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Why Don't We Invent That Tomorrow? 439

Posted by Zonk
from the because-we-invented-it-last-week dept.
museumpeace writes "In the NYTimes book review blog, David Itzkoff takes a look at a new book devoted to predicting which 'science fiction' technologies may really fly some day. The author is Michio Kaku, one of the inventors of string theory, so he bears a hearing. His picks include light sabers, invisibility and force fields." Which sci-fi tech do you think needs to get invented over the weekend?
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Why Don't We Invent That Tomorrow?

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  • by The Ancients (626689) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:09PM (#22744546) Homepage

    Which sci-fi tech do you think needs to get invented over the weekend?

    I don't expect much. Time travel of course. D'uh.

    • by EEPROMS (889169) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:16PM (#22744668)
      The problem with time travel is although it may be possible to travel in time it would not be a good idea. Let me explain, if have an actual time machine and travel back lets say 1 week you would materialize millions of miles away from earth in the middle of deep space. The reason for this becomes obvious when you realise earth is actually moving through space faster than a speeding bullet thus totally stuffing up the usefulness of traveling through time.
      • by The Ancients (626689) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:18PM (#22744690) Homepage
        I think if we can work out the logistics of time travel, the other three dimensions shouldn't provide too much of an issue.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Soleen (925936)
        I just invented a time machine, without the problem that you described.

        It has some limitations but it already works!
        Limitations are following: it drives in one direction only (forward), and with speed no faster than 60 seconds a minute!

        This in 60 seconds you can travel 1 minute in future!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572)
        Absolute positioning is a myth. Think about motion and momentum for a while and you'll get it.
      • by isomeme (177414)
        Hm, yes...you'd need something that could land your at both your targeted time, and a relative dimension in space. I'm sure nobody has ever thought of such a device previously.
      • We just need solar flares and a star gate for time travel.

        and the SGC has laser guns and FORCE FIELDS.

        The hard thing with laser guns is POWERING them.

        There are being tested at area 51.
      • by B3ryllium (571199)
        Sounds like you'd be a fan of Red Dwarf.

        Smeghead. ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by c4miles (249464)
        If only there were some way to account for both Time And the Relative Dimension In Space.
    • by eclectro (227083)
      We need to junk that fusion idea for cars and go with xenon adapted headlights. Also, making cars so that they can burn something else other than oil, like natural gas, is a totally stupid idea.
  • by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:10PM (#22744556) Homepage
    Seriously.

    At any scale. But nanoscale is my preference.

    Ideally of types that interface cleanly with the human nervous system.

    But that's just me.
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:11PM (#22744568) Homepage
    Why Michio Kaku may be a fine mathematician, I think his ideas of technological progress are often shaky. I remember reading his book Hyperspace [amazon.com] as a teenager and getting really irked by his repeated and fairly unrealistic visions of godlike power in the near future (an irritation at least one Amazon reviewer shares).
    • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:20PM (#22744736) Homepage
      I had a similar response to Hyperspace (although my specific irritations are lost in the mists of bad memory and over a decade of time). Honestly, I'm not really inclined to give a special weight to an inventor of String Theory anyway; I'm very unimpressed with the scientific merits of that theory and I rather feel it borders on a non-science.
    • by TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) <thelazyscifiauthor@gmail.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:23PM (#22744768) Homepage Journal

      I remember reading his book Hyperspace as a teenager and getting really irked by his repeated and fairly unrealistic visions of godlike power in the near future (an irritation at least one Amazon reviewer shares).


      Ah, the delusion of grandure. I do agree that futurologists are guilty of this - but what we have even today is really quite grand.

      What he's doing though seems to me to be mere extrapolation. Let us go back a few thousand years and try to explain to your average hunter/gatherer that in the future we have an arrow which can shoot all the way around the world and completely obliterate 50 square miles of whatever we aimed it at. That's pretty godlike, and that kind of technology came along with the microwave oven and color television.

      The hunters arrow creates a hole a few inches in diameter - the hydrogen bomb creates a crater many hundreds of meters in diameter, so a weapon of a few thousand years from now should be able to create a blemish in matter approximately 1000 miles in size, a few thousand years past that and the weapon would make a big hole almost 6 million miles in size.

      thousands of years are not long periods of time to the universe, I won't continue to extrapolate into the millions of years of humanities progress.

