SciTech

Star Trek celebrates 50 years of inspiring young minds

Credit: TrekZone Network via Flickr Creative Commons Credit: TrekZone Network via Flickr Creative Commons Credit: TrekZone Network via Flickr Creative Commons Credit: TrekZone Network via Flickr Creative Commons Credit: TrekZone Network via Flickr Creative Commons Credit: TrekZone Network via Flickr Creative Commons

The human mind has pushed beyond the limits of gravity and our atmosphere through science fiction long before technology started catching up in the 1960s.

Star Trek in particular, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year since its release in 1966, allowed the imaginations of millions to fly beyond the borders of concrete science.

Taking the good and bad of human nature and expanding it out by light-years with the help of advanced technologies, some of which have since come to reality and some of which still only exist in our creative minds, Star Trek continues to inspire people of every field, including many at Carnegie Mellon.

For The New York Times best-selling author Daniel Wilson, who earned his Ph.D in robotics at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute in 2005, the themes in his science fiction stories parallel the ones in the Star Trek universe. The technology in both is a medium to convey the greater underlying themes of the literature or artwork itself.

In a university press release, Wilson said, “Inspiration can come from anywhere, a pretty sounding word, an intriguing new technology or an image that comes to mind during a certain song.”

Meanwhile, for René Auberjonois, who graduated in 1962 from Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama and went on to be an actor in the Star Trek universe, being part of the Star Trek cast was “almost more than one could hope for.”

Auberjonois said in the same press release, “It’s an honor to be even a small part of a work of art that has touched the lives of so many in a positive and hopeful way.”

Auberjonois is not the only Carnegie Mellon alumnus who is part of the Star Trek team. Zachary Quinto, another School of Drama alumnus, has played Spock three times. Mark Worthington, also a School of Drama alumnus, is the production designer for CBS’s new “Star Trek: Discovery,” due to be released online in 2017.

At Carnegie Mellon, there is even a class on technology — offered for science majors in the fall as a mini-course and as a full semester course for all students in the spring — that uses examples from movies and television shows, including Star Trek.

Technology has progressed at such a rapid rate that some of the technology in Star Trek is already real, such as the fictional crewmembers’ handheld communication devices, which are similar to today’s smartphones, or the tablet-sized computers reminiscent of iPads that even have a Siri-like feature.

Some pieces of technology do not exist quite yet, but are close, such as Star Trek’s holodeck, which makes the user feel like they are touching something; however, this particular invention is similar to a more advanced version of current virtual reality technology.

Some technologies are impossible by today’s standards, such as the transporter devices that move items and people thousands of miles very quickly in the fictional universe.

While Star Trek may be a fictional universe, the technological advancements are very real. One thing that will remain certain is that works like Star Trek will continue to inspire our imaginations beyond our physical limitations for many, many years to come.