With their live stream of the iPhone 6 release on September 9, 2014, Apple found themselves in a unique position: On the shoulders of their latest release, they’ll either get lost in the crowd of their competitors, or they’ll catapult a thriving tech industry into an even more advanced era—with Apple firmly at the helm.

10What They’re Giving Us

The Apple Live Event began with a promise of the biggest event in iPhone history. That was invariably going to be true, but it says nothing about the impact on the mobile industry as a whole. After all, every product is supposed to be better than its predecessor, regardless of brand.

What they did unveil were the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch—one new phone, a bigger version of it, and one new phone accessory. The buzz over everything is tremendous, but when you get down to it they aren’t offering much that hasn’t already been given to us: The iPhone 6 has a 12-centimeter (4.7 in) screen, but the Samsung Galaxy S5′s screen is already 13 centimeters (5.1 in). The 6 Plus is outmatched by at least four other phones already on the market.

There are plenty of other statistics to get into, but what it all boils down to is that, point by point, there’s a smartphone in existence that rivals nearly every feature the iPhone 6 gives us. What Apple has done that dominates every competitor is simple: They gave it all to us in one package. And that, more than anything, is why Apple is going to be the king of mobile for a long time to come. Let’s break it down.

9They’re Growing Despite The Odds

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Every good business knows that you need to pay attention to what your competitors are doing if you want to stay in business. If they lower their prices, you have to do the same to make sure your customers keep buying your product. The problem is, Apple doesn’t do that. While the majority of Android and Microsoft phones are priced below $200, Apple has precisely zero phones that fall below that threshold.

Analysts have been saying for years that Apple is on the verge of tanking as their competitors catch up in terms of quality, and they’re still saying it. But despite all the odds, Apple has always outperformed them in sales, even with prices up to three times higher than what everyone else is charging. What really drives the point home is how computers are usually separated: It’s either Mac or PC, never mind the fact that there are dozens of current PC manufacturers and just as many that have already gone bankrupt. Through all the chaos, Apple slowly climbs in every market they enter.

8They’re Killing Other Industries

One of the main features presented in the Apple Live Event was the camera in the iPhone 6. Just a few years ago, the general consensus was that “no smartphone cameras can shoot video well.” Now, Apple’s taking a camera that can shoot 240 frames per second and running it as a standard feature in their smartphones. The video above was shot with an iPhone 6, if you want an idea of how that looks (make sure you have the quality set to the highest level). A stand-alone camera that can do that runs upward of $300, which honestly makes the iPhone’s price seem slightly less exorbitant.

And that’s big news not because it raises the bar for smartphone cameras, but because it’s going to keep pounding into the makers of regular cameras. Nikon, a popular camera maker and one of the kings of point-and-click cameras, has seen their sales dropping for years. Olympus, Canon, and Sony are also bleeding sales.

That’s not saying that any of those companies are going out of business soon, but smartphones like the iPhone 6 are quickly rendering their lower-value products obsolete. It’s no longer possible to look at Apple as simply a computing company, or even a mobile company. Everything they put into their products borrows from other industries—it’s what they do best. And each time Apple does that, those other industries take a hit.

7They’re Combating The Fear Of Theft

Earlier in 2014, Home Depot had a massive data breach in its payment systems. Before that, Target fell victim to data theft. There’s an inherent cult of fear surrounding digital payments like a dark cloud, and that’s hindered the progress of potentially innovative systems that let you pay for something with a smartphone.

With the Apple Pay feature on new iPhones, Apple might have a chance to eliminate that fear. With their system, paying for something—such as a cup of coffee—is a simple matter of tapping your iPhone against a digital reader at the checkout desk. To add a credit card to your account, you just take a picture of the card with your phone. It’s safe, Apple says, because if anybody steals your phone, you can click a button to stop the payments from working—after all, it’s not like the thief stole your actual credit card.

There have already been a few pioneers in the “wallet-free payment” field, including Paypal and Square Inc., but they’ve been slow to take off because of the distrust that a lot of people still harbor for keeping sensitive bank information in a smartphone. Whether Apple’s system will work is still to be seen, but with digital transactions projected to reach $90 billion annually in 2017, someone needs to bring it into the mainstream, and Apple just did.

6They Know How To Sell A Technology

The past two years have been a big time for smartwatches. All the tech giants—including Sony, LG, and Samsung—have released their own versions, but few have made as big a splash as the Apple Watch . . . even though it won’t even be released for several more months. But why? Why is Apple CEO Tim Cook calling the Apple Watch “a breakthrough product” when there are already so many options out there?

It’s the same reason the iPhone, iPad, and iPod were also considered “breakthroughs,” even though they weren’t the first smartphone, tablet, or MP3 player: Apple is simply the best in the business at making something easy to use and attractive. And by waiting until the reviews were in on other smartwatches, Apple was able to come out with something so seamless that we’ll likely look back at the Apple Watch as the first real smartwatch. That’s the same way we consider the iPad to be the first real tablet even though tablets had already existed for over a decade. Sneaky, but effective.