      I think, if we survive and continue to progress like this, that we will be pretty bad-ass indeed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by gardyloo (512791)

        The hunters arrow creates a hole a few inches in diameter - the hydrogen bomb creates a crater many hundreds of meters in diameter, so a weapon of a few thousand years from now should be able to create a blemish in matter approximately 1000 miles in size, a few thousand years past that and the weapon would make a big hole almost 6 million miles in size.

        Yay for extrapolation through two points! Apparently, several thousand years ago, hunters' darts could actually *fill up* craters!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fmobus (831767)

        Not that simple, I believe. Impacted area increases in a quadratic manner (remember A = PI.r^2). It is very likely that the energy needed to blast that area/volume is on higher polynomial (ie, being a r^4 or r^5). Much like getting a spaceship near c, there is a point where energy requirements get prohibitive.

        Unfortunately our potential has limitations. There is just so much energy we can extract from our environment (read: sun). Maybe our best shot is building something like a dyson killer star [xkcd.com]

    • by Hatta (162192)
      Well it's appropriate at least that the inventor of one science fiction theory would have some insight into others.
    • Michio Kaku's predictions on technology frequently make me wonder just how good of a grasp he actually has on physics. My favorite is the old article where he predicts the way to escape the heat death of the universe by sending "atom-sized" nanomachines through a wormhole into a parallel universe where these machines would spread in a sphere at nearly light speeds.

      Oh sure... we'll just ignore how something the size of an atom is supposed to contain any sort of parts capable of manipulating the environment
  • by eln (21727) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:11PM (#22744570) Homepage
    I dunno, string theory always seemed to me like something you would come up with at 3am while smoking a joint after having spent the past 6 hours polishing off a keg with your physicist friends.

    "Hey man, you know what would be awesome? What if the whole Universe was really made up of a bunch of vibrating strings?"

    "Whoa...I think you just blew my mind man...Hey, don't bogart that!"
  • Teleporters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:11PM (#22744572)
    Duh. Anyone who has to drive to work on Mondays will want one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ampathee (682788)
      Depends on whether it's a wormhole type teleport, or the type where it vapourizes you then recreates you somewhere else. I'd use the former, but I wouldn't go near the latter.
  • Or something to cancel out the noise of accordion players.

  • More weapons?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) * <slashdotNO@SPAMizabael.com> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:11PM (#22744586) Homepage Journal
    Guns and sabers. That's not a very innovative future.

    And invisibility? Nothing good would come of that either.

    I'd be happy for a cure for the cold personally.

  • by MrPerfekt (414248) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:12PM (#22744596) Homepage Journal
    No other advance would ever be as important as a quick way between the stars for colonization of other places in the galaxy. It would change our world so much indirectly just by us having the ability to leave it.
    • No, not by itself (Score:5, Informative)

      by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:37PM (#22744956) Homepage Journal
      Even a magic Go Anywhere Fast drive, one that worked for interplanetary as well as across the depths of interstellar space, would not automatically open up the universe for colonization.

      We'd still need great improvements in reaction drives, for example, to overcome the velocity differences between different star systems.

      Lacking magical Star Trek style sensors, we'd need to find ways to detect and analyze planets.

      Life support systems. Expedition craft that can handle a takeoff as well as a landing. Power sources. Cripes, it goes on and on.

      Really, it's not like Masters of Orion or some other 4x game.

      Me, I'd settle for that Mr. Fusion someone mentioned uptopic.
  • One word (Score:5, Funny)

    by AresTheImpaler (570208) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:12PM (#22744598)
    Which sci-fi tech do you think needs to get invented over the weekend?

    Fembots

    • Dammit! You beat me to it!

      Either that, or the holodeck. Either one could have some....uh....interesting....possibilities...

    • by Tatisimo (1061320)
      Don't forget the ability to have celebrity personalities downloaded into the hardware. A Lucy Liu bot wouldn't be bad : D

      Of course, we'll need a way to reproduce asexually (or proper robot-human interaction education), because soon the world would start depopulating from people only mating with robots.

    • I would think you'd want those invented BY the weekend, rather than OVER the weekend. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure you'll miss work Monday, although I suppose that may happen either way, depending on how well they design the utility corridor and whether or not there are any back-doors. Mind the easter eggs! (Hint: those aren't eggs at all. And yes, they're attached to a tranny case. You ordered the wrong model!)

