Disney & CBS Look to Challange Netflix

Two major networks are looking to compete with Netflix and steal, at least part of their audience. First CBS announced it’s own streaming service with the launch of the new “Star Trek” TV series.

First You Have CBS

CBS is moving fast in the streaming channel arena, with plans to expand CBS All Access to Canada and other international markets by next year.

CBS is also working on the launch of a streaming sports channel patterned after its CBSN digital news service. The movement in the over the top (OTT) market comes as the CBS All Access and Showtime stand alone services are expected to exceed 4 million subscribers in total by the end of this year.

The sports channel is in the early stages of development and doesn’t yet have a name.

The decision by CBS to relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise on CBS All Access rather than on the CBS network or Showtime, or even to sell it to Netflix in the U.S., was a calculated decision to grow the streaming service. “Star Trek: Discovery” – the first new TV series in the “Trek” canon in 11 years, is set to premier on September 24. In an obvious effort to attract users to their new platform – through Star Trek – CBS will premier the first episode on their regular CBS network with the second episode (part 2 of a cliffhanger) airing immediately afterward – exclusively on CBS All Access. In other words if you want to keep watching the new Star Trek – sign up with CBS All Access.

As you can see by watching the quality of the “Star Trek: Discovery” trailer the mission of these networks to launch their own streaming service, with new & exciting content is no joke – and could, potentially be a boon for all of us.

Then You Have Disney

Disney has now officially announced that it’s making its own Netflix competitor, a streaming service that will air original Disney movies and TV shows. In addition Disney announced that it also plans to launch a second Netflix-like offering that will deliver sporting events.

It’s not surprising that Disney wants to directly compete with Netflix and other streaming services, given that more people opt to ditch traditional cable in favor of online entertainment.

The Disney TV streaming service will only launch in 2019, while the ESPN-based service would be available as soon as next year.

Disney also reported that it will terminate the licensing agreement for new titles beginning with the 2019 calendar year.

This means that post 2019 if you want to watch Disney movies and show you will need to subscribe to their exclusive channel.

What All of this Means

How we watch television is rapidly changing. Networks like ABC, CBS and NBC are trying to find ways to remain relevant in this ever changing landscape. Where commercial advertisements were once king now networks are looking to the audience to “subscribe” in order to watch the content they enjoy. At the same time, because of the success of pay-cable TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” audiences now expect much more from their television dramas. Commercial interruptions are a disaster to good TV – and the networks know this. We are well on the way to the extinction of relevant – free – over the air TV.

In fact so much has changed in the television landscape that Netflix is now almost seen as “old school” by networks like CBS and Disney. Ask yourself this question. Why should networks, with immense libraries of (old & loved) TV content and the resources to create new content sell to a “middle man” when they can create their own streaming services and reap 100% profits as opposed to sharing their earning with Netflix or Hulu.

The only question is can they do it – and be successful?

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10 Reasons Why I Love Star Trek: Voyager

On the eve of the newest Trek series to launch (Star Trek: Discovery) I take a look back at my favorite Trek and I try to explain why the most maligned in the franchise may actually be it’s very best.

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The Voyager crew from Seasons 4 through 7.

Airing from the Winter of 1995 to the Spring of 2001, Star Trek: Voyager was the final Star Trek television series to follow in the footsteps of Paramount Studios new line of Star Trek television productions that began with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Produced by primarily the same individuals responsible for ST:TNG and also ST:DS9, Voyager took another huge step forward in the Trek-verse, breaking new ground not only by placing a female Starfleet captain at the helm, but also by dropping the show’s flagship namesake into an unexplored region of the Star Trek universe.

Here’s a look at 10 reasons why Star Trek: Voyager may have come closer to Gene Roddenberry’s vision than any of the others…so far.

