Even though the IUPAC has a somewhat different definition of it, is dilithium nothing more than the Star Trek universe’s “magic wand”?
By: Ringo Bones
According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry – or IUPAC – dilithium is the diatomic allotrope of the gaseous form of the alkali metal lithium, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek seems to have a somewhat different definition. Although in the parlance of science fiction literature, it is known as a “magic wand” – i.e. something completely fictitious or could yet to be invented in the future. Unfortunately, the Star Trek definition of dilithium is what most of the general public know about the “fictitious chemical element”.
It first appeared in the Star Trek Original Series novel titled Preserver in which dilithium was defined as a rare transuranic element that was formed naturally via the violent explosions of supernovas – i.e. Type 1a supernovas. In the Star Trek universe, it was the only known material which could regulate matter-antimatter reactions in the warp cores of starships; which is why dilithium was used by most sentient species in the Star Trek universe in their various warp-capable starships as in spacecraft capable of faster-than light travel without breaking Albert Einstein’s laws on Special Relativity – i.e. the “Alcubierre Warp Drive”.
Different compositions and origins produced slightly different appearances in the crystals ranging in shape and color. Its atomic weight is 315 and its atomic number is 119. While some various “canonical” Star Trek novels lists dilithium as having an atomic number that ranges from 190 to 300 depending on the date when it was written. According to what we currently know theoretical physicists surmised that Type 1a supernovas have trouble efficiently producing chemical elements heavier than iron and thus conclude that most silver, gold and other heavier elements found on planet earth are probably produced by a more violent, but rarer cosmic event – i.e. the collision of two neutron stars. Some canonical Star Trek novels and on the original series even stated that the stars going supernova that precede our sun are not powerful enough to produce dilithium, thus explaining the virtual nonexistence of dilithium on planet earth in the Star Trek universe.