Will Star Trek "replicators" become reality?

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Daniel Grice

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Will Star Trek "replicators" become reality?
« on: 28/08/2009 16:30:03 »
Daniel Grice asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi, I love listening to your show in the mornings, it's a great start to my day!

I'm interested to know if the concept behind the replicators used in the TV Series "Star Trek - The Next Generation", are possible in theory and for the future?

My understanding of this fictional device is that it re-arranges molecules (from a bulk supply of raw material), into an item that has been saved in the replicators memory.  For example: Food.

Hope to hear your answer.


Daniel and Andrew

What do you think?


Offline LeeE

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« Reply #1 on: 29/08/2009 18:09:51 »
The greatest problem with this sort of device or apparatus, which is actually no different to matter transference systems, is not so much the practical difficulty in assembling the required molecules into a new finished object but  acquiring and managing the data required to do so.  To reproduce a banana for example, you'd have to acquire and then store the information about every molecule that makes up the original banana i.e. what type of molecule it is, where it is in relation to the other molecules around it, and because it's organic, what reactions are taking place at the point when the banana is 'scanned'.

So although it might be possible in theory, the quantity of data makes it impractical.  For example, you wouldn't be able to finish scanning the banana before it decayed, even if you used all of the computing power currently available on the entire planet.
...And its claws are as big as cups, and for some reason it's got a tremendous fear of stamps! And Mrs Doyle was telling me it's got magnets on its tail, so if you're made out of metal it can attach itself to you! And instead of a mouth it's got four arses!


Offline scalyblue

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« Reply #2 on: 30/08/2009 08:29:04 »
Give the computing industry about 60 years (easy), invent a method to disintegrate something without heating it to the temperature of the sun ( a bit harder ) and invent the heisenburg compensator ( good luck ) and you'll have your replicators.