A rich imagination is integral for the makers of a memorable science fiction film or television series, but how true are some of the scenarios that made it to the screen?
The Time Machine (1960)
Is time travel possible?
Until recently the thoughts of travelling in time were dismissed as fanciful fiction but some interpretations of the quantum suggest it might be theoretically possible.
The most powerful atom crusher ever built, The Large Haldron Collider (LHC), will be switched on in 2008. The LHC will produce tiny patches of very high energy by colliding together atomic particles travelling at incredible speeds. The energies produced will recreate conditions similar to those existing billions of seconds after the Big Bang.
Russian mathematicians Irina Aref’eva and Igor Volovich have theorised that these massive energies could create wormholes, tunnels in space and time, and therefore allow a form of time travel.
The question arises, if time travel is possible, where are the tourists? Theoretically it would only be possible to travel as far back as the creation of the first time machine.
Star Trek (1966 – 2005)
Is teleportation possible?
Scientists from Austria, Australia and Denmark have all achieved an elementary form of teleportation, even if it is only at the quantum level of atoms and photons rather than the macro level of objects and people.
Charles H Bennett of IBM Research says:
“What you have to note is that in this form of experiment the atom itself is not teleported, but rather the delicate quantum information in the atom. In effect you are disembodying the complete quantum state of the atom and reincarnating it in another atom of the same sort.”
Although transferring trillions of atoms in a human may prove a little more problematic, quantum teleportation could have implications in the world of computing, revolutionising the amount of information stored and the speed it can be moved around.
Professor Neil Johnson of Miami’s Department of Physics says:
“In theory a quantum computer could contain an almost infinite amount of information, and move that information around at almost the speed of light.”
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
If someone was exposed unprotected to space, would they suffocate and drift away or bubble and boil their way to extinction?
A human could survive in space for a few minutes if they were rescued and pulled back into the craft in under 30 seconds.
In 1965, a NASA astronaut was placed in a vacuum chamber without being aware he had a damaged suit. He remained conscious for 14 seconds before the chamber was re-pressurised and later reported heearing the air leaking out of the suit and feeling the saliva on his tongue begin to boil.
In space, can anyone hear you scream?
According to the laws of physics, no they can’t. Sound waves cannot travel in a vacuum and space is the closest thing to a vacuum, although there are still a few hydrogen atoms for every cubic metre.
Travelling spacecraft, exploding stars and colliding meteors would all exist in total silence.
Science Fiction or Fact?
Science fiction has interwoven with science fact in many film scenarios and knowledge and imagination will no doubt continue their profitable relationship in the future.