10. The Delta Quadrant

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By whisking Voyager into an unexplored region of the Star Trek universe with the pilot episode, the creators of the show immediately raised the stakes for the show. With a female captain at the helm, Voyager found itself in literally uncharted territory, populated in large part by Federation nemesis, The Borg. By Voyager’s projections, it would take nearly 75 Earth years to return home, thus placing Voyager in a place where literally “no man had gone before.”

9. The Emergency Medical Holographic Program

Voyager Doctor

In a new twist on an old Star Trek staple, the show’s creators implanted a holographic program to run the ship’s sick-bay, as opposed to the usual, living and breathing, chief medical officer. Gone were the days of the in-the-flesh doctors, “Bones” McCoy and Dr. Beverly Crusher, and instead we got Robert Picardo’s fantastic holographic character, “The Doctor.” Forced to run on a full-time basis due to Voyager’s sudden relocation to the Delta Quadrant, sans a medical officer, The Doctor would become this series first person in search of the meaning of humanity, following in the footsteps of the great Data from the TNG series, and further advocating for full sentient status with help from Captain Janeway.

8. Chakotay And The Maquis

Chakotay

True to Star Trek series tie-in form, the pilot episode of Voyager finds the ship leaving DS9 in pursuit of another vessel. This vessel would turn out to be a rebel ship, piloted by the Maquis, a race of people who are at war with the Cardassians. What is so significant about the Maquis in this particular episode is that they, too, are whisked over 70,000 light years from their last known location along with Voyager. Both crews are forced to unite their survivors in order to survive and ultimately find their way home to the Alpha Quadrant, and the Maquis crew thus becomes part of Voyager’s personnel. Included are Chakotay, who would become Voyager’s second in command; Tom Paris, who becomes Voyager’s helmsman; B’Elanna Torres, a half-human, half-Klingon Maquis who becomes Voyager’s chief engineer, and the Vulcan Tuvok: initially Voyager’s second in command who had infiltrated the Maquis ship in an undercover role.

7. Big Time Guest Stars

Voyager The Rock

Star Trek: Voyager was ripe with guest star appearances, including some of the earliest work of today’s more famous actors. Included in this list are screen legends such as Jason Alexander from TV’s Seinfeld, John Rhys-Davies from the Indiana Jones films and Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even WWE’s The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, who was featured in an episode of the show’s 6th season.

6. Recurring Star Trek Series Characters

Votager Q

Star Trek: Voyager probably contained the greatest number of former Star Trek character appearances of any of the post-original series. Throughout it’s 7 seasons on-air, the Voyager television show gave us a nostalgic look back at some our favorite characters from Star Trek’s past. Included would be the great omnipotent Q, portrayed fantastically as always by John DeLancie, who hilariously attempts to court Captain Janeway on several occasions. Also making appearances were Trek legends such as Dwight Schultz’s Reggie Barclay, Marina Sirtis’ Deanna Troi, and even Jonathan Frakes’ Will Riker. But perhaps the most important and notable appearances are those of the Borg Queen character: her/their story plays a vital role in the overall tale of the Voyager spacecraft and it’s ongoing trek home.

5. Kes

Voyager Kes

A native of the Delta Quadrant which became home for our Voyager spacecraft, Jennifer Lien’s character of Kes was instrumental in the ship’s quest to return to the Alpha Quadrant. She was the life partner of the ships cook, Neelix, and a student of The Doctor, where she worked in the ships sick-bay and also attempted to help The Doctor with his inter-personal skills as it related to the crew. Kes was an Ocampan, and thus she possessed the race’s psionic abilities. Her abilities would eventually evolve and with the help of Vulcan Tuvok, Kes would learn to harness her powers and eventually use them at the time of her death to send Voyager beyond the Borg-infested area of space, and 9,500 light years closer to home.

