"Beam me up, Scotty."®
During the 1960s, in an age when the height of technology was a crackly AM transistor radio, Star Trek envisioned a time when communication devices worked without wires.
Computers of the decade took up entire climate-controlled rooms and belonged only to the government and a few very large corporations. Yet Captain Kirk had one small enough to sit on the top of his desk -- and it talked back to him.
"Ahead, Warp Factor 2"
While man still hadn't walked on the moon, the crew of the Starship Enterprise® traveled between star systems faster than the speed of light. Its crew was able to walk on other worlds.
Over the past three decades, Star Trek has become a global phenomenon. Its celebration of mankind's technical achievements and positive view of the future have earned it an enduring place in the world's psyche. It has inspired countless viewers to become scientists, inventors, and astronauts. And they, in turn, have wondered if they could make even a little piece of Star Trek real in their own lifetime. As one noted scientist said when he saw a plywood, plaster and plastic set that represented the ship's warp engines, "I'm working on that."
As in his missions aboard the fictional Starship Enterprise, William Shatner, the actor who is Captain James T. Kirk, and his co-author, Chip Walter, take us on an adventure to discover the people who are working on the future we will all share. From traveling through space at warp speeds to beaming across the continent, noted scientists from Caltech to MIT explore the realms of what was once considered improbable and show how it just might be possible.
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Pocket Books/Star Trek
February 17, 2004
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Excerpt from I'm Working on That by William Shatner
From Here to Neverwhere
The universe is big, really big!
But don't take my word for it. Consider a few of these numbers. I warn you, if you actually try to get your mind around them, they'll turn your brain to tapioca.
There are 250 billion stars in the Milky Way. The Milky Way, for you nonastronomers (like me), is the galaxy we live in. Experts who know about these things have told me that if I were to ship off from one edge of it traveling 700 million miles an hour (the speed of light), it would take me 144,000 years to get to the other side! That's a lot of years. But even more astounding than the enormity of the Milky Way itself is the fact that it represents only a tiny fraction of the universe -- a droplet in an ocean of Milky Ways. There are an estimated 100 billion galaxies out there beyond our tiny planet. If you were to count the number of stars in the cosmos -- first you would be long dead before you could count even a fraction of them -- but if you could, you would come up with a number that has twenty zeros behind it.
And there's more...
Even if every one of the stars above us were crammed together cheek by jowl; if there wasn't room to slip even a teensy silicon chip between all of the heavenly bodies in all of the galaxies, the immensity of space would still be staggering. However . . . they are not crammed together. They are spread far, far apart. The emptiness between these bodies would shame even the emptiest heads of some studio executives I know. It is so empty in fact that if I were to place you in the transporter room of the Enterprise and set the controls to beam you to some random location in the galaxy, the chances of you arriving anywhere at all close to a planet or a star or any kind of solid body, would be less than one in a billion trillion trillion.
Space is spacious.
More proof. The swiftest object we humans have created is a spacecraft called Pioneer 10, launched from earth way back in 1972. About twelve years ago it departed the solar system, zipping along at twenty-five miles a second, a pretty stout speed. (I'm lucky if I can go twenty-five miles an hour on the freeways of Los Angeles). Having left our relatively crowded solar system behind, Pioneer 10 now finds itself sailing through a vast vacancy, as solitary as a clam. Even traveling at 90,000 miles an hour, it is moving 7,500 times slower than the speed of light!
The nearest star to Earth, other than our own sun, is Proxima Centauri, combusting 4.3 light-years away. It will take Pioneer 10 32,000 years to get there. And this is the closest star! It will take 15 billion years for it to reach the next galaxy. That's a billion with a "B." To place that number in perspective, keep this in mind: 15 billion years is the current estimated age of the universe. Everything that has ever happened, from the big bang to your last meal, from the extinction of the dinosaurs to the rise of alien civilizations in star systems we don't even know about -- everything has happened in those 15 billion years. And remember there are a hundred billion galaxies roughly the size of our own out there, circling, colliding, transmogrifying.