Monday, August 28, 2017

Tomorrow's Tech -- Today! continued

Tomorrow’s Tech … Today!

Many futuristic inventions have come to pass, while some may never be realized.


Rip Van Winkle goes high-tech!  

From Alien’s Ripley to Futurama’s Fry 

to Star Trek’s Khan,

SF loves the idea of “travelling” to the future (or at least leapfrogging the present) via a longer-than-usual nap. First broached in print in 1770 by Louis-S├ębastien Mercier, stories of accidental hibernation

(examples: Charles Eric Maine’s 1960 pulp novel He Owned the World,  or the tales of Buck Rogers) were soon outpaced by the idea of deliberate science-induced sleep.  Entering hypersleep at the start of a galactic jaunt is a good second-best, if you don’t have warp drive.  
(But never trust someone named HAL to wake you up.)
          Farmer’s Dayworld series proposed that a future Earth might solve its overcrowding by making everybody sleep for six days out of seven.
          The popularity of Robert Ettinger’s 1964 book The Prospect of Immortality brought this concept into widespread discussion. Present-day attempts to preserve life involve decapitation and “freezing” (aka cryonics), the old brain-in-a-jar trick. 
The Alcor Life Extension Foundation has “preserved” over 130 people, including game developer Hal Finney and baseball great Ted Williams (against his specific instructions).
          In the interests of accuracy, remember that “cryogenics” is the STUDY of deep-cold preservation of life; the APPLICATION of this knowledge is “cryonics.”  And, to be honest, the current “science” of cryogenics is a triumph of hope and lucre over realistic expectations.  There’s no known way to “unfreeze” someone safely; the process of freezing itself causes severe fractures in the brain, despite the use of cryoprotectants.

  That’s why, despite longstanding rumors (parodied by iCarly in 2009), Walt Disney is NOT frozen somewhere in a vault under the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride.


If you want to get across the vast distances of galactic space in your own lifetime, you’ve got to conjecture either “jumping” via wormhole or teleportation (think Stargate) or some such; or by some version of a faster-than-light drive. 

In Star Trek, it’s called Warp Drive; the same general idea is called hyperdrive in the Star Wars universe.  If you’d rather use an Infinite Improbability Drive, you’ve got a lot of company.

          In 1994 theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre drew a lot of attention for his theory proposing a method for changing the geometry of space, by creating a wave that would cause the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract and the space behind it to expand.  Another typical depiction of traveling Faster Than Light is described as a figurative folding of space, like doubling a piece of paper and jumping from one edge to the next with a short hop.

          But regardless of the mechanism, what kind of power source could enable such a drastic remolding of space-time?  That’s usually where invention steps in, hypothesizing Dilithium crystals or harnessing a black hole.

          And don’t forget the dangerous possibilities involved in FTL travel, as expressed by A. H. Reginald Buller in the limerick “Relativity,” first published in 1923:
          There was a young lady named Bright
          Whose speed was far faster than light;
          She set out one day
          In a relative way
          And returned on the previous night.

Well, that's all for now.  The Super Blog is taking a month off, in preparation for the witching season.  We'll see you on Monday, October 2, for the beginning of ... Blog-o-Ween!
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© by Mark Alfred