It's never easy to predict the future. But as PM's 110th anniversary celebration draws to a close, we've decided to try. Here are 110 ambitious ideas for the decades ahead. (For more about PopMech's brain trust and methodology, read Editor-in-Chief Jim Meigs' introduction. And if you want to try your hand at predicting the future, take our Facebook survey, and see when other readers think the most important events of the next 110 years will happen.)
· People will be fluent in every language. With DARPA and Google racing to perfect instant translation, it won't be long until your cellphone speaks Swahili on your behalf.
· Software will predict traffic jams before they occur. Using archived data, roadside sensors, and GPS, IBM has come up with a modeling program that anticipates bumper-to-bumper congestion a full hour before it begins. Better yet, the idea proved successful in early tests—even on the Jersey Turnpike.
Within 50 years, scientists will resurrect an extinct species.
They'll studiously reconstruct the creature's genome and perform
a few million tweaks on a cell from a living relative.
· Climate-controlled jackets will protect soldiers from extreme heat and cold. The secret to all-weather clothing, according to former MIT student Kranthi Vistakula, is Peltier plates, which can be used to warm you up or cool you down by sending an electric current across the junction between two different metals. U.S. soldiers have put the lightweight tech to the test. So have soldiers in India. Based on early reviews, it won't be long until others enlist.
· Nanoparticles will make chemotherapy far more effective. By delivering tiny doses of cisplatin and docetaxel right to cancerous cells, the mini messengers will significantly reduce the pain and side effects of today's treatments.
· Electric cars will roam (some) highways. Who says you can't road-trip in a Tesla? In a few years, the 1350-mile stretch of Interstate 5 spanning Washington, Oregon, and California will be lined with fast-charging stations—each no more than 60 miles apart. In some areas you will find stations to the east and west too. Don't get any bright ideas, though. If you try to cross the country, you won't get much farther than Tucson.
· Athletes will employ robotic trainers. Picture a rotor-propelled drone that tracks a pattern on your T-shirt with an onboard camera. Now imagine it flying in front of you at world-record pace. That's just the start—a simple concept developed by researchers in Australia.
· Bridges will repair themselves with self-healing concrete. Invented by University of Michigan engineer Victor Li, the new composite is laced with microfibers that bend without breaking. Hairline fractures mend themselves within days when calcium ions in the mix react with rainwater and carbon dioxide to create a calcium carbonate patch.