The technology of Battlestar Galactica: In pictures
"Battlestar Galactica" is a show that helped redefine the sci-fi genre. Re-imagined from the late 1970s television original, the new version comes to a climactic finish this week after four seasons. We've highlighted some of the advanced technology found in the show, and compared it to things that actually exist in our world.
As a disclaimer, there are some spoilers in this list. You've been warned.
The Cylons, the machine race that was designed by mankind and later rebelled against it, use a special touch screen called a data-font to interface with their ship's computer and a Cylon intranet called the "datastream." They do this by dipping their hand into a pool of liquid that presumably acts as a conductor for the data.
While we're not quite up to speed with transmitting data to our own bodies by touch, we've already accomplished power transfer without the need to use exposed plugs or connectors. A great example of this is the upcoming Pre phone from Palm. It has a charger called Touchstone that will charge it when it rests on top of the charging block.
To make ship repairs, the human fleet makes use of a special organic resin developed by the Cylons. It grows into the cracks of metal and strengthens as it "matures." It's been described as "like cartilage." It's also what the Cylon base ships are made out of.
While not organic, or as strong the what's used in "Battlestar Galactica," road repair will often employ silane and siloxane sealants to fill in microscopic cracks on concrete. This keeps water from depositing and leading to even larger cracks when it expands. Epoxy is also injected into the cracks in metal when a proper weld or patch plate can't be put in. Of course neither of these options are as cool as a living paste.
Raiders are the Cylon equivalent of fighter jets, although instead of requiring a separate pilot, it's a part of the ship. Like other Cylons, when a Raider is destroyed, its knowledge and memories get transferred into a new ship, meaning it can learn from its mistakes and identify opponent's tactics. This culminates into a fight with "Scar" a Cylon Raider that out-maneuvers and out-strategizes the humans who are trying to take it out once and for all.
The closest thing we have to Cylon Raiders are in the U.S. military's unmanned drone program. If a pilot-controlled drone is taken out in combat, its pilot can begin again with a new ship. These ships also carry on-board cameras, letting the pilot review and learn from mistakes.
Resurrection ships are the key to Cylon regeneration. When Cylons dies, the contents of their brain are sent wirelessly to the resurrection ship where they're placed into the brain of a waiting replacement. When that replacement is activated, the memories are streamed in, and it's as if the death of the original never occurred.
The closest thing we have to that in modern day technology is the idea of cellular memory. This theory believes that memories are passed along at a cellular level and separate from the brain. However, this is no replacement for the idea of being able to live forever using the same mind and different bodies.
DRADIS is simply radar, but for outer space. Just like modern day radar, it can identify crafts based on call signs and figure out their speed and distance. The DRADIS radar on "BSG" also has a few tricks up its sleeve, like detecting nuclear explosions. Just like normal radar, it can also be tricked by stealth technology. In the show, it's a ship that's been coated in a carbon composite that ends up making it invisible to DRADIS.
The stealth ship that is used in an episode in the middle of Season 2.5 is constructed from scratch from within Battlestar Galactica. Unlike the other ships, its skin is made out of a special carbon composite which makes it invisible to DRADIS radar.
Stealth technology has been used in the military for decades. Two of the most well known examples are the Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" and F-117 stealth fighter. Both used special metals and/or an iron metallic paint combined with a special angular design to keep from being picked up on enemy radar.
Cloud Nine is a luxury liner with its own bio-dome. Here there's grass and an artificial sun and blue sky, all set up to give its visitors the experience of being on a planet while actually being in space.
While not new to science fiction, bio-domes are very much a reality, except that the one in the Battlestar Galactica is able to reproduce the look and feel of an atmosphere, something we can only come close to with flat panel displays.
Bodum's double walled "Thermo" glasses make a regular appearance on the show. The great majority of Battlestar's top brass are heavy drinkers and use these almost exclusively. The producers likely went with them because they look high tech, and in fact they are. Built like a standard thermos, the double walled design keeps condensation from forming on the outside of the glass if you're drinking something cold, and also keeps your hands from warming up the liquid that's inside.
Made out of a leftover keg, a gas grill, and some copper tubing, the original version of the distillery designed by some of Battlestar Galactica's flight deck mechanics is not all that futuristic. Version 2.0 of the distillery, however, made use of a "C02 scrubber," which presumably takes the place of a traditional charcoal or gravel-based filter system to make the liquid taste less acrid.
The magnetic boosters are what helps Galactica shoot ships out into battle. It's the equivalent of a catapulting system found on modern day aircraft carriers, except that it's much faster and keeps ships floating before they hit the zero gravity.
The U.S. Navy already has a new system under development that uses electromagnets to provide a similar launching power in less space and energy than the previous steam-powered one did.