1. Warp drive someday?
“Interstellar travel may still be in its infancy, but adulthood is fast approaching, and our descendants will someday see childhood’s end.” The Starflight Handbook
The first steps towards interstellar travel have been taken, but the stars are very far away. Voyager 1 is about 17 light-hours distant from Earth and is traveling with a velocity of 0.006 percent of light speed, meaning it will take about 17,000 years to travel one light-year. Fortunately, the elusive “warp drive” now appears to be evolving past difficulties with new theoretical advances and a NASA test rig under development to measure artificially generated warping of space-time.
The warp drive broke away from being a wholly fictional concept in 1994, when physicist Miguel Alcubierre suggested that faster-than-light (FTL) travel was possible if you remained still on a flat piece of spacetime inside a warp bubble that was made to move at superluminal velocity. Rather like a magic carpet. The main idea here is that, although no material objects can travel faster than light, there is no known upper speed to the ability of spacetime itself to expand and contract. The only real hint we have is that the minimum velocity of spacetime expansion during the period of cosmological inflation was about 30 million billion times the speed of light.
2. The Tricorder:
Ever since Gene Roddenberry introduced us to the world of Star Trek, we have spent the years since trying to catch up to the technological advances thought up by him and his brilliant creative teams. Now, a new development has a chance to surpass one of those technologies — the tricorder.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Penn State’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics have developed a new a dime-sized chip that uses the interference pattern created by two sound waves to sort a continuous stream of biological cells. This would allow cells of different types to be directed into different channels, and all those separate channels could examined simultaneously to give faster, more accurate medical scans.
The new chip uses the principle of interference, where two sound waves interact with each other, causing nodes of higher and lower pressure on the surface of the chip. As the biological cells flow across the surface of the chip, they are funneled into these nodes, and by changing the frequency of the waves, more nodes can be created, thus funneling more streams of cells to be analyzed.