Could a TV show propel us into a real-life final frontier? Could a fictional captain change the way we interact with our world?
While you could argue that William Shatner changed the world, he's downright sure of it. And he's taken the liberty of making a two-hour documentary (and this web feature) to prove it.
From "communicator/tricorder"-style phones and GPS, to medical imaging, to space-craft propulsion, take alook at how the fiction of the U.S.S. Enterprise and crew inspired a world of science in reality.
1. Space ships
In September 2004, Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson announced that the first commercial spaceliner - based on the technology of SpaceShip One, the first successful private space vessel - would also be named Enterprise.
Do real-life, present-day space programs share anything more than a name with the voyages of a fictional starship in the future? (more...)
2. Computers that help us in daily tasks
Unlike warp drive or transporter technology, the reality of computers is already on-par with Star Trek in many ways: We have rudimentary voice-recognition, auto-pilot, and a vast, highly-organized information network available almost anywhere.
When Captain Kirk talks to the computer on the Enterprise of 1960s TV, you can't help but giggle at the flashing lights and ticker-tape. (more...)
3. Global communication in the palm of your hand
In addition to the advent of real-life "tricorders" from the final frontier (GPS units), mobile phone technology has become second only to the Internet in terms of futuristic communication today.
While the slick multi-purpose mobiles of today are a relatively new technology, people have understood the mechanics behind this form of communication for decades - even before Shatner was wielding his communicator in the 1960s. (more...)
4. The search for aliens
What would science fiction be without UFOs and aliens? But are there any real little green men (or blue men, as in Trek lore) out among the stars?
Books, films and TV have challenged our imagination, building upon the age-old question of just what - or who - is out there. Most take a stab at what this undknown could be like. Some radio astronomers, though, are trying to go to the source. (more...)
5. Cheating death
Some medical procedures feel like they're right out of the sci-fi world.
From trepanation - likely the earliest form of surgery - practiced in many cultures, to the equally-dicey nanotechnology, Shatner's adventures on the screen have inspired doctors and engineers across the medical spectrum (Likely, not the ones practicing trepanation.) (more...)
Forget fuel-cell cars and hover planes... the future would be really cool if you could finish work and be home now. Like right now.
Just like the real-life prospects for faster-than-light travel, transporter technology has a long way to come (if it's possible at all.)
Essentially, we would need something to the effect of all the nuclear energy on Earth to move one person a few kilometres (more...)
7. The quest for faster-than-light travel
You think it after an unexpected power-up in a video game. You imagine saying it before taking air on the slopes. Or when your rental sedan gets switched for a brand new sports car. You pull out onto the street, smile in anticipation, and floor it: "Warp speed..."
Sadly, faster-than-light travel is still a dream that eludes us in reality. But thanks to a fictional starship and its captains, we continue to chase that dream. (more...)