From recording and replaying dreams, to curing most types of cancers, and mutating every piece of DNA in a cell and creating "super humans," scientists share the most mind blowing concepts that may actually be possible in the near future.
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Being able to grow meat from cells in a controlled environment so we won't need animals anymore. Scientists have managed to produce a burger in the lab, but it's currently too expensive for mass production (although this might become normal in 10-20 years).
This has the potential to free up our depleting resources (i.e. land, water) currently dedicated to meat production, and growing meat in such a setting could also resolve many foodborne illnesses. However, so far the technology would only be able to create minced meat and not slabs of meat as that would require vascularization of the cells.
Being able to record and replay your dreams. Scientists in Japan have been working on a machine that would allow this, which I think would be pretty awesome since I would love to replay some of my dreams.
This isn't "may actually be possible in the future", it's nearly possible right now. We almost have the technology to do it, we just need to get there.
Titan (largest moon of Saturn, second largest moon in the solar system, tenth largest body in the solar system) has a dense atmosphere (1.4 times Earth's atmospheric pressure) and a lower gravity (0.14g, Earth is 1g) so if you could get there right now, with a moderately better space suit and some crude relatively small wings, you could flap your arms and soar like a bird.
Also there are probably seas of hydrocarbons on the surface, and overall Titan has more liquid hydrocarbons than all of the crude oil and natural gas on Earth so that's cool.
In my field, there has been a lot of work towards rebuilding organs. Essentially, take a diseased organ of any kind, decellularize it (remove all the individual cells), and leaving only the extracellular matrix 'scaffold'. Repopulate with healthy stem cells, and let that scaffold direct the cells and rebuild that end-stage kidney into a healthy kidney, and get off dialysis. Or rebuild a heart riddled with heart disease. Maybe regrow an entire limb lost by a soldier or someone in a horrific accident.
Quite a ways and a few Nobel prizes from that, but a group in our field has already done this with a pig pancreas, and while it didn't last very long ultimately, it was an important first step.
Geneticist here. With the invention of Crispr technology we can specifically mutate any piece of DNA that we want in a cell. This could include the HIV genome that's integrated into a person, reversing critical genetic mutations, mutating crop genomes without viruses. It's life changing and science changing and it's an exciting time to do science.
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Astronomer here! If you ever thought Cloud City in Star Wars was awesome, it turns out we might be able to do something similar someday... on Venus. Sure, the surface sucks, but if you go about 50 km up Venus's atmosphere is the most Earth-like there is in the Solar System. What's more, unlike the crushing pressure and hot temperatures on the surface, you have the same atmospheric pressure as on Earth, temps varying from 0-50 C, and pretty similar gravity to here.
So yeah, floating cities in some form on Venus is actually not the dumbest thing- it's more appealing than Mars in some ways- so while I don't see it happening in my lifetime, it may well be a more serious plan in the future.
With the world continuously growing towards climate change, rising temperatures, melting ice caps, and smog hovering above cities, there we find a need for clean, powerful, and inexpensive energy, and the only completely clean/ high-yielding energy without continuous maintenance is Nuclear Fusion. The only starting materials are hydrogen atoms, but the setback occurs at the requirement for temperatures over 2,000,000 F and 1,000,000 atms of pressure. No nuclear waste (or any waste at all), 4x the energy output of Nuclear Fission, and cheap starting materials will save the energy crisis on Earth and remove fossil fuels from our electricity production all together. Whichever country harnesses it first will rule the world.
Fat loss with a pill or prescription. We all have "brown fat" tissues in varying degrees. Mostly we have it as babies but it deactivates as we get older. Brown fat metabolizes stored body fat (yellow fat) directly into body heat without having to be converted into sugars and consumed in muscle exertion. Chances are the skinny guy or girl you know who never wears a coat when it is cold outside and can eat like a pig without gaining weight has a mutation where their brown fat is turned on all the time. Scientists are decoding the metabolic pathways that can turn on brown fat. Eventually they will produce a drug that can turn on your brown fat.
Sweat those extra pounds away!
We already have the technology. It's not "if" this will happen, only when it will happen.
