"The Science of Star Trek" Batchelor, David Allen (1993)

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"The Science of Star Trek"
David Allen Batchelor (1993)

URL: http://ssdoo.gsfc.nasa.gov/education/just_for_fun/startrek.html

SITE SUMMARY: NASA physicist David Batchelor describes various sciences, and the treatments of science in Star Trek (the television programs and the movies). In this document, reproduced online via the Space Science Data Operations Office Web site, Batchelor points out what is based on real science and pure fantasy, and what is valuable with reference to science in Star Trek. He also comments on critics' viewpoints on the subject.


  1. Read Batchelor's Introduction and Conclusion. Cite three of the six positive statements (in general) about the presence of science, scientists, and engineers in Star Trek. Identify positive comments about "the fanciful science."
  2. Choose three of the twenty Star Trek science features Batchelor mentions. State his view on these sciences, noting if your chosen Star Trek sciences are probable, possible, or not likely, and if Star Trek presents it realistically, not realistically, or partly realistic/partly unrealistic. Check to see if you have chosen a Star Trek science also mentioned by Stephen Hawking in his lecture "Science in the New Millennium" and/or Lawrence Krauss in his "Excerpts from The Physics of STAR TREK." (Both documents are featured in other chapters of this book.) If so, cite Hawking's and/or Krauss' view(s) on the science or sciences.
  3. Explain further your answers to one of the sciences you selected when doing Question/Activity no. 2 above. (Be sure, as Batchelor indicates, your choice is a present day science that could be an "ancestor" of a Star Trek science, but not a "fantasy science." The Star Trek science would then be a future or evolved version of a present day science.) Explain as suggested by Hints below, and by including data on your chosen subject, found via Web sites noted below. (Hints: Begin an essay by describing a Star Trek science. Find urls for Web sites on one of these Star Trek science subjects Batchelor mentions [e.g., Holography; Artificial Intelligence, also called Artificial Life, AI or A-Life; Healing Rays, which are therapeutic lasers, or laser-based medical treatments; Sensors and Tricorders, i.e., technical and medical instruments using sonar and magnetic resonance imaging.] Describe an evolutionary connection between today's science and the future science as used in Star Trek, stating the now and then connection, and supporting your claim by quoting present day scientists' research. Suggest how the Star Trek science indicates how Earth's civilizations will be different in the future, and how the future science would affect you or an individual living in that future time.) (Visit the Web sites StarFleet Medicine and Astrometrics, STAR TREK Related Science articles, Official STAR TREK Web site—Library—Episodes/Movies Information, STAR TREK: VOYAGER—Technology, Medicine, etc., Trek Tech, and STAR TREK—Reference Sites—Treknology, and journalist Janet Wells' article "The Science of STAR TREK: Fictional Technology Has Long Been the Inspiration for Real Life Scientists" [whose urls are cited in the Related Internet Sites section below; the Related Internet Sites section of this book's chapter on "Excerpts from The Physics of STAR TREK," or this book's Appendix B].) (For more help with what to suggest as requested above, visit the Science in Society [its Futurism area], and the World Future Society Web sites. Both sites' urls are cited in the Related Internet Sites section of this book's chapter on Hawking's document noted in Question/Activity no. 2 above.)
  4. Other sciences are mentioned in Star Trek, including nanotechnology, genetic engineering, terraforming, and cloning. (For information, see the Foresight Institute Web site on nanotechnology [whose url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section in this book's chapter on Richard Feynman's speech "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom"], the International Forum for Genetic Engineering Web site [whose url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section in this book's chapter featuring Hawking's document noted in Questions/Activities nos. 2 and 3 above], and the StarFleet Medicine site [whose url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section below], plus information on terraforming and cloning at Web sites whose urls are cited in this book's Appendix B.) (For more help, see any of the other sites cited in the Related Internet Sites section below, e.g., Official STAR TREK Web site—Library—Episodes/Movies Information.) Apply to the Star Trek sciences noted above the Hints in Question/Activity no. 3 in which you are asked to describe something, then suggest something, then indicate a way each of these sciences appears in Star Trek.
  5. Extra Optional Activity: Choose a modern science you think is a forerunner or ancestor of a Star Trek science not mentioned by Batchelor or in this chapter's Questions/Activities. Explain why you believe this. Support your claims with scientists' comments you find on the science at Web sites referred to anywhere in this chapter, or anywhere in this book.
  6. See Star Trek's "'Richter' Scale of Cultural Development" with reference to planets and civilizations in the Star Trek universe, found online at the Star Trek Federation Sim Star Fleet Web site. (Its url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section below.) State the main feature of a Class N Planet, and identify a well known planet in this category. Choose another planetary classification, then suggest what people from Earth would need to survive and establish a colony on a planet with this classification. Select one level of cultural development, then describe an Earth based culture and time similar to this level, and any type of science that is part of this cultural level. Explain a way this science is an important part of this culture.
  7. Keeping Question/Activity no. 6 above in mind, read the article "Just My Type: Karashev Civilizations in Science Fiction and Beyond" at the Suite 101 Web site. (Its url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section below.) Name and identify the four types of civilizations the twentieth-century Russian astronomer Karashev proposed, and tell where he placed the civilization of the Earth of the mid-twentieth century, the time when he suggested his idea. Identify and explain the foundation on which he based his proposal. Tell how the article's author connects Karashev's scheme to the Star Trek Universe.
  8. See the Web site featuring STAR TREK—News—Science Briefs, etc. (Its url is cited in the Related Internet Sites section below.) Select one Science Brief, identify its Star Trek connection and the real world connection. Option: Watch a Star Trek episode or movie on TV, in a theater or on a videotape, or read a Star Trek novel. Identify a science in the Star Trek story, connect it to a real world science, then write your own "science brief."