5They Can Effectively Bridge Technology Gaps

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Google Glass has a bad rep. It’s been in a state of partial release for over a year, and already the reviews are less than kind. The problem people have with it is, essentially, that it looks stupid. There’s an embedded psychological resistance that people have toward technological change, and it has a huge effect on the success of new technologies. Anything that abruptly changes what most people would consider “normal” is going to have a much harder time taking off than a technology that comes wrapped in something familiar.

That’s why Google Glass is predicted to tank while the Apple Watch is going to take off. There’s no bridge between Glass and what we’re used to, but the Apple Watch, well, it’s a wristwatch. Regardless of the fact that it brings a series of new interactive technologies to the table and will probably be a launchpad for future wearable technology, it’s still something that we can be comfortable with. It’s this same reason that most people don’t know about other highly innovative tech, like the Muse brainwave headband—technology can only move as fast as it’s accepted.

4They Still Offer Innovative Features

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Regardless of who came up with an idea first or how many backs need to be broken to carry a product to the top of a market, Apple is still one of the top innovators in their field, and the Apple Watch embodies that fact wholeheartedly. Case in point, Apple Watch is the first mobile platform that integrates useful functions that go beyond sight and sound.

Haptic tech is basically touch feedback. Any phone that has a vibrate setting is using haptics, but Apple Watch takes it a step further. On the back of the watch—the side pressed against the wrist—are several actuators that give the wearer a tap when they get a notification. But the innovation is tied into their navigation app, Apple Maps. When you activate GPS directions, a different tap tells you whether to turn left or right. You don’t even need to look at the watch.

Why is that important? It’s a simple enough addition, but the smartphone industry is predominantly sight-and-sound based. New features and upgrades invariably boost the quality of the screen or the speakers. This is a step in a direction that integrates more of the senses, and like just about everything Apple does, it doesn’t break new ground by itself so much as it sets the bar for what can be accomplished in the future.

3They’re Connecting Technology To Us

Just as keyboards are predicted to be rendered largely obsolete within the next decade or so, touch screens aren’t going to last forever, either. Technology is forever changing, and the current trend is already moving past this relatively new technology into more personal—more natural—ways to communicate with computers. The Microsoft Kinect is a good pioneer example of this—it uses motion capture to send commands to your Xbox.

The Apple Watch, in addition to its haptic sensors, features a heart rate monitor, an internal gyroscope, and an accelerometer, all of which are intended to keep track of you without the need for any conscious input. GPS keeps track of you wherever you go and, in the case of the built-in fitness app, it learns about you over time. To some people that’s incredible; to others it’s terrifying—regardless, it’s the direction technology is heading, and Apple is making it happen more than anybody. Heck, even their headphones detect when your ears are present.

2They’re Connecting The World

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Imagine being able to control all the locks, lights, thermostats, doors, and switches in your home from one central hub. Imagine being able to turn on your TV or radio with a single voice command, or start the oven from your bedroom. It’s something we’ve seen in movies, and it’s something Apple is working on.

Apple isn’t connecting the world in the sense that we’re all going to hold hands around the equator; their goal is a little more plausible: They’re making every gadget we own part of one centralized network. Everything from the homes we live in to the cars we drive will be just an iPhone tap away. It’s already happening, too—as soon as Apple announced their HomeKit, other companies scrambled to begin building products that would be compatible with Apple’s service.

Google is hard at work on a competitor home network, but while they’re fiddling with thermostats, Apple is taking the Edison approach: They’re letting other companies figure out the cool little gadgets while they happily play the mediator that connects it all together.

1Inductive Charging

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The future of technology is going to be largely wireless, and we’re already there as far as Internet connections and communication goes. But one area that still needs a big boost in the wireless world is electricity. No matter how much you can do on your smartphone, you still need to plug it in every few days (or every day, if you have an iPhone).

Conversely, the Apple Watch uses an inductive charger that magnetically clips onto the back of the phone and automatically aligns so that the charge can go through. There’s no need to wiggle a micro-USB into a tiny port; just hold it close enough and the magnets do the rest. As Apple says, you can do it in the dark without looking. Is it easy? Sure. Is it new? No—smartphones have been able to do that for years. But that’s what it’s all about. Apple isn’t going to control the future of mobile technology because they’re bigger or better—they’re going to control it because they’re easier, and that’s what we all really want.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/09/10/10-reasons-apple-will-control-the-future-of-mobile-technology/

Although George Orwell was a little premature in predicting a total surveillance state in 1984, based on some of today’s technology, he wasn’t too far off the mark. In earlier lists we’ve mentioned a few paranoia-inducing inventions, such as Google Glass, facial recognition software, and brain scanners. If those things didn’t motivate you to don a tinfoil hat, here are 10 more scientific developments to give you the heebie-jeebies. With tools capable of tracking our every movement, reading our minds, and meddling with our brains, Big Brother now has power that Orwell’s Thought Police only dreamed of.

