Back in 1969, Stanley Kubrick was confident enough to give his solar system-trotting space epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey a fairly specific time-stamp. Unfortunately, humanity let down the great cinematic auteur and by 2014 we've barely managed to fling a robot on our nearest neighbor.
However, plans are afoot to whet your intergalactic dreams. A few years ago news broke that NASA was working on a warp drive - and I don't mean some new improved engine they've just called a warp drive to appeal to Trekkies - I mean a device which bends space and time. Theoretically the team already has the technology nailed down, and now we've also got some rather incredible concept art which shows what it could look like. It's even been named Enterprise. Nice. Take a look below:
The ship, which is the brain child of Dr. Harold “Sonny” White, the Advanced Propulsion Team Lead for the NASA Engineering Directorate, works on the principal of altering time instead of attempting to speed through it.
Now, I'm no expert but from what I can gather the twin rings of the vessel distort space-time in front of and behind the ship - creating a "hotdog shaped warp bubble". Expanding the empty space behind the ship would push the craft forward at phenomenal 'speed'. White and his team predict such a vessel could travel the distance between our home system and the nearest neighbor Alpha Centauri in just two weeks - that's a distance of 4.3 light years.
Unfortunately, this is all still at the theoretical stage and would take many more years and billions of dollars to make into a reality.
However, all this futuristic space talk has got me thinking of some other sci-fi staples which are also currently in development... kinda. Here are five below.
Teleporters have been a central feature of Star Trek since the show first aired. Although they acted as a convenient (and cheap) method of moving characters to and from locations, that hasn't stopped every single person delayed in an airport departure lounge also wishing they were real.
Some work has been done on teleportation, indeed as far back as 1993 a group of IBM researchers stated quantum teleportation was theoretically possible and since then lasers and particles have been teleported. However, human teleportation is much trickier - primarily because teleportation doesn't actually move matter - it destroys and then copies it. This means any human being teleported would also die during the process, even if an exact copy of them emerges at that the other end.
Still, I hate delayed flights...
Low-tech versions of the holodeck have kind been around for years. For example, the British SAS train in a special 'Killing House' in which live images can be projected onto the walls to create targets.
Since then the tech has expanded, with Northrop Grumman developing the Virtual Immersive Portable Environment (VIPE) Holodeck system, a 360 degree, portable multiplayer version of the 'Killing House'. Other methods include strapping a set of virtual reality goggles to your head, although personally, I think this is cheating a bit.
Unfortunately, at the minute, the most sophisticated 'Holodecks' seem reserved for training people to kill other people - not for having charming Dickensian adventurers with your android buddy.
I'm sure most of you remember the HUVr hoax that spread around social media like a dishonest wildfire. It promised that Marty McFly's iconic Back To The Future hoverboard would soon be a reality. They even got Tony Hawk to jump around on one. Unfortunately, it was just a viral marketing campaign, achieved with not so futuristic crane and camera techniques.
However, others have recreated working 'hoverboards'. For example, French artist Nils Guadagnin made a replica floating hoverboard using electromagnets. The catch, no one can actually stand on it. I guess now I know how Tantalus felt (a little reference for fans of Greek mythology there).
Technically speaking laser weapons - or directed energy weapons - have been around for decades. The Germans in World War II developed experimental sonic cannons and X-ray beam weapons that never made it onto the battlefield, while today lasers are commonly used in anti-missile and aircraft weapons.
There is also the Active Denial System, a non-lethal laser weapon which heats the water in the skin and causes severe discomfort. However, all of these weapons fire invisible rays, meaning future space wars probably won't be quite as exciting to watch as Star Trek and Star Wars has made out. They don't even go 'pew'.
Although time travel might be millennia away, surely we can still stick someone in a giant fridge and then thaw them in the future like a massive pork chop? I mean, it worked in Demolition Man.
Cryogenics, or preserving humans and then reanimating them, has long occurred in science-fiction and indeed, we've got the freezing part of the operation pretty much dealt with. For example Alcor Life Extension Foundation offers cryogenic animation to anyone who can pay the bill. However, thawing a human body is extremely difficult as it must be done at the exact right speed so as not to turn cells into ice and shatter them. Furthermore, reviving a near brain-dead patient and then curing them of whatever killed them in the first place is still a major hurdle to jump.
Someone once described this generation as being born too late to explore the Earth, and too early to explore the stars. It's rather depressing to think we're stuck in the middle of these great ventures, but with technology like this being developed, perhaps we will get to visit far away worlds afterall?
What science fiction gadgets are you most looking forward to?
Which science-fiction technology would you most like to see?