Scientists Are Making Star Trek's Phaser A Reality

Next month, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, the Smithsonian Channel will air "Building Star Trek," a two-hour special taking a "look at some of the most iconic surviving props and how they've come to predict some of the vital technologies we use today."

In one segment of the program, which you can view in the video above, Dr. Rob Afzal, who develops innovative fiber lasers at Lockheed Martin, discusses how close we are to having a defense weapon as powerful as Star Trek's phaser.

"So how could we actualy make a phaser?" asks Dr. Afzal. "Well when I look at a device like this, the first thing I think about is the energy, the power that's required to get the phaser effect. The next breakthrough would come from being able to store enough energy in a device like this, so that you could project that beam and get your effect."

When Star Trek first aired in 1966, it expanded the viewers' imaginations about what was possible in their lifetimes. Today, many of the space-age technologies displayed on the show, like space shuttles, cell phones, and desktop computers, have already gone from science fiction to science fact. Other innovations, like warp drive, teleportation, and medical tricorders are actively in development. Join us as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek - a show that continues to inform, enrich, and inspire.

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"Building Star Trek" will premiere Sunday, September 4 at 8 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel.