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Space Science

Star Trek Shields Now a Possibility? 220

An anonymous reader writes "British scientists have announced their intent to build a Star Trek-style magnetic shielding system to help protect astronauts from radiation. 'There are a variety of risks facing future space explorers, not least of which is the cancer-causing radiation encountered when missions venture beyond the protective magnetic envelope, or magnetosphere, which shields the Earth against these energetic particles. The Earth's magnetosphere deflects many of these particles; others are largely absorbed by the atmosphere.'"
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Star Trek Shields Now a Possibility?

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  • Misleading Title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PixieDust ( 971386 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:19PM (#18787447)
    These aren't Star Trek shields. They ONLY protect against a few types of radiation. Basically do the same thing as the Earth's Magnetosphere. Too bad. It'd be really cool to run around in something with shields up, see an occasional flare up when something hits it.

    Course, it wouldn't be long before Jack-Ass had shields around someone's nether regions, and shot it with a gun.

  • by Tobenisstinky ( 853306 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:22PM (#18787485)
    Hear, hear. At most call them "energy sheilds"
  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:37PM (#18787705)
    Fast moving space dust and micro meteors (really the same thing actually) can be stopped by far more mundane means. You don't even really need to stop them per se, you just have to build your spacecraft to survive them. Remember that inflatable stations have been seriously considered - the reason is that a few pinhole leaks aren't going to be the end of the world if you have a contingency in place for them (duct tape perhaps? :-)

    Radiation, on the other hand, generally isn't so easy to block. You can mostly ignore it if the spacecraft is unmanned, which is the best solution most of the time, but if you have to have astronauts up there, then they need some sort of shield.

    Physical radiation shields generally rely on putting enough mass in the way to protect the people on the other side, and while that's fine for a nuclear reactor or a fallout shelter, it's a bit of an issue when you need to carry all that extra weight up to orbit. Getting the same protection without all the extra weight would be a big advantage. Pity it can't be adapted to non-charged forms of ionizing radiation.
  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:54PM (#18787945)

    there is a lab in the southwest (nevada i think) where they generate fields as strong as the earth's magnetic field (in otherwords, what theyre looking for here).

    The Earth's magnetic field is wimpy. A refrigerator magnet produces a stronger field. The thing about Earth's field is that it is HUGE, spatially. So particles have a LOT of field to contend with on their way through the magnetosphere. Even though the field itself is incredibly weak.
  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @04:59PM (#18788029) Journal
    My how slashdot has fallen. If these are "star trek shields" I'm an Aardvaark. How the fuck did this one get past the editors? Were they asleep at the time?
  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:10PM (#18788213) Journal
    Indeed, if by "a few types of radiation" you mean, "no types of radiation at all." since a spacecraft megnetosphere only affects charged particles and plasmas. And doesn't technically deflect anything away, but instead traps stuff. causing the particles to precipitate at specific locations (which can be more heavily shielded) at the poles.
  • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @05:25PM (#18788429) Homepage
    Actually, I was listening to the BBC World Service on our local NPR station this morning, and they had a snippet comparing this to Star Trek as well. (I didn't really listen: it was towards the end and I was heading to class). I thought it was a pretty stupid comparison as well, since "magnetic shielding against charged particles" is really a very small subset of the phantasmagorical array of capabilities which are ascribed to Star Trek shields.
  • Re:6 of 9 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @07:38PM (#18790077) Homepage Journal

    Real is spectacular. These silicone-stuffed ladies are operating under entirely false pretenses. if silicone is what you like, buy a RealDoll. Guaranteed less expensive than the real thing over time, and those breasts are just what you want.

  • cough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Wednesday April 18, 2007 @07:49PM (#18790217) Homepage Journal
    Once again, the movies/tv shows have lead the way to developing new technology!

    No. Once again, science fiction writers far predating TV shows and movies such as EE "Doc" Smith and his many predecessors, peers and those that followed led the way, and TV lamely followed. But that's OK. You go back to watching TV. Books might make your head hurt. Full of words, they are. Very annoying. And that whole "theater of the mind" thing... I mean, what if you blow a projector bulb in your cerebrum?

Loose bits sink chips.