Predicting the future ain't easy. Even James Cameron, the king of the world, jumped the gun by suggesting that Skynet would become self-aware on August 29, 1997 - that's not actually going to happen until 2022. You heard it here first.
But sometimes it's fun to take a look at where technology seems to be headed, and imagine what the future might hold.
Here are a few possibilities.
Photo: Aaron Mickelson
Every year, a lot of packaging ends up in the garbage. We don't have an accurate figure for how much packaging is thrown away in Canada - a 1996 Stats Can report on waste didn't offer specific data on packaging, and there haven't been any wide-ranging studies since.
But in the U.S. in 2010, about 76 million tons of waste came from discarded packaging.
So, how do we change that? Well, what if the packaging just... disappeared?
That's the thinking behind designer Aaron Mickelson's master's thesis, 'The Disappearing Package'. He's taken 5 common household items - tea, bouillon cubes, detergent, garbage bags, and soap - and designed packaging for them that will dissolve in water, preventing any leftover waste.
Although it's at the conceptual stage right now, Mickelson built working prototypes for his thesis, using ink and paper that don't cause damage when they're washed down the drain.
Obviously, the concept wouldn't work for everything (cookies in the shower, anyone?), but every little bit helps.
3D Printing Your House, And Your Doodles
Every day, it seems there's a new story about 3D printers and the things it can be used for. Like the concept drawing above for a 3D-printed house, which looks a little like it's made out of spiderwebs.
The idea comes from an architecture collective called Softkill Design. It's called Protohouse 2.0, and it would be printed in pieces off-site, then built in a given location in just one day.
On a smaller scale, there's the 3Doodler, a 3D-printing pen.
It's basically a pen and a printer, all in one, allowing anyone to "doodle" with plastic in three dimensions.
The team behind it started soliciting funding on Kickstarter today. They've already raised $125,000 as of this writing, on an original goal of $30,000. Maybe the pen prints money too.
Will Fusion Power Get Here Sooner Than We Think?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Ever since the 1950s, scientists have been trying to develop a nuclear fusion reactor. Unlike fission (the type of nuclear power we have today), fusion is said to be cleaner, safer, more efficient, and easier to contain.
Plus, with fusion power, it's very difficult to use the waste it generates to build nuclear weapons. Which is a good thing.
The only problem is, no one's been able to create a dependable power source using fusion.
Well, the problem isn't solved. But a division of Lockheed Martin called Skunk Works claims it's getting closer to a realistic working fusion reactor.
Check out a recent talk delivered by Charles Chase, the team leader at Skunk Works. He discusses the challenges facing the world in terms of energy use, and the possibilities of fusion power.
Skunk Works' design is more compact than previous attempts - it could be transported by truck, but still generate enough power for 100,000 homes. Officials are hoping to have a test model available by 2017.