Even more crazy, is that this type of technology will one day be used to control androids with nothing more than VR helmets. Police, space exploration, firefighters, team sports, and pretty much all dangerous activities will be conducted by people sitting around with VR units strapped to their heads.
We'll even have a place where we can all virtually get together and hang out and there's a good chance we'll end up calling it the Matrix.
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Way too broad of a topic with too many unknowns at the moment. But think of it as software that runs the hardware that is our genes/DNA and allows organisms to adapt to environments as they change, or guides the repair of damage to the body.
So in the future imagine if we are able to just "write" epigenetic software programs for specific diseases/ailments/injuries or environments that tell our genes exactly which ones (more specifically the proteins they produce and the function those proteins do) needs to be turned on/off and in what amounts to allow maximum adaptation or quick repair.
Like in the Matrix where they download a program to make you suddenly "know" something mentally, you could do the same for the body and allow it to "know" how to use it's own hardware to fix/adapt to new environments or to quickly fix diseases or damage.
Using the Moon as a slingshot for interplanetary travel to almost eliminate fuel costs.
Space elevators on both the Earth facing side and the far side of the Moon are possible with current materials technology. The way this would work would be a large space station / asteroid base between the Earth and Moon which is tethered to the Moon's surface. This would be very easy to reach from Earth orbit using conventional rockets or possibly by just being dropped from the top of a space elevator on Earth.
Once on this space station, just travel down to the Moon's surface via the elevator, hop on a train to the other side of the Moon, and then ascend the elevator on the other side.
This elevator is like a rope swung out of the Earth - Moon system, the further you climb the faster your velocity around the system gets. Climb far enough along it and you'll get enough velocity that if you let go you would escape the Earth - Moon system entirely. Time and position it right and you can put yourself on any escape trajectory you want, including out of the solar system altogether.
An invisibility cloak (like from Harry Potter) is well within the realms of physics.
A new type of material known as "Metamaterials" makes this possible by refracting light (and electromagnetic waves in general) in unconventional ways. So far scientists have managed to make objects invisible to microwaves, infrared waves and visible red light.
So in a sense, we've already managed to invent an invisibility cloak - its just that it only works for red light and for tiny 3D objects. I believe the physics behind making something like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak is already known for most part - we're just waiting for technology to catch up.
Immunologist here. Curing most types of cancer will likely come in the next few decades. We've already had tremendous advances with monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies that take the brakes off the immune system and make it far more aggressive toward tumors. Doing this in a more regulatable fashion will pave the way to making many cancers a thing of the past (opening the door to the next class of things that will kill us all — prions?).
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Being able to vaccinate against tooth decay. Tooth decay is caused by several kinds of bacteria converting carbohydrates and sugars into acid, so theoretically, by making a vaccine against the more common bacteria responsible for tooth decay (streptococcus mutans being a major one) you could develop some immunity to tooth decay. Of course, there's not really any money to be made out of such a thing in the long run, at least not for dentists.
Structural Engineer here. A world free of gas powered vehicles (they'll still be around, but they won't be necessary).
Civil engineers around the world have been testing solar powered roads that could charge vehicles as they drove over the roads. If these roads can account for freeze-thaw and slip conditions, electric cars could theoretically drive over any road without having to stop for a charge.
A company in the Netherlands has also been testing a completely plastic road that could act as a cheaper alternative to concrete and asphalt. This could also be a huge step for international infrastructure because a LARGE majority of the US' roads are poorly designed and underfunded.
Human and computer interfacing. We'll be able to think using attached computing resources - everything will be available by thinking about it. The computers will have immense, fast simulated neural networks which will essentially be programmed by our brains.
Taken to its logical conclusion, someone who has used such resources since birth will use them more and more as biological death nears. At the very end, the mind will live on in the computer and the body will die (perhaps - regrowing bodies may be possible by then). We'll be living in computers, which will open up interstellar travel.
Firstly using solar energy to provide the energy for everything. Using various methods to store that energy in efficient portable means to power objects without physical connections. The storage then provides power when the power needed but not being produced i.e at night. Using some form of synthetic hydrocarbon that is made from carbon dioxide extracted from the atmosphere, replacing crude oils. Then a recycling system that recycles every element from a waste product and reacts the elements to produce useful products.
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Complete conversion to automatic/self driving cars. Kind of like iRobot movie with Will Smith.
