Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Science Fiction That Has Come True

Microsoft has patented a Holodeck like the one in Star Trek.Image source: bbc.co.uk
Today is Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

A lot of things described in science fiction books and short stories have already come true.  Here is a partial list.  What is amazing is now early some of these things were predicted, and how many of them have come true in the last few years.  Even more amazing, many of them are used by the average person, not just by scientists.

Atomic bombs: In H.G. Wells' book, The World Set Free," atomic bombs were described. This book came out 30 years before the first atomic bomb test.

The Internet:  Mark Twain  isn't known for science fiction, but his story, "From the 'London Times' of 1904," described the internet as we know it today. The story was published in 1898.

Astronauts traveling in space:  In his story, "From the Earth to the Moon," Jules Verne described a mission to the moon that was launched from a base in Florida.  There were three men in the crew, who were seated in a large capsule made of aluminum.  After the mission, the capsule landed in the Pcific Ocean, and was picked up by a U.S. Navy ship. 

Radar and video chat:   Hugo Gernsback's 1911 novel,  Ralph 124C 41+, predicted the use of radar.   It also described a Telephot, which was essentially video chat using a wall-mounted screen.

Online newspapers:  Arthur C. Clarke featured online newspapers in his novel "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Armored tanks:  In 1903 H.G. Wells published a short story called "The Land Ironclads."

Video games:  Two years before the first video game was invented (1958) Arthur C. Clarke wrote about virtual reality games in his novel The City and the Stars.  In fact the whole city of Dispar in the story was run by computer.

Credit cards:  In 1888, Edward Bellamy wrote about the use of credit cards in his novel Looking Backwards.  He described credit card transactions pretty accurately, too, including the duplicate receipts for the vendor and customer.

Scuba diving gear:  In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne described diving apparatus that resembles modern scuba diving gear.  When he wrote it, actual diving apparatus was large and cumbersome, and the diver had to be connected to the ship by an air hose.

Rocket ships and nore:  In his 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne wrote about rockets, lunar modules, solar sails, and humans on the moon.  This was 100 years before the first actual moon landing.

Communications satellites:  In Wireless World Arthur C. Clarke wrote about communications satellites at least a decade before they were actually developed. 

Waterbeds: Remember reading about waterbeds in Robert Heinlein's 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange land?  

Microwave ovens:   Heinlein also wrote about what he called "shortwave" ovens in Stranger in a Strange Land. 

Cell phones and Bluetooth:  The communicators in the original Star Trek series were actually just like modern cell phones, only they had "intergalactic roaming" capabilities. 
Test tube babies, genetic engineering, etc.:  Aldous Huxley's classic novel Brave New World, published in 1932, described genetic engineering: test tube babies, cloning, genetic manipulation, and even designer childrenBesides that, the novel was set in a time of a throw-away consumerist society where people used a feel-good drug called "soma," similar to modern anti-depressants such as Zoloft and Prozac.
Touchscreen tablets: iPads, e-readers, and touchscreen phones were featured in the original Star Trek series in the late 1960s.  They had universal wi-fi access.  Modern voice-recognition technology was also featured in Star Trek.

Other devices that have probably been written about, except that I can't find the source, also seem like science fiction come true:  

A woman uses her mind to control a robotic arm.

Silkworms have been genetically modified to produce silk that is stronger than steel, but is still biodegradable.  

A 3-D printer can now duplicate an entire house. 

Driverless cars are being piloted in Nevada.  

Glass that is as thin as paper and flexible as plastic has been produced.  

Car batteries the size of microchips are being developed.  

Amazing, isn't it?  :-)

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