STAR TREK—News—Science Briefs, etc.


Scroll to, and click, Science Brief news links that are mixed with other Star Trek News. Science Briefs are on subjects that have connections between real life and Star Trek features, or particular episodes' features. Science Brief links have included "NASA's First Science Officer Named," "The Prime Directive—First Draft" (of protecting against space germs), "Computers Inspired By Biology," "Looking For Life in All the Odd Places," and more. Note also related links at the end of each Science Brief. In addition, see the Feature Archive link to previous news, e.g., "Dispatch 5-11-00: The Science Behind the Fiction."

"The Science of STAR TREK: Fictional Technology Has Long Been the Inspiration for Real Life Scientists," by Janet Wells, in the San Francisco Chronicle, November 13, 2000


Scroll down the left column to Resources—Search and Archive. Click the link, then, on the search page, do a search in the Archive Search area by selecting the dates November 1, 2000, to November 30, 2000, writing Janet Wells in the Byline box, then clicking the search button. The link to the article will appear.

STAR TREK—Reference Sites—Treknology


At this in-progress site, browse for links to Web sites in the categories: Reference Sites, Star Trek Universe, Internet Resources, and News.

StarFleet Medicine, and Astrometrics


Links in the right column go to Introduction, Diseases, Procedures, Equipment, and Medicine (all especially, but not exclusively, of the Star Trek program DEEP SPACE NINE, set in a space station in the known Galaxy's Alpha Quadrant, where Earth is located, but in an area in deep space near a planet called Bajor, and near a space phenomenon called a wormhole, that leads to the Gamma Quadrant). Note also bottom links for profile and personal logs of DEEP SPACE NINE's Dr. Julian Bashir, plus Bashir episodes at: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Nebula/4156/ds9/logs/depisodes.html, and Medical Log: Supplemental at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Nebula/4156/personal/links.html. See, in addition, link to Astrometrics, with information on the DEEP SPACE NINE wormhole, and the twentieth century wormhole theory, at www.geocities.com/Area51/Nebula/4156/ds9/astro/wormhole.html.

STAR TREK Related Science Articles, and Physics and Technology Encyclopedia


Click the articles link to find links to Star Trek Technology and Physics articles on, for example, warp drive, and faster-than-light travel. See also links to ShipTech, and an encyclopedia with entries that are based on the official STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Technical Manual.

Official STAR TREK Web Site—Library—Episodes/Movies Information


Note the links to Stellar Cartography, Technology, and Medical and Science. See also the links to the various Star Trek television series or movies.

STAR TREK: VOYAGER—Technology, Medicine, etc.

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Trailer/3687/startrek.html (click Datalogs)

Choose access by the html link or the shockwave link to find information on the sciences in this version of Star Trek that features a star ship stranded in the Milky Way Galaxy's Delta Quadrant and striving to return to Earth in the Alpha Quadrant which is 70,000 light years away. See information on sciences including medical records, the emergency medical hologram, holographic technology, and time travel. Note also the "long distance theory" that suggests an intelligent dinosaur species in the Delta Quadrant originated on Earth, then escaped into space just as a cataclysm came and destroyed Earth's dinosaurs.

STAR TREK's "'Richter' Scale of Cultural Development"


At the Star Trek Federation Sim (Simulation) Fleet Web site, see this document for the Star Fleet Universe, "published" by a Dr. Roeland Richter in the Star Trek year of 2203. This scale identifies different levels of civilization on Star Trek planets. On close look, parallels with various times in Earth's history can be seen. Although called a cultural scale, it also indicates any sciences existing at a particular level. Examples are given to Star Trek planets, with descriptions and letter designations for each level. Note, for example, Class N, and Class N+. See the Scale with links (some broken) at the nicely arranged Web site http://members.aol.com/grewsomeco/richter.htm.

"Just My Type: Kardashev Civilizations in Science Fiction and Beyond"


In this article, Christopher B. Jones writes about different levels of development in civilizations on the Earth, what comments Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov had on the subject, how science fiction (especially Star Trek) deals with it, what Nikolai Kardashev (a twentieth-century Russian astronomer) said about it, what concept it is based on, and where the Earth of the mid-twentieth century as well as today in the early twenty-first century may be in this scheme.

Trek Tech


Of Star Trek's twenty-fourth-century physics and technology, with quotes from writings and talks by David Batchelor (detailed), Lawrence Krauss and Stephen Hawking (both brief). Information on "The Core Computer: The Heart Of A Starship Operation," "Warp Propulsion," "Inertial Dampers," etc., plus maps of the Star Trek universe, a detailed Star Trek Timeline (in progress), and miscellaneous Star Trek sites.

Daystrom Institute Technical Library


This site is named for the Earth's greatest scientific institution in the Star Trek universe. It has links to personnel (e.g., Star Trek's science and medical officers: Spock, Leonard McCoy, Beverly Crusher, Julian Bashir, Jadzia Dax, Tuvok, the Emergency Medical Hologram, T'Pol and Phlox). There are also many more links (e.g., to the television series' guides, and articles). In addition there is a tribute to the real life astronauts of the Columbia space shuttle where the U.S. space program's most dedicated science mission to occur in years took place in January 2003.

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"The Science of Star Trek" Batchelor, David Allen (1993)

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"The Science of Star Trek" Batchelor, David Allen (1993)