A Reality Check on a Reality Check: Scientific Progress

I’ve always believed that I was born in the wrong era. Ever since I was a kid, I would watch forms of media depicting space travel and advanced pseudosciences and I would envy the protagonists in those stories. I would witness the adventures of space marines, scientists and captains of massive star ships and just think “Wow. I was born about 300 years too early.”

But I could always speculate. It’s probably why I am a science fiction writer. It is almost like a cycle really: A writer writes a story based on his or her own speculations, and fills the minds and imaginations of readers and viewers with theories and speculations about what the future holds.

Speculation is the name of the game in the article, “Reality Check: How Close are We to Teleportation and Mars Colonies?” by Drew DeSilver. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the Smithsonian Magazine, 59% of Americans believe that scientific progress in the next generation would improve lives overall. The survey also asked Americans about five specific scientific advancements, and how they could potentially play out in the future:

1) Lab grown organs:

22% believe that this will definitely happen, while 60% think that it will probably happen. We have already begun this process with lab-grown bladders in 2006. The “Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology” (or HART) is also working on synthetic trachea using stem cells to grow the titular organ in a lab.

2) Genius-level computers that can create art:

16% definitely believe this will happen, while 35% think that this will only probably happen. Simon Colton, a British computer scientist, has created “The Painting Fool,” software that he claims can generate its own artwork in a variety of different painting styles. Other researchers at the University of Malaga in Spain have created “Iamus,” a self-sustaining and self-operating composer capable of generating music without human interference or instructions. However, despite these improvements, there have been setbacks in the form of software designed to generate books and stories, as none of these experiments have been successful (or even readable).

3) Teleportation:

7% definitely think this is possible, while only 32% believe its only probable. While scientists have been able to transport individual atoms, we are far from transporting people. However, researching this further could very well lead to teleportation technology in the future (The kind that doesn’t turn you inside out when used, hopefully).

4) Human colonization of space:

Unfortunately, only 5% believe this is possible (with a 28% probable rating). NASA has been in talks to mount a manned mission to mars since we landed on the moon. Currently, we are set for a 2030 landing date–but that could change. A private group, the “Inspiration Mars Foundation,” wants to shorten that time span, with a 2018 fly-by however. Another organization, the “Mars One” plan, seeks to establish a permanent colony (The one way trip kind).

5) Weather control and manipulation:

6% definitely, 13% probably. This one is one I personally believe we shouldn’t dabble with as it could be misused, but I digress. Thankfully, weather control has been out of our control for centuries. However, slowly but surely, we are making progress. Cloud seeding has been in use for decades, and one researcher named Jozef Solc believes we can reduce the destructive power of hurricanes by pumping seawater near the eye wall, which would conceivably diffuse the storm into the wind.

As I have said before, I was born way too early. For many of our advancements, we are still in our infancy. We can barely stay on our own moon, let along explore the solar system with any confidence. We are still basically crawling in a lot of ways, which is why we should learn to walk soon. This is something that many people (particularly those who fund the research into these sciences) need to understand: Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in the name of progress. The million dollars you donate to NASA research could lead to groundbreaking developments. Perhaps if we had shown more bravery in the 70s with the Apollo programs, we would still be up there today, inching closer and closer to the next world, or even the next solar system.

Research is a trial and error process, and we need to put effort in recognizing those errors in order to progress as a civilization.


Drew DeSilver. April 17, 2014.


Accessed 4/20/2014


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