Saturday, January 21, 2012
The Future ... Now !
It struck me again recently. The occurrence was my chancing across a reference in The Atlantic to a laser welder. And the thought--this is a true fact, and one that keeps cropping up to me as time wears on--is that we are living in the future. (Oh. And I'm Alex Adrian--as always--and this is the Diary of an Atomic Man, again as always.)
Now, don't hold your breath waiting for it, folks--'cause it's already here. One'd be hard-pressed to ignore the facts; yes indeedy, one would. (Wouldn't one? Anyway...) Technology is charging forward at a rapid pace and has built itself into the fabric of modern society. Everyone and their grandma is online (and on Facebook!); phones the size--well, height and width, not thickness-- of a cigarette packet (playing card may be a better analogy, given the relative thickness; incidentally, I want to go down in history as the first man to compare an iPhone to a supermodel: both are beautifully designed, thinner than air, everywhere, and seem created only to flaunt their beauty and slimness to the world. I'd like to see a supermodel play Angry Birds though, or an iPhone model Versace's latest collection...or a supermodel incorporate 4G wireless connectivity. At the piano, we have Hugh Farman. Anyway...), e-readers that can--hypothetically--store all of written history on something the size of a slim paperback, laptops--forgive me, "netbooks"--that can fit under a doorjamb and outperform a supercomputer, MMOCGs (anyone know what to call Minecraft? I'm having trouble coming up with a term) that allow the player to do anything, social networks of thousands, perhaps millions of people, talking, sharing, linking, playing, doing...the list goes on.
And that's just consumer electronics! (Okay, video games aren't really "consumer electronics", especially not browser-based or downloadable ones, but bear with me here.) The military is developing weapons that seemed science-fictional mere decades ago: the idea of the Future Force Warrior is to create the ultimate soldier...by giving 'em a suit of powered armor. That's right, powered armor. Meanwhile, the Navy has turned to the crazy awesome side of the Force : besides the plan to develop a carrier-based UAV (more succinctly, a carrier plane that, rather than being controlled by a human being from afar or in the cockpit, the idea behind the X-47B is that it'd work virtually completely autonomously--or at least that's how Popular Mechanics describes it. [Joe Pappalardo,"X-Plane Rising", Popular Mechanics, December 2011, pp. 66-74.]), the new Zumwalt-class destroyers would be 3000--three thousand--tonnes heavier than the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and indeed the heaviest destroyer ever built, outweighing even World War II heavy cruisers. According to the Wikipedia article, the Zumwalts may eventually mount free-electron lasers and railguns, the latter of which the Navy's been researching for several years, now. The project's been cancelled, it seems, but still...
The motto, for those of you who don't speak Latin: "Speed destroys".
This is why Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space! (Or to sail the seven seas...)
Actually, you know what'd be awesome? Pirate Newton. Anyway...
Even the traditional marker of tech-that-ain't-never-gonna-happen, the jetpack, is slowly, slowly, coming to fruition. If you've about two hundred grand, you can buy a (pretty cool-looking) "wing pack".
Dah dahdahdah dahdah dahdah...dah dah dah d-dahdah dahdah dahdahDUN!
The Diary of an Atomic Man would like to salute Yves Rossy, for advancing human achievement some fifty years with his invention. Meanwhile, space...
Space? SPACE?! SPAAAACE!!!!"
Well, space exploration is progressing rather well, in fact! The Obama administration may've been the one to scrap the Space Shuttle, but the thing had it in the cards for a few years, now, and according to Wikipedia the current plan's to send humans to the asteroids in 2025, followed by a 2030 Mars-shot. There will be an increased reliance on private contractors--SpaceX, Scaled Composites, and the like--for getting people and cargo to NEO and LEO, while Uncle Sam, Ivan, Raj, and Liu look outwards. Within a few years, private spaceflight will be available for (relatively) cheap. And as for the old idea of a space elevator? Who knows! Maybe...just maybe...I'll keep an eye out, just in case. I can't think of any better way to end this, so I'll send you out with these words from Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd:
"People aren't going to get better or worse. Technology will be pretty cool. All in all, the future's going to be awesome! Except climate; we fucked that one up."
--Alex Adrian, 1/21/12