10 Implantable Memories

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After the disclosures from government whistleblowers such as Manning and Snowden, most of us realize anything we say, do, or look at online is subject to monitoring by a third party. Combine that fact with camera drones, facial recognition software, and in-house spies (game consoles and TVs), and it appears the only truly private place left in the world is our brains. But is it really? It seems not, since even going off the grid or taking a vow of silence can’t protect our brains from being hijacked by implantable memories. Yes, thanks to the work of MIT scientists, you soon might not know whether your thoughts are truly your own or were artificially implanted.

The scientists have already successfully inserted false memories into mice by using optogenetics to turn individual brain cells “on and off.” Essentially, light is fed into the hippocampus, where it triggers specific cells known to relate to particular thoughts. The researchers can then tweak those memories to make the mouse believe something happened when it didn’t. For instance, they can cause a mouse to think a room is dangerous even though the rodent has never had a negative experience in the room.

While toying with the memories of mice is one thing, what happens when the technology inevitably expands to humans? Could someone make you believe you committed a crime when you hadn’t? What about education—one day, will everyone be implanted with the same, homogenous knowledge and belief systems?

9Power To See Through Walls

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Apparently the scientists at MIT have a fascination with Orwellian technology, because in addition to figuring out how to manipulate memories, they’ve also designed a way to “see” through walls.

The technology, nicknamed “Wi-Vi,” interacts with the radio waves of Wi-Fi signals to detect movement on the other side of a wall. Similar to sonar or radar, it works by sending out wireless signals and using the ping, or bounce-back, to get an impression of the non-visible. To differentiate between stationary objects and humans, the Wi-Vi sends out two signals that cancel each other out unless they hit a moving target. Thus inanimate objects such as furniture are ignored while human movements are easily tracked on the Wi-Vi monitor.

Currently, Wi-Vi only shows moving blobs, not silhouettes or other details, but it can still give someone a glimpse of what’s happening behind closed doors. The technology is relatively inexpensive and the Wi-Vi team hopes one day to see their product in smartphones, where it could be used for home security and baby monitoring. On the flip side, we can easily envision it as every stalker’s favorite new toy.

8 Filter Bubbles

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On first consideration, filter bubbles seem benign, if not downright helpful. Google and other search engines use them to filter search results based on your past internet activity. In other words, you and a buddy can perform a search using the exact same terms and get entirely different results. The search listings you are given are based on what Google thinks you will like.

So, what’s the problem? Well, instead of giving you the most relevant results, search engines put you in “information bubbles” that feed you content you tend to agree with. This can lead to people getting news only from like-minded sources and entirely missing competing arguments.

Consequently, the Internet—which is supposed to be the world’s largest source of information—becomes incredibly limiting. Those who aren’t careful can wind up filtering out all important issues and existing strictly in a world of content “junk food,” consisting entirely of celebrity baby news and porn. Of course, Big Brother is happy to oblige, since the unaware usually don’t make waves.

7 Televisions That Watch You

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Earlier this year, Chinese manufacturer TCL introduced an HDTV that uses voice and video recognition to detect who is watching. The technology uses the Google TV platform and is intended to offer customized programming and advertisements based on the viewer. Other companies are producing similar TVs, which connect to your whole home network and can, for example, suggest products or ads on your computer related to what you’re watching on TV.

As if that weren’t enough of an intrusion, some camera-enabled TVs are even capable of peering into your home and monitoring your habits and facial reactions to what’s on the screen. So much for slumping over a bowl of ice cream while watching TV in your underwear.

Fearing the implications these televisions could have on a person’s privacy, Massachusett’s Representative Michael Capuano submitted the “We Are Watching You” bill, which requires companies to get permission from a consumer before their TV, DVR, or cable box can collect information. If passed, it will also force companies to post the message “We are watching you” any time information is being gathered.

It seems as though today’s world has two Big Brothers—the government and big business.

6 Internet Scrubbing

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While filter bubbles can serve as a passive method to keep people uninformed, or at least isolated from alternative thinkers, internet scrubbing is a blatant way to suppress the free distribution of information. If you think there’s no way to hold back the massive tide of content on the internet, just take a look at what’s happening in China, where internet scrubbing is big business.

Since around 2007, “Internet crisis public relations companies” in China have been removing negative or controversial articles about their clients from the net. The services aren’t cheap—blocking a search term can cost $160,000—but desperate companies and public figures are willing to pay the price to maintain their reputations and keep the truth away from citizens. Law enforcement is trying to crack down on such services, which is somewhat ironic considering that the Chinese government also tampers with the Internet. For instance, nothing online reaches the Chinese people without first going through the country’s “Great Firewall.”