4. Tuvok: The Return of a Vulcan to a Starfleet Bridge

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The Tuvok character was instrumental from day one of the Voyager series for two reasons: the character itself was an homage to the classic and original Trek series by once again having a Vulcan as part of the ship’s senior staff for the first time since Captain Kirk’s reign; but more importantly the Tuvok character was also largely responsible for landing Voyager in the Delta Quadrant as the ship pursued the rebel Maquis vessel on which Tuvok was an undercover agent in the series pilot episode. These two reasons alone are enough to warrant the Tuvok character a place in the top 5 awesome reasons in this column; not to mention that Tim Russ did an awesome job carrying the Vulcan torch for the full 7 seasons while constantly taking a “#2” backseat to the lackluster Chakotay character and his “#1” position on the crew.

3. Species 8472 Changes the Game

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From fluidic space, a dimension outside the known Star Trek universe, emerged Species 8472. Discovered by The Borg, Species 8472 was unknown to Star Trek space until The Borg invaded their fluidic space in an attempt to assimilate their technological and biological distinctiveness into their own. How’d that work out, you ask? Yea, not so good: Species 8472’s complex triple helix DNA structure allowed them to forego and avoid assimilation, and practically destroy The Borg at will. As a result, Captain Janeway forms an alliance with The Borg: allow Voyager safe passage through Borg space, and Voyager will help with a nanotechnology answer to the Species 8472 threat. The result gives us the first and only Borg/Federation alliance, and the retreat of Species 8472 back to fluidic space.

2. Seven of Nine

Seven Of Nine

Arguably the defining character / subject of the Star Trek: Voyager series, Jeri Ryan’s orphaned Borg drone was the designated representative in the Federation/Borg alliance against Species 8472. After neutralizing the Species 8472 threat, Seven of Nine attempted to assimilate Voyager’s crew and was then separated from her collective. In the seasons that followed, Seven of Nine would be slowly integrated into the Voyager crew, with the majority of the crew resisting trusting her. She would also join The Doctor as another member of a Star Trek crew seeking to understand humanity, as she searched to reclaim her assimilated innocence.

1. Captain Kathryn Janeway/Kate Mulgrew

Captain Janeway

Without question, the character of Captain Kathryn Janeway broke through the final typecasting barrier that had stood for so long in the Trek universe: having a female series lead and also in the captains chair. Kate Mulgrew was cast as Voyager’s fearless captain, and so began Trek’s final television journey without an Enterprise leading the way, and with a female captain in control. What followed was seven fantastic seasons with the Star Trek universe being experienced through the eyes of a female captain, placing a new spin on familiar story arcs, and a new approach to unfamiliar territory. The Janeway character would later appear as a Starfleet Admiral, again portrayed in a cameo by Mulgrew, in the feature film Star Trek: Nemesis as a superior officer to the Enterprise’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and even later in a novelization that had her assimilated into the new Borg Queen as Seven of Nine sought to rescue her. Overall, a fitting lead for the final non-Enterprise related Trek series, and a legendary character to be sure, fitting of the Captain’s chair.

So, fellow trekkies, do you agree or disagree? Do you miss the show now that you’ve relived some of its finest elements, or do you disagree with me. I have been watching Star Trek almost my entire life (I am 53) and this one touches all the bases of Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and just like in our lives there are missteps along the way.

However in the end – it is the journey that matters the most.

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Doom in 2029?

Asteroids are one of the most serious threats to life on earth that we know of. This is not something we think about very often. It was almost certainly an asteroid that took out the dinosaurs. This is a very real threat that humanity faces. The good news is that scientists are getting better at watching out for these large rocks which whiz by our planet more often then you might think. The bad news is that, today there is very little we can do about one of these striking us. See my rant at the end of this article for more about what we can do.

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This week it was reported that a massive asteroid, called 99942 Apophis, is going to make a very close pass of Earth in 2029, and that flyby could determine the fate of our planet.

“We can rule out a collision at the next closest approach with the Earth,” Astronomer Alberto Cellino told Astrowatch. “But then the orbit will change in a way that is not fully predictable just now, so we cannot predict the behavior on a longer timescale.”

