Sunday, June 9, 2013
Science Fictions That Became Science Facts In 2012
Posted by susan sayler
Science Fictions That Became Science Facts In 2012
1. Quadriplegic Uses Her Mind to Control Her Robotic Arm
At the University of Pittsburgh, the neurobiology department worked
with 52-year-old Jan Scheuermann over the course of 13 weeks to
create a robotic arm controlled only by the power of Scheuermann's
The team implanted her with two 96-channel intracortical
microelectrodes. Placed in the motor cortex, which controls all limb
movement, the integration process was faster than anyone expected.
On the second day, Jan could use her new arm with a 3-D workspace.
By the end of the 13 weeks, she was capable of performing complex
tasks with seven-dimensional movement, just like a biological arm.
To date, there have been no negative side effects.
2. DARPA Robot Can Traverse an Obstacle Course
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=FFGfq0pRczY.
Once the robot figures out how to do that without all the wires,
humanity is doomed.
DARPA was also hard at work this year making robots to track humans
and run as fast as a cheetah, which seems like a great combination
with no possibility of horrible side effects.
3. Genetically Modified Silk Is Stronger Than Steel
At the University of Wyoming, scientists modified a group of
silkworms to produce silk that is, weight for weight, stronger than
steel. Different groups hope to benefit from the super-strength
silk, including stronger sutures for the medical community, a
biodegradable alternative to plastics, and even lightweight armor
for military purposes.
4. DNA Was Photographed for the First Time
Using an electron microscope, Enzo di Fabrizio and his team at the
Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa snapped the first photos of
the famous double helix.
Source: newscientist.com / via: davi296
5. Invisibility Cloak Technology Took a Huge Leap Forward
British Columbia company HyperStealth Biotechnology showed a
functioning prototype of its new fabric to the U.S. and Canadian
military this year. The material, called Quantum Stealth, bends
light waves around the wearer without the use of batteries, mirrors,
or cameras. It blocks the subject from being seen by visual means
but also keeps them hidden from thermal scans and infrared.
6. Spray-On Skin
ReCell by Avita Medical is a medical breakthrough for severe-burn
victims. The technology uses a postage stamp-size piece of skin from
the patient, leaving the donor site with what looks like a rug burn.
Then the sample is mixed with an enzyme harvested from pigs and
sprayed back onto the burn site. Each tiny graft expands, covering a
space up to the size of a book page within a week. Since the donor
skin comes from the patient, the risk of rejection is minimal.
7. James Cameron Reached the Deepest Known Point in the Ocean
Cameron was the first solo human to reach the bottom of the Mariana
Trench. At 6.8 miles deep, it is perhaps more a more alien place to
scientists than some foreign planets are. The 2.5-story "vertical
torpedo" sub descended over a period of two and a half hours before
taking a variety of samples.
8. Stem Cells Could Extend Human Life by Over 100 Years
When fast-aging elderly mice with a usual lifespan of 21 days were
injected with stem cells from younger mice at the Institute for
Regenerative Medicine in Pittsburgh, the results were staggering.
Given the injection approximately four days before they were
expected to die, not only did the elderly mice live--they lived
threefold their normal lifespan, sticking around for 71 days. In
human terms, that would be the equivalent of an 80-year-old living
to be 200.
9. 3-D Printer Creates Full-Size Houses in One Session
The D-Shape printer, created by Enrico Dini, is capable of printing
a two-story building, complete with rooms, stairs, pipes, and
partitions. Using nothing but sand and an inorganic binding
compound, the resulting material has the same durability as
reinforced concrete with the look of marble. The building process
takes approximately a fourth of the time as traditional buildings,
as long as it sticks to rounded structures, and can be built without
specialist knowledge or skill sets.
10. Self-Driving Cars Are Legal in Nevada, Florida, and California
Google started testing its driverless cars in the beginning of 2012,
and by May, Nevada was the first state to take the leap in letting
them roam free on the roads. With these cars logging over 300,000
autonomous hours so far, the only two accidents involving them
happened when they were being manually piloted.
11. Voyager I Leaves the Solar System
Launched in 1977, Voyager I is the first manmade object to fly
beyond the confines of our solar system and out into the blackness
of deep space. It was originally designed to send home images of
Saturn and Jupiter, but NASA scientists soon realized eventually the
probe would float out into the great unknown. To that end, a
recording was placed on Voyager I with sounds ranging from music to
whale calls, and greetings in 55 languages.
12. Custom Jaw Transplant Created With 3-D Printer
A custom working jawbone was created for an 83-year-old patient
using titanium powder and bioceramic coating. The first of its kind,
the successful surgery opens the door for individualized bone
replacement and, perhaps one day, the ability to print out new
muscles and organs.
