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Reconfigure the Modulators!

2 minute read

So you think you’re Star Trek literate just because you know that phasers can stun and that while Klingons used to be bad guys, now they’re good (most of the time, anyway). But can you decipher the techno-babble that Enterprise crew members are constantly spouting? For some help, TIME consulted Michael Okuda, one of the Star Trek technical experts:

“We need to remodulate the main deflector dish.”

Deflectors are devices that protect starships by setting up an energy field. Dishes, which operate at specific frequencies, control the deflectors. Remodulating the frequency boosts the strength of the deflectors against incoming attacks.

“We can do it if we reconfigure the lateral sensor array.”

Sensors are used to detect objects, life forms or anomalies in space. Reconfiguring them simply adjusts them, like focusing a lens. Watch for terms like “reconfigure” and “remodulate”; they’re the workhorses of the Trek vocabulary.

“It should be possible if we decompile the pattern buffer.”

Transporters can send people instantly from one location to another by converting their molecules into energy, then reassembling them. Every living being has a distinct pattern of molecules; the pattern buffer fixes the configuration by adjusting for the Doppler effect — the apparent change in the frequency of the energy waves caused by motion.

“I’ll verify the Heisenberg compensators.”

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that you cannot know a subatomic particle’s exact position and its exact direction and velocity at the same time. To transport people you have to know all those things, so the Heisenberg compensator was devised to overcome that problem. It’s an attempt by the Trek writers to signal that they are at least aware of the issue. And how does the Heisenberg compensator work? “It works very well, thank you,” says Okuda.

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