In the last decade or so, we’ve all heard about advancements and inventions such as the Curiosity rover on Mars, and self-driving cars. But here are 11 technologies that sound straight out of an Issac Asimov novel, except they actually exist. Read on, to find out more about death rays mounted on navy ships and bullets with minds of their own. 11 technologies that will surprise you:
5. Ion Engines
In the Star Wars trilogy (the original trilogy, mind you!), the ubiquitous TIE fighters of the evil Empire are powered by twin ion engines, hence the name TIE. You may be surprised to learn that ion engines do exist outside of science-fiction, though they are no where nearly as powerful as shown in movies. The Dawn spacecraft takes 4 DAYS to go from 0-60mph! Ion Engines are one of those technologies that will surprise you but really do exist.
The boffins at NASA managed to create a working prototype of an ion engine in 1959, and they bolted it on to the Deep Space 1 and Dawn space probes. The Deep Space 1 probe traveled total of 263 million kilometers at a maximum speed of 4.5 kilometers a second, and the new HIPEP thruster, under development at NASA, has exhaust velocities at over 90 kilometers a second.
Ion thrusters work by expelling an inert gas (remember high school chemistry?) at high speed to get a small amount of acceleration. Even though the thrust produced is rather small, craft with ion engines can reach very high speeds because ion engines produce a small thrust for a long time.
4. Bionic eyes – technologies that will surprise you
It might sound like something out of The Six Million Dollar Man, but scientists have managed to fit Ray Flynn, an 80-year old British man with the most common form of blindness, Age Related Mascular Degeneration, with the Argus II implant (which costs a cool $150,000) in June. Amazingly, he was able to immediately see the outlines of people and objects with his eyes closed when the device was switched on, and his eye doctor, Dr Paulo Stanga is optimistic that it will only improve with time.
The Argus II, made by Second Sight Medical Products, which is based in California, works by converting a video feed from a camera attached to his glasses to signals that are sent to tiny electrodes attached to undamaged cells in his retina, the part of the eye that detects light and sends it to the brain. The undamaged cells are then stimulated and send signals to the brain. The Argus II is one of those technologies that will surprise you but is approved for marketing in the European Union, and is approved under a ‘humanitarian device exemption’ in the United States.
3. Self-Guiding Bullet – Technologies That Will Surprise You
Real-life sniping, unlike in Call of Duty, requires one to do take into account factors such as range, bullet drop, gravity, wind speed, humidity, and even the rotation of the Earth, along with movement of the target and the inevitable delay between firing and impact . In the future, snipers may just have to point a red-dot at a target and pull the trigger, as the geniuses at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) pulled another rabbit out of their magic hat, the EXACTO (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance- Who comes up with these names?) Self-guiding bullet, which is a modified .50 cal bullet.
That’s right, A SELF GUIDING BULLET – this is one of those technologies that will surprise sou. That can turn in mid-flight. The specifics of the system are (obviously) classified so damned high that you’ll need a telescope to see them, but among the EXACTO system’s abilities are the ability to knock down targets at 2000 meters, and to make sharp turns midflight. And it can also hit moving targets, whether fired by a trained marksman or a novice shooter.
It uses some kind of guidance system (powered presumably by magic or clippings of Chuck Norris’s beard, as it’s classified) to allow for weather and other factors that might make it miss the target. Imagine bullets that can swerve around obstacles to hit objects (e.g. people) behind them. Should we be awed, terrified, or both?
2. Organs Grown In a Lab
In the distant future, humans might not need to worry about trivial things like organ failure. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have managed to grow a whole functioning organ in an animal, in this case mice. They managed to trick cells from a mouse embryo into thinking they were supposed to grow into a thymus, an organ which is part of the immune system. The cells were then injected into lab mice, which then grew into a fully functional thymus. Unfortunately, they haven’t figured out how to apply the same technique to humans.
There are also lab-grown blood vessels, windpipes and bladders. Scientists made scaffolds which were then “seeded” with the patients’ own cells, which were then implanted into the patients. A custom titanium rib cage has also been created for a patient in Spain. Who knows, maybe in a hundred years we would be able to simply custom order organs and swap them out. Let’s hope that science stays on the right track for this particular field of research.
1. Fusion Reactors
At number one in our list of technologies that will surprise you is the Fusion Reactor. Fusion reactors, like the European JET Tokamak reactor, and the ITER reactor under construction, harness the same reactions that happen in a SUN to generate electricity. It may sound unbelievable to many. In the Sun, hydrogen atoms collide, and then they fuse into heavier helium atoms, giving off incredible amounts of energy in the process.
On Earth, a fusion reaction between two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, is utilized to generate energy. For the reaction to occur, a temperature 10 times higher than the temperature at the Sun’s core is needed. At these temperatures, the electrons are separated from nuclei and make a very hot, electrically charged gas called plasma.
The plasma is contained using giant magnets, and neutrons produced by the reaction will be used to generate heat to turn turbines, converting it to electricity. This might sound like a lot of trouble to generate electricity, compared to already mature technologies like fossil fuel plants, but fusion reactors only give off helium, and minimal radioactive waste that can be recycled in a 100 years, as by-products.
Helium is a gas which doesn’t do very much chemically, and is used to fill up floating balloons, and waste radioactive waste from fusion reactors is far less nasty than from fission reactors. Coal plants and their fossil fuel utilizing brethren give off incredible amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming.
Fusion reactors represent the future of clean energy production for our race, as we have to meet rising energy demands from a growing population without making pollution worse than it already is. Companies such as Lockheed Martin are currently working on compact fusion reactors that can be used in really cool applications such as going to Mars (we’re looking at you Elon Musk, make it happen!) and making aircraft that can fly for a year without refueling.
5 Technologies That Will Surprise You
- Fusion Reactors
- Organs Grown In a Lab
- Self-Guiding Bullets
- Bionic eyes
- Ion Engines