Today is the Future from 'Back to the Future Part II.' Where Is My Hoverboard?
The day Marty McFly and Doc Brown visit 2015 is upon us! Unfortunately, things today aren't exactly as the film envisioned.
As you're no doubt aware, Marty McFly and Doc Brown visited October 21, 2015 in Back to the Future Part II, thus unfairly inflating perceptions of what today would look like for legions of 1989-era 9-year-olds.
Those 9-year-olds are now 35-year-olds and they're awfully bummed that science has yet to deliver the hoverboards and self-lacing shoes Robert Zemeckis promised. Of course, that doesn't mean smart folks haven't been trying their darndest to make it all happen. Below are some examples of Back to the Future technology/predictions and whether you're likely to see them come true by midnight tonight.
We were promised hoverboards
The skate-crazed kids of 1989 marveled at the idea of a board that defies gravity. Unfortunately the real-life technology behind the closest alternative isn't entirely scalable — or at least not yet. No, Mattel isn't the one pioneering hoverboard innovation; it's engineers and (of all people) carmakers that are leading the charge:
That's a video from last year of skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk riding what appears to be a very real hoverboard. (This is not to be confused with the Hawk hoax video from earlier in 2014). While it's not quite like the model used by McFly to avoid Griff in Hill Valley, it is a board and it is hovering. The magnet-driven levitation technology arrives via a company called Arx Pax, which explained that it designed the thing simply because it could.
Earlier this year engineers at Lexus introduced a similar prototype, code-named SLIDE, which also utilizes magnet-supercompressor technology to counteract gravity and push riders away from the ground. Here's what it looks like in action:
No, these aren't powerful enough to bust through a glass facade, but it's a start. As far as hoverboards are concerned, the technology is getting there, but we're going to have to settle for better late than never.
Tying shoes is so 20th century
Of course, riding a hoverboard would be pointless without a sweet pair of Nike self-lacing shoes.
In late 2014, multiple outlets reported that Nike was planning to release fully functional versions of the movie sneakers in time for the big day. Coverage of the big product announcement roared all year. Speculation was bountiful.
And then: nothing.
Nike has been stone silent of late on their big promise. Either they've successfully suppressed news that the real shoe goes on sale today (which would be shocking but also totally awesome), or the closets of Nike executives are packed to the brim with inflamed pants. Let's hope for the former; these folks can't all just be big fat liars. Let's call this one very unlikely, but we're willing to be surprised.
Grays Sports Almanac wouldn't lie, would it?
And of course: Remember to bet on the Cubbies. They play tonight against the New York Mets, facing a near-insurmountable 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven National League Championship Series. If the Cubs mount a comeback and make it to the World Series, it'll be the first time since 1945. If they win, it'll end a 107-year title drought.
Only one team has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven MLB playoff series: the 2004 Red Sox, led by baseball Jesus. The Mets could clinch a series sweep; we may in fact witness the Cubs' hopes crushed on the very day Back to the Future predicted they'd win it all.
If so, I blame Biff. That troublemaker probably messed with the timeline.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) October 21, 2015
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Musican. Actor. Fashion Icon. Internet Visionary?
- David Bowie was well known as a rock star, but somehow his other interests and accomplishments remain obscure.
- In this 1999 interview, he explains why he knows the internet is more than just a tool and why it was destined to change the world.
- He launched his own internet service provider in 1998, BowieNet. It ceased operations in 2006.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
Good science is sometimes trumped by the craving for a "big splash."
- Scientists strive to earn credit from their peers, for grants from federal agencies, and so a lot of the decisions that they make are strategic in nature. They're encouraged to publish exciting new findings that demonstrate some new phenomenon that we have never seen before.
- This professional pressure can affect their decision-making — to get acclaim they may actually make science worse. That is, a scientist might commit fraud if he thinks he can get away with it or a scientist might rush a result out of the door even though it hasn't been completely verified in order to beat the competition.
- On top of the acclaim of their peers, scientists — with the increasing popularity of science journalism — are starting to be rewarded for doing things that the public is interested in. The good side of this is that the research is more likely to have a public impact, rather than be esoteric. The bad side? To make a "big splash" a scientist may push a study or article that doesn't exemplify good science.
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