The flyby in 2029 will be very-very close, with the asteroid expected to pass within 20,000 miles of Earth’s surface. That’s a ridiculously close by space standards, and it’s such a tight squeeze that the gravity of Earth is expected to alter the path of Apophis in such a way that its future passes will become much more unpredictable until further forecasting can be accomplished.

This video from the Discovery Channel depicts that tragic events of a large asteroid striking our planet.

The threat from Apophis is particularly scary because of its size. The asteroid has a diameter of over 1,200 feet, and a collision with our planet would be a catastrophic event. Scientists have forecasted the potential impact, estimating that the rock would strike with an amazing 750 megatons of energy. By comparison, the Tunguska event — which flattened a huge forested area in Russia’s Siberia — is thought to have only been about 10 megatons of force.

My Asteroid Influenced Rant

All of this talk of potential global doom from space kind of makes you think that we should be working together as opposed to engaging in endless political arguments. Our combined energy should be used to better ourselves and collectively protect each other. The type of healthcare we have, or what political ideology we each have will help us ZERO if we can’t prevent a rock like 99942 Apophis from striking our little blue marble. Instead of engaging in endless arguments we should collectively science it up and work on preventing disasters like the one that is possible in 2029.

OK – now I need to go watch an episode of Star Trek.

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Parallel Universes Might Exist

The idea that we might be living in just one of an infinite number of universes is not a new scientific concept and scientific debate surrounding this possibility has been going on for decades. The idea that we may be living in just one of countless universes has also been a popular narrative in science fiction as well.

The crew of Star Trek’s Enterprise has encountered multiple universes in several occasions – always leading to complex & exciting adventures.

Up until recently provable evidence to support this theory has been hard to come by. Now, researchers have discovered something in space that they can’t quite account for, and one of the possible explanations is that our universe actually bumped into a neighboring, parallel one. That’s right our universe may have had a car crash with another universe.

What the Heck Happened?

When gazing into the heavens, scientists spotted what they refer to as a “cold” area of space. It was observed some time ago, and explaining it proved difficult. Originally a 2015 study suggested it was merely an area of the universe in which the number of galaxies is dramatically lower than the rest. However subsequent investigations couldn’t support that finding, and a new study by Durham University suggests the slim possibility that it’s actually evidence of parallel universes.

The multiverse theory hinges on the idea that all possible outcomes of any given scenario are all playing out at the same time in a layered reality of which we are only experiencing one of those layers. It’s a wild idea that has a foundation in quantum mechanics, but it’s also entirely unproven. But could it be true?

As the study suggests, the researchers believe the mysterious cold spot, while still totally unexplained, could actually be “the remnant of a collision between our universe and another ‘bubble’ universe during an early inflationary phase.” In short, if the idea is correct, our early universe collided with another young universe early on, causing something of a “bruise” which we are able to observe today.

Mind blowing isn’t it? Its looking more and more like we are not alone.

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Star Trek: Discovery Trailer Premiers

It’s been 12 years since we have had any new Star Trek grace our television screens. Thankfully this dark age of no Trek is about to end.

Today we got our first glimpse into what CBS’ streaming-exclusive Star Trek: Discovery series will look like. The trailer promises a “fall” release window, and the accompanying press release reveals its run has been extended from 13 episodes to 15, and that it will include a “Talking Trek” aftershow.

The trailer begins on the same desert planet included in the tweet the Star Trek: Discovery team tweeted earlier today, but expands on just what’s happening to the newest captain and first officer in the Star Trek universe. It’s made absolutely clear that they’re lost, on a planet they have never visited before, and are stuck trying to find a way out.

There are sequences and characters — like Spock’s father — that will resonate with fans, but it’s clear this isn’t the same Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry launched in 1966. The visual effects are spectacular and, as many have already pointed out, the opening scene in question seems to borrow heavily from the planet of Jakku; Rey’s “home” planet in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The trailer does a pretty good job of introducing the newest crew members viewers will be exploring the vast universe with. Discovery takes place 10 years before the events of the original series and focuses on an important moment in the franchise’s history.

