08-21-07, 07:15 PM #1
Star Trek replicator: Possible?
In a similar vein to Dinosaur's thought-provoking thread" Star Trek transporter: Possible?, I thought it would be interesting to compare people's thoughts about the possibility of a replicator.
In the Star Trek universe, a replicator a can create any inanimate matter on demand, as long as the desired molecular structure is on file. You dial the code for a banana split, for example, and the machine constructs it for you from existing matter.
In Star Trek canon, the raw material is "sub-atomic particles found throughout the Universe", but to keep things more realistic imagine that our potential replicator has access to an abundant supply of the necessary elements.
The information storage requirements would appear to be similar to those for a transporter as discussed in Dinosaur's thread.
So: Do you think that replicator technology might some day be a reality?
08-21-07, 07:18 PM #2
What I'm really interested in is whether you think that replicator technology is possible while transporter technology isn't, or vice-versa... so if you make different responses in the two polls, please explain why.
08-21-07, 09:21 PM #3
Replicator - yes.
Transporter - no.
Replicator is a fairly simple idea.
If you have all the necessary nuts, bolts and raw metal, you can build anything.
This is no different, just to a smaller scale.
It is bulding inanimate matter from building blocks.
The transporter, on the other hand, is something entirely different.
So different, in fact, that I'm not sure why you seem to lump the two together (perhaps I am misunderstanding).
It's one thing to build inanimate matter from parts, quite another to completely disassemble a living being, "beam" it somewhere many miles away, and have it reassembled at the beam location.
That's just absurd, and there is no technology that even comes close to a theory for how to manage such a feat.
08-21-07, 09:27 PM #4
The replicator doesn't build from parts - it build from atoms (or from any mass/energy at all, according to the canon).
If a machine can take a heap of atoms and put them together in the form of a roast turkey, then why not in the form of a human?
08-21-07, 09:30 PM #5
The replicator is self contained - in essence it is a simple machine that puts parts together according to a schematic.
A replicator is not "beaming" ham sandwiches thousand of miles away in the form of light.
How do you propose that would occur in the real world?
08-21-07, 09:42 PM #6
08-21-07, 09:43 PM #7
Still, perhaps some day we'll be able to do even this. The flaw in the Star Trek technology was the insistence that once you "transported" something or somebody, the original would be gone. A "destructive copying," as we would say in today's language of cybernetics. But why? You analyze the object or organism to be transported, describe it in code, transmit the code, and build a new one at the destination. Where in this process is it necessary to destroy the original?
I just sent a fax this morning. To be absolutely certain of my facts, I just double-checked, and yes, by golly, the original document is still right here, safe and sound.
08-21-07, 10:08 PM #8
So for you, it's the transmission of information that's the downfall of the transporter?
Interesting objection! So do you think the transporter could work for dead things?
Yes, the destructive copying thing is just a plot device. Or perhaps it's a psychological deception that everyone has become used to... it doesn't really transport things, it makes a copy and deliberately destroys the redundant copy. It is possible that people may get used to that idea.
I once read a great book called The Metaphysics of Star Trek by Richard Hanley.
In it, he mentioned a couple of Next-Gen episodes which were interesting for their insight into the transporter.
In Second Chances, a duplicate of Will Riker (Tom Riker) is made in a transporter accident.
In Relics, Scotty was rescued after putting himself in a kind of suspended animation for 75 years in a transporter's energy pattern.
08-21-07, 10:13 PM #9
Yes IF the atoms are available to be converted into what they are intended to become. If you have water atoms they can't become something that doesn't contain water in it. If all you have arte water atoms it will be rather difficult to convert them into something else that doesn't contain water.
08-21-07, 10:20 PM #10
There aren't that many different kinds of atoms. Everything is made up of 100 or so different elements (maybe 500? including stable isotopes.)
Water, for example, is made of Hydrogen atoms and Oxygen atoms.
The premise in the opening post is that the replicator has an abundant supply of each type of atom.
08-21-07, 10:25 PM #11
01-21-10, 02:34 PM #12
The Replicator is more important than the transporter
I was always under the impression that the whole premise of a Star Trek civilization depends on the invention of the replicator
If and when we can ever build a replicator the transformation from a society that needed to work (as we do today for pay) to a civilization that merely worked at bettering themselves would begin.
If we were able to replicate banana splits, earl grey teas, bars of gold, diamonds, fuel etc etc...the need to earn money to buy material things and food would cease forever more.
Crime would more or less cease too, there wouldn't be a divide of the "haves" and the "have nots" because we could have whatever we wanted
Can it be invented?? I have dreamed it could since a teenager
01-21-10, 03:06 PM #13
Can the replicator replicate other replicators? How about space ships?
01-21-10, 05:04 PM #14
If I recall correctly Star Trek transporters can beam people to places where there isn't a receiving transporter, and retrieve them from such places too. Sounds much harder than the replicator idea to me. From an information perspective though they are probably both thoroughly impossible, at least if you want to store the information about the object to be replicated/transported in any classical form; it's just way too much. ~10^26 atoms per mol of substance, usually of the order of 10g. So 500g banana split+bowl is around 10^28 atoms. Storing all their locations, even at 1 byte per atom (you'd need more for sure) is therefore around 10^28 bytes. Thats SO huge. Of course this may be a bit of a stupid way to record the information about the thing to be replicated. For a replicator perhaps you can do a lot better, i.e. for the ice cream perhaps you only need the structure of the proteins and fats and whatnot then duplicate like crazy, although the bananas would be harder since they are more complex, with all different kinds of cells and chemicals in them.
Ok, so I think If you want to actually transport someone or something you really would have to store something the positions and momentum (and type, electron state etc) of every atom in their body, if you want a faithful reproduction at the other end, but for a replicator perhaps you only need the more basic structures that are required to build the desired object, so it could be a little more possible.
Of course being able to place every atom precisely enough to reproduce an object may be impossible too...
01-21-10, 05:06 PM #15
You don't need that much accuracy for the human body, we lose millions of cells every day and hardly notice it.
01-21-10, 05:07 PM #16
01-21-10, 05:13 PM #17
yah, I believe a replicator is possible.
energy can be converted to matter and vica versa.
Granted we wont get the amount of technology to produce enough energy reliably and to control how the matter is created in our lifetimes, or even our children's lifetimes.
01-21-10, 09:22 PM #18
01-21-10, 10:50 PM #19
Haha, so ok, perhaps the original will collapse into a pool of gelatinous matter .
01-21-10, 11:19 PM #20
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