Trek Tech: Tricorders

Okay, so I’m not the first to note that certain elements in our society and technology are rather like certain elements of a certain science fiction franchise. How can a person fail to note it these days? Look at my phone, for crying out loud: a Motorola Razr that looks about as much like a TOS (The Original Series for those of you who are unhip) communicator as the real props did. A BlueTooth headset clipped to a person’s ear summons shades of Uhura.

But now Purdue has taken it a step further, aiming at an even more advanced piece of Trek hardware: the tricorder. A tricorder is a handheld sensor used by characters on the show to sense/detect…well pretty much anything and everything, from life signs to molecular structures.

I saw an ad for one of these in Omni magazine many, many years ago, before it went out of print. It was a tricorder that could sense plant life, ambient temperature, and do a few other nifty tricks. However, Perdue’s 20-pound unit seems to be more like the “real thing.” It can analyze chemical compositions from a short distance without harming the samples.

What comes next? I hope matter/energy converters. Though I know they are physically impossible, the idea of a transporter or food replicator sounds really cool to me!


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