Although such extreme censorship is not seen in other places around the world, some believe it’s only a matter of time before it spreads, calling China a kind of Orwellian testing ground where autocrats can see what does and doesn’t work.

5 Hackable Cars

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What’s scarier than being in a constantly followed car? Having a vehicle that will violently turn on you without notice. No, we’re not talking about that weird episode of Knight Rider when we met KITT’s evil twin, KARR. We’re referring to all the modern vehicles on the road with built-in software.

According to a recent report, today’s “connected” cars have software fixed into all onboard systems, such as brakes, powertrain, and throttle. Many also have built-in navigation systems and smartphone integration. While these features offer convenience and the promise of added safety, what they really do is make a car susceptible to theft, spying, and cyber attacks while they’re being driven. Essentially, someone with the right skills and resources can hack into a car and take over the controls.

While many fear the power this puts in the hands of terrorists and hackers, conspiracists claim government intelligent agencies are already using these tools for evil, and most recently assassinated journalist Michael Hastings by causing his Mercedes to crash into a tree.

4 License Plate Scanners

If you drive an automobile, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a file somewhere filled with photos of your car along with its location on the day each picture was taken. Thanks to lowered costs, local and state police departments everywhere are adopting license plate scanners and accumulating millions of digital records of vehicles and plates. These scanners are mounted all over the place, including on police cars, buildings, bridges, and traffic lights. They indiscriminately capture the image of every automobile that passes by and send the information to a police database.

While the purpose of the scanners is to deter serious crimes such as drug trafficking and child abduction, so far the most common crime people are being busted for is driving on revoked or suspended registrations. In the US, the Supreme Court made it illegal for police to use GPS to track an individual without first getting a judge’s approval, but there is no such restriction on using a network of scanners to follow a person’s movements.

With the eyes of the scanners always on, as one reporter put it, “You can drive, but you can’t hide.”

3 Kinect

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Not to be outdone by the privacy-infringing smart TVs, Microsoft has its own Orwellian device—the Kinect. The Kinect has been the silent observer in many people’s living rooms for several years, and with the release of Xbox One this fall, its creepy factor is going up. That’s because the new Kinect is required to always be on. There’s no unplugging it or throwing a towel over it when you’re feeling a little shy, as the Kinect must stay at the ready for voice or hand commands even when the Xbox is off.

So, if a lot of your entertainment revolves around the Xbox, be prepared to have your actions, voice, and heart rate constantly recorded. Microsoft says they don’t transmit data back to their servers without user consent, and they swear they’ll never divulge your information to the NSA. However, Skype—now owned by Microsoft—promised the same thing, and we all saw how that turned out.

2 Brain-Fingerprinting

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In a form of brain-scanning, forensic scientists have discovered how to use electroencephalography (EEG) to discover what information you’re hiding in your brain. It works by presenting you with images or words and measuring your electrical brainwaves. Currently it can perceive whether you have knowledge about something as well as pick up on your emotional state.

In 2008, an Israel-based security company announced plans to fine-tune the technology for airport security by integrating it with infra-red devices, flashing subliminal messages, and remote sensors. The idea is that instead of having to search your luggage or shoes, they can simply analyze your brain to gauge your intent. In other words, if you appear stressed or are reacting to subliminal images of bombs, you’re probably not going for a plane ride.

If that idea seems like a stretch, consider the fact that brain-fingerprinting is admissible in court and has already been used to challenge the murder conviction of Terry Harrington. In fact, brain-fingerprinting has huge potential as a law-enforcement tool, as it can be used tell whether or not a person remembers an event. With a less than 1 percent error rate, it’s a shoo-in to replace traditional lie detector machines. However, when we consider that memories are now controllable, brain-fingerprinting might not be as foolproof as originally thought.

1 Implantable Body Sensors

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Scientists in both the US and Britain are developing implantable biochips with the ability to monitor your vital signs and behaviors and wirelessly transmit the data to medical staff. These biochips are implanted in the body and can detect fluctuations in blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and heart rate. They also notice changes in behavior that could indicate a health issue, such as a difference in posture or whether you have taken prescribed medication.

VeriChip—now branded as PositiveID—paved the way for such technology with its implantable identity chips, which electronically linked people with their medical records. VeriChip earned United States FDA approval back in 2004 and was the first to market a biochip to the public, but in 2010 the product was discontinued because of poor sales. Not surprisingly, people weren’t too keen on having a scannable microchip capable of divulging personal information embedded in their skin.

Still, the newest biochips being created have a better chance of success, as they are targeted specifically at people in dangerous professions such as the military, and those with serious medical conditions. Such individuals are more likely to accept a loss of privacy for the reassurance that comes with constant medical supervision.

