Since its debut in 1966, Star Trek has had an uncanny ability to both inspire and seemingly predict future technologies. Starfleet communicators were eerily similar to early cell phones, while modern computers and tablets have gone even farther than several of the devices seen on the original series. There are many aspects of Star Trek that remain science fiction, but scientists are edging ever closer to making phasers a reality.
Via The Mary Sue, Smithsonian Channel has posted a clip from its upcoming special, Building Star Trek, which places the focus on Dr. Rob Afzal, a laser scientist at Lockheed Martin and an unabashed Trekker as well. One of Afzal’s goals is to create “a defensive weapon as powerful as Star Trek‘s phaser.” But that’s much easier said than done. According to Afzal, that the biggest challenge is creating a way to store the massive amount of energy needed for a working phaser-like device in a handheld shell.
That particular technological breakthrough appears to be a ways off. However, the video notes that Afzal’s work has already led to a significant reduction in the size of the generator used in Lockheed Martin’s laser missile defense system. The clip also features a demonstration of how the missile defense system works, while noting that it is not yet ready to be used in combat situations.
Smithsonian Channel will premiere Building Star Trek on September 4.