As some of you know I am a Trekkie. I can tell you anything you want to know about Start Trek. In many ways Star Trek drove me to program because I was intrigued by the know-it-all computer. But there have been other things that have inspired me about what the future can be. One of those is the comic book series, Dick Tracy. Although the comic books were in English and I was learning the language, the illustrations helped me along. The few comic books that I was able to read came to me via American tourists who left their belongings at the hotel I was working at as a telephone operator.
It was the watch that particularly intrigued me. Imagine in the 1970’s thinking that anyone could communicate via a watch. It was a fantastic notion, one that I did not think I’d see in my lifetime. At that time, I hadn’t seen a mobile phone so the notion that a watch could make telephone calls was akin to an IBM desktop computer in the form of a tablet.
I have written before how Star Trek got somethings wrong, like the lack of tablet computers in their future or bulky communicators. It is not a criticism but rather an observation. Dick Tracy, on the other hand, got the communicator watch spot on. I know because I used one this weekend.
I just replaced by Apple Series 2 watch with a Series 3.
As I went about my weekend activities it dawned on me that the future is here.
I had a watch and Airpods. My iPhone was at the house, some twenty miles away. But, on my watch I could make and receive telephone calls. I could listen to my music and use other apps as needed. On my wrist was the Dick Tracy communications watch I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.
As I hung up a call it hit me that the future is moving forward exponentially. I’ve always thought that the one thing I really want to witness in my lifetime is the proof that intelligent life exists in the universe. As I get older I keep thinking that may not happen. Physics tells us that it is extremely difficult to travel to other planets in our solar system and impossible to go beyond our planets. It has to do with our limitations on energy and Einstein’s theories on mass and the speed of light.
As I understand it with my limited understanding of physics, we would need to figure a way around traveling the speed of light. The prevailing theory is that we “fold” space around us bringing point A closer to point B. It sounds fantastical and it is.
But so did a telephone on your wrist.
Mexican theoretical physicist, Miguel Alcubierre, is working on the Alcubierre drive, a theoretical engine that contracts space around the spacecraft bringing the destination closer to the starting point of the craft.
It sounds fantastical, but so did a computer on a watch.
Alcubierre has stated that his theoretical engine was inspired by Star Trek. NASA engineer, Harold G. White, took the warp engine concept and presented various ideas about how it would work. White is a serious engineer.
It is way too soon to know whether Alcubierre’s engine is feasible, but his concepts have yet to be voided by other scientists. NASA is experimenting its feasibility as I write this.
But, as with tablet computers and the telephone watch, anything is exponentially possible.
As I marvel at the technology behind the watch I can’t help but think that my dream about the proof of life beyond our planet might happen in my lifetime. Either they come to us, or we go to them. Here’s hoping I live long enough to know.