The world of technology keeps advancing, from levitating trains to 3D printers, ideas that were nothing more than science fiction a few decades ago are now a real part of our day to day lives. But creating these futuristic ideas has taken more than just special effects and a charming leading actor, advancements in alloy creation and resource discoveries have made some of yesterday’s ideas into today’s reality.
Right now, around the world humans are being given an electronic helping hand from machines of all shapes and sizes. On their way to work, business people are literally being picked up and dropped off by trains that levitate. And restaurants are using 3D printers to create delicious innovative dishes. But the origins of these inventions can all be traced back to a single source of inspiration — science fiction.
In fact, the word ‘robot’ itself comes from a work of fiction. Karel Capek’s play, Rossum’s Universal Robots written in 1920, introduced the concept of robots in industry. A variation of the levitating hoverboard that helped Marty McFly escape from the antagonistic Biff in ‘Back to the Future’ has been recreated by Lexus, although on a more practical level, in the form of the world’s fastest levitating train in Shanghai. Travelling at 268 mph it makes the 19-mile, hour-long taxi journey from the Shanghai airport to the business district in just eight minutes. We may not yet have created ‘replicators’ as first seen in Star Trek, capable of synthesising meals on demand, but we do have restaurants like the Hotel Arts, Barcelona where you can sample dishes that have been 3D printed using ingredients from mash potato to chocolate.
As well as futuristic inventions came equally impressive fictional resources materials like ‘Vibranium’ which made Captain America’s shield stronger, the ‘Flux Capacitor’ which was the secret to time travel, and ‘Warp Drive’ powering the USS Enterprise to boldly go where no one had gone before.
Today, advances in the resources industry has also caught up with inventions first seen in science fiction. Real materials like titanium are light and strong enough to rival Vibranium and withstand the rigours of space travel. Lithium allows us to create efficient batteries that can power a car 170-600 kilometres on a single charge. And the silicon in solar panels makes our homes capable of generating their own electricity.
And these resources don’t come from the far reaches of the galaxy, they are found right on our doorstep. Western Australia is the country’s largest producer of ilmenite, a mineral sand essential for titanium production. While 60% of the world’s lithium reserves are found in WA and some of the highest quality silicon in the world comes from our South-West.
Science fiction’s relationship with modern technology cannot be denied. As long as we have forward-thinking engineers and scientists and WA’s versatile resources we can make these ideas a reality.