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The Physics of Star Trek

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  1. The Physics of Star Trek Marvin D. Kemple Department of Physics IUPUI With much help from Neil Smith

  2. Non-Fiction Books and Star Trek The Physics of Star Trek, Lawrence M. Krauss, 1995.Beyond Star Trek: Physics from Alien Invasions to the End of Time, Lawrence M. Krauss, 1997.To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek, Anthena Andreadis, 1998.Life Signs: The Biology of Star Trek, Susan Jenkins and Robert Jenkins, 1998.The Computers of Star Trek, Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg, 2000.Star Trek on the Brain: Alien Minds, Human Minds, Robert Sekular and Randolf Blake, 1998.The Ethics of Star Trek, Judith Barad and Ed Robertson, 2000.

  3. The TV Series TOS-The Original Series-Captain Kirk (William Shatner) TNG-The Next Generation-Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) DS9-Deep Space Nine-Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) VOY-Voyager-Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) ENT-Enterprise-Captain Archer (Scott Bakula)

  4. Science • The Star Trek series has been around since 1966. There was an 18-year gap between TOS and TNG. • The series includes the TV programs on the previous slide and 10 movies. • There are attempts to rationalize ideas in Star Trek with current science. • The aim of this talk is to have fun with Star Trek and to use it as a platform to learn some physics. • Science fiction can inspire real science and technology.

  5. and Star Trek

  6. Milky Way Galaxy Milky Way Galaxy • Ourgalaxy serves as a background for Star Trek. • The galaxy is disc-shaped. • It is classified as a barred spiral galaxy. • The solar system is about 30,000 ly from the center. • Strangely most of the matter is not visible. • Star Trek divides the galaxy into quadrants.

  7. Travel • 1. The Galaxy is a big place ( 100,000 ly across). • 2. Move at "sub-light" speeds—Impulse Drive. • 3. Einstein—Special Relativity—Time dilates when one approaches the speed of light (c). There is no simultaneity. • 4. Difficult to organize a Federation when all clocks are different. • Star Trek imposed a practical limit on impulse speeds which they often violate. Called 1/4 impulse when Picard commands ENGAGE. 6. Must be able to go faster than this!

  8. Warp Drive • 1. Faster than light travel. • Warp bubble. Locally the accelerations are minimized and clocks run normally. • 3. Requires negative energy. • (L. H. Ford and T. A. Roman, Negative energy, wormholes, and warp drive, Scientific American282, 46-53 (2000))

  9. Warp Drive (cont.) 4. Establishing negative energy requires even more "real" energy. 5. Star Trek uses anti-matter fuel. Questions of production and storage arise. 6. The famed dilithium crystals: "[the] only material known to be nonreactive with anti-matter when subjected to a high frequency, electromagnetic field rendering it porous to anti-hydrogen". 2<5>6 dilithium 2<:> 1-diallosilicate 1:9:1 heptoferranide

  10. Time Travel • A favorite subject of Star Trek. • Introduced the Time Police in DS9. • The final episode of TNG involved time travel. • Is this possible? • Worm holes give potential of travel through time and space. The latter forms the basis for DS9. • The problem is how to stabilize the opening of the worm hole. • Considerable debate among general relativists regarding the answer to this question.

  11. The Transporter A method was needed to transport people and goods rapidly from ship to ship and from ship to planet— thus the concept of The Transporter. Several questions arise regarding its operation. • What is a person? • Is just the information transported or are the atoms also transported? • What are the energy requirements? Note a 60 kg person if converted completely to energy corresponds to 5.4 x 1018 J. • How much information is required? There are about 1028 atoms in a person. • What about the Uncertainty Principle? The writers invented Heisenberg Compensators. • What resolution is needed? According to the specifications, atomic resolution at distances of 40,000 km is required.

  12. Quantum Mechanics Addressed in various ways in Star Trek. • Heisenberg Compensators • Numerous Elementary Particles—many made up. • Character named Quark. • Prevalence of Lasers and Phasers, etc. • Holodeck • Quantum Fissures. Specific Example: Many Worlds Hypothesis • Measurements have possibility of many outcomes in general based upon probabilities. • Idea is that all of those happened somewhere generating many different “worlds”.

  13. “Blunde´-Ñ:rs” • Dealing with inertia. • Flying a starship—banking, stopping. • Explosions in space—too much noise. • Holodeck-solid objects made from light. • Phasers—visibility, jumping out of the way, stunning someone. • Ship’s phasers—same problem, why do we see the beam? • The ghost problem. • Energy beings—they should be moving at c. • Baryon sweep—should have destroyed the Enterprise.

  14. Other Curious Phenomena • Gravity on the Enterprise • Deflector Shields • Structural Integrity and Force Fields • Tractor Beam • Inertial Dampers • Overall Huge Energy Requirements • Positronic Brain in Commander Data • Photon Torpedoes

  15. Curious Phenomena (cont.) • Replicators • Planets with Breathable Atmospheres • Common Communications between Alien Ships • Translators • So Many Humanoids • Symbionts • The Borg • Nature of Omniscient Beings (The "Q") • Ability to Detect Life with a Hand-Held Device ("Life Signs") • Details of Medical Devices

  16. Acknowledgements Lawrence Krauss for writing the original book. Neil Smith for producing the video clips. Ray Ford for designing the web site for the POST course. Paramount and others for producing the TV series and the movies.