300 Million Years Of The Future World Essay

As the world celebrates Back to the Future day, futurologists are already making predictions about how we will travel, work and live in the next 30 years. 

By 2045, they foresee 'talking' buildings, windows being replaced by augmented reality screens and self-healing, self-driving planes.

But it won't be a fully autonomous society. 

One expert believes we may even ditch technology completely and go back to pens and paper, while another predicts candles and incense sticks will become heavily regulated over health concerns. 

Futurologist Dr Pearson believes that by 2045, supertall buildings (illustrated) will have artificial intelligence 'personalities' and will be able to 'talk' to people. Homes and offices will collect and process data from various sensors to flag up when repairs are needed or when the heating needs to be turned on

The predictions have been made by artificial intelligence specialists, roboticists and futurologists from Australian universities as well as experts from UK-based plant hire company Hewden. 

Hewden, with futurologist Dr Ian Pearson, particularly focused on how buildings will adapt over the next 30 years. 

By the middle of the century, Dr Pearson believes buildings will have artificial intelligence 'personalities' and will be able to 'talk' to people.

Homes and offices will collect and process data from various sensors to flag up when repairs are needed or when the heating needs to be turned on.

As architects race to develop the world's tallest buildings, Dr Pearson said there will be a need for new kinds of elevators taking advantage of magnetic coupling and propulsion systems. German engineers from ThyssenKrupp have already started working on such technology called Multi (illustrated)

ThyssenKrupp's setup uses magnetic levitation, or maglev, to pull elevator cabins horizontally as well as vertically quickly and smoothly. By mid-century, Dr Pearson believes buildings will be miles tall and some may be so large they will function as small cities in their own right. ThyssenKrupp's testing tower is pictured

As a result, there will be no switches and manual controls. Dr Pearson compared these networks to a 'human nervous system.'   

Buildings will be made from translucent concrete plastics and shape-changing materials that can heal themselves in 2045, and the builders will have super-strength exoskeletons creating half-man, half-machine workers. 

THE FUTURE OF ELEVATORS 

As architects race to develop the world's tallest buildings, Dr Pearson said there will be a need for new kinds of elevators taking advantage of magnetic coupling and propulsion systems.

German engineers from ThyssenKrupp have already started working on such technology called Multi.

The setup uses magnetic levitation, or maglev, to pull elevator cabins horizontally as well as vertically quickly and smoothly.   

Each of the cabins are self-propelled using a multi-level brake system and transfer power from the shaft to the cabin and back again.

A magnetised coil running along the elevator shaft repels magnets on the outside of the cabins.

This allows the cabins to levitate above this so-called guideway.

Power is moved along the coils in the guideway to pull and push the cabin up and down, or left and right.

This current increases and decreases to accommodate differences in the polarity needed to keep the cabins in motion, and moving in the correct direction.

This causes a magnetic field in front of the cabin to pull it forward, while a field at the rear adds thrust.

These machines will look similar to the exoskeleton used by Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, in Aliens. 

As architects race to develop the world's tallest buildings, Dr Pearson said there will be a need for new kinds of elevators taking advantage of magnetic coupling and propulsion systems. 

Vehicles could even travel vertically on 'elevator lanes' inside buildings. 

German engineers from ThyssenKrupp have already started working on such technology called Multi.

The setup uses magnetic levitation, or maglev, to pull elevator cabins horizontally as well as vertically quickly and smoothly.   

By mid-century, Dr Pearson believes buildings will be miles tall and some may be so large that their capacity enables them to function as small cities in their own right.

By comparison, the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, measures 2,722ft (829.8 metres or half a mile).

As these building rise through the clouds, windows will be replaced by augmented reality virtual screens so people can choose any view they like.  

At height extremes, a London Spaceport is also likely by 2045 as the space industry explodes. 

'There is a huge cost advantage going to space from as high a base as possible, so a spaceport is very likely to be over 6 miles (10km) and even as much as 18.5 miles (30km), using carbon-based materials,' said Dr Pearson.  

