Learn more about the technology initiatives that are shaping our future and changing the way we live that featured in Episode 3: Technology.
Area of science: Reality mining
Aim: Create powerful new maps of human behaviour
Who: Alex Pentland, Director of the human dynamics laboratory
Organisation: MIT Media lab
Country: USA, Boston
Global Impact: By using mobile devices we generate digital breadcrumbs, and previously unknown correlations and patterns emerge from the mass of data which allow scientists to make accurate predictions about human behaviour.
The Future: On the positive side, understanding individual and group behaviours may help us live healthier, happier lives and organise society more fairly. However, there are ethical and privacy concerns over tracking personal information which must first be properly addressed.
Area of science: Additive manufacturing aka 3D printing
Aim: Create complex objects using three dimensional printing
Who: Jonathan Mayer, Researcher at European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) Airbus research centre
Organisations: Materialise, EADS research centre for airbus, University of Cranfield
Country: Belgium - Louven, UK - Bristol and Milton Keynes
Global Impact: Mechanical parts could be made with less material and in more efficient shapes with high levels of complexity, complete control over construction and less waste.
The Future: Additive manufacturing machines may be seen on every factory floor alongside traditional manufacturing methods. Another possibility is 3D printing shops, where you can download a design for a spare part for a household appliance and have it printed instead of delivered.
Area of science: Commercial space exploration
Aim: Provide cost effective space transportation on a large scale
Who: Elon musk, Founder of Spacex
Country: USA, California
Global Impact: The reduced cost and increased private availability of rocket launches will allow space travel on a much larger scale. Commercial rocket launches are now being used by NASA as the USA no longer has a space shuttle program.
The Future: Spacex plans to send people into space in commercial rockets in a few years. Elon Musk wants to enable life to become multi-planetary by transporting people and cargo to Mars.
Area of science: Sustainable city development
Aim: Construct and study an environmentally friendly city
Who: Alan Frost, Director of Masdar City and Simon Bräuniger, Director of beam down project
Organisation: Masdar City
Country: UAE, Abu Dhabi
Global Impact: Masdar is an environmentally friendly city in a region infamous for massive energy usage, and is an attempt to provide a renewable and sustainable model for other cities to follow. Technologies being developed include the largest solar power plant in the Middle East.
The Future: Alan Frost wants Masdar to become the Silicon Valley of renewable energy. Technologies developed and tested in Masdar will help change energy production and usage, particularly in hot cities.
Area of science: Particle physics
Aim: Detect and study neutrinos deep underground
Who: Mark Chen, Professor of engineering at Queen's University
Global Impact: SNOLAB helps understand the nature of the universe and the composition of the sun all the way to its core. Before SNOLAB was built, only one third of solar neutrinos could be detected. Now all of them can, allowing more detailed data and a deeper understanding.
The Future: Increasingly sophisticated experiments conducted at SNOLAB will hopefully reveal more new physics. It is impossible to know where research at the frontiers of physics will lead us, but understanding the secrets of nature for their own sake is part of human endeavour.