      -G
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bryansix (761547) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:12PM (#22744608) Homepage
    Where is my flying car?
    But seriously I think that we should invent a real HUD system that could work through contacts but be powered just with body heat.
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:14PM (#22744644) Journal
    FTS:

    The author is Michio Kaku, one of the inventors of string theory, so he bears a hearing
    I've got a friend who also likes to talk about things that should be invented, he's a mechanic, so he hears a bearing.
  • Mr.Fusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:15PM (#22744648) Homepage Journal
    Seems to not break any phisical law (?) and will have a good impact in... well, anything not related with the oil industry.
  • A solution to world hunger. And war. And obesity. I guess that means my three picks would be
    a. GM plants that make money grow on trees.
    b. GM microbes that make violent impotent. IN whatever way is most effective.
    c. GM Animals that hunt and chase fat people.
    • by eln (21727) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:16PM (#22744672) Homepage
      I don't see why you're putting all this pressure on GM to get all of this done. Surely Ford or even, God help us, Chrysler could pitch in too?
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      c. GM Animals that hunt and chase fat people.

      In North America they're called bears and they don't work so well. In India they're called tigers and they work VERY well (Ever see a fat Indian? I know I haven't...)

      Obviously we just need tigers in North America.

  • by xtracto (837672) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:18PM (#22744694) Journal
    Michio Kaku hosted a series of documentaries from Discovery Channel, among them is 2057 The city [google.com]. They are indeed quite interesting as they speculate on how the future (specifically the year 2057) might be, but they base their predictions in current technology being developed and researched.

    Worth to see IMHO.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306)

      Michio Kaku hosted a series of documentaries from Discovery Channel, among them is 2057 The city.

      Now that you mention it, I remember seeing that episode. It was absolutely terrible.

      "Base code so old that no one remembers how to modify it?" Apparently, the host knows absolutely nothing about how large scale software projects are managed, and how incredibly fragile they become when not actively maintained. And even if we accept his premise, I think you'll find that "The City" (SPOOOOON!) would have patched ag

  • Linkage. (Score:5, Informative)

    by urcreepyneighbor (1171755) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:19PM (#22744714)
    If anyone's interested in learning more about Dr. Kaku, here are some links to start with:
  • My pick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@yBLUEahoo.com minus berry> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:19PM (#22744718) Homepage Journal
    unaging.
    Physically staying 27 until I die from something other then natural causes.

    • Yes, clearly an underestimated "invention". If it ever is discovered, it will be a turning point for humanity, atleast as important as fire and agriculture. Everything would change if death wasn't certain.

      You've probably already seen it, but...

      http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/39 [ted.com]
  • My pick ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by garett_spencley (193892) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:20PM (#22744742) Journal
    Automated lawn sprinkler systems capable of delivering hydrochloric acid.

    I'm sick of those damned teenagers hanging out on my lawn.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      That can already be done. What technology still would need to be developed?

      Me, I would much rather have a gelatinous cube. so I can see there expressions as they dissolve.

      If you think that doesn't apply to a technology question, I refer you to Art:
      "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
  • Duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gat0r30y (957941) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:22PM (#22744756) Homepage Journal
    Duke Nukem Forever!
    • Duke Nukem Forever!

      It says "...which 'science fiction' technologies may really fly some day." - not pigs.

  • by certron (57841) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:25PM (#22744794)
    Dr. Michio Kaku also has a radio show called Explorations that primarily features interviews with other scientists. Most of the stations that air it have audio archives of the program, too, so you can check it out if you like.

    http://www.mkaku.org/radio/ [mkaku.org]

    Apparently, he also has a myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/mkaku [myspace.com]
  • by nguy (1207026)
    The author is Michio Kaku, one of the inventors of string theory, so he bears a hearing

    Yes, as much as he "bears hearing" on string theory.
  • "Cogito ergo sum"

    I think therefore I am. (Loose translation).

    I believe that his basic premis can be extended: "If it can be thought, it can be done." It almost seems that we (as humans) can only envision that which is possible - within some undefined metalogical framework. What I mean is, if it can be expressed in a way that is ultimately not contradictory in , then it is possible.
    • What I meant was: ultimately not contradictory in (some metalogical framework that logic and language only approximates}, then it is possible.

      My bad for putting that in an HTML tag like expression (and not previewing first).
  • by Quattro Vezina (714892) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:40PM (#22745000) Journal
    Read High Frontier, by Gerard O'Neill. Space colonies are perfectly feasible. Building one is more an exercise in putting existing technologies together than inventing new technologies.