Other smart materials will include video tiles, colour-changing materials and even electronic fibres in mats and other soft furnishings.

Building cleanliness will be enhanced by sterilisation using UV and ionising technologies, and there will even be laser-based insect zapping, Dr Pearson continued. 

However, lack of exposure to pathogens will cause more allergies. 

Due to health concerns, scents, candles, incense are also likely to be more strongly regulated, added Dr Pearson. 

Back to the Future incorrectly predicted that by 2015 we'd all have flying cars, but this could finally become a reality by 2045. 

What is more likely, though, is that planes will become smarter and may even become autonomous. 

As these building rise through the clouds, windows will be replaced by augmented reality virtual screens so people can choose any view they like. This technology has already been developed by a firm called Sonte (pictured). The opacity level of Sonte's film can be customised and it is made of plastic that can be cut to size

Hamza Bendemra, a research engineer at the College of Engineering and Computer Science, Australian National University said commercial aviation will see significant changes between now and then thanks to breakthroughs in jet propulsion and smart materials.

He believes that advances in software will likely make pilots obsolete in 2045 and flying will become a hobby rather than a profession - the same way we ride horses for fun rather than transport today.

Airplanes will be lighter and embedded with sensors that will allow them to repair themselves in the case of damage.

Chemists from the University of Bristol have already developed a a self-healing compound that could enable wings to heal themselves in a similar way to how human skin repairs itself.

The compound could also be used to make mobile phone screens that fix themselves and hardy nail polish where chips are automatically repaired.

This solution involves adding tiny, hollow microspheres to carbon fibre composite materials.

In the future, buildings will be made from translucent concrete plastics and shape-changing materials that can heal themselves while builders will have exoskeletons creating half-man, half-machine workers (pictured)

These machines look similar to the one used by Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, in Aliens (pictured)

These break on impact, releasing a liquid healing agent that seeps into the cracks left by the damage.

The solution then comes into contact with a catalyst which triggers a rapid chemical reaction that causes the agent to harden.

'The use of petroleum-based gasoline will be considered primitive, if not illegal, and sustainable biofuels will have emerged as a widely used clean alternative,' said Mr Bendemra. 

'Jet engines will reach new heights in efficiency, making flying cheaper and more accessible to the masses. 

Back to the Future incorrectly predicted that by 2015 we'd all have flying cars (the film's DeLorean is pictured), but this could finally become a reality by 2045. What is more likely, though, is that planes will become smarter

Hamza Bendemra, from the Australian National University said in 2045, planes will be lighter and embedded with sensors that will allow them to repair themselves in the case of damage. Chemists from Bristol have already developed a a self-healing compound that could enable wings to heal themselves like human skin 

The compound involves adding tiny, hollow microspheres to carbon fibre composite materials. A close-up of microcapsules is shown. These break on impact, releasing a liquid healing agent that seeps into the cracks left by the damage 

'The mega-rich of 2045 may have scramjet-powered airplanes that can break the sound barrier multiple times over and result in a London-Sydney flight taking less than one hour.' 

On the subject of transport, Dr Pearson added that self-driving cars and trucks will be ubiquitous by 2045 and no-one will own their cars personally because the networks will be run by companies and councils.

Roads will include inductive electrics to power and propel self-driving cars and pods, and 'linear induction bicycle lanes' will do the same for bikes.

Dr Pearson added that self-driving cars and trucks will be ubiquitous by 2045 and no-one will own their cars personally because there will be no need. Tarmac roads will include inductive electrics to power and propel self-driving cars and pods, and 'linear induction bicycle lanes' will do the same for bikes (illustrated)

However, roads and bike lanes may become redundant as people will no longer need to commute to the office thanks to breakthroughs in communications. Communication technology was one of the predictions that Back to the Future Part II made correctly and the film saw Marty Snr talking to a co-working on a video call (pictured)

'These lanes will pull bikes along at a good speed using linear induction motors and simple metal plates fitted to the bike,' Dr Pearson said. 

