Beam me up, Scotty!
Realizing My Fondest SciFi Fantasy…
By Randal B. Thatcher
As a kid, I looked forward every week to another episode of the popular TV series, “Star Trek.” It was thrilling to watch those courageous crew-members of the Starship Enterprise continue their intergalactic explorations, boldly going “where no man has gone before.”
Many of you will be familiar with this SciFi show from the 60s; and you’ll likewise be familiar with all those inconceivably futuristic gadgets and gizmos they utilized so casually in every episode.
Sixty years ago, these things were all mere flights of science-fictional fancy, dreamed up by imaginative writers, with little expectation of any of them ever becoming reality.
If my 8-year-old self could have glimpsed far into the future, however, he would’ve been amazed—if not downright stupefied—to discover how many of those science fictional gadgets he now uses in his adult life…
I am typing this column, for instance, on my iPad, very similar to the handheld “Personal Access Data Device” those crew members would use to punch in coordinates, watch videos, or listen to music.
In the Star Trek universe, people could actually talk to their computer, making vocal demands and miscellaneous queries of their omniscient apparatus; much like I now address that disembodied female wizard inside my iPhone: “Hello, Siri…”
The show introduced the improbable wonder of the “holo-deck,” enabling a crew-member to step into a chamber for a virtual visit with loved ones back on their home planet; very much like the experience I had recently when I slipped on a friend’s virtual-reality goggles to pay a seemingly real visit to a fictional world.
The Enterprise crew had the benefit of a “universal translator,” a device that could decode whatever was said by any alien in real-time, translating any language instantaneously into English, or vice-versa; which is exactly what my wife utilized during our recent trip to Europe, simply by downloading the Google Translate app onto her smartphone. Voila!
The fictional “replicator” of Star Trek, is the actual 3D-printer of today.
Those made-up “hydro-spray” injections from the TV show have become the very real needle-less, air injectors of our modern-day medicine.
Even Captain Kirk’s fantastically futuristic weapon, the “phaser,” has become today’s real-life “dazzler,” a directed-energy weapon that can actually send a pulse of electromagnetic radiation to stop something cold in its tracks. Really!
So, there we are: All those improbably science-fictional devices of the 1960s have now become ultramodern realities. All except one… Teleportation.
In the fantasy world of Star Trek, there was no need for planes, trains, or automobiles of any sort. To get from one place to another, crew-members of the Enterprise would simply teleport (using their handy-dandy “transporter” appliance), and within seconds they’d vanish from one place, only to be suddenly reanimated in another.
This was the thing that my 8-year-old self fantasized about the most; and the thing my sixty-something self still dreams about today.
Teleportation has been my fervent wish for decades, though the likelihood of such a breakthrough during my lifetime grows increasingly doubtful. Even in the 21st Century, a trip to Provo still necessitates an hour-long car ride. And transporting myself to Seattle still requires sitting on an airplane for nearly two hours.
Except, that… I actually did transport myself to Seattle, instantly, only last month, to attend the house-concert of a musician friend who lives there. No plane required! There I was—suddenly—within seconds—transported directly into the middle of his very living-room, eagerly awaiting the music to come.
And just what advanced principle of quantum physics did I harness to effect such a miracle? You already know… ZOOM!
I’ll confess to not really loving this ubiquitous teleconferencing technology when it was first thrust upon us, nearly a year ago—this digital method of virtually gathering together during these pandemic times; but I’ve finally come to appreciate it, as the closest thing to actual teleportation that I’m likely going to see.
Last November, I digitally teleported myself to my sister’s home in Salt Lake City, to convey seasonal greetings to her family on Thanksgiving Day. I performed the same virtual teleportation to another home on Christmas Day. And just last week I was able to appear in three different, far-flung cities, for various meetings, within the course of a single hour.
I even know people who’ve taken virtual vacations to other parts of the world via similar technology.
So, was that house-concert I virtually attended the same as if I’d been there in person? No. Decidedly not. But, still, I was there—sort of—and able to enjoy the experience of the show, and even to speak with my friend for a few minutes afterward; all without the trouble or expense of actual air-travel.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want very much to be able to truly teleport, like they did on Star Trek. But, until postmodern science catches up with my fondest SciFi fantasy, I guess I’ll just have to settle for the next best thing.
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