New alien races and technology can be glimpsed in the trailer, but there’s just enough references to the original series for those looking to fill the nostalgic hole in their heart.

Discovery still doesn’t have a release date, but it will premiere on CBS this fall. Following the pilot, the only way to watch the show will be through a subscription to CBS’ stand-alone streaming service, CBS All Access.

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Life Lessons from Star Trek

I recently started a re-watch of “Star Trek” Voyager” and this of all the Star Trek franchises always has me thinking of my childhood, and the original Trek, and the life lessons I learned growing up.

Watching Star Trek when I was a little kid was one of my most formative influences in terms of my entertainment choices, and I’ve always felt that it taught me a lot about life in the process of just being plain fun. And so, listed here for your reading pleasure, are a few of what I think are the strongest points the series makes as a whole.

#1: Never judge a book by its cover

StarTrekHorta

The idea that things aren’t always what they appear and that people shouldn’t rush to judgment has so many precedents in Star Trek that I could hardly list them all, but my favorite one is the Horta of Janus VI. Human miners and Kirk’s crew hunted down this grotesque and rocky slug-like creature so that they could destroy it after it killed several people. But in the end, it turns out that the Horta is an extraordinarily intelligent and sensitive creature that was only driven to murder because of the miners’ unwitting slaughter of thousands of her young. With some timely mind melding by Mr. Spock, Kirk and the Horta manage to reach an understanding and agreement that benefits everyone in the end. It just goes to show that no matter what the situation, appearance isn’t everything.

#2: Don’t take life too seriously

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The characters of Star Trek are frequently put into dangerous and life-threatening situations, but one thing that never fails is Captain Kirk’s ability to laugh at himself and his mistakes once it’s all over. Hardly an episode ends without Kirk cracking a joke at somebody (usually Spock) to lighten the mood. Kirk’s unfailing ability to find the enjoyment in every situation he faced was something I always admired about him, and the few times when he does get too stuck in the mud for his own good, he always gets set straight once he recognizes the ludicrous nature of the situation (see “The Trouble with Tribbles”). It’s our job to take whatever life throws our way and make the best out of it that we can.

#3: Perfection isn’t what it’s cracked up to be

In the episode “This Side of Paradise”, Kirk and the crew discover a planet where colonists live a seemingly idyllic existence thanks to alien spores that allow them to let go of their cares and concerns and just enjoy life.

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While this sounds great in theory, the flip side of it is that the colonists haven’t made any progress toward their mission since coming to the planet, which was originally intended to help all of humanity. As Kirk wisely notes at the end of the episode, perhaps paradise isn’t where humanity thrives: maybe we’re meant to struggle and better ourselves by overcoming the challenges and problems we face in everyday life. If we lived in a perfect world and didn’t have anything to strive toward, we wouldn’t really be human at all.

#4: There’s more than one way of looking at things

One of the constant highlights of Star Trek is the constant debate between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy about emotion versus logic. Kirk and McCoy often malign Spock’s seemingly unfeeling and cold deductions, but more than once Spock’s ability to act without the clouds of doubt, anger, guilt, or any other human emotions saved them and the rest of the crew where an ordinary man would have been paralyzed by indecision.

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But on the other hand, Spock’s human friends are able to offer innovative solutions to problems the Vulcan was unable to think of by himself. The moral of the story is that there’s no one point of view that will get things done or that is completely and always correct.

#5: Embrace everything about who you are

In “The Enemy Within”, a transporter accident splits Kirk into two copies of himself: one ostensibly good, and the other evil. While it’s clear the “evil” Kirk is full of unrestrained aggression, desire, and many negative emotions, it also becomes apparent that without these feelings, the “good” version of Kirk is weak, indecisive, and unable to function as a commander.

