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Surprising Science

Four Technologies That Could Revolutionize The Way We Live

A rash of new companies have sprung up to meet the demand for transportation of crew and cargo to orbit and to the International Space Station left by NASA's cancelling of the shuttle program.

In a recent Big Think interview with venture capital expert Bruce Gibney, we saw what technologies stand to go through revolutionary growth. 

1) A rash of new companies have sprung up to meet the demand for transportation of crew and cargo to orbit and to the International Space Station left by NASA’s cancelling of the shuttle program. The commercial space industry can also meet the demand of private individuals and companies for space transportation, be they tourism or satellite launches. One of the most successful of these companies is SpaceX, whose Dragon capsule made history on May 25, 2012 by being the first privately funded spacecraft to attach to the ISS. Before the Dragon, only the Euopean, American, Russian and Japanese governmental space programs had done so.

2) A team from RIKEN research in Japan has created artificial lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are organs which produce the cells that make up the human immune response. Currently, the artificial lymph nodes have only been tested in mice, but they have shown great promise. Mice with otherwise compromised immune systems exhibited a strong immune response when given the nodes. 

This technology could not only replace compromised or nonexistent immune systems, but it could greatly boost the strength of healthy immune systems as well. Further, the artificial lymph nodes could be engineered to produce a strong immune response to particular diseases, like cancer and AIDS, making holding these diseases at bay or destroying them entirely much more feasible for millions of people.

3) ASIMO (Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility) is Honda’s humanoid robotics project. It was created in 2000 as part of a program to produce a humanoid helper robot to assist around the house. Since then, it has improved greatly. It can walk or run on two legs at up to 3.7 miles per hour, and can even climb stairs. 

The past predictions for how advanced robots would be and how pervasive they would be in society by now have not come to pass, prompting some to ask “where are the robots?“. You can watch ASIMO show off what it can do here, and see for yourself that the robots are on their way!

4) Molten Salt Reactors are a type of Fourth Generation nuclear reactors which produce energy far more efficiently and allay virtually all safety concerns about nuclear power. They are safe from meltdowns, which some current and previous reactors are not, because their normal functioning state is essentially melted down. The design of these reactors is such that a flow of molten salt and a radioactive fuel travels circularly past a graphite core that functions as a moderator.

The added safety comes from the fact that the safety measures, instead of requiring added water and generators and venting, are passive. Any failure would lead the reactor to simply release its fuel and molten fuel into a safe and sealed dump tank by purely automatic mechanical means. The heat at which they operate means that they are up to 50% more efficient than conventional reactors. There really is not a lot of downside. Now in concept stage, Fourth Generation reactors are expected to be ready to be implemented by around 2030.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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