13. Rogue Planet Floating Through Space
Until this year, scientists knew planets orbited a star. Then, in
came CFBDSIR2149. With four to seven times the mass of Jupiter, it
is the first free-floating object to be officially defined as an
exoplanet and not a brown dwarf.
14. Chimera Monkeys Created from Multiple Embryos
While all the donor cells were from rhesus monkeys, the researchers
combined up to six distinct embryos into three baby monkeys.
According to Dr. Mitalipov, "The cells never fuse, but they stay
together and work together to form tissues and organs." Chimera
species are used in order to understand the role specific genes play
in embryonic development and may lead to a better understanding of
genetic mutation in humans.
15. Artificial Leaves Generate Electricity
Using relatively inexpensive materials, Daniel G. Nocera created the
world's first practical artificial leaf. The self-contained units
mimic the process of photosynthesis, but the end result is hydrogen
instead of oxygen. The hydrogen can then be captured into fuel cells
and used for electricity, even in the most remote locations on
16. Google Goggles Bring the Internet Everywhere
Almost everyone has seen the video of Google's vision of the future.
With their Goggles, everyday life is overlaid with a HUD (Head's Up
Display). Controlled by a combination of voice control and where the
user is looking, the Goggles show pertinent information, surf the
web, or call a loved one.
17. The Higgs-Boson Particle Was Discovered
Over the summer, multinational research center CERN confirmed it had
discovered a particle that behaved enough like a Higgs boson to be
given the title. For scientists, this meant there could be a Higgs
field, similar to an electromagnetic field. In turn, this could lead
to the scientists' ability to interact with mass the same way we
currently do with magnetic fields.
18. Flexible, Inexpensive Solar Panels Challenge Fossil Fuel
At half the price of today's cheapest solar cells, Twin Creeks'
Hyperion uses an ion canon to bombard wafer-thin panels. The result
is a commercially viable, mass-produced solar panel that costs
around 40 cents per watt.
19. Diamond Planet Discovered
An exoplanet made entirely of diamonds was discovered this year by
an international research team. Approximately five times the size of
Earth, the small planet had mass similar to that of Jupiter.
Scientists believe the short distance from its star coupled with the
exoplanet's mass means the planet, remnants of another star, is
mostly crystalline carbon.
20. Eye Implants Give Sight to the Blind
Two blind men in the U.K. were fitted with eye implants during an
eight-hour surgery with promising results. After years of blindness,
both had regained "useful" vision within weeks, picking up the
outlines of objects and dreaming in color. Doctors expect continued
improvement as their brains rewire themselves for sight.
21. Wales Barcodes DNA of Every Flowering Plant Species in the Country
Led by the National Botanic Garden's head of research and
conversation, a database of DNA for all 1,143 native species of
Wales has been created. With the use of over 5,700 barcodes, plants
can now be identified by photos of their seeds, roots, wood, or
pollen. The goal is to help researchers track things such as bee
migration patterns or how a plant species encroaches on a new area.
The hope is to eventually barcode both animal and plant species
across the world.
22. First Unmanned Commercial Space Flight Docks with the ISS
SpaceX docked its unmanned cargo craft, the Dragon, with the
International Space Station. It marked the first time in history a
private company had sent a craft to the station. The robotic arm of
the ISS grabbed the capsule in the first of what will be many
23. Ultra-Flexible "Willow" Glass Will Allow for Curved Electronic Devices
Created by New York-based developer Corning, the flexible glass
prototype was shown off at an industry trade show in Boston. At only
0.05mm thick, it's as thin as a sheet of paper. Perhaps Sony's
wearable PC concept will actually be possible before 2020.
24. NASA Begins Using Robotic Exoskeletons
The X1 Robotic Exoskeleton weighs in at 57 lbs. and contains four
motorized joints along with six passive ones. With two settings, it
can either hinder movement, such as when helping astronauts exercise
in space, or aid movement, assisting paraplegics with walking.
25. Human Brain Is Hacked
Usenix Security had a team of researchers use off-the-shelf
technology to show how vulnerable the human brain really is. With an
EEG (electroencephalograph) headset attached to the scalp and
software to figure out what the neurons firing are trying to do, it
watches for spikes in brain activity when the user recognizes
something like one's ATM PIN number or a child's face.
26. First Planet with FOUR Suns Discovered
Discovered by amateur astronomers, the planet closely orbits a pair
of stars, which in turn orbit another set of more distant stars.
It's approximately the size of Neptune, so scientists are still
trying to work out how the planet has avoided being pulled apart by
the gravitational force of that many stars.
27. Microsoft Patented the "Holodeck"
The patent suggests Microsoft wants to take gaming beyond a single
screen and turn it into an immersive experience--beaming images
all over the room, accounting for things like furniture, and bending
the graphics around them to create a seamless environment.