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In the end, only by reuniting themselves can the two halves make a full human being again. The lesson here is that while there may be many things we don’t like about ourselves, it’s never possible to tell when one of these traits could help us, or how it’s shaped who we are. We wouldn’t be ourselves without all of them.

#6: Good friends are the most valuable things there is

StarTrekBridge

While they may bicker and argue much of the time over their differing points of view when tensions get high, it’s clear that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, along with the rest of the crew of the Enterprise, are close enough to be called a family in many respects. In many situations where one of them has been in danger, such as Scotty being accused of murder, Kirk court-martialled for offing a personal enemy, or Spock disobeying orders to help a former commander, the other crewmembers never fail to leap to their defense in any way they can. It’s clear that these people would do anything for each other, and that they’ve always got each other’s back, and that’s more important than anything in this or any other universe.

#7: Violence is never the answer

More than once, when the crew of the Enterprise is faced with a crisis, the tendency of some of the human characters, Kirk included, is to immediately attempt a military solution, and often this is shown to have catastrophic results. Overall, the characters of Star Trek manage to talk their way out of a lot more situations than they do by fighting their way out.

Image result for star trek A Taste of Armageddon

Compromise and understanding is always the goal, and senseless violence is always condemned, even when it’s only simulated by a computer (see “A Taste of Armageddon”). It’s made clear in this show that violence only leads to more violence. Compassion and mercy for one’s enemies, as well as anyone else, is key to accomplishing any mission.

#8: With great power comes great responsibility

As the commander of a starship crewed by over 300 other people, it’s often made clear just how much pressure Kirk is under as a captain day in and day out.

Image result for star trek tos kirk burden of command

It’s his responsibility to ensure the safety of all these other lives, and take the well being of every single person under his supervision into account when making any decision. He’s also stated more than once that a captain is by proxy responsible for the actions of everyone under their command. While this seems like a bit of an unfair burden for a person to place on themselves, the fact that Kirk commands the strength and firepower of this many people and a ship like the Enterprise means he has to make responsible choices about how and when to use them. It’s the same for anyone in life who has some measure of power, and it’s up to them to utilize it for the benefit of others.

#9: The good of the many outweighs the good of the one

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This is a tried and true Spock-ism that can sound a bit odd at first. Doesn’t that just advocate for tyranny of the majority and denying a voice to the individual? But that’s not what the real meaning is here. What this saying really is about is the demonstrated willingness of Kirk, Spock, or just about anyone else on the Enterprise to sacrifice themselves, or put themselves in harm’s way, in order to save each other and the ship at large. The selflessness of the characters on Star Trek is something we could all take a lesson from: always consider the consequences of your actions, and make sure that you’re not just doing things for yourself, but for the benefit of others. Its utilitarianism at it’s finest, something I think we could do with a little more of in real life.

#10: Boldly go where no one has gone before

This is the most famous tag line in Star Trek for a reason, you know. The entire show is basically a giant metaphor for how humanity in general approaches the unknown. We can approach it with fear and trepidation, or we can embrace it and enjoy the wonder of discovery. Blaze new trails. Don’t get stuck in conventional thinking. Don’t be afraid to take some risks. And most importantly, always believe in a positive outcome. If there’s one thing I learned from James T. Kirk, it’s to never, ever give up, and that there’s no such thing as a no-win scenario. All you have to have is the tenacity, patience, and courage to look in the right place.

If you are a young parent you could do a lot worse then introducing Star Trek to your child.

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Star Trek’s Fantastic Predicted Gizmos

It’s been a slow tech news week so lets take some time to look at some fantastic gizmos we are actually enjoying now and will be enjoying in the years to come as predicted by my favorite TV series.

For many of us a vision of the future has been provided by one very successful television franchise: Star Trek. And the future, it turns out, is coming sooner than even Star Trek‘s writers could have imagined. Here are 12 technical gizmos used on the Star Trek television shows that are now becoming real.

