Living in a Trek Future with Tritanium

Space-age Implants

As most of my readers know, I’m a Star Trek fan. I perform in a fan-based podcast called Outpost: a Star Trek Fan Production, and followed the TV series and movies for years. I have a bunch of Trek-related SF, as well. There’s something that appeals to the geek in me about the whole thing, and has done so since I was a kid.

One of the series’ most endearing traits (other than the great storytelling) has been their use of scientific jargon. The right tech language helps put the story in the right time frames. So, such Trek-talk as “warp speed” and tech like tricorders, dilithium crystals, transporters, and tritanium have entered our lexicon from the shows.

Implanting Tritanium

Tritanium is an interesting one. According to Star Trek: Memory Alpha, tritanium is supposed to be an ultrahard substance used in the construction of ships, stations, and other facilities in the Trekiverse. It sounds so plausible as to be real. And, here on Earth in the 21st century, it turns out tritanium does exist. In fact, I have a piece of it in my body, which makes me part of a trend in bio-engineering applications for healing and repair.

Yes, like many other folks on this planet, I’m becoming assimilated into the ranks of the bio-implant folk. Not quite Borg-ified, mind you. I think that “augmented” is a better term. Down in my left knee, there’s a tritanium joint. It’s actually made of a titanium alloy and Tritanium is its trade name. It replaces a damaged knee joint. Titanium (Ti) is can alloyed with a number of other elements (iron, vanadium, molybdenum, aluminum) to make very strong lightweight materials for all kinds of uses, including medical. To top it all off, the surgeon who put it there used a robotic arm-assisted piece of equipment that uses a 3D model of my knee (gained via CAT scan) as part of the joint replacement. It’s called a Mako robot, and the process is called makoplasty.

I’m now seven weeks post-op and just the idea of robots doing surgery and Star Trek-style “tritanium” in my body is (to me) like the stuff of science fiction. Except, it’s happening here on Earth right now, using metals that are also important to the space-age technology we use to explore our planet via light-weight airframes and the universe with our various spacecraft. So, while Trek is set in the 24th Century, back here in the 21st, we’re getting a head start on enhanced craft…and humans. Now, as long as the Borg don’t show up, we should be in great shape!

By the way, this surgery and healing process is why I’ve been offline since late October. Surgery was in early November and it’s a pretty intense healing process. What I’d like to see now is some new Trek-enabled technology to help speed the healing from such implants. Anybody got a healing tricorder working yet?

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