including Arabic, Pashto, and Farsi.


Antimatter Engines Could Power Future Spacecraft
A new paper has proposed a conceptual design for an antimatter propulsion system that could be created with today’s technology and would generate speeds of more than 2/3 the speed of light. Matter/Antimatter reactions are a great way to fuel a rocket, as they produce 10 million times more energy than a conventional chemical engine. Unfortunately, antimatter is exceedingly difficult to hold on to, and scientists can only study the stuff by creating it in particle accelerators like CERN.

Read the scientific journal article and the story at Discovery News to learn more. Plus, watch the video below to learn about how antimatter is created at CERN.

Pulsar Stars Could Guide Spacecraft to Within An Accuracy of 5km
GPS works great for getting us from one place to another here on terra firma, but how do we expect to be able to navigate through interstellar space? Star Trek (and pretty much every space-based Sci-fi show) gets this one right: star charts. Well, scientists now believe that pulsars, dense burnt-out stars that exist all over the universe, could be key to helping us navigate the cosmos. Pulsars rotate extremely rapidly. As they do, they send x-rays out into space at rates so stable that they rival atomic clocks. Prof Werner Becker from the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics explained to the BBC that if a spacecraft carried the means to detect the pulses, it could compare their arrival times with those predicted at a reference location. This would enable the craft to determine its position to an accuracy of just five kilometres anywhere in the galaxy.

Read more at the BBC. And, thanks to Marcelo for the tip!

Pulsars could be extremely useful to Stellar Cartographers aboard the Enterprise

Astronauts Learning How to Explore and/or Destroy an Asteroid
The Enterprise crew will need to be trained in gathering scientific and ore samples from asteroids. And, here on Earth, we just might need to know how to destroy an asteroid should it threaten to collide with our planet. NASA and ESA have started a training program to teach astronauts to land on, explore, sample, and even destroy an asteroid should the need arise. As the knowledge of potentially hazardous asteroids in our solar system increases, the need for how to deal with a potential threat becomes more and more apparent. According to The Telegraph, NASA will soon announce its plans to send a robotic mission to sample an asteroid by 2016, followed by a manned asteroid mission by the late 2020s.

Read more at The Telegraph.

NASA plans to send a man to an asteroid by late 2020s

Chinese Set New Quantum Teleportation Record of 60 Miles
Researchers in China have successfully teleported a photon over a distance of 60 miles, 6 times farther than their previous record set in 2010. Now, quantum teleportation is not really the same thing as transportation on Star Trek, but it is a breakthrough for new kinds of information exchange and communication. Quantum entanglement, which Einstein famously called “spooky action at a distance”, is the process of “entangling” two objects (in this case, photons, or light particles). When two particles become entangled, they act exactly alike even though they may be very far away. It’s like taking one photon at location A, duplicating it, and making it appear at location B. Experts say that this technology will lead to satellite-based quantum cryptography, an ultra secure method to transmit information around the globe. Send an encrypted subspace message to the Admiral, Priority One.

Read more at TIME, and read the scientific journal article.

Space Cat doesn’t understand quantum teleportation

Photo of the Week: Psychedelic stars & cities as seen from the space station
Astronaut Don Petit took several photos from the ISS and made this beautiful composite image. Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for posting this on his blog!

Do yourself a favor and click to see the large version

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


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