This Post is dedicated to Andrew, the Space Nut, who got me interested in Star Trek, on TV. He told me, long ago, that Star Trek differs from Star Wars in that it is based on actual science–not fairy tales (“…A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”).
We saw portable, collapsible computers on the show, similar to what we now call iPads. The linked article, from the Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/nasa-asks-could-3-d-printed-food-fuel-a-mission-to-mars/2013/05/21/76fc3668-c224-11e2-914f-a7aba60512a7_print.html, claims that NASA has given a grant to Texas-based Systems and Materials Research Corp., to develop a 3-D printer, similar to the “replicator”, which could provide any food or drink, in seconds and to individual taste. Star-Trek’s “communicators” are now known as iPhones, and “phasers” are now known as tasers. So, perhaps the replicator is the next big thing. Food and drink from the 3-D printer (replicator) would be sent to astronauts on Mars, or elsewhere.
There were several related articles on the Internet. One notes the 3-D printer that SMRC hopes to develop, http://in.reuters.com/assets/printaid=INBRE94L1B420130522. The second one, discusses plans to use the technology to help defeat World Hunger, http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/67909-3d-printed-food-may-potentially-end-world-hunger/. I did not change to print-mode, so it would show what the food looks like.
To me, the real question is: When will the “Transporter” be available? (iPorter?) The idea of using a chamber to de-mateialize people, transmit “beam” their particles to a distant location and, then, re-materialize them (and gear/luggage) has been the subject of discussion by serious science fiction writers for decades. That would shorten a years-long space journey to seconds.
Please excuse my excitement; however, I see so much potential in the applications for 3-D Printers. Pizza parties on Mars, fighting World Hunger, etc., the uses and applications could be limitless. What could be next?
Recently, doctors in Ohio used a 3-D laser printer to create an air tube that probably saved the life of a baby boy, who stopped breathing each day. The Washington post link is: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/a-medical-first-doctors-save-ohio-boy-by-laser-printing-an-airway-tube-so-he-can-breathe/2013/05/22/2c6ceb2a-c318-11e2-9642-a56177f1cdf7_print.html. Now, with that as a backdrop, what can that mean for doctors treating wounded soldiers on the battlefield? Or, health care providers working on the front lines at natural disasters: tornadoes; floods; earthquakes; etc?