'Fitter cyclists can still power themselves when they want, but having assistance available as required, especially on hills, will make cycling a more popular alternative.' 

However, these roads and bike lanes may become redundant as people will no longer need to commute to the office thanks to breakthroughs in communications. 

Communication technology was one of the predictions that Back to the Future Part II made correctly. 

In the film, Marty Snr is shown talking to a co-working on a video call on his TV, while Doc Brown had a facial-recognition machine and a brain-wave analyser.

Philip Branch from Swinburne University of Technology said that by 2045: 'Doc Brown’s brain-wave analyser will be perfected, making telepathy a feasible network interface. 'This technology is surprisingly advanced. It has been possible for some time to control machines through brain control' (analyser pictured)

He continued that we will also have the contact lenses seen in Torchwood that transmit everything the wearer sees. These contact lenses will also be able to send messages like in the sci-fi series (pictured)

However, Mr Branch also believes there could be an 'economic' apocalypse that causes us to return to using pens and paper rather than phones and tablets

Philip Branch, a senior lecturer in Telecommunications at Swinburne University of Technology said that by 2045: 'Doc Brown’s brain-wave analyser will be perfected, making telepathy a feasible network interface. 

'This technology is surprisingly advanced. It has been possible for some time to control machines through brain control.'

He continued that we will have the contact lenses seen in Torchwood that transmit everything the wearer sees.

However, he is not convinced the technological breakthroughs we've seen over the past three decades will continue into the next.  

There could even be an 'economic, social and environmental apocalypse.'

'Perhaps change will continue at a much slower pace than the past few decades,' explained Mr Branch. 

'Maybe we will see a return to evolutionary rather than revolutionary change and the technologies we have now will still be around – much faster, more sophisticated and ubiquitous of course, but still recognisable.

'Or maybe some combination of economic, social and environmental apocalypse will cause the collapse of existing infrastructure and telecommunications will be back to pencil and paper or something even more primitive.'  

So you walk home and kiss your wife on the cheek. 'Shall I see if we can still fire up the barbecue?'

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Creeping more slowly than a human fingernail grows, Earth's massive continents are nonetheless on the move.

(requires RealPlayer)

October 6, 2000 -- The Earth is going to be a very different place 250 million years from now.

Africa is going to smash into Europe as Australia migrates north to merge with Asia. Meanwhile the Atlantic Ocean will probably widen for a spell before it reverses course and later disappears.

Two hundred and fifty million years ago the landmasses of Earth were clustered into one supercontinent dubbed Pangea. As Yogi Berra might say, it looks like "deja vu all over again" as the present-day continents slowly converge during the next 250 million years to form another mega-continent: Pangea Ultima.

Above: A map of the world as it might appear 250 million years from now. Notice the clumping of most of the world's landmass into one super-continent, "Pangea Ultima," with an inland sea -- all that's left of the once-mighty Atlantic Ocean. Image courtesy of Dr. Christopher Scotese.

The surface of the Earth is broken into large pieces that are slowly shifting -- a gradual process called "plate tectonics." Using geological clues to puzzle out past migrations of the continents, Dr. Christopher Scotese, a geologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, has made an educated "guesstimate" of how the continents are going to move hundreds of millions of years into the future.

"We don't really know the future, obviously," Scotese said. "All we can do is make predictions of how plate motions will continue, what new things might happen, and where it will all end up." Among those predictions: Africa is likely to continue its northern migration, pinching the Mediterranean closed and driving up a Himalayan-scale mountain range in southern Europe.

What's it like to see two continents collide? Just look at the Mediterranean region today.

Africa has been slowly colliding with Europe for millions of years, Scotese said. "Italy, Greece and almost everything in the Mediterranean is part of (the African plate), and it has been colliding with Europe for the last 40 million years."

That collision has pushed up the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains, and is responsible for earthquakes that occasionally strike Greece and Turkey, Scotese noted.

