Sunday, 11 April 2010

Today's Science is Yesterday's Science Fiction

Yesterday I wrote about cosplay and how it is not cool for guys to dress up as their heroes. But every once in a while, a boffin is driven enough in the right way to emulate their heroes and something very cool happens. I'm not talking about Kick-Ass style vigilantism - although that may be cool. I'm talking about when science fiction becomes science fact.
Take Chad Barraford from Boston, who, inspired by Tony Stark's (a.k.a. Iron Man) artificially intelligent assistant, has actually gone ahead and built his own J.A.R.V.I.S.! Barraford's hooked it up to do all sorts of helpful things like organise his Netflix account, manage his health and modify his apartment's environment all with voice control. Check it out in action with this video kindly supplied by the Boston Globe.

Also perhaps inspired by Iron Man, US defence technology people at Raytheon and Sarcos have been developing a military grade exoskeleton armour for soldiers. The exoskeleton is intended to make soldiers better than they were before. Better, stronger, faster...

More photos from Raytheon here.

Whether we're glimpsing the super-soldiers of the future is up for debate but what about actual stuff we use today that has its origins in fiction?

Here's my shortlist of a few:

The Flip-Phone:
Thanks to Gene Roddenbury's 1960s Star Trek

The Taser:
Author, "Victor Appleton", (aka Howard Garvis). The modern taser was designed by Jack Cover in the late 1960s, who based the invention on a device used in Appleton's Tom Swift stories first published in 1911. Taser is an acronym of Thomas A. Swift's Electrical Rifle.

Rockets and Space Exploration:
Jules Verne and H.G. Welles inspired an explosion of scientfic investigation into space travel in the early 20th Century.

Underwater Breathing Apparatus:
Again Jules Verne may be to thank for this one with Captain Nemo's kit used in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1869).

Laser Weapons:
Lasers are used today in surgery and manufacture where cutting is necessary. They were possibly first inspired by the heat rays used by the Martian's in H.G. Welles' War of the Worlds (1898).

Pocket Computer:
In 1974, when the smallest computers were still the size of a washing machine, Larry Niven wrote the words, "He took out his pocket computer and wrote quickly with the attached stylus" in the novel, The Mote in God's Eye.

Right, I'm off to get working on my Super Soldier Syrum!

Thanks to Technovelgy for being my source.

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