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Are We Living In The Age Of Science Fiction?

A Quick Look At The Truth Behind Recent Groundbreaking Scientific Achievements

By Georgie Burns

 Woolly Mammoth Skeleton by Nick via Flickr

Are we living in an era where science fiction is becoming a reality? Movies and books have always been filled with science that borders on magic: Marty McFly’s famous hoverboard chase, Jurassic Park’s rampaging dinosaur clones and The Matrix’s Artificial Intelligence. 

However, as headlines start to mirror these renowned movie moments, the line between science fiction and fact is beginning to blur. But are these groundbreaking achievements, spread through the majority of scientific fields, really concepts once confined to the realms of fiction becoming realised? 

Or are clickbait titles and bold, colourful statements simply attempting to awe us so we don’t notice these achievements are actually decades away? And if science fiction is becoming a reality, are we, the general public, ready to understand and accept the responsibility of these creations? 

So, how truthful are these headlines? Two research areas that sit on the border between magic and science are currently in the spotlight: time travel and extinct species' resurrection. Here is a quick glimpse at the reality of the exciting stories. 

One recent headline subject, time travel, has long been a common point of interest for scientists, researchers, and journalists alike. Einstein opened the floodgates with his theory of relativity and the assertion that 

‘the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion’. 

Ever since, theorists from all corners of science, math and philosophy have been hypothesising and publishing different ways we could make the concept a reality. 

However, these ideas have always been just that: ideas—theoretical plans and equations combined with pure speculation on bending, travelling through, and pausing time. Now, though, according to Miriam Frankel’s latest headline in Science, the gap between science fiction and reality has been bridged by a new experiment in time travel - using the rules of quantum mechanics, scientists are going to create their own time loop and 'send a particle into the past'. 

The recent experiment is an amazing achievement; it manipulates quantum information in ways that have never been done before. It is a massive step towards quantum computing and communication, revolutionising our technological world. The article explains complex quantum mechanics theories, laws, and experiments that seem alien. But it is not time travel in the way we see in Marvel movies or Groundhog Day, nor is it trying to be - despite what the headline may lead you to believe. 

Another awe-inspiring article from the realm of science fiction is the concept of recreating extinct species through genetic engineering. Researchers in Texas at the Colossal Laboratories and Bioscience have been the frequent stars of many papers as they reach new milestones in reviving the woolly mammoth. But how close are these ‘milestones’ to creating a prehistoric park? According to the project website, it is just three years away. Scientists are confidently using advanced genetic manipulation techniques; their plan is summarised in their motto:

We have the DNA, the technology and the leading experts in the field. Next, we will have the woolly mammoth. Alive again. 

While we won’t know until 2027 if the project is a success, the company is transparent in their message: mammoths will walk among us soon. In fact, researchers believe they are incredibly close to resurrecting a mammoth, or more precisely, ‘a cold-resistant elephant with all of the core biological traits of the Woolly Mammoth’. 

So our Jurassic Park could be just around the corner, demonstrating not all seemingly impossible headlines are misleading, and we may be entering a new age that blurs the line between fact and fiction.  But with this comes new questions and concerns: 

what will be the consequences of altering the fabric of time or resurrecting an extinct species?

Even fiction dwells on the danger of pushing these boundaries, often detailing catastrophic consequences and even the downfall of the human race - highlighting that these are not just scientific advancements but also ethical minefields.

As we read these headlines, we should check not only if they're true to their articles but also consider what could lie ahead if they are.


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