September 22, 2023 | WTOP's Kelley Vlahos chats with author Andrew Fazekas (Jason Fraley)
WASHINGTON — Fifty years ago, “Star Trek” beamed into living rooms for the first time, launching one of the most successful franchises in the galaxy and a decades-long love affair for pioneers across space, discovering new worlds and beings, and navigating the shoals of interstellar relationships.
While science and technology inspired the show, “Star Trek” has the unique honor of inspiring generations of engineers, astronauts and scientists who were in turn able to advance human capabilities far beyond stardate Sept. 8, 1966. That’s the date when the first episode, “The Man Trap,” launched this pioneering TV program into the collective consciousness.
Yahoo News science columnist Andrew Fazekas, who also writes the StarStruck column for NationalGeographic.com, has written a new book that puts the science of “Star Trek” in context for the modern reader. “Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe” is part textbook, part fan fun, part actionable guide to Fazekas’s favorite topic: the stars.
“I wanted to get people really excited about when they’re watching the show, by really being able to research the reality and the connection with reality, the technology concepts, the science concepts and particularly the idea of being able to go out and then look at the objects themselves — take your own cosmic adventure in your backyard,” Fazekas told WTOP.
Those “objects” invariably include planets, stars, comets, black holes, quasars, dwarfs and more, which Fazekas lays out in colorful tutorials, not only about what they are, but the roles they often play in the series and the best times to see them in the night sky.
Probably the most fun is seeing how the “Star Trek” science of the 1960s — as well as the show’s later incarnations like “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager” and “Enterprise” — measure up to modern realities.
In many cases, it holds up uncannily good, the book notes. Laser technology is advancing in the military and GPS is now the “locator” of today. Communicators are cellphones, while hypospray and FitBits are tools that up until now we’ve only seen in the starship’s sick bays. 3D printers are yet another step toward replicators, and those view screens used for intergalactic diplomacy? Now we have Skype. What’s more, virtual reality is on its way to becoming a sort of holodeck of the future.
“Look at where we are today — we have smartphones that hearken back directly to Kirk’s flip phone, or the medial tricorder that Dr. McCoy would use during their adventures on planets, being able to diagnose people on the fly,” Fazekas said. “[Today] we’ve got wristwatch bands that can tell your pulse rate and your blood pressure, and tools for diabetics to monitor sugar levels.”
“It’s playing out what ‘Star Trek’ had. I think the appeal has always been there because it always seemed like we were on the edge of fulfilling these visionary visions that ‘Star Trek’ had. And it’s true, all of these scientists and engineers have been inspired directly by it, and it’s no accident that some of these devices, the technologies today, really look like they did in the ‘Star Trek’ series.”
Listen to the full interview with author Andrew Fazekas below: