5 cool Star Trek inventions that may become a reality

Star Trek
A way to beat traffic? Transporting technology continues to advance in the real world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paramount/Courtesy: Everett Collection.

TORONTO – You’re stuck in traffic. Again. Well, why didn’t you just beam to work?

Sound out of this world? Thanks to some people who really want to see some cool Star Trek gadgets come to life, it may not be.

READ MORE:  How Star Trek changed the world (really)

Here are five of the coolest.

1. Transporter

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

Even if you’re not a Star Trek fan, you’re likely familiar with these words.

This is the idea of scattering a person’s atoms and reassembling them somewhere else.

If you endure seemingly endless commutes, or are continually late to events, the good news is that scientists have been working on this for years.

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The most recent success came earlier this month when scientists at the University of Geneva teleported a quantum state of a photon to a crystal over 25 km away, shattering their previous record of 6 km.

Wait, what?

That does sound rather complicated. Here’s essentially what happened: a photon, or packet of light, was stored in one crystal. Another photon of a different wavelength was sent to a second crystal 25 km away where it interacted with a third photon that obliterated the two but preserved the information of the first photon.

It’s not exactly like the transporting technology in Star Trek, but it’s still pretty awesome.

And it’s nice to know that scientists are working hard to make your commute better. Though, that probably isn’t their main intention.

Using a fibre optic cable, scientists were able to teleport a quantum state of a photon (light) to a crystal over 25 km away.
Using a fibre optic cable, scientists were able to teleport a quantum state of a photon (light) to a crystal over 25 km away. Courtesy University of Geneva

2. Cloaking device

Some people may think of Harry Potter when hearing these words.

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But in the Star Trek universe, Klingon (once bad guys, now friends) and Romulan (still bad guys) ships were equipped with a device that rendered them invisible both visually and by sensors.

How close is this to becoming a reality?

The premise behind cloaking is bending light using something called metamaterials. The material bends light around an object making us think that it’s not there at all.

A Canadian company called HyperStealth claims to have created a type of material that would make someone invisible. In fact, it appears that the United States is very interested in the technology.

A mock-up of someone using the Quantum Stealth material.
A mock-up of someone using the Quantum Stealth material. Courtesy HyperStealth

President and CEO of Hyperstealth Guy Cramer — whose grandfather invented the walkie-talkie radio and was given the Order of Canada —  said that the public might get a glimpse of a working version within a year.

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“The vast majority of industry and people and governments for that matter, don’t think we have actually done something,” Cramer said.  “They think we’re just making up stories.”

But, he added, “It is very much a reality.”

The most recent cloaking device is brought to you by scientists at the University of Rochester.

WATCH: University of Rochester experiments with cloaking device

 3. Needleless syringe

This is a dream of trypanophobics. These people are terrified of getting injections (who isn’t, really?).

But the needleless syringe isn’t a new idea.

This first gained popularity in the 1960s. But in 2009, the PharmaJet Stratis Needle-Free Injector passed FDA approval in the United States. In 2013, it passed the World Health Organization’s Performance Quality Safety certification.

An early version of a vaccination gun, circa 1980.
An early version of a vaccination gun, circa 1980. Wikimedia Commons/GFDL CC-BY-SA

The injector delivers the medicine subcutaneously (beneath the skin) in about 1/10 of a second, making it quick and most importantly, shiny-pointy-thing-free.

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4. Laser weapons

Artillery is so yesterday.

Laser technology is becoming a new way of either destroying mines or fighting enemy vehicles among the big players like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

In 2013, the United States Navy announced plans to deploy a solid-state laser aboard a ship. This type of weapon uses concentrated energy allowing it to either destroy or disable an enemy ship or plane.

The laser doesn’t work as fast as it does in science fiction movies. Instead, the laser hits a point and creates heat, which in turn causes rapid expansion, thus heating, thus a big boom. Particularly if it’s already a loaded weapon.

Then there’s the handheld “ray guns” (called phasers in Trek). Scientists have been trying to develop those for years, but not with much success. Yet.

Boeing’s Laser Avenger seen here in New Mexico.
Boeing’s Laser Avenger seen here in New Mexico. Courtesy Boeing Photo

5. Warp drive

Yes, believe it or not, scientists are working on this.

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In 1994, Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre came up with a mathematical model for this method of travel (often referred to as the Alcubierre drive), which uses a similar principle as the warp drive used in Star Trek. The premise is that, rather than trying to travel at light-speed — which is theoretically impossible — you stretch space in a wave. The space ahead of your spacecraft contracts, while the space behind expands. So instead of you moving, space moves.

Sound impossible? Maybe not. NASA is taking the theory seriously and looking at it as a possible method of space travel (among other methods).

WATCH: Faster than Light: Warp Drive – SpaceVision 2013

So hold on to your hats. You never know when you might be able to beat that traffic by beaming to work, sneak up on your kids with an invisibility cloak or be able to be honest with your child when you say, “It won’t hurt a bit!” at their vaccinations.

Thank you, Star Trek.