Beam Me Up, Sceptic


UKTV Poll: A Further Lucky Seven!

1. Warp Drive

Warp Drive is based on the idea that you can warp space. If a handkerchief is folded, two otherwise separated points of it can become joined; if space could be warped in like style (which it cannot), the resulting short cut would effectively enable spaceships to travel faster than light. The ‘warp factor’ used in Star Trek is an example, and is used as a measure of velocity. This is illogical on all levels! The idea of space warp, along with hyperspace, may first have been used by science fiction writer John W. Campbell Jr in Islands of Space (1931).

2. Teleportation

Popularised by Star Trek, teleportation is the ability to move people or objects from one place to another by matter transmission. The theory is that scientific gadgetry can be used to transmit items which are essentially reconstituted (rebuilt!) at their destination. In practise, impossible! A particularly implausible version (since there is no transmitting equipment at the far end) is the ‘Beam me up, Scottie!’ gadget from Star Trek

3. Invisibility

The fantasy of being able to make oneself invisible whether through the taking of an appropriate and effective drug, or through wearing an invisibility cloak or other clothing. Sometimes science fiction takes invisibility just one step further, such as the idea of cloaking devices for entire spaceships! Among the first science fiction writers on this topic was, of course, HG Wells who wrote his classic The Invisible Man in 1897, which heavily influenced the 1933 film of the same name. Indeed, in the film an unfortunate side-effect of the invisibility drug used is meglomania! Needless to say, not likely.

4. Faster Than Light Travel

Faster-than-light (FTL) travel is another favourite of the science fiction genre. However, according to currently understood science, the concept may be directly forbidden by the universe’s laws. FTL travel would necessarily involve time travel and would almost certainly cause problems with cause and effect (as in the Back to the Future films!). Science fiction’s obsession with FTL travel started way back in the 1930s with John W Campbell Jr

5. Star Wars Weapons

The idea that space-based laser weapon systems can be used to protect (or attack) from attack by strategic nuclear missiles. In March 1983, US President Ronald Reagan caused controversy by proposing the US develops such a weapon, called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The centrepiece of the project was to be an X-ray laser curtain that was to produce an impenetrable barrier to incoming warheads. The idea was heavily influenced by the Death Star from Star Wars, but proved completely unworkable, and was abandoned by the Clinton administration in 1993.

6. Antimatter!

Theoretical idea that there is matter in the universe made of particles opposite in all properties to ordinary matter. Though only a very small quantity of antimatter has ever been isolated in real labs, science fiction dreams up vast quantities of the stuff. Indeed, the starship Enterprise in Star Trek is fuelled by it, and scientists in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons manage to produce enough antimatter to blow up the Vatican !

7. Force Field

In science fiction a force field is an invisible protective sphere or wall of force. Force fields are a remedy against ‘death rays’ and usually bullets and missiles too! As seen in Star Wars , it is the essence of a force field that by a kind of magic it converts the energy of an attacking force and repels it back on itself. In fact, no one has been able to explain exactly how this might work in reality.

8. Light Sabers

Though the light saber is associated with the Jedi Knights in Star Wars , it is also, in actual fact, a very effective weapon that has been used in real-life combat by US Marines in Iraq. It is an elegant weapon usually consisting of a cylindric hilt, a blade formed from a tight loop of highly focused light, about 30 centimetres long, which upon activation emits a coloured blade of pure energy (essentially a laser of immense power) able to penetrate and cut most solid materials with little or no resistance, except for another lightsaber blade.



    October 25, 2005

    I love the experience of visiting new places and cultures but loath the ‘getting there and back aspect’. I am, therefore, particularly sad about the “teleportation myth” and would welcome this particular science fiction becoming science fact. Now, whilst no one should EVER ask a lady her age (another subject for fiction, perhaps) I will admit to being of an age where my chosen apparatus of teleportation would be a bracelet as worn by the “Tomorrow People” as opposed to the badges so loved in Star Trek.

    Pete Grehan

    October 25, 2005

    The U.S. Marines arn’t that far advanced in using light sabers! I’ve seen sf “Fans” using them for years!

    When it comes to teleport jewellery, I think the bracelets worn by the crew of the Liberator in Blakes 7 are a nice alternative. The sound effects were good as well and sort of reflected what my head and stomach would no doubt feel like after I’d been through the teleporter. Considering my incompetence with a video recorder though, I’d probably avoid anything as advanced as a Teleporter. I’d probably arrive 2 hours after the planet had left already!

    Andrew Duncan

    October 25, 2005

    Just thought I’d mention that warp drive in star trek is completely different from folding space. The warp drive in star trek works by creating a subspace field around the ship reducing its mass to zero. I’m planning on doing part of my independent study on this topic so I know plenty about it.


    October 25, 2005

    A co-worker of mine believes that someone teleported a frog. He won’t listen to me. Anyone want to respond?


    October 25, 2005

    Well, invisibility was impossible when this page was written, but that is basically being accomplished by several groups and to some small degree already exists. Light Saber’s aren’t so unrealistic anymore either – I thought someone had accomplished this as well. Teleporting objects is possible as well, and I do remember an article about a frog being passed through a wall. So who knows?

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