Excerpts from the Physics of Star Trek Krauss, Lawrence M. (1995)

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Excerpts from the Physics of Star Trek
Lawrence M. Krauss (1995)

URL: http://www.phys.uregina.ca/ugrad/classes/phys200/startrek_notes.html

SITE SUMMARY: Lawrence M. Krauss, the Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, describes here various aspects of physics in relation to their treatments in Star Trek (the television programs and movies). This document features "STAR TREK Notes" adapted in 1997 from Krauss' book, revised in 1999, and reproduced online. In these excerpts, Krauss looks at "some of the most exotic concepts in physics" involved with Star Trek. He asks questions such as: "Is this possible? If so, how?" "What does modern science allow us to imagine about our possible future as a civilization?" "What was at the heart" of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's vision? This document is also at http://lafite.phys.uregina.ca/ugrad/classes/phys200/startrek_notes.html.


  1. See Krauss' section fifteen: "STAR TREK Physics?" Identify the various ways he said Star Trek writers have included physics in their writings. See Krauss' Closing Remarks. What did he "argue" about, then say in a positive way (both with reference to physics and Star Trek)? Identify the quotation by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's creator, that Krauss cited.
  2. Choose one of the more than twenty-five Star Trek physics topics Krauss mentions. State his description of this field of physics, noting his view as to the Star Trek version of this field of physics being possible or improbable. Next, check to see if you have chosen a Star Trek physics subject mentioned by Stephen Hawking in his lecture: "Science in the New Millennium," or by David Batchelor in his article "The Science of STAR TREK." (Both are featured in other chapters of this book.) If so, cite Hawking's and/or Batchelor's view(s) on this field of physics.
  3. Identify which well known physicists and their physics Krauss mentions in section one: "Inertial Dampers" (especially paragraphs two and four), and section two: "Tractor Beam" (especially paragraphs one and two). How did Krauss apply these physicists' physics to Star Trek, and how did he involve the Hubble telescope?
  4. See one of these sections (e.g., three, nine, seven, eight, or seventeen): "Time Loops," "Warp Speed," "Black Holes," "Wormhole Time Machines," or "From Another Dimension." Describe one of Krauss' explanations of Star Trek and a theory in physics by Albert Einstein and Kurt Godel, Miguel Alcubierre, Stephen Hawking and Werner Karl Heisenberg, Kip Thorne, Theodor Kaluza and Oskar Klein, plus Max Planck.
  5. See Krauss' section three: "Time Loops" (especially paragraphs seven, eight, and nine), and section four: "Warp Drive" (especially paragraph one). How did he connect a physics in Star Trek, an Einstein theory, and the Sisyphus myth?
  6. See Krauss' section five: "Curvature of Space Time." Describe the "chicken and egg" dilemma. See also Hawking's "Origin of the Universe" essay (featured in another chapter of this book). Compare and/or contrast this concept's use by Krauss and by Hawking.
  7. See Krauss' section fourteen: "Other Intelligent Life in the Universe." Read what he said about the "continuing mission of the starship Enterprise." What do Star Trek viewers "get to imagine," and why is this important, according to Krauss? Think of a problem or issue that humans must deal with. (Try to think of one that has a connection to a science in the physics field.) Describe how it was, or is, dealt with by people of a past time, and people of a foreign nation today. Imagine how people in the future might deal with it.
  1. See Krauss' section ten: "Beam Me Up Scotty," especially the end of paragraph eleven. Why did Krauss compare "storage requirements for a human pattern," "information in all books ever written," and information on this site's Web page?
  2. Explain further one of your answers to Questions/Activities no. 2, no. 3, or no. 4, or choose and explain another physics subject Krauss mentioned. In your explanation, feature information on your chosen subject found via these Web sites: Physics of STAR TREK—Links, and Jay's Physics and STAR TREK (whose urls are cited in the Related Internet Sites section below), or other sites cited in the Related Internet Sites section in this book's chapter on Batchelor's "The Science of STAR TREK"; or more Web sites in this book's Appendix B).
  3. Select one physics subject you chose for Question/Activity no. 2 above, or another physics subject in Star Trek that Krauss mentions. Be sure, as Krauss indicates, your choice is a present-day physics subject that could be the "ancestor" of a Star Trek physics science; not a "fantasy science." (Note: the Star Trek physics subject would then be a future or evolved version of a present-day physics subject.) State the now and then connection, supporting your claim by quoting and/or citing Krauss and other present-day physicists' research. Suggest how the Star Trek physics subject indicates how Earth's civilizations will be different in the future, and how the future physics would affect you or an individual living in that future time. For help, see the Web sites noted in Question/Activity no. 9 above, and the Web sites: Science in Society (its Futurism area), and World Future Society. Both sites' urls are cited in the Related Internet Sites section of this book's chapter on Hawking's lecture "Science in the New Millennium."


Excerpt from Stephen Hawking's Foreword to Krauss' The Physics of STAR TREK


A brief but interesting and informative excerpt, as provided by The Science Page on a page called The Science of Star Trek.

Physics of STAR TREK—Links


Links are to publisher's extracts, chapter one of Krauss' book, reviews of the book, plus information on a lecture, a Web chat, and more.

"[Physicist Author Prompted to Write about STAR TREK]" in The Scientist Notebook


The Scientist, January 22, 1996, featured this interesting review of Krauss' book. On this page with several books' reviews, scroll to the paragraph beginning with "Transporter rooms, warp speed, tractor beams" to see the review of Krauss' book. To see this review, free registration by an educator is required at The Scientist Web site.

Jay's Physics and STAR TREK


A research physicist takes a look at "what we know about physics today and applies it to some concepts used in science fiction (mainly Star Trek)," e.g., faster-than-light travel, relativity and subspace. Go to http://www.physicsguy.com/index.html#trek for an explanatory note about Jay's Physics and STAR TREK Web site.

Science Friday Archives—Lawrence Krauss and STAR TREK


Search by keywords (e.g., Star Trek, Lawrence Krauss), topic (e.g., Physics), date, and full text, for The Star Trek Phenomenon (July 24, 1998), and The Physics of STAR TREK (November 17, 1995), with an introduction and information on these National Public Radio broadcasts. Also available for the 1998 broadcast are a RealAudio version, a list of books discussed, and related links.

Science of the Future—Lawrence M. Krauss Talks about The Physics of STAR TREK


A Web Exclusive interview with physicist Krauss, as conducted in April 1997 by Metroactive Books and reproduced online here.

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Excerpts from the Physics of Star Trek Krauss, Lawrence M. (1995)