We already have companies like Tesla developing self driving car, and other auto companies are perfecting sensors around the car.
All we need is to prove that self-driving cars are more reliable than human then let government start implementing regulations. This way, we would actually reduce traffic and roads will be safer.
Physical Chemist here! The versatility and importance of high-temperature superconductivity cannot be overstated. We're definitely not anywhere near "room temperature," but we're getting closer and closer to energy transfer with zero resistance at what we could call "reasonable" temperatures.
When that's possible (and affordable, which could take longer), a whole new world of electromagnetic technology opens up to us. New applications in maglev tech, efficient power transmission, and even simple electric motors would become available to us. I'd say the most pressing of the three would be power transmission. When we can transfer electrical energy with no resistance, it removes a ton of the "waste" of moving power from one area to another (we actually lose around 65% of the energy from the plant during transfer) and could revolutionize power consumption in areas around the world.
3D Printing is going to change the way we make everything. The ability to control what material in each area is revolutionary.
Circuits have always been flat, because you buy circuit boards in sheets. Eventually you will be able to print a spherical circuit, or any shape you want.
Spare parts are going to going to become obsolete, because all you have to do is have a printer and a file online.
There is way more than this to come.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been developing insect cyborgs for quite some time. A silicon circuit is implanted into the brain of an insect which would allow a person to control it via remote control. Insects like beetles would be used as surveillance devices. A seemingly harmless little critter in your home may one day be a camera spying on you.
We'll have the ability to track fish using surgically implanted se-charging transmitters soon. That means that we can put a radio or acoustic transmitter in a fish and it'll work for the life of the fish. This is huge for things like Pacific Salmon, so we can potentially track individuals through their entire adult lives, providing amazing life history data.
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Using urban sensors for control purposes. There is a wide variety of sensors everywhere, security cameras, sensors for traffic, weather, emissions, etc. The idea is to use this data as measurements of feedback control systems of macro plants. For example, the use of filters in periodic city pictures to determine emissions of dangerous chemicals (e.g., ammonia) therefore minimizing such emissions Other good example is the use of cell antennas usage data to direct traffic depending on users density. This is an emerging field in control engineering.
I currently work with a group that is doing genome engineering to make humanized lungs in pigs that can be used for transplant in to humans. This field is far more advanced than people realize. There was a paper that came out a couple months back where a group showed that a xenoheart from a pig transplanted into baboons survived for 3 years. Note, these are heterotopic transplants (heart is connected to baboon circulatory system and thus is not required to sustain life) but that is a huge step. Function is not the issue. The real barrier is immunological. On phone now but will post link to paper later.
Clinical Neuroscientist here.
Not particularly awe inspiring but I find it amazing how by the end of the century we may be able to test/sequence for any neurological disease based on a blood, urine or spinal fluid sample. People dying from dementia today do not have any chance to survive as by the time their symptoms show the disease may have been quietly causing havoc over many days,weeks,months or even years. Hopefully advances in the kind of research that the lab I am lucky to be working in could lead to the more open availability of these biomarkers meaning that screening for dementia could be done as part of a health check up one day.
Humanity transitioning to mechanical beings with those who wish to one day be reconstituted as a "true" human carrying around a biometric data pack with cellular sampling so as to be possibly reborn. These beings have the ability to upload their mind into any other connected hardware and vice versa. These mechanical humans possess a second AI that acts as a safeguard protocol so that if another user tries to enact potentially harmful agency upon the body it can be stopped. There is no longer the need to have massive audiences at events as there is a central viewing hardware that puts you in the perspective of a front row experience. This is a many to one piece of hardware as literally thousands of users are given the stream, yet no agency over the device. Military hardware functions much the same way in that a user logs into that hardware, however this is a ghost function that gives them agency however never actually jeopardizes the user. More extreme models exist to take advantage of non-connection dependent control, however these models can endanger a user as they are tied to that hardware locally in order to control it without loss of connection. While true AI will litter the battlefield, several"divers" also exist along with "tanks" of the respective connected and local human spawned intelligences. The AI are every bit as good as their human based counterparts however, man will never truly leave the battlefield, some fleshies do exist however they are there to oversee the effects of the battle.