Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said the following: “Science fiction is useful both for stimulating the imagination and for defusing fear of the future.” What a good remark. Scientists see the same movies we all do, read the same books, dream similar dreams, but then they do something we do not, they think of how to make them a reality.

Consider the two totally different concepts and where they came from and where scientists took them.

The first concept originated with Dr. Who and his Sonic Screwdriver. The Sonic Screwdriver, if you are unfamiliar with it, can unlock locks, do medical scans, operate most computers, and track alien life. Pretty cool and perhaps indispensable if you are a Time Lord; but put that through the mind of a scientist and what do you get? There is a Sonic Screwdriver, sort-of.

A scientist looked at this SciFi device and it made him think about ultrasound and how it could be utilized. The result so far? Scientists in Dundee, Scotland have developed a device that while it looks a bit different and doesn’t operate as a lock-pick it does do some amazing stuff. It can lift a rubber disc in an aqueous solution. Sound mundane? Not really. The fantastic part starts with being able to twist rather than push using ultrasonic waves. Still sound a little tame? With using this device surgeons are able to do certain ‘operations’ without opening the patient up. Additionally, it can be used to deliver medicine at the cellular level. Want more? Ultrasonic manipulation if the cells. Example: It has long been known that any brain surgery will result in some cognitive loss. There’s even a syndrome name for it: Post-Operative Cognitive Decline. We now know that there is some continued cellular growth in the brain, reworking some connections after say a stroke and certainly there would be a limited amount of what was lost coming back. Obviously it would be seen more the younger the patient. But with a device such as this ‘Sonic Screwdriver’ the surgery would not be invasive, or minimally so, thus avoiding the entire situation. Cool right? So what does it have to with space? Very little; unless you consider that whether in outer space or in a low gravity environment the colonist or astronaut can still require surgery. Cut them open? If it can be avoided in a no/low gravity environment certainly that would be better!

This device is how scientists can look at something in SciFi and allow it to morph in something do-able and with awesome benefits.

Now to an idea that originated with E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a powerful and touching movie that we all have seen. Who doesn’t know that memorable and inspiring bike scene where the bicycles flew in front of the full moon with the government agents in hot pursuit. Allow me to introduce the ‘Xplore Air Paralevo’. A bicycle that can fly.

How you ask? Well, there are two versions. One developed in Prague uses a large fan attached to the back of the rider with six battery powered propellers. Two are located in the front and two in the back and one on each side. If that doesn’t sound right for you, then British inventors have developed what they say is the first flying bicycle. This bike attaches to a small lightweight trailer that houses a giant fan, fuel for the vehicle’s engine and the fold-away wing. The trailer can be disconnected for normal use and then re-attached when it is time to take off. As a bike it travels at 15 mph but in the air it flies at 25mph. You decide if you still consider it a bike when you are in the air, but it would be very nice to skip over the traffic!

So, uses in space? Perhaps in a low gravity environment, but I included it for two reasons. One, it is interesting. Two, it demonstrates further how Science Fiction becomes Science Reality.

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