The Science Fiction of Yesterday Becomes the Reality of Today

The Science Fiction of Yesterday Becomes the Reality of Today

Over the last couple of days there have been a several articles that I’ve read that have made me think “you know, the 21st century, we’re really here aren’t we”.

One of the first that caught my eye was of a new innovation by a gentleman called Jake Evil….I know! Really…he needs to be working from some secret tropical island volcano base doesn’t he. Joking aside Mr Evil (I so wish he had a doctorate) has come up with a great new way of providing a cast for broken bones that doesn’t involve lots of plaster and people writing rude messages in indelible ink.

As in traditional treatments the limb is first x-rayed to determine where the break has occurred. It’s then scanned to create a precise 3D model which can then be used to create a 3D printed lattice from durable plastic that clips in place and exactly fits the patients limb.

The plastic lattice looks very sci-fi. It’s almost honeycomb structure allows plenty of air to the limb preventing any itching and is far easier to clean allowing the patient to shower and wash without having to worry about getting a cast wet. Let’s hope the Cortex Exoskeleton hits our hospitals before any of us break anything!

Another article that caught my eye was the unveiling of a new truck design by Hanover based MAN trucks. MAN have radically veered from the path of traditional truck design by attempting to create a truck with the aerodynamics and overall wind resistance of a car. They report that this will reduce both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions  by a staggering 25%. In today’s environment with fuel costs so high that’s a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. As we move more and more to other forms of propulsion such as electric this translates into more miles on a single charge.

What caught me about this more than the aerodynamics though was the similarity to the design of this truck and the sci-fi comics I was reading when I was in my teens. I’m constantly challenged now by what a very exciting present we live in and how we are making the future ours. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years of the 21st century will bring!

I’ve Got A Tricorder and it’s Smaller Than Yours Spock

I remember watching Star Trek the original series as a slightly techno-nerdy kid and being in deep envy of Spock and his Tri-corder. A near magical device that could give him information on everything from someone’s health to how to find the local green grocers. Looking back on it the odd Bakelite black box with the press button controls was a very 1960’s idea of what future technology might look like but like so many things in Science Fiction we can look forward 50 years now and find some startling parallels.

I was intrigued to discover this week that a group at the University of Illinois has invented an iPhone cradle device that can be made for around $200  and turns your iPhone into the equivalent of a $50,000 spectrophotometer.  For those a little less dorky than myself, a spectrophotometer can be used to detect the presence of proteins in various samples of bodily fluid or water which is useful for detection of infection or contamination. As a simple field device for rapid sample analysis this has the potential to save lives and prevent hardship in places around the world where sophisticated medical analysis laboratories aren’t readily available. The whole device increases the size of the iPhone by about 25%.

Not impressed yet? Take a look at Lapka an iPhone device that can detect humidity, radiation, synthetic nitrates and electro magnetic frequencies. By all accounts this is just the start of the small revolution in hand held computing putting all sorts of new diagnostic devices in the palm of our hands. Whether in five years time we’ll be holding this technology or wearing it will depend largely on the success of new augmented reality technologies like Google Glass.  One things for sure though, the next five years will see us having more information about our surroundings than ever before, what we do with that information is still the province of science fiction!