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Science fiction often provides the imaginative leap which drives science fact into making things happen for real. And in return, science fact opens doors into rooms science fiction writers never imagined were there. It’s an almost symbiotic relationship (assuming the scientists are the sort that enjoy Doctor Who as entertainment and don’t hoot at the physical impossibilities on display).
With Steven Moffat and celebrity fans looking at The Science of Doctor Who this Saturday (August 4) on BBC AMERICA, we present five things that exist as fanciful astonishments in the Whoniverse, but could also easily (and in some cases DO easily) exist in our real world:
Well we all do this to a certain extent: magically regrowing scar tissue over a wound, bones knitting themselves back together, blood-flow stopping itself. It’s just we’re a lot slower about it than Gallifreyans are. Then there are the lizards and spiders that can grow missing bits back, the frogs and insects that can be revived after being frozen solid, the flat-worms and sea cucumbers that can be cut in two and sort themselves out into two new flat-worms or sea cucumbers. And if you put a sea sponge through a blender, it will reform itself, after a while.
And that’s before we even get into the astonishing potential of stem cells. Let’s just say we’re not done with this topic yet, even if we can’t wake up one morning as David Tennant and go to bed Matt Smith. But butterflies come close.
A Sonic Screwdriver
This is an actual thing, and not just a TV remote. Scientists at the University of Dundee have developed a wand-like device which uses ultrasonic technology to perform miraculous medical manipulations without so much as touching a patient (apologies for the alliteration there, I was channeling my inner circus ringmaster).
But LOOK! Look at THIS:
And there are bound to be non-medical applications for this kind of thing, so we can officially say – with certain caveats about using it as a scanner or communication device, the way the Doctor does – that this is no longer science fiction.
Let’s be clear, there’s no such thing as a weeping angel in real life. Statues are not sentient, not even the really creepy ones. However one of the the curious things these living stone monuments do in Doctor Who has been replicated in real minerals, most notably uranium. According to the Quantum Zeno effect, uranium doesn’t decay when it is being observed, it saves that for when people are not looking. Researchers at the University of Texas discovered this effect in 1977 (ie. WAY before anyone had thought of the Weeping Angels) and, yes, you’re quite right, it is weird.
The extent to which we have created a sentient robot dog is debatable. Clearly K9 himself is a cut above the kind of thing we are currently able to offer in the metal pooch stakes, but we’re not that far off, and getting closer all the time. The sentience is well on the way, the ability to make decisions and act accordingly is also coming along nicely, as is the idea of being servile to a human master. In fact any one of those robot vacuum cleaners is heading out in the right direction. Although this robot dog (state of the art in 2010) sounds more like a fly:
Wrapping all of this all up in a dog-shaped tin and calling it Fido (or F1D0, if this were a Star Wars feature) is something we can confidently predict will happen, although I’d personally prefer a gun-free model for my house, ta.
A Police Box which is big on the inside
Look at that! That’s proper roomy, that is. You’d easily get a ride-on Dalek lawnmower and a Cyberman motorbike in there and still have room for Sontaran skateboards.
(Sorry, that last one is a cheat)
Further examples? Show your findings here:
Catch the new Doctor Who special, The Science of Doctor Who, Saturday, August 4 at 9/8c.