The Orwellian fear about these chips is that, were they to become mainstream, it could be a slippery slope leading to employers or insurance agencies requiring us to get a biochip so they could oversee our health and lifestyle habits. Thus, like everything in this list, biochips are a double-edged sword—they have the potential to do so much good, yet could easily be manipulated to work against us.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2013/08/19/10-orwellian-technologies-that-exist-today/

Cool technologies that were once reserved for science fiction are invading our reality at an accelerating pace. In some cases, our Earth-bound scientists have proven that seemingly impossible technologies can be developed, but they still have some obstacles to overcome first. In other cases, those technologies are already here.

10Squishy Robots

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If you’ve watched the movie Terminator 2 then you’ve seen the T-1000 robot squeeze through tight areas by changing into a liquid. It could repair itself that way, too. Now, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made their own version of the shape-shifting T-1000 a reality.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wanted deformable (or “squishy”) robots that acted like an octopus. That means they could squeeze through tight spaces and enlarge afterward to move around a larger space. In a surgical setting, a squishy robot would be able to move to a certain point in a human body without causing damage to blood vessels or organs. Then it could perform the necessary surgical task. In a search-and-rescue operation, a squishy robot could squeeze through rubble to find survivors.

To achieve these goals, scientists needed a material that could shift between a hard state (when the robot would handle tools or perform other tasks) and a soft state (when the robot would squeeze under or between objects). As Anette Hosoi, an MIT professor, said in a news release, “You can’t just create a bowl of Jell-O, because if the Jell-O has to manipulate an object, it would simply deform without applying significant pressure to the thing it was trying to move.”

Ultimately, the scientists chose a low-cost, polyurethane foam which could squeeze to an extremely small size and expand to its normal shape afterward. Then they coated it with wax that’s cheaply available in craft stores. By applying medium heat to wires running along coated foam struts, the wax could morph from a hard shell to a soft surface. The current could be turned on and off as needed. When heat was applied to the wax, the robot would also repair itself automatically.

9Mind Control Of Inanimate Objects

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In “Spock’s Brain,” an episode from the original Star Trek series, a beautiful Eymorg extracted the brain from Mr. Spock’s body and used it to control things like air circulation in the underground complex where her people lived. Successfully removing someone’s brain to run a building may seem far-fetched, but controlling an inanimate object with your thoughts has become reality.

The goal of a project called “Brainflight,” which is funded by the European Union, is to control an airplane using only the signals from a human brain. The researchers want to make flying easier, cheaper from a training standpoint, and accessible to more people. They believe this will increase safety by reducing the burden on current pilots.

The initial test results have been amazingly accurate. While wearing a cap with electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes attached, a pilot’s brain waves are converted into commands for the aircraft. The pilot never touches the equipment or controls. Instead, they appear to move by themselves. But it’s not mind reading, just signal processing determined by an algorithm developed by the researchers. The position of the plane will repeatedly correct until it lands smoothly—all through mind control.

Seven people with various levels of experience participated in flight simulator tests. One participant had no real cockpit experience, but everyone was precise enough in their thought commands to pass the flying portion of a pilot’s license test. Many of the participants were even able to land smoothly under conditions of poor visibility.

8Weather Modification

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On Star Trek: The Next Generation and other sci-fi shows, the characters sometimes mentioned “scientific” techniques that would stop tornadoes or modify the weather in other ways. But they were just creations from a writer’s imagination. Even in our world, some people make up conspiracy theories about weather modification. Well, they’re about to get something real to talk about.

Researchers from the University of Central Florida and the University of Arizona are enhancing a way to shoot a high-energy laser beam into the clouds to produce rain or lightning on demand. Other researchers have been able to cause an electrical event in the clouds, although they couldn’t trigger a bolt of lightning.

The Florida and Arizona researchers faced at least a couple of problems. First, they had to make sure that this type of high-energy laser beam didn’t fizzle out before it reached the target. They also needed to aim the beam from a safe distance to avoid being struck by lightning. To solve these problems, they decided to use a secondary laser beam to surround and sustain the high-intensity primary beam. With the secondary laser acting as an energy reservoir, the primary laser beam could travel much farther than before. It’s like using a laser extension cord to reach the clouds.

With their method, they’ve extended the reach of the laser from 25 centimeters (10 in) to at least two meters (7 ft). But they believe it’s possible to go 50 meters (165 ft) or more. This would allow us to control rain and lightning over a vast area.

7Tractor Beams

Tractor beams that use energy to pull objects toward you or your ship are commonly used in science fiction, especially in Star Wars and Star Trek. But for a long time, it seemed contrary to the laws of physics in the real world. Recently, though, scientists at Australian National University developed a tractor beam on water. According to the leader of the team, Dr. Horst Punzmann, they “figured out a way of creating waves that can force a floating object to move against the direction of the wave.” In other words, this wave-generated tractor beam draws the item to it.

Using a wave tank, the scientists figured out how to move a ping pong ball in the direction they wanted by manipulating the frequency and size of the waves generated. They discovered that these three-dimensional waves cause currents on the water’s surface in different patterns. One of those patterns is a tractor beam that should be useful in containing oil spills or maneuvering objects adrift in the water.

