As Star Trek boldly sails into its second half-century, you might wonder what other impacts on science and culture this astonishing franchise could have. ‘Live long and prosper’, for instance — could the show hold clues to hyper-longevity? (Certainly ‘Bones’ McCoy managed to survive an incurable terminal illness, xenopolycythemia, during heated skirmishes on the asteroid-ship Yonada in an early series). Might the weird paradoxes the series harnessed to explain time travel ever transpire?
We can only wait. But in the meantime, on 2 September the US Postal Service issued a stunning set of Star Trek ‘Forever’ stamps — a time-bending product useable for posting a first-class, 1-ounce letter into perpetuity “regardless of star date”, they assure us.
Launched in June at a ceremony featuring a talk by Walter Koenig (the original series’ inimitable navigator Pavel Chekhov), the stamps’ designs feature motifs of the USS Enterprise, Starfleet insignia and a crew member in mid-transport. The stamp featuring the Enterprise inside the silhouette of a Vulcan salute is frankly awesome, and sure to fulfil (as Spock might say) “the needs of the many”.
They don’t promise delivery at warp speed, but these stamps are a beautiful reminder, if we needed another one, of our deep, enduring affinity with Gene Roddenberry’s brainchild.
Sidney Perkowitz’s essay on Star Trek’s 50-year impact is just part of Nature’s packed science-fiction special, a cornucopia of offerings including Shamini Bundell’s podcast segment on how the franchise is used to teach ethics in engineering and beyond.
For Nature’s full coverage of science in culture, visit www.nature.com/news/booksandarts.