Scanning Retrospective, No. 13

Foresight Snippets – No. 13

[Originally published] June 2001
[The Snippets moved to a monthly schedule as from June 2001]

  • Back to the Future 2: 2001 — Memories are Made of Glass
  • You’ve Heard of GMOs; What About GMAs — Genetically Modified Athletes?
  • Thunderbirds are GO!

Back to the Future 2: 2001 — Memories are Made of Glass

In Snippets No. 4 (15/1/02001) we examined the depiction in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey of a widely-used portable news device (NewsPad) and compared it to current reality. Another aspect of the film and its sequel 2010 was that the computer, HAL, was built using “holographic memory.” It turns out that this idea is being seriously pursued by contemporary researchers and computer scientists, although the present level of the technology is not as advanced as it was portrayed in the films. Prototype holographic memory devices have already been built, which can hold video data in a little glass-and-plastic cube. Perhaps one day soon our film and music collections will no longer be neat rows of CDs, tapes or DVDs, but may instead resemble little trays of ice cubes.

Source: Nature Science Update

You’ve Heard of GMOs; What About GMAs — Genetically Modified Athletes?

This item might be subtitled “The Human Genome Project Meets The International Olympic Movement.” The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has scheduled emergency meetings to discuss the prospect of the genetic modification of athletes as a new form of cheating. While still far from “growing” a new breed of super athletes from scratch (so to speak), the technology exists to modify the existing genetic structure of current athletes. Gene therapy, it is believed, could be used to tinker with existing DNA to boost muscle power, oxygen-carrying capacity, and other performance factors. The IOC is doubly concerned because genetic manipulation is virtually impossible to detect using current testing techniques.

Source: The Observer,6903,490089,00.html

Thunderbirds are GO!

I grew up watching the Thunderbirds zoom all over the world rescuing people in danger. Unfortunately, the aircraft technology to transport rescuers to anywhere on Earth within a few hours has never been developed in real life. While jet engines known as “scramjets” have been under development for decades, the early prototypes proved disappointing. This month, a test of a scramjet engine to power a free-flying aircraft promises to transform hypersonic air travel. An unpiloted plane called X-43A will be launched by rocket to the edge of space. There, it will separate from the rocket and ignite its own engine for a test flight at almost 5,000 miles per hour — which is seven times the speed of sound, and about the top speed of Thunderbird 2. Theoretically, scramjets can reach speeds of up to 18,000 miles per hour, which would put them on a par with Thunderbird 1. Aircraft powered by this type of engine could reach anywhere in the world in about two hours, as well as help boost cargoes into space at much reduced cost. The Melbourne to London trip would become considerably less tiring…

Sources: The New York Times (free registration required)
The Official Thunderbirds Online web site

Foresight Snippets are interesting, intriguing or weird things we find during our strategic scanning which may or may not have direct obvious relevance to Swinburne, but which do provide signals about what the future might be like. Brought to you by the Foresight & Planning Unit.

An archive of the Foresight Snippets and a list of Frequently Asked Questions are available at [deleted].

Copyright © 2001 FPU and Swinburne University of Technology.
Feedback is welcome. Send feedback to [deleted].

NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

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