Physicists at the University of Dundee have also developed an acoustic tractor beam that’s able to move an object of 1 centimeter (0.4 in) in size. Until now, only microscopic objects have been moved with this type of beam. The scientists were able to use ultrasound energy to exert force behind the object and move it toward the ultrasound device. They believe that this technology will significantly advance the use of ultrasound in healthcare.

6Tricorders

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Another Star Trek device is the tricorder, a handheld scanner that was often used by Dr. McCoy to scan patients when making a medical diagnosis. Other characters used tricorders to scan for life forms or to analyze planet surfaces. In our world, the technology now exists to make certain types of tricorders a distinct possibility in the near future.

At the University of Southampton, scientists are developing a handheld medical scanner that uses electronic components as chemical sensors. That would allow for same-day diagnosis of protein samples from a patient’s bedside. These scanners reduce the cost and time needed to get a patient their treatment by eliminating the need to send samples to a lab.

Other scientists at the University of Missouri are developing another type of tricorder that uses a radiation source as small as a stick of gum. Their tricorder would be a handheld X-ray scanner that could be used for medical X-rays, for fighting terrorism, or even for interplanetary exploration.

The scanner itself would be the size of a cell phone. In addition to reducing medical expenses, this tricorder could bring much needed X-ray diagnostic services to patients in poor, remote areas. It could also be used for dental X-rays that reduce the patient’s exposure to radiation.

To fight terrorism, this tricorder could search cargo for weapons and other illegal items at points of entry into a country. Plus, these scanners could be designed with sensors to help in exploring planets, either our own or others if used on interplanetary probes.

5Biometric Payments With Vein Scanning

It’s commonplace in science fiction to use retina scans or other biometric methods to access top-secret information, like with Project Genesis on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Now Fredrik Leifland, an engineering student at Sweden’s Lund University, has taken that concept and applied it to biometric payments that access secure bank accounts. As of April 2014, there were 15 restaurants and stores in Sweden that used Leifland’s vein-scanning technology to take payments from a customer’s bank account. At that time, about 1,600 customers were actively using the system as an alternative to paying with cash or credit cards.

This vein-scanning payment method is supposed to be easy, quick, and secure. As Leifland said in a Lund University article, “Every individual’s vein pattern is completely unique, so there really is no way of committing fraud with this system. You always need your hand scanned for a payment to go through.”

Signing up for hand payments appears to be fairly easy. You go to a store with a vein-scanning terminal. Then you enter some personally identifying information and scan your hand three times. You get a text message with an activation link. Finally, you complete a registration form with all the necessary banking information and you’re good to go.

4Robonauts With Space Legs

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Human-like robots have been a mainstay in science fiction films, TV, books, and comic books. They run the gamut from Astro Boy to C-3PO and beyond. In the real world, we have Robonaut, a robot designed by General Motors and NASA which we told you about before.

But the human-like Robonaut 2 (R2) is now taking the next step. The R2 robot aboard the International Space Station (ISS) originally had just a head and torso with two arms and hands. That meant astronauts had to take work to the robot.

But that’s changing—now, R2 has climbing legs to take over more duties from the astronauts. This is the first robonaut in space that’s mobile. R2 will start by working inside the space station with the eventual goal of being able to work outside the station. NASA wants to send increasingly sophisticated robonauts wherever humans go in space. Whether astronauts intend to go to a moon or a planet, robonauts will be useful. They may go ahead of humans to get things ready, go with humans to help with the tasks of everyday living and exploration, or stay without humans to maintain things in space.

3Deflector Shields

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University of Leicester students wrote an interesting paper on the feasibility of creating Star Wars–type deflector shields to protect a spaceship from enemy laser fire in today’s world. According to these students, you’d need to use a strong magnetic field to contain a dense, super-hot plasma field around your ship. To deflect higher frequencies of laser radiation, you’d need denser plasma in your shield.

This might seem implausible, but we already use a similar technique with radio communications and radar. You see, the ionosphere that surrounds our planet is a plasma field. It reflects radio transmissions and radar back to Earth just as a shield around a spaceship would deflect laser fire.

Although the required magnet strength for a deflector is possible today, there are at least a couple of problems that need to be overcome to shield a spaceship. First, the size of the necessary power source would be so big that there wouldn’t be much room left in your spaceship. Our science hasn’t yet developed a power source that’s feasible in size. The second problem is that pilots would be effectively blinded by the shield. Any shield that deflects light radiation also prevents light from getting to the pilot. So unless the Force is guiding you, you’d need another light source that’s beyond the frequency of light radiation. An ultraviolet camera would be one possibility.

Even though we’re not ready to engage the Imperial Fleet yet, there are other applications for this type of technology that we could use here on Earth. For example, instead of deflecting the radiation, the Leicester students suggest trapping it for use with a fusion reactor.

