ILOVE losing myself in the incredible stories and the predictions presented by storytellers of how the world could look in the future. Often these predictions can turn out to be eerily true to life.

In 1865, author Jules Verne published a novel called ‘From the Earth to the Moon’, in which three Americans are fired into space by a gun. In his story, three men launch a lunar vessel called Columbaid, which weighed a little under 20,000lbs and cost $5.5million. A century later, in 1969, America did send three men to the moon in the command module Columbia which weighed 26,300lbs, but at a cost of $16 billion. To cap it all off, Verne’s estimate of $5.5m was equivalent to about $13billion in 1969. Science fiction to science fact!
Let us stay in space for now and talk about artificial gravity. If you have ever seen Interstellar, starring Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain, you may remember that some of or all of their spaceships have spinning parts, which seem to create gravity. This is not actually gravity.

In fact, the spinning outer rim of the spaceship is being spun by a force that pulls towards the centre of the wheel. This is centripetal force. Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In this case the reaction to this centripetal force pushes the occupants against the floor, which feels like gravity. This reaction to centripetal force is called centrifugal force. It’s not real – it’s an imaginary force – but it feels like the real thing.

Rotational simulated gravity has been used in simulations to help astronauts train for extreme conditions and has been proposed as a solution in human spaceflight to the adverse health effects caused by prolonged weightlessness.

The Endurance vessel in Interstellar is very similar in design to the real-life, NASA-designed Nautilus-X. The Nautilus-X (Non-Atmospheric Universal Transport Intended for Lengthy United States Exploration) is a rotating-wheel space station concept developed by engineers from NASA.

Unfortunately, the Nautilus-X design concept did not advance beyond the initial drawings and proposal. Our technology isn’t quite there yet.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s film Black Panther, we are introduced to the futuristic country Wakanda. Its advanced technology allows Wakandans to use a more eco-friendly form of travel. 

The maglev trains used to transport vibranium float above the tracks and don’t use fuel – they are pushed forward by electrified coils in the track and walls. This might seem like science fiction but maglev trains already exist in our world, although we use superconductors and magnets. The world’s first commercial maglev system was opened in 1984 in Birmingham. And, in case you were wondering, maglev is short for magnetic levitation.
Magnetic levitation could revolutionise our transport: we could create frictionless travel by having vehicles that float about the surface of the tracks. It would be more energy efficient and could present an alternative to fossil fuels. Currently, there are a few Mag Lev trains in use in Japan and China, but they are expensive to run.

Superconductors only possess their field-banishing properties at extremely cold temperatures, making sustainable hovering trains science fiction at this point. However, there is currently no evidence that says room-temperature superconductors can’t exist – we just haven’t discovered them yet. If you find any vibranium, let me know.

Speaking of hovering transport, we can’t ignore the famous hoverboard that the Back to the Future trilogy promised that we would have by 2015.

The hoverboard is still science fiction, but there is some science fact in the Back to The Future trilogy, like self-tying shoes and the ‘Mr Fusion Home Reactor’.

In the second film, Dr Emmet Brown uses a banana peel, some beer and a beer can to generate power for the flux capacitor and time circuits. In Scotland, we have power plants that extract biogas from food waste and use it as fuel instead of letting it release into the atmosphere
There are currently more than 20 million vehicles in the world running on compressed natural gas (CNG), the same gas used to heat our houses. CNG is a resource that is very widely available in the world and is less polluting than petrol or diesel. In Belgium, around 16,000 cars run already on CNG. A few manufacturers are stressing this technology, which they consider more promising than electric cars. It is not exactly the Mr Fusion Home Reactor, but it certainly is quite an exciting concept!

If you’re wondering whether the films you are watching contain science fiction or science fact, get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook using #GSCAtHome and we’ll try to help!


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