Above: The possible appearance of the Earth 50 million years from now. Africa has collided with Europe, closing off the Mediterranean Sea. The Atlantic has widened, and Australia has migrated north. Image courtesy of Dr. Christopher Scotese.

"The Mediterranean is the remnant of a much larger ocean that has closed over the last 100 million years, and it will continue to close," he said. "More and more of the plate is going to get crumpled and get pushed higher and higher up, like the Himalayas."

Australia is also likely to merge with the Eurasian continent. 

"Australia is moving north, and is already colliding with the southern islands of Southeast Asia," he continued. "If we project that motion, the left shoulder of Australia gets caught, and then Australia rotates and collides against Borneo and south China -- sort of like India collided 50 million years ago -- and gets added to Asia."

Meanwhile, the Americas will be moving further away from Africa and Europe as the Atlantic Ocean steadily grows. The Atlantic sea floor is split from north to south by an underwater mountain ridge where new rock material flows up from Earth's interior. The two halves of the sea floor slowly spread apart as the ridge is filled with the new material, causing the Atlantic to widen.

"It's about as fast as your fingernails grow. Maybe a little bit slower," Scotese said. Still, over millions of years that minute movement will drive the continents apart. 

Left: NASA's LAGEOS II satellite measures tiny shifts in continental positions from Earth orbit. [more information]

That part of the prediction is fairly certain, because it is just the continuation of existing motions. Beyond about 50 million years into the future, prediction becomes more difficult.

"The difficult part is the uncertainty in (new behaviors)," Scotese said. 

"It's like if you're traveling on the highway, you can predict where you're going to be in an hour, but if there's an accident or you have to exit, you're going to change direction. And we have to try to understand what causes those changes. That's where we have to make some guesses about the far future -- 150 to 250 million years from now."

In the case of the widening Atlantic, geologists think that a "subduction zone" will eventually form on either the east or west edges of the ocean. At a subduction zone, the ocean floor dives under the edge of a continent and down into the interior of the Earth.

"The subduction zone turns out to be the most important part of the system if you want to understand what causes the plates to move," Scotese said.

Like cold air drifting down from an open attic in winter, the cold, dense seabed at the ocean's edges sometimes starts sinking into the playdough-like layer beneath the crust, called the "mantle."

Above: A diagram showing the major processes of plate tectonics.

"As it sinks, it pulls the rest of the plate with it," like a tablecloth sliding off a table. This accounts for most of the force that moves the plates around, Scotese said.

This "slab pull" theory for the mechanism driving the motion of the plates stands in opposition to the older "river raft" theory.

"For a long time, geologists had this model that there were 'conveyer belts' of mantle convection, and the continents were riding passively on these conveyer belts, sort of like a raft on a river," Scotese said. "But that theory's all wrong."

If a subduction zone starts on one side of the Atlantic -- Scotese thinks it will be the west side -- it will start to slowly drag the sea floor into the mantle. If this happens, the ridge where the Atlantic sea floor spreads would eventually be pulled into the Earth. The widening would stop, and the Atlantic would begin to shrink.

Tens of millions of years later, the Americas would come smashing into the merged Euro-African continent, pushing up a new ridge of Himalayan-like mountains along the boundary. At that point, most of the world's landmass would be joined into a super-continent called "Pangea Ultima." The collision might also trap an inland ocean, Scotese said.

"It's all pretty much fantasy to start with. But it's a fun exercise to think about what might happen," he said. "And you can only do it if you have a really clear idea of why things happen in the first place."

For now it appears that in 250 million years, the Earth's continents will be merged again into one giant landmass...just as they were 250 million years before now. From Pangea, to present,
to Pangea Ultima!

Web Links

PALEOMAP -- Web site for the project that produced the predictions of the future positions of Earth's continents. The site also has reconstructions of the past positions of the continents, as well as estimates of past climate.

Information on Plate Tectonics -- By the U.S. Geological Survey

On the Move -- Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics --Learn more about NASA's Role in Investigating Continental Drift

Dr. Christopher Scotese -- Information about the scientist from the University of Texas at Arlington Web site.


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