2Cloaking Devices

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In fiction, cloaking devices appear in many forms, from the Romulan cloaking device in Star Trek that could hide a spaceship, to Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, to the perfectly camouflaged Predator that blends in with its jungle environment.

We’re not able to hide a spaceship yet, but real cloaking technologies are being developed in today’s world for light, sound, touch, and heat. Many of these technologies are expected to use artificial metamaterials, which refract light in such a way that an object is rendered invisible. Since we last talked about metamaterials, scientists have developed a way to use unfocused laser light like needles to help produce metamaterials at the nanoscale. Metamaterials are also being developed to cloak sound and touch.

There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome before metamaterials become part of our everyday reality. One problem is cost. Another is scalability. But scientists are making progress in that area by working on a technique called nanotransfer printing that will make larger swaths of metamaterial.

There’s one type of cloak that is a reality today. According to engineers at the National University of Singapore, a Predator-like device is possible right now to some extent. These engineers have created a device that can simultaneously provide the illusion of camouflage and render someone “invisible” by blocking their thermal signature. That means that the person can’t be tracked by their body’s heat signature.

This method of cloaking soldiers is cost-effective because it uses natural, self-warming materials instead of more complicated metamaterials. The thermal cloak is ready to go for military applications and can be easily scaled, if necessary. Researchers are also working on a camouflage device that will see color and match it so that an object can blend in with its surroundings like an octopus does.

1Rosie The Robot Maid

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Even cartoons can inspire technology. Rosie the Robot was a maid that the space-age Jetsons hired to do their housework. In the early 1960s, when the cartoon aired, that seemed like a futuristic fantasy. But today we’re a big step closer to the reality of anyone being able to buy or rent an inexpensive robot to sweep up or even detect a gas leak. You’d simply contact a robotic helper facility, tell them what you need, and in about an hour they’d provide a basic robot to complete your task.

That’s the vision of scientists who’ve devised robots that can assemble themselves and walk or crawl away to do their jobs without human intervention. These engineers built a self-assembling robot that can put itself together in four minutes using little more than paper and a children’s toy called Shrinky Dinks, which are sheets of flexible plastic that shrink when heated into small, hard plates. This method is patterned after the way amino acids self-assemble into proteins with different functions. These robots could be used on Earth and in space, although they’re not quite ready for prime time. The scientists want to experiment with materials that are stronger and need less heat to work.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2014/09/19/10-cool-sci-fi-technologies-invading-our-reality/

Despite the fact that we don’t all live in a nation where guns are freely available to all and sundry, most of us will have heard of the designers or the guns themselves on this list. Here is a quick trip through the history of arms manufacturing.

Richard Jordan Gatling

The designer of the first successful machine gun, although not the first automatic machine gun. It was, in effect, a gigantic revolver of six barrels operated by a hand crank. A bin of several hundred loose rounds (not belt-fed) was set on top and gravity fed the ammunition into the breech, enabling someone who knew nothing of firearms to lay a sheet of lead into an advancing army, at about 200 rounds a minute. To the Civil War soldiers accustomed to muzzle-loading single rounds at a time, this might well have been like seeing something out of Star Wars.

It had its drawbacks, though, primarily that so much black powder churned up into a huge cloud around the weapon, and all the enemy artillery and snipers honed it on it.

Johngarand

The designer of the M1 Garand, which the U. S. military used to great effect in WWII, Korea and even Vietnam. General George Patton famously called it, “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” It was the first successful semi-automatic rifle to be issued to the military of any country. It fired the 30-06 Springfield round, an extremely powerful piece of hardware, which had been the standard since 1906, when it was patented for the bolt-action Springfield.

Soldiers entering combat were confident of themselves, because they had 8 rounds of serious firepower that they could fire as fast as they could pull the trigger. No movement was required to operate the action of the weapon, and the weapon weighed around 10 pounds: light enough to carry easily, yet heavy enough to manage recoil.

David Marshall Williams

“Carbine” Williams went to prison in 1921 for selling moonshine, when the raid on his still resulted in an officer’s death. Williams swore that he was not guilty, and his trial resulted in a hung jury. However, he then confessed to 2nd degree murder, having fired at a sound without knowing if it was a man or an animal.

He was sentenced to 20 to 30 years, but was pardoned after 8 years because, in the prison machine shop, he invented two brilliant principles for the military’s firearms. Most importantly, he invented the short-stroke piston for use in gas-operated small arms. His patented design has not been improved on since 1940, when he perfected it, and it was first used in the M1 Carbine. The U. S. military had been searching for a lighter alternative of the M1 Garand, but still with long-range capability and stopping power.

Williams’s short-stroke gas piston was the key. He also invented the floating chamber, which greatly reduces recoil, and enabled the military to train its machine gunners with less expensive .22LR ammunition.

