Science fiction is often seen as a world of wonder and fascination and a form of escapism for some. Often it’s the gadgets and gizmos that you see in films, or read about in books that are the most exciting part. As society and technology advance, the line between science and fiction grows thinner each year. Here we look at 5 classic sci-fi tech ideas and the efforts to make them a reality.
5. Invisibility Cloaks
Imagine how cool it would be to be able to wander around wearing a cloak just like the one Harry Potter would use to sneak around Hogwarts. The technology behind cloaking devices are already being developed for light, sound and heat. To do this, scientists need to develop an artificial meta-material that would refract light in such a way that the object is rendered invisible. Before these materials can become part of our everyday reality, there are many more obstacles to be overcome. These include cost and scalability but scientists are always making progress in these areas. Applications of the final cloaks would include being able to camouflage soldiers so they are able to blend into their surroundings or to possibly block their thermal signature so they can’t be found by enemies.
One of the oldest ideas in the sci-fi universe is the concept of putting a human body into deep freeze to be thawed later. In earlier stories, suspended animation was used as a form of time travel, so adventurers could wake up in future worlds. Many films and TV shows have parodied the idea, but the technology is all too real. There are several commercial cryonic suspension facilities in the United States, where cryonics typically refers to the field of cryogenic preservation of human beings. It’s easy enough to freeze someone but there has been much more difficulty in the reverse- awakening from the suspended state. Despite the use of sophisticated protectants, every preserved brain has undergone severe fracturing during the freezing process. It’s also very likely that the cells will turn to mush during thawing. As a result, cryogenics still has a long way to go.
An important gadget for the Men in Black, this gadget lets you erase memories of those who stare at the flashing red light. With the click of a button and a few soothing words, you can wipe out a memory and replace it with something else. For the characters in “Men in Black,” this device allowed human agents to meet, negotiate or combat aliens without alerting the entire Earth that we are not alone. Need a little more time on that deadline? Just zap your lecturer and say that the assignment is due next week. Accidentally spill coffee on your date? A quick zap and the suggestion that a passer by did it and you’re good to go. Zapping people to alter memories might not be the most responsible option. Scientists have already been making great steps to create a neuralizer. Scientists from the University of Rochester have used fibre-optic cables to send beams of light into the brains of genetically engineered mice and they found they could erase memories of their choosing. This may be a great leap in the field, but most people aren’t going to be all that comfortable having beams of light fired into their brains to erase moments of their lives.
Yes , the “Star Wars” series is really more of a fantasy than science fiction, but we cannot forget the coolest weapon everyone should want- the lightsaber. It’s an elegant weapon from a more civilised age. The final part of a Jedi knight’s training is the construction of his or her own personal lightsaber. A sword that can cut through anything and could also deflect from blaster fire, plus the added sound effects, would be a must-have for everyone. A lightsaber consists of a handle, a power source and some crystals. The crystals give the lightsaber its colour as well as other attributes. Those who use the light side of the force tend to rely on crystals they find in natural settings like caves and caverns. Dark side force users tend to use synthetic crystals, which always seem to give a lightsaber an ominous red glow. Alas, all this sounds great but the lightsaber itself is near impossible to make as technology is nowhere near ready for it yet.
1. Time Machines
Having a neuralizer would be great to make people forget minor slip-ups, but what can you do if you make a much larger mistake? The answer would be to jump in your time-machine and rip apart the fabric of time and space by creating a paradox that prevents yourself from the embarrassing situation. Everyone knows that time-travel only ever ends well, right? There’s a plethora of types of time machine in the fictional universe; the living creature inside the TARDIS in “Doctor Who”; the chair with dozens of confusing dials and levers like in H.G. Wells’s famous novel; or maybe the flux capacitor that requires hitting 88 miles per hour in a DeLorean from “Back to the Future” franchise. Thanks to Albert Einstein, time travel has been proven to be possible. His theories suggested that “wormholes” could connect two regions of space and time. On the downside, a time machine would need to extract the energy of an entire star or black hole. Then there’s the challenge of stabilising the wormhole and ensuring that the entry point remains open for the return journey. Even if physics is on our side, metaphysics is not. The “grandfather paradox” suggests that any technology that lets you kill your own ancestor can’t possibly exist, because it would break the cosmos. There is, however, an even tougher paradox to consider: If time travel is possible, then where are all the time travellers from the future? Could they already be living among us but just not know it yet?