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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

HowStuffWorks "Top 10 'Star Trek' Technologies that Actually Came True"

Top 10 "Star Trek" Technologies that Actually Came True

by Josh Briggs

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Briggs, Josh.  "Top 10 "Star Trek" Technologies that Actually Came True"  10 November 2009. <>  06 October 2010.
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Interior decorator Tony Alleyne made his apartment over in the style of the later "Star Trek" TV shows and movies. See more pictures of gadgets.

"Beam us up." It's one of the most iconic lines in television history. It's something often heard in the hit science fiction television series "Star Trek" and all of the television shows and movies that followed.

The transporter essentially dematerialized a human body at one point only to rematerialize it in the transporter bay on the ship. Somehow, it broke down atoms and molecules within the body -- scattered them through the vacuum of space without losing a single one from point A to point B, then voila, that person re-emerged out of thin air. Sounds pretty cool, though impossible, right? But what if there was such a device?

The truth is, you can forget about a transporter. No one has been able to realize such a concept. But that doesn't mean some of the ideas that seemed far-fetched when the show debuted in 1966 haven't become a reality. In this article, we feature the top 10 technologies from Star Trek that actually did come to fruition, listed in no particular order. Some of them may surprise you.

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Top 10 "Star Trek" Technologies that Actually Came True

by Josh Briggs


10: Transparent Aluminum (Armor)

The fourth installment of the original "Star Trek" movies is perhaps the most endearing to fans. The crew returns to modern-day Earth. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the gang ditch a Klingon Bird of Prey spacecraft in the San Francisco Bay after narrowly missing the Golden Gate Bridge while flying blind in a storm. You may remember the scene -- but how many of you remember Scotty introducing transparent aluminum for the first time?

In the flick, Scotty used the aluminum to build a tank to transport the two humpback whales (George and Gracie) to the Earth of their time. As it went, he was able to replace six-inch (14-centimeter) thick Plexiglas with one-inch (2.5-centimeter) thick see-through aluminum.

It may sound impossible, but there is such a thing as transparent aluminum armor or aluminum oxynitride (ALON) as it's more commonly known. ALON is a ceramic material that starts out as a powder before heat and pressure turn it into a crystalline form similar to glass. Once in the crystalline form, the material is strong enough to withstand bullets. Polishing the molded ALON strengthens the material even more. The Air Force has tested the material in hopes of replacing windows and canopies in its aircraft. Transparent aluminum armor is lighter and stronger than bulletproof glass. Less weight, stronger material -- what's not to like?

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