After yesterday’s post about Sci-Fi Brain Hacks, I thought it was only fair to showcase some equally interesting hacks that increase the performance of your body (especially since some of you went out of your way to say how much you enjoyed yesterday’s post when you were filling out your reader surveys.)
We’ve all seen sci-fi flicks where people hack their brains, but what about stories where people hack their bodies? Here is a roundup of some of the craziest fictional technologies for body enhancement that may be more plausible than you think.
1. Super Soldier Serum
As seen in: Captain America (comic book and film)
In the Captain America comics (and in the upcoming film), Steve Rogers tries to enlist in the army during World War II so he can fight the Nazis. However, he is a scrawny weakling, and so they turn him down. After multiple attempts to enlist, Rogers is admitted to a secret army program where he is given a serum injection that bulks him up and makes him the perfect soldier: Captain America.
So what are the odds of something like this serum being developed and administered to soldiers in real life?
Well, DARPA started a $3 billion super soldier project in 2008. The project’s goal was to create a “Metabolically Dominant Soldier,” and specific projects include “drugs and genetic enhancements… for regeneration, faster healing, muscle strength enhancement up to current Olympic levels, cognitive enhancement…[and] fixing your cells so that you could live off your fat.”
In addition, Professor Peter Wayand of Southern Methodist University is researching gene therapy techniques for enhancing human muscle fibers. It has been reported that his research aims to get humans running at speeds of 45 miles per hour and rocking a 5 second times for the 100 meter dash.
As seen in: Iron Man (comic books and films)
Playboy billionaire Tony Stark creates the first exo-suit, capable of taking his body above and beyond its normal capacity. It makes him a super-soldier, but unlike Captain America, this body hack is done with metal, not medicine. Fans of the most recent Iron Man flick probably remember the scene where Stark testifies before the Senate that every other country in the world is 20 years away from mastering his technology. But how far away are we from a real life Iron Man suit?
Tsukuba University’s HAL exo-suit is entering hospital trials next year. This full-body exo-suit can help the wearer lift heavy loads, and has both military applications and potential for aiding the disabled or senior citizens. And Berkeley Bionic’s HULC exo-suit can be used to carry a load of up to 200 pounds at a top speed of 10 miles per hour.
3. Second Skin Body Suits
As seen in: Tons of superhero comics and sci-fi flicks
From superheroes to space babes, there are tons of examples of performance-enhancing body suits that hug the body, rather than encase it like a bulk exo-suit. Some of these suits have been compared to the suits used by characters in The Incredibles, and offer features like protecting skin from trauma and boosting speed.
These types of suits are already in development, and you’ve probably seen them in use at the Olympics. Spyder has developed “d3o, an engineered material with ‘intelligent’ molecules, reduces padding volume by 40 percent and has the ability to flow with a skier moving down the course or lock together and stiffen should the skier fall (to absorb the impact).”
4. Organ Replacement
As seen in: Repo Men (film)
One of the most enduring sci-fi tropes is extending your life with replacement organs, either grown from stem cells or created from artificial materials, like the organs in the film Repo Men.
In real life, experimental work is being done with growing new organs from stem cells over a “skeleton” of biological material that allows the organs to grow into the correct shape.
As seen in: Wait, you really have to ask?
Bionics were at the center of two of the most iconic sci-fi TV shows of all time: The Six-Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. And while these two old shows seem pretty dated today, they may have been spot on when it comes to predicting the use of bionics.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the bionic eyes of Steve Austin or Geordi LaForge are more plausible than you might think.
Second Sight Medical Products Inc. has developed “a pair of glasses to send images to a receiver implanted on the retina. From there, the image is transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. The device is targeted to patients who have lost most of their vision as a result of retinal degeneration and whose nerve connections are still intact.”
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