Photon torpedoes come after utopia, at least in Star Trek. Imagining a universe centuries ahead of our own time and technology, the long-running sci-fi shows explored philosophy, morality, and the secluded intricacies of physics. But what was left unstated said the most. By the time Jean-Luc Picard took the captain’s chair, poverty in the 24th century had been eliminated, as was crime. Star Trek made these humanistic zeniths plausible by sheer abundance of energy resources. Without scarcity, standards of living increased. People had no reason to steal or beg. All of this was possible because 24th century humans perfectly realized the fact that inside even a small amount of mass was boundless energy. Star Trek then realized the dreams of Einstein, dreams that indeed were the tides that lifted all starships. Photon torpedoes can show you how.

Other than Newton’s F=ma, Einstein’s E=mc2 is perhaps the most famous equation of all time, and it calculates the end to an energy crisis. According to the equation, mass is equivalent to energy—a gargantuan amount of energy. That’s because even small masses in this equation are multiplied by the speed of light squared (c2), a number with around 20 zeroes (depending on your units of choice). You can think of the energy contained in mass like a calorie. To measure calories, researchers light a constituent of food on fire, and then measure how much that flame can heat a known quantity of water. The greater the final temperature of the water, the more calories the tested food has. Likewise, the “E” in E=mc2 shows how much energy you get if you could “unlock” all of it bound up in the atoms and molecules of some mass. In the Star Trek universe, they figured out how to do just that with antimatter.

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