Would You Fly Like Iron Man?

Humans have dreamed of flying since they first saw birds. Determined men and women have made the dreams come true with heavier than air aircraft. Now men and women are bringing the dream of human flight using jetpacks. Would you like to fly like Iron Man? The Dream Seven years before the Wright brothers completed their first manned, powered, controlled flight, a novel called The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) mentioned a man hovering low with “the look of a pack on his back.” The cover of Amazing Stories featured a man flying with a jet pack in 1928. A year after Lindbergh completed the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris.  Over the years, countless other stories and films and cartoons have used a jetpack. I’ll bet you can name one or two you’ve seen portrayed in film or fiction. Early History The Russian inventor Alexander F. Andreev created the first pack design in 1919. Andreev received a patent for the  oxygen-and-methane-powered pack with wings. But there is no record that anyone built or tested it.  In 1956, Justin Capră informed the American Embassy that he invented a “flying rucksack” in Romania. No one was interested.  Project Grasshopper […]

What If Your Child Falls in Love with a Cyborg?

Imagine it’s 2050, the pandemic is long over. Cyborgs (beings with both organic and biomechatronic body parts) walk the streets of your town. What if your child falls in love with a cyborg? The beau has a brain-computer-interface (BCI). Maybe he or she has an artificial limb or two. Cyborgs common enough your child or grandchild could befriend or fall in love with one? Seriously? That’s what some forward-looking companies think might happen. But before we consider the future, let’s look at the development of BCI. Discovery of Brain Waves Brain-computer-interfaces, also known as brain-machine-interfaces (BMI), begins their story in 1875. Richard Canton discovered electrical signals in animal brains. His discovery inspired Hans Berger to discover the human electroencephalogram (EEG) on July 6, 1924. The EEG measures brainwaves. Today it is invaluable. Its used to diagnose and treat neurological diseases (seizures, brain tumors, etc.) Computers and Imagination Konrad Zuse, a German, created the first programmable computer between 1936-1938. It was also in the 1930s when science fiction authors such as John C. Campbell (John Scott Campbell) and Edmond Hamilton wrote and published stories about transferring memories and personalities into computers. Tommy Flowers developed and demonstrated the first electric programmable computer, […]

Organ Farms In Space

Space. The Final Frontier. Not a human friendly environment. Star Trek voyagers didn’t have to worry about injuries in space. They had a miraculous medical lab. We may not have that medical lab yet, but we’re getting there. The experiments may be small today, but someday we may have organ farms in space. Yes, we’ve learned a lot about humans living in space during the past fifty-nine years. Unfortunately, one thing we’ve learned is that space changes a person physiologically. Some of those changes are reversible. Some are not. But imagine if we could replace space-damaged organs. Organ farms in space may make human spaceflight a la Star Trek and Star Wars possible. But more than that, organs grown in space may help relieve multiple complications about organ transplants here on earth. The Downside to Organ Transplants Today, when a person needs a new kidney or liver or lung, they must get on a waiting list. The list of people needing organs (no matter which organ they need) is much longer than the list of donors. Years longer. But being on the list doesn’t mean you’ll get an organ. Organs must be a good match to the recipient’s blood type, height, […]