Science Fiction Roundup: Space Tubes, The Internet Crunch, and Rat Paralysis

Hello everyone! I’m back this month, so I thought we’d start things off with a bit of catch-up. There have been loads of articles I haven’t had a chance t+o post about yet, and they’ve already given me loads of ideas for stories and changes to my story worlds. Let’s get cracking!

Evacuated Tube Travel (Space Travel… on Earth?)

This is one of those “why didn’t I think of that” ideas that should have been done years ago. Space is almost frictionless, which makes it a very convenient medium to travel through because you don’t have to overcome air friction or most other forces that would cause you to slow down. It’s mostly the lack of air, however, that lets spacecraft and satellites travel at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour, and it turns out that’s something we can emulate here on the ground.

Magnetic levitation already removes the problem of friction with the ground, and we already have trains that can travel hundreds of miles per hour because they can float instead of roll, but this new idea involves sticking that train in a long tube evacuated of air, creating a space-like vacuum. That means these trains (or capsules, as in the video) could travel not hundreds but thousands of miles per hour, meaning a trip from Washington, DC to Beijing, China would only take about two hours.

It sounds crazy, but it seems that these tube-tracks would also be less expensive to build than most other transit systems such as bullet trains or even freeways, and would take very little energy to run. Don’t ask me what happens if one of these trains derails (detubes?), but I’ve definitely not seen this kind of transportation in any story or movie I’ve ever seen. Sounds like a great sci-fi concept to me!

Evacuated Tube Travel (Singularity Hub)

Turns Out We’re Running Out of Room for the Internet

As odd as it sounds, the internet is running out of legroom. This is not something I’ve ever even conceived of, but not only are we quickly running out of IP addresses to assign to new websites, but we’re running out of light spectrum to broadcast wireless signals.

extra creditz spectrum crunch screenshot
Click on the image for a brilliant video from Extra Credits explaining the problem! Check out their other stuff too, these guys are great!

I’ve talked at length about the potential of mobile computing for the future, but if we don’t figure out a way to get around the broadcasting spectrum issue, we’ll soon hit a very firm ceiling for a broad range of technologies. As per the video, we can only fit so much data in signals made of light (which includes radio waves, which are the primary carriers for internet, tv, and other signals). This could be important to your story if you intend to write a future world, because we would either have to have figured out a different way to transmit this data, or find a better way to manage it. Check out the video linked above and below for more details. It’s a fascinating problem that will become a lot more of an expensive and obnoxious one in the near future!

The Spectrum Crunch (Extra Credits)

Cute Lab Rat Offers Hope for Paraplegic Humans

In a mad-science move that didn’t end up being a bad idea after all, scientists have managed to restore partial motor function to a paralyzed rat, showing an impressive and encouraging healing ability that might be replicated in human subjects. Watch the video to see the cute little thing walk up the steps for his human overlords. Also, check out this guy’s accent!

Granted, the scientists were probably the ones who put hose neat little incisions in the poor little rat’s spinal nerve, but at the same time, for years doctors have more or less assumed that this sort of thing was impossible. Nerve cells don’t normally regrow, and the body doesn’t make more of them as it does with other cells such as bone and skin cells. That’s why nerve damage is usually permanent, and severe, and why stem cells have held such promise since they would allow doctors to regrow nerves. This experiment suggests that the spinal nerve can be coaxed to find new pathways, similar to how the brain reroutes itself around damaged parts of the brain.

Seeing the apparatus they used to support the rat and the therapy they described made me think about how I would handle a character’s therapy after severe injury, and gave me some ideas for how characters with cybernetic replacements would likely be treated. Also, cute rat!

Well, that’s all for now, folks. I’m finally reading Neuromancer and expect to have it finished next week, so I’ll give you a review and analysis in my next post! Until then, what do you think about this crazy internet problem? How do you think we’ll end up dealing with it? Let me know in the comments below!