Mauser

Today, the Mauser bolt action is the most widespread of all bolt-action firearms. It was adopted by the U. S. military for use in the Springfield 1903, which became standard issue until the M1 Garand. There are 3 major bolt actions, the Mauser, the Lee-Enfield, and the Mosin-Nagant. The Mauser has one significant advantage on the other two: a third locking lug at the rear of the bolt. The other two have only the two locking side lugs, and thus, cannot cope with the higher breech pressures of magnum rounds. They are, therefore, inadequate for hunting rounds intended to kill large, dangerous game.

The Mauser’s third lug gives it the strength to fire a round in any caliber currently produced, even the .700 Nitro Express, which is a rifle round almost as large as a 12 gauge slug, but extraordinarily powerful and designed to flip a charging bull elephant backward. Either of the other two actions would explode in the wielder’s face if such a powerful round were used.

The Mauser action is the most common bolt action in the world, present in nearly all hunting and military bolt-action rifles, and has not changed at all since the Mauser brothers perfected it in 1871.

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The designer of the first truly automatic machine gun, in 1884. The Maxim gun was the primary armament of all major armies in WWI, and probably caused more battlefield deaths than any other firearm in history. The German and Russian versions were almost exact replicas, with only cosmetic changes. It fired 600 rounds a minute, using the recoil of each round to open the breech and chamber the next. This rate of fire was beyond belief to anyone in the world at the time. It was, therefore, the first truly modern weapon of warfare, able to lay waste to entire land armies. This necessitated the abandonment of the line-abreast approach armies had employed since antiquity. Classical formation battles were now a thing of the past.

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Thompson saw in the trench warfare of WWI that infantry needed a “trench broom,” a weapon that could sweep away all the enemy in front of the soldier, in the same way as the pump shotgun, but with even more firepower. He used John Blish’s delayed blowback breech lock, which enabled the different metals of the weapon’s moving parts to slide together under the intense pressure of the round’s discharge without sticking strongly together.

In 1919, Thompson came up with the Thompson submachine gun, chambered in the man-stopping .45 ACP round. Thompson’s idea for a “trench broom” was now real, even if trench warfare had been made obsolete. The Thompson could fire at 600 to 1200 rounds a minute, with sufficient power to stop a 1942 Ford Super Deluxe automobile.

Colt Dragoon.140130844

Designer of the first successful breechloading rifle. The 1819 Hall rifle was the first breechloader, but was still a flintlock or percussion cap weapon. Sharps used the brand new self-contained cartridge in his design, which was single shot, employing the sturdy falling block action, and extremely accurate. With only iron sights, experienced marksmen could hit game animals or enemy soldiers at 1,000 yards.

The cavalries of both sides of the American Civil War used it to great effect, and Sharps continued to improve on it. The 1874 version is the most well known, chambered in the powerful 45-70 hunting cartridge.

Henry-Rifle-1

Designer of the first breechloading, lever-action, magazine-fed rifle. The Henry rifle fired about 28 rounds a minute, with a 16 round tubular magazine, in the solid .44 rimfire. He patented it in 1860, and 900 were issued to the Union army in 1862. The Confederates couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and lamented about “that damn Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week!”

Because it used a self-contained cartridge, it was no use for the Confederates to steal them, because they had no ammunition for it. It was the precursor to all lever-action rifles today, having been improved on very little.

Samcolt

He did not invent the revolver. But as a boy he saw that almost all firearms were single-shot muzzleloaders, and thus, when a man had fired, he was a sitting duck for the next 20 seconds, provided that he could reload that quickly. So he set about inventing “the impossible gun,” something that could fire repeatedly 5 or 6 times like Elisha Collier’s revolving flintlock, but would still be more reliable and faster to reload.

The result was the 1836 percussion cap revolver, which saw widespread use in the American Civil War. It was the first successful repeating firearm.

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Browning patented 128 designs for firearms and associated apparatuses. He invented the gas-operated machine gun, an improvement over Maxim’s recoil operation. All machine guns since 1895 have used Browning’s gas operation.

He invented the 1911 model of the Colt .45 handgun, which is recoil-operated, and was standard issue for the U. S. military from 1911 until 1985. It is still used by many personnel today, and is one of the most popular handguns in the world. His design has not changed at all functionally.

He invented the lever action shotgun, based on Henry’s rifle design with a few moderations. Then, 6 years later in 1893, he invented the pump action shotgun. The function of this action has not changed since. Then, 7 years later, he still managed to top himself with the semiautomatic shotgun, the first ever. It is recoil-operated, and remained in production, changing only cosmetically, for 98 years.

He invented the Browning Automatic Rifle, a fully automatic 30-06 and a street sweeper if there was one.

He invented the 1919 .30 machine gun, and then even topped this with the 1921 .50 BMG. He also invented several cartridges still popular today, the ACP rounds in .25, .32, .38, .380, .45; and the .50 BMG.

Read more: http://listverse.com/2010/05/23/top-10-greatest-firearms-designers/