As we speak, the Mars Curiosity Rover is busily working away on the Red Planet. A lone robot, working on a planet, basically, gathering dirt. Did Pixar’s Wall-E somehow inspire a real NASA mission?
In Part One – The Top 10 Technologies that Went From Science Fiction to Science Fact, we looked at everything from facial recognition technology in the Minority Report to Star Trek cloaking devices. And one thing is abundantly clear: If you’ve seen an amazing bit of tech in a sci-fi film or TV show, odds are, there’s a scientist out there somewhere, working to make it a reality.
Here’s part two in the top 10 list of technologies that have made the leap from science fiction to science fact:
6. The Flying Car
The Fiction: In Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoon, The Jetsons, family man George Jetson commutes to work in his bubble-topped flying aero-car. During his blissfully traffic-free commute, George drops off family members for their daily activities. Upon arriving at Spacely Space Sprockets his aero-car neatly transforms into a briefcase. How cool is that?
The Fact: While anyone has yet to build a car that can transform into a briefcase, the flying car is here—and apparently it handles like a motorcycle. Dutch company PAL-V has created a flying car, called the PAL-V ONE. Drive it like a car, or unfold the single rotor and you’re ready to fly. No flight plan required.
The Fiction: In the 2000 sci-fi action thriller, The 6th Day, Arnold Schwarzenegger discovers he’s been cloned against his will. While arriving home from work, Arnold is shocked to find he’s already home, celebrating at a party with this family. Not fun. This problem, no doubt, worries cloaning’s critics.
The Fact: While we know plenty about cloning sheep, what about the possibility of cloning humans? Or cloning humans without their consent? Scarily enough, it’s possible. A recent study by Kyoto University details how a scientist has been able to create any human cell simply by using an adult human skin cell. In trials with mice, they were able to turn mouse cells into embryos, which were then fertilized and developed into baby mice.
8. Universal Translators
The Fiction: Small, yellow, leech like, the Babel Fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was an organic universal translator that you simply inserted into your ear. In Star Wars, C-3PO, had nearly the same ability (he could translate six million languages) but often with just as much complaining as translating.
Oh, that C-3PO.
The Fact: No need to find yourself a protocol droid or a Babel Fish. As long as you’re on Earth, there are much easier solutions. They’re available to you right now in the form of apps that turn your PC, your MAC, or your smartphone into your own personal translation device. And some of them you can even get for free at Intel AppUp® center.
9. Organ Transplant (artificial, or otherwise)
The Fiction: In the 2010 film, Repo Men, Jude Law works for a company that sells expensive artificial organs. After a job goes wrong, Law is injured and wakes up to find he’s the recipient of a brand-new mechanical heart. It will last a lifetime—but so will the payments.
The Fact: Today, like Law, you can get an artificial heart. Unlike Law’s fictional heart, the artificial heart isn’t designed for the long haul. Instead, it’s stopgap measure until a suitable human heart becomes available. Additionally, the artificial hearts that are available require the patient to carry a 13.5 backpack with an air compressor. Which, if you’re trying to stay one step ahead of the Repo Men, it might slow you down.
10. Transparent Aluminum
The Fiction: Star Trek is a wellspring of sci-fi to sci-fact ideas. Take, for example, transparent aluminum. In Star Trek 4, Scotty gives a present day engineer a formula to create transparent aluminum in exchange for building a giant tank to hold a Humpback whale. If you haven’t seen Star Trek 4, you’re probably wondering how they get the whale into the tank, but that’s another sci-fi bit of technology at work.
The Fact: Transparent aluminum exists! In 2009, scientists at Oxford created a transparent form of aluminum by firing a powerful laser at the material. For a brief moment, after blasting it, the material itself transformed. What does that mean? Well, imagine if you could turn lead into gold with just a shot of light. It’s the same thing. Transparent aluminum is just the beginning of what’s possible.
What do you think? What would you add to our list?