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Monday, May 15, 2006

Sci-fi gets real!
From communicators to cell phones, from Dr Bones’ sick bay to modern health facilities – thanks to Star Trek, man is finally going where he never thought he could go before...
The irreverent documentary How William Shatner Changed the World, to be telecast on the US edition of the History Channel, features the actor examining the ways Star Trek technology inspired real-life innovators, whose inventions include communicator-like flip phones and medical equipment reminiscent of the starship Enterprise’s sick bay. The documentary studies how Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi series helped energise scientific explorers who created gadgets we could only dream about when Star Trek aired in the 60s. Shatner chats up researchers who, to quote Kirk’s Vulcan sidekick Spock, found fascinating the tricorders, communicators, medical scanners and other devices Roddenberry put in the hands of the 23rd century Star Trek gang. Viewing this brave new world of technology, then staring around a real world where clunky c o m p u t e r s filled entire rooms and talking longd i s t a n c e meant tethering yourself to a rotary phone, these impressionable young minds set out to make what they saw on TV a reality. “They were deadly serious about Star Trek, “ Shatner said. “Scientists are a strange group in that they catch glimpses of something that is mysterious and wonderful. They can’t quite put their finger on it, so they grasp at something.” “It’s a step-by-step process. You climb on the backs of giants. Only rarely are there leaps. Scientific advances mostly are incremental. So here we are 30, 40 years after Star Trek, and it looks like it was extraordinary, the advances we’ve made.” While we’re not yet having our scrambled molecules beamed from place to place, the documentary reviews Trek-like technology that has come into being, including cell phones resembling the show’s communicators, laser scalpels and other non-invasive medical gear. The show also features talks with researchers inspired by the show to miniaturise computers, study time-travel and search for alien life. ‘AN IRONIC VIEW OF LIFE’ Based on Shatner’s book I’m Working on That, in which he explored the connections between Star Trek technology and real science, How William Shatner Changed the World takes the tongue-in-cheek approach Shatner often applies to over-serious fandom of the shows. As scientists recount ideas and inspiration they gained from the show, Shatner struts, blusters and soliloquises about the impact of the show, hamming it up as he did as Captain Kirk. “I’ve always had sort of an ironic view of life,” the 75-year-old Shatner said. “My belief system is that when this is over, it’s over. What I believe is that your molecules continue and in due time become something else. That’s science. “And that works for me. So that if this is it, you better take it at its right proportion. That there are serious things, but most things are temporal and ephemeral, and you should cultivate that attitude. That joy and love and all the verities are what counts. So I try not to take too many things seriously, and if I find myself caught up in the seriousness of the moment, I’m able to cajole myself out of it.” While best known as the fearless Capt Kirk, Shatner does not share the rosy view of technology and humanity’s future that motivated Star Trek creator Roddenberry. “Technology has brought us to this point of self-destruction,” Shatner said. “It’s the dichotomy of our curiosity and greed, which are hardwired – greed, because we had to survive because we were always hungry, so we had to gather things, and curiosity, which brought us out of the trees. “In small amounts, they’re the difference between us and the animal world. In large amounts, they’re causing the destruction of everything. And I think technology has put us in a position of destroying the planet as we know it, and us along with it. I’m very pessimistic about the future of mankind based on all the things that are going on now and our lack of will to correct it.” AP

Characters from Star Trek having a video conference on a flat-screen display at a time when neither was thought of

Legendary characters Spock and Captian Kirk, played by Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner respectively pose in front of a model of thier starship, Enterprise
(Mumbai Mirror/29th March 2006)

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