1. FOOD REPLICATOR

Captain Jean-Luc Picard used to say ‘Tea, Earl Gray, hot!” and it would be replicated instantly. Today’s 3D printers don’t tackle tea, but there are machines that actually can print food. And other printers, like the MakerBot Replicator 2 are quite adept at making small objects—just as they were shown to do on later episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

2. UNIVERSAL TRANSLATOR


In several episodes, we marveled at the universal translator, which decoded what aliens said in real-time—and in the later shows, it was integrated into the communication badges (which explains why basically everyone, regardless of home planet, spoke English). Now, there’s an app for that. Voice Translator by TalirApps understands 71 languages (no Klingon yet, though). You speak in your native tongue and the app translates your phrase into another language.

3. TABLET COMPUTERS


Lieutenant Commander Geordi Laforge—you know, the guy from Reading Rainbow—used a tablet computer (what they called Personal Access Data Devices, or PADDs) to punch in coordinates for the next star system. Other Starfleet personnel used them to watch video and listen to music—just the things we use tablets for today.

4. TRICORDER

In the TV show, a tricorder is a handheld device that scans for geological, biological, and meteorological anomalies. Handy! In 2012, Peter Jansen from McMaster University in Ontario built a working prototype that scans for magnetic fields and other interference. And there are lots of other real-world tricorders, too.

5. HOLODECK

On Star Trek: The Next Generation, you could walk into a chamber onboard the Enterprise and visit your home planet for a quick barbecue, or even have an affair with a hologram. Leave it to a bunch of University of Southern California students to make virtual reality a little more down-to-Earth—Project Holodeck used virtual reality goggles to create a fictional world. (Though no encounters with Minuet were reported.)

6. COMMUNICATOR BADGE

On the original series, Kirk and crew carried handheld communicators. But in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Starfleet personnel wore communicator badges on the left breasts of their uniforms. A California start-up called Vocera has created a similar device you pin to your shirt. They’re used mostly in hospitals to avoid having constant overhead pages.

7. TRACTOR BEAM


Pulling a ship with an invisible tractor beam seems impossible, but two New York University professors are making it so. Their experiment, which uses a light beam to control tiny microscopic particles, is not going to be deployed on the next NASA mission, but shows we’re making progress.

8. NATURAL LANGUAGE QUERIES

In the Star Trek universe, you can talk to a computer (voiced by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, Trek creator Gene’s wife) in casual conversation. These days, we’ve got Apple’s Siri and Google Now, and while they aren’t fully developed systems yet, they are baby steps toward a service like Star Trek‘s computer, which has a complex understanding of context. Google even codenamed their voice-based service “Majel,” in honor of Barrett-Roddenberry.

9. WARP DRIVE

No one in Star Trek ever sits down and explains how a warp drive works in detail, but we know it has something to do with bending space and traveling faster than the speed of light. Doesn’t seem possible, but NASA has suggested that a warp drive is possible.

10. PHASER

Captain Kirk was pretty handy with a phaser, and he didn’t always set his to stun. Ironically, we’ve been using something similar since the first Iraq War. Known as a dazzler, the directed-energy weapon sends a pulse of electromagnetic radiation to stop someone cold in their tracks.

11. TELEPORTATION

To get from place to place, Captain Kirk and company didn’t need an airplane—they didn’t even need a space elevator. Instead, they teleported using the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s transporter (a scenario we all dream about while standing in line at airport security). We’ve already done some teleportation—specifically, of photons and atoms. These particles don’t disappear and reappear, though. According to Forbes, “the information contained in the photon’s quantum state is transmitted from one photon to another through quantum entanglement – without actually travelling the intervening distance.” An exact copy appears on the other side, while the original photon is destroyed. According to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, we consist of 15 trillion cells, so we’ll need to wait a few centuries before we’re teleporting like Kirk. And we’ll still have to destroy the original.

