Story by KRISTEN COYNE
What scientific discoveries will change the world in the next 25 years?
The nearly 10,000 visitors to the February 2020 National High Magnetic Field Laboratory Open House in Tallahassee, Florida were invited to speculate on that question, record their answers on slips of paper and add them to a time vault that will be opened in the year 2045. Ironically, just a few short weeks after these science prognostications were made, the Coronavirus pandemic made big public events like Open House a thing of the past (for now, at least) in a way none of the visitors had predicted.
But before sealing the vault, it was impossible to resist stealing a peek at some of the prognostications penned by those science fans, who ranged in age from preschooler to near-centenarian. And we're sharing that sneak peek with you.
They touched on a wide range of topics from travel to energy, from health to technology.
We will teleport, commute in flying cars and, predicted one baby boomer, "… finally get the jet packs they promised us as kids." Leaving fossil fuels behind, we will generate energy via the sun, nuclear fusion and, according to a 12-year old girl, "… at least begin to experiment with drawing power from the ionosphere."
The common cold will go the way of the plague, MRI scans will be much faster and asthma therapy will be tailored to the patient's genetic subtype. The "wonder material" graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon, will be in all our gadgets and, even more thrilling, "there will be a way to locate lost keys instantly!" Robots of all types will abound. Our favorite: robot unicorns.
Some soothsayers interpreted "scientific discoveries" creatively: a future career as a vet, in the NFL or on Broadway. One 10-year-old girl predicted plaintively, "I will still be half the size of my brother."
"Life on Mars with Jet Packs," by Zander, age 5
While many predictions struck a hopeful note — scientists will stop global warming, solve the problem of radioactive waste, discover that Superman is, in fact, real — others were bleak. "Possibly the Earth will burn down and pollution will be everywhere and bombs and wars and bad stuff," summarized a 9-year-old. One young boy foresaw more of a mixed bag. On the downside, the world will melt and sea levels will rise by 25%; but on the upside, he will have a hologram watch.
Some predictions were poignant. People who had lost loved ones to cancer or other diseases imagined that scientists would finally find cures; one family, writing in Spanish, vowed they would still be united, "full of health, peace and love."
Others were laugh-out-loud funny. "Pigs will fly," one girl prophesied. Wrote one 13-year-old boy, "Cats will be more advanced than humans."
At least that seems funny now. But in 2045, when Fluffy programs the droid to kick you off her favorite chair, who'll be laughing then?
Life circa 2045
Here are some of the hundreds of predictions made by visitors to the MagLab’s 2020 Open House.