Dearest nerds, if you had any doubt that the future is now, here’s something to help the message hit home: Star Trek is now a reality. Well, most of it anyway – there’s still no aliens or working teleporters, and the half-hearted drop-kick hasn’t yet replaced the handshake as an acceptable greeting between men – but most of this other stuff is at least on its way to being viable technology, and that’s a start:
Scientists at the University of Leeds have recently completed work on a new biosensor capable of testing for, and diagnosing most common diseases within a matter of minutes (no word yet on whether or not it makes cheesy ray gun noises as it does so.) The sensor functions along much the same lines as the fictional Tricorder, with one minor exception: Instead of just scanning somebody from across the room, it has to analyze at least a small amount of bodily fluid. Blood, urine, saliva – hell, semen if you got it – the fluid required depends on the nature of the test. I guess that’s a pretty big difference, unless I missed the episode where Kirk contracted a mysterious fever and had to piss all over Bones to complete the diagnosis, most likely prompting him to scream “Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a German!”
The Alaris 30 is a device that creates three-dimensional structures from virtual blueprints. This is not exactly revolutionary in and of itself (3-D printers have been around for a while now,) but this one has a few important features that are entirely unique: First, this device is capable of printing out small working parts and can therefore print out actual, functional machines, where previous printers were limited to just static models. Second, and perhaps most importantly, this one is actually for sale. If you have the cash, you can now buy your very own replicator, hook it up to your LAN, and take bets on exactly how long it takes before somebody prints out a giant plastic cock! Though a true Star Trek style Replicator could build anything from food to high-tech machinery, the Alaris 30 has the added advantage of internet access, thus allowing the potential for hackers to infiltrate your system and, subsequently, the potential for you to come to work one day and find your office swamped with thousands of scale models of gaping plastic anuses.
British scientists have begun sketching out plans for so-called ‘deflector shields’ to fit onto their spaceships. The plans were revealed at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting (presumably by the Royal Astronomical Astronomy Committee of Astronomer’s Astronomical Officer,) and are actually becoming quite feasible. The shields are magnetic in nature, and essentially function like miniature replicas of earth’s own magnetic field, which deflects damaging solar rays and cosmic radiation. Now true, the shields in Star Trek deflect more dramatic things like Disruptors and Photon Torpedoes, whereas these proposed magnetic shields only deflect some fairly anti-climactic things, like rays and invisible foreign particles, but think of it like this: The Star Trek Shields may protect you from an asteroid impact, but these magnetic shields protect you from End-Stage Testicular Space-Cancer.
American inventor Eric Herr has recently sought patents for something he refers to as ‘freeze-ray’ technology: A new, wireless way to transmit short bursts of electricity over long distances. His invention fires a low-grade laser at the target – theoretically up to 300 feet away – and then transmits an electrical pulse along the resulting photon beam. The electric beam supposedly functions just like any other ordinary stun-gun or taser, but with a few advantages: Much greater range, the ability to ‘sweep’ the beam over a virtually unlimited number of targets, and elimination of the need to recharge the weapon after every use. Though no working prototype exists, the UK’s Defense Evaluation Research Agency is nonetheless already in talks to purchase the device which, when considered along with the UK’s previously mentioned Force Shields and Tricorder technologies, seems to suggest that the English are trying to recreate the Enterprise. Some changes, of course, are to be expected of this new ship, as the British Enterprise would have to fly on the left side of space, Uhura would probably be a Chav, and Captain Kirk would undoubtedly solve all of his problems with polite diplomacy rather than devastating karate chops.
Japanese scientists have developed something called an Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display; a system that uses “airborne ultrasound radiation” (which is also the name of my all-acoustic Night Ranger cover band,) to simulate the feeling of tactile contact within a virtual 3-D space. The AUTD actually allows the user to physically touch a computer generated object, as well as manipulate that object by feel.
With all of the recent advancements in holographic technology, coupled with this display’s ability to create virtual tactile sensations, it doesn’t require a great leap of imagination to say that the Holodeck, in some crude form, is nearly here. And taking into account its nation of origin, smart odds say that within the next few years you’ll finally be able to purchase a home console that realistically simulates being raped by a thousand virtual tentacles while wearing a sexy cat costume.