Science evolves at an incredible rate. We have realized more in the last few decades than all things the bright minds of the previous centuries have realized altogether. A man has stepped on the surface of the moon in our lifetime, and possibly another one will set foot on Mars before we pass away. But there are still things that have been predicted that science still owes us – inventions that have never been built. Here are a few.
1. True holograms
Holograms were always a thing of science fiction movies. Villains have tricked us into believing they were there, when they were only projected. The Enterprise D had an awesome holodeck – something I think everyone would love to see finally built – that projected lifelike images of people and places on board an interstellar journey. Even the infamous Back to the Future II has featured a holographic ad for Jaws 19. But science has still not provided us with a real life hologram.
Not that there were no attempts to create one, but the closest anyone has gotten to an actual hologram was IO2 Technology with its famous Heliodisplay. Augmented reality and VR might viable alternatives, but both of them require devices to be worn – but I still would like to see an actual hologram in other places than movie and TV screens.
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Another Star Trek invention – teleportation is the displacement of matter instantly from one place to another, by deconstructing it on one side and reconstructing it on the other. Quantum teleportation was realized by today’s physicists – the quantum information (e.g. the exact state of an atom or photon) can be transmitted (exactly, in principle) from one location to another, with the help of classical communication and previously shared quantum entanglement between the sending and receiving location – but we are still far from being able to transmit actual objects through the airwaves – or optical cables – from one place to another.
The closest we have gotten to teleportation is 3D printing – the blueprints of inanimate objects can be transmitted through the internet from one place to another and turned into actual objects with the use of a 3D printer. But this does not mean that I can travel through half a world to play online pokies at Royal Vegas and be home in time for dinner. Too bad…
3. Space elevator
Maybe a less known invention from science fiction novels, that would be an incredibly useful tool. For more information about the space elevator read The Fountains of Paradise – the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning 1979 novel by Arthur C. Clarke. Space elevators would take payload and humans to low Earth orbit with ease, using electricity only, at a fraction of the cost of launching a space mission today (tens of millions of dollars for a resupply mission to the ISS). Besides, lifting cargo to space instead of launching it would save us the tons of fuel we burn with each mission – and be the most responsible and green solution. Unfortunately we can’t currently build a cable strong enough to support its own weight, so a space elevator is still the stuff of science fiction.