12. HYPOSPRAY

In the world of Star Trek, there’s no need for needles (and thus no trypanophobia)—Bones administered medicine through the skin using painless jet-injected hypospray. Recently, MIT created a similar device that, according to Geek.com, “delivers a drug through the skin at speeds of up to 340 meters per second and in under a millisecond. The amount of drug can be varied, as can how deep it is injected. And as far as the patient is concerned, they shouldn’t feel anything other than the tip of the injector against their skin. That’s because the jet is as thin as a mosquito’s proboscis.” It’s not the first, but it does have more control than other hyposprays, which means it could actually be a replacement for needles—and that would make visits to the doctor’s office with your kids much easier.

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Star Trek Invades Alexa

I am a big fan of Amazon;s Alexa devices. These far outpace Siri (Apple) or Cortana (Microsoft) in how they can actually be a useful tool in your home.

Amazon’s Alexa devices are constantly being improved through updates and skills. An now we learn that Amazon has added another Wake Word option.

Wake Words, of course, are the words you can use to cause Alexa to start listening to your requests. Without the Wake Word, Alexa just sits waiting. For privacy nuts, this should be proof enough that Amazon is respecting the customer’s private moments and conversations, but some still suspect she’s listening anyway. Alexa devices provide a hardware button to stop her from listening completely.

Originally, Alexa came with just three Wake Word options: Alexa, Amazon, and Echo. But, now Alexa has a fourth Wake Word as Amazon has added “Computer” to the mix.

Rumor suggests that Amazon is still intent on providing the ability to allow customers to create their own Wake Words sometime in the future.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 19 – “Legacies Book 2 – Best Defense”

My TOS Book Mission in celebration of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary continues with David Mack’s “Best Defense” which is part 2 of the special Legacies series.

Legacies is a trilogy celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Spanning decades and several captains of the early Enterprise. The first novel, “Captain to Captain” by Greg Cox was and excellent start to this trilogy and of course left off with a major cliffhanger. “Best Defense” is just as action-packed, if not more so.

As the crew of the Enterprise tries to reclaim the Transfer Key (stolen in Book 1), the crew must deal with a mystery and stop a war from breaking out with the Klingons. Meanwhile, Una tries to rescue her old crew mates from a bizarre alternate universe. This story is full of suspense, political intrigue, and family drama which in many ways I enjoyed even more than the first in the trilogy. There was much jammed into this fast-paced story and for the most part it all works very well. We even get to see Dr. McCoy’s estranged daughter, JoAnna as well as Sarek who is trying to make peace with the Klingons. Oh and we even get to see Councilor Gorkon (Star Trek VI) which is great fun.

The story leads up to a cliffhanger and very much sets the tone for what is sure to be a exciting conclusion, “Purgatory’s Key” which arrives later this month.

Happy 50th Star Trek.

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TOS 50 Book Mission # 18 – “Legacies Book 1 – Captain to Captain”

This year I have truly enjoyed delving into old & new Star Trek novels as my little way to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. The three book “Legacy” series which launched with Greg Cox’s “Captain to Captain” brings with it much promise as a Trek universe spanning adventure.

The cover art really sets the tone of the story in “Captain to Captain”.

This first novel did not let me down and it was one that I could not put down.

The best part of this novel is the character of Number One who only appeared in the original pilot “The Cage” and as part of flashbacks in the Original Series episode of “The Menagerie.” There wasn’t much character development in “The Cage” but in this novel the character is fully fleshed out and three dimensional. The entire time I was reading this story I could picture Majel Barrett as the character.

The story itself was very interesting and included a great sub-story involving Robert April, a captain with little backstory in the Trek Universe other than being the first captain of the USS Enterprise. Overall, this is a great Star Trek story to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Original Series. I look forward to reading the next two novels.

Oh and slugs were terrifying!

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