Technology in Star Trek

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"Physics and Star Trek" redirects here. For the nonfiction book, see The Physics of Star Trek.

The technology in Star Trek has borrowed freely from the scientific world to provide storylines. Episodes are replete with references to tachyon beams, baryon sweeps, quantum fluctuations and event horizons. Many of the technologies created for the Star Trek universe were done so out of simple economic necessity—the transporter was created because the budget of the original series in the 1960s did not allow for expensive shots of spaceships landing on planets.[1]

Discovery Channel Magazine stated that cloaking devices, faster-than-light travel and dematerialized transport were only dreams at the time the original series was made, but physicist Michio Kaku believes all these things are possible.[2] William Shatner, who portrayed James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek series, believed this as well, and went on to cowrite the book I'm Working on That, in which he investigated how Star Trek technology was becoming feasible.


A visualization of a warp field—the ship rests in a bubble of normal space.

In the Star Trek fictional universe, subspace is a feature of space-time that facilitates faster-than-light transit, in the form of interstellar travel or the transmission of information.[3] Subspace works similarly to the Alcubierre Drive, but obeys different laws of physics. Subspace has also been adopted and used in other fictional settings, such as the Stargate franchise, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, and Descent: Freespace.

In most Star Trek series, subspace communications are a means to establish nearly instantaneous contact with people and places that are light-years away. The physics of Star Trek describe infinite speed (expressed as Warp 10) as an impossibility; as such, even subspace communications which putatively travel at speeds over Warp 9.9 may take hours or weeks to reach certain destinations. Since subspace signals do not degrade with the square of the distance as do other methods of communication utilizing conventional bands of the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e. radio waves), signals sent from a great distance can be expected to reach their destination at a predictable time and with little relative degradation (barring any random subspace interference or spatial anomalies).

Note:1: Sub Space communications have a limit of just over 20 light years before they need to be boosted. Although this has been "written around" for several story lines.

Note:2: Warp speeds are different in STNG and the Original technologies. Kirk-era warp speeds were simply (warp^3) times the speed of light. So Warp factor 1 = 1*1*1*c = c. WF 2 = 2*2*2*c = 8c. WF10 =10*10*10*c = 1,000c. STNG uses a chart. With Trans warp factor 10 be infinite. Transwarp has come to mean any propulsion method or technology that surpasses conventional warp drive. Please do not confuse the different warps, much like using knots, KPH, MPH, or Mach.

See also[edit]

Star Trek technologies[edit]


  1. ^ Star Trek: The Next Generation 365 by Paula M. Block, Terry J. Erdmann
  2. ^ Sledge, Gary (August 2008). "Going Where No One Has Gone Before". Discovery Channel Magazine (3). ISSN 1793-5725. 
  3. ^ " Official StarTrek Website, Subspace Radio Article". Retrieved 2007-10-22. 

Further reading[edit]

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