    I want to live in an O'Neill cylinder!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nicklott (533496)
      Possible, just insanely expensive. From the wiki wallah:

      O'Neill's reference design ... consists of two counter-rotating cylinders each two miles (3 km) in radius, and twenty miles (30 km) long

      I'm not going to do the maths, but you can imagine how much metal goes into a 3x20 mile long cylinder. Now imagine cutting that up into 20x5 metre sections and launching it into space. It might take a while.

      I think we need to invent smelting in space before we can try these things, not to mention doing some proper research into closed ecosystems.

  • Faster than light travel.
  • Replication! That way, every Slashdot guy and gal can have his or her very own CowboyNeal!! Even your pet CowboyNeal can have his or her very own CowboyNeal!!
  • I'd like to see more research into faster than light communication. I've had several ideas using Quantum Entanglement and the 'Spooky Effect' to achieve this but there'd be some testing needed, thankfully none of it would require launching anything into space.
  • Stop Aging (Score:2, Interesting)

    by localman (111171)
    Out of all the tech that could be made, this is the only one that allows you to see all the tech that could be invented down the line. Time has become to me my most precious and scarce resource. By the time I've got things worked out well enough to really be great, I'll have very little time left. I could easily enjoy 500 years of life. Beyond that I can't say for sure, but I'd like to see.

    I predict that at some point in the distant future, the idea that people let themselves die when they didn't really
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Oligonicella (659917)
      "To the degree that it is possible for us to solve aging, our current apathy about it is a little like voluntary genocide."

      I'm pretty familiar with the topic and you're simply wrong. There's no apathy and there's not a lot of progress. Unless you have some new research I'm unfamiliar with and could provide a link?
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @06:50PM (#22745132) Journal
    We need about 6.8 billion of those.
    Although if someone could recreate the "camera" that Oliver Wendell Jones [wikipedia.org] first built, that'd be good for some laughs, too.

    I'd settle for a teleporter, if worse came to worse.
  • Subvocal embedded comm links, and HUDs either in contacts or also embedded. Along with everything else from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [craphound.com].
  • by snowful (1231472) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:01PM (#22745260)
    Free beer and pizza
  • At last! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:14PM (#22745434) Journal
    Finally, a /. article for which the mention of golly gee whiz SciFi stuff in the summary isn't a gratuitous insert. Kaku really talks about this stuff. Rationally.

    Parts of the book relating to wormholes, time travel and teleportation have been adapted by Kaku himself and published in the March 2008 ("Special Einstein") issue of Discover magazine. You can get an unadulterated taste of the book and a bunch of other nifty stuff about Einstein, relativity and such all in one package.

    I think the claim he was an inventor of string theory isn't entirely accurate. However, he was co-author of the first paper on string field theory, which showed the five versions of string theory to be different versions of the same underlying mechanism. I think "rescurer" would be more accurate than "inventor" as well as being worth more credit.

    Despite publishing other popular books previously including a best seller, hosting a 4 part BBC special, a 3 part Discovery Channel special and two different weekly radio shows, he's so far managed to dodge the inevitable unwashed masses and supposedly washed whiny insiders who show up to tip the ivory tower of popularizers of science. Last time it was Brian Greene. Even Sagan was so assailed until he forced their forgiveness by dying at them. Let's see how Kaku weathers the storm following the massive attention this new book is getting him. Including one picture of the Stargate and one of a Kirk led landing party being beamed down in the Discover article should help bring them out of the woodwork.
  • ZPM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee (243626) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @07:15PM (#22745442)
    Obviously we need new souces of energy to replace fossil fuels. Zero Point energy seems to be a good choice. I don't expect that we could get a ZPM small enough to carry around in your hands like they do on atlantis, but something the size of a bus would be good enough.
  • by alfredo (18243) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @10:27PM (#22747238)
    Which sci-fi tech do you think needs to get invented over the weekend?

    A Windows release that actually works as advertised.
  • True story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Friday March 14, 2008 @01:20AM (#22748286) Journal
    I was at a supercomputing conference in Oregon a few years back. Michio Kaku was the keynote speaker, talking about his predictions of fundamental limits on various technologies. He started spouting on about some semiconductor limit but as he was speaking there was a bit of a commotion coming from the back. Eventually it was revealed that there was a bunch of guys from some research lab disputing over whether or not to mention their latest work before making an official announcement. You see, they'd already broken Kaku's limit.

The 11 is for people with the pride of a 10 and the pocketbook of an 8. -- R.B. Greenberg [referring to PDPs?]

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