Chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’re a bit of a Science Fiction geek. But even if you do happen to be one of those weird people who remain unfazed by the latest Star Trek trailer, you’re probably still familiar with some of Sci-Fi’s most famous ‘inventions’. From Captain Kirk’s wireless communicator to Marty Mcfly’s pink hoverboard, Sci-Fi has long been predicting the future, with widely varying degrees of success. Still, every once in a while an author comes along with an idea that is so groundbreaking and so accurate that it simply beggars belief. In honour of these scientific savants, we’ve trawled through the history books to bring you Science Fiction’s top five technological predictions.
5) Invention: In Vitro Fertilization, Author: Aldous Huxley
In July 1978, Louise Brown achieved instant fame when she became the first baby to be born using in vitro fertilization. As well as bringing joy to her family and friends, her arrival also excited fans of Aldous Huxley’s classic novel ‘Brave New World’, which had already predicted the rise of the ‘test tube baby’ almost 50 years earlier.
However, it’s likely that even Huxley would have been amazed at the rapidity with which his predictions became a reality, since the original story was set over 600 years into Earth’s future.
4) Invention: Radar, Author: Hugo Gernsback.
We all know that radar was one of the deciding factors that helped Britain resist the threat of German invasion during the Second World War. But long before Hitler’s shadow was looming over Europe, Hugo Gernsback had already anticipated the arrival of this vital technological breakthrough, in his serial novel ‘Ralph 124C 41+’.
Astonishingly, Gernsback didn’t just make a vague prediction about a device allowing you to detect objects at great distances, but actually came pretty darn close to working out how the device would operate. He even included a handy little diagram, which looks remarkably similar to early radar images.
3) Invention: The Atomic Bomb, Author: H.G Wells.
Back in 1914, in his novel ‘The World Set Free’, H.G Wells described the creation of a new kind of nuclear weapon, viewing this as the inevitable consequence of society’s continually increasing powers of destruction.
In fact, Wells was the first to coin the term ‘atomic bomb’, and even anticipated the risk of radiation poisoning for those in the area surrounding the immediate blast-zone. More impressive, all of this was put forward before the possibility of a nuclear explosion had even been confirmed.
2) Invention: Space Travel, Author: Jules Verne
One of the fathers of science fiction, Verne predicted a whole host of technological breakthroughs that didn’t quite make the list, including modern scuba diving. However, his most audacious and accurate prediction was of mankind’s eventual journeys into space. Far from the conventional rockets we’re all familiar with, the intrepid explorers in the 1865 title ‘From the Earth To the Moon’ blasted off from Florida in a bullet fired from a giant gun.
What’s most incredible about Verne’s lunar predications, aside from their extreme prematurity, the accuracy of his calculations and the location of the launch site, is that he foresaw the phenomena of weightlessness in space. Whilst this may be considered common knowledge now, it was completely unexpected back then.
1) Invention: The Internet, Author: Mark Twain
A bit of a surprise entry in the number one spot; Mark Twain isn’t generally known for his forays into the world of science fiction, but back in 1898 he wrote a short story called ‘For the London Times 1904’. In it, he described the invention of something called ‘The Telectroscope’, a network of devices linked by a system of phone lines to facilitate the global sharing of information. Sound familiar?… It should do, because you’re using it right now.
Yep, long before ARPANET and Tim Berners-Lee, Mark Twain had already predicted the rise of the Internet. In fact, he was so far ahead of his time that that he even foretold the arrival of the recent vlogging (or video blogging) phenomena.
So there you have it, some of science’s greatest discoveries proceeded by the imaginations of some of history’s greatest authors. It goes to show; you never can tell what’s just around the corner, which is why I’m going to keep on holding out for that hoverboard…