Wired’s Gadget Lab blog has a piece on science fictional technologies or engineering projects that are within our grasp in almost every way … except financially. It’s a decent enough blend of informative and snarky that I can forgive the use of the term “sci-fi” in the title … 😉
Floating cities, Transatlantic tunnels … it’s kind of sad to think that, as the commenters there keep pointing out, most of the projected costs would vanish into the budget for the Iraq “liberation” and rattle around like a ball bearing in an oil tanker. Also pointed out is the conspicuous absence of the space elevator – I seriously want to see one of those built before I die. [Image from stock.xchng]
Additional bonus! The last two entries in the Wired piece are about rail guns and space travel; frequent Futurismic commenter Brian Wang combines the two in a post about the potential of rail guns to be used as economical launch systems to lift payloads to orbit.
Our posts about genetic engineering always accrue some interesting comments, so let’s see what Futurismic readers think of this: researchers at the University of Illinois have engineered a new form of plant that produces more leaves and fruit without any need for fertilizers, by tweaking the enzymes used in the photosynthesis reaction.
Don’t get too panicked, though – the plant only exists in a computer simulation so far. And that’s the interesting question, as far as I can see – will we be more trusting of re-engineered life-forms if they’ve been tested exhaustively in virtual form before being created in the real world? [Link via Our Technological Future] [Image by 4x4jeepchick]
[tags]biology, engineering, photosynthesis, simulation[/tags]
Inspired by the European mole, Robin Scott and Robert Richardson of the University of Manchester hope to develop a digging robot that could "swim" through debris to rescue people trapped under rubble after a disaster. Here’s a video of their new digging mechanism undergoing tests with a range of materials, and here’s an animation that shows how the mechanism works. A search-and-rescue robot based on the design could be ready in as little as two years.
That’s probably longer than you want to wait if you’re trapped under rubble right now, but if you’re planning on being trapped in the future, it’s good to know improved options are on the way.
Other researchers are experimenting with rescue robots that roll, walk or slither.
And then there’s the human-eating firefighter rescue robot. You have to admit, a mechanical mole sounds downright friendly next to that one.
(Image from Newsline 36, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)
[tags]robots, search and rescue, engineering [/tags]
In light of the recent and tragic bridge collapse in Mississippi, mathematics uber-geek Stephen Wolfram has been doing some thinking about how evolutionary computing could be used to design stronger bridge structures. It looks like strength doesn’t always correlate to regularity of patterns. [BoingBoing]
South Australia is short on fresh water. North Australia’s got plenty. Rather than build a pipeline or indulge in large scale watershed engineering, Dr. Ian Edmonds proposes filling giant plastic bags with northern water and letting them float south in the East Australian current. There’s your roughneck of the twenty-first century: rather than drilling for oil, he’s heaving water bags out of the ocean. [treehugger]