Looking to the future – current research projects

Blick in die Zukunft

In movies and books, authors often invent automatons, machines and scenarios that seem far removed from reality. Yet some actual research projects also sound like odd science fiction concepts. We present some of them here.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley are equipping giant beetles with radio transmitters, batteries and electrodes. They want to control them remotely. These insects could then monitor suspicious persons or help clarify minor accidents and provide useful video material.

A project by Ronald Mallett also sounds like something from a movie: he wants to apply Einstein's theory of relativity, circulating the output from ring lasers to bend space enough to create closed timeline curves. What drives his research? He hopes to see his father once again, to warn him that his unhealthy lifestyle will result in his early death.

Elon Musk doesn't want to travel to the past, but he does want to travel through the present at top speed: the Tesla founder promotes the idea of putting passengers into capsules that are transported along the Earth's surface at speeds of more than 1,200 kilometers per hour. He presented the concept for the Hyperloop project three years ago. If he gets his way, passengers will be able to travel the 650 kilometers between Los Angeles and San Francisco in around half an hour in the not-too-distant future.

Climate change is making flooding an acute threat for many regions. Koen Olthuis, a Dutch architect, is tackling this problem: he designs houses that float on water.

Environmental threats and our unsolved energy problem are inspiring inventiveness: Yasuyuki Fukumuro, a Japanese researcher, is exploring future power supplies. He wants to launch solar panels into orbit and transmit the electricity to a ground station on earth via microwaves. His aim is to create a giant solar power plant. His arguments sound convincing: in space, the sun shines night and day, there are no clouds and the intense light can generate pure energy.

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