Science! Science Fiction That Stopped Being Fiction In 2012

Have you guys seen this list of 27 things that made the transition from science fiction to reality in 2012? I mean, they aren’t part of everyday reality just yet. But that’s okay. Some of these were big news for everyone (James Cameron’s adventure to the ocean depths, the discovery of the Higgs boson), but I had not heard about a few of these.

The short version of the list? Mentally controlling a robotic arm, robots crossing an obstacle course, silk that is stronger than steel, DNA photographed, invisibility cloaks, spray-on skin, reaching the depths of the ocean, stem cells may extend human life significantly (it worked on mice), 3D printer prints a house, legalized self-driving cars (in a few states; they’re just thinking ahead, really), Voyager I leaves the solar system, a human mandible was printed and given to a patient (as in, it’s part of his body and it works, now), rogue planet found floating through space, monkeys created from more than one embryo, artificial leaves that generate electricity, the Higgs boson discovered, inexpensive solar panels, diamond planet, optical implant to restore sight, Wales recorded the DNA of every flowering plant in Wales, an unmanned commercial flight docked with the International Space-Station, flexible glass, robotic exoskeletons (for NASA), human brain’s practical functions are observed, a planet with four suns, and Microsoft patented real-world virtual reality for games.

So, that’s just the list. You should really read the actual list and look at the pictures (and videos) and read the descriptions. So worth it.

But, for me, there were some definitely highlights. Um, stem cells dramatically extending human life. Obviously, “dramatically extending” is not the same thing as immortality. But, if this treatment is available and affordable within, say, three decades, then that gives me a very good chance of living long enough to, well, never die. This treatment does not confer immortality, but we all know that it’s …4

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Former Astronaut Lisa Nowak Recommended for “Less Than Honorable Discharge” from U.S. Navy

Ah, the complications that arise when romantic commitments go awry. Perhaps most tragic is when it’s all played out in public and the personal pain of all parties concerned becomes fodder for the media.

Such is the case with Lisa Nowak, who was an astronaut for NASA until gaining infamy for being the explosive tip of a love triangle.  Nowak, who was a mission specialist in robotics on the space shuttle Discovery in 2006, went from being a woman worthy of emulation for the strides she made in a male-dominated field (she was a Naval Flight Officer and achieved the rank of Captain) to just another person driven to despair by romantic entanglements.

Nowak is back in the news of late as a Navy panel has recommended downgrading her rank to Commander and refusing to give her an honorable discharge.

From Fox News:

A Navy panel says the service should discharge former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who lost her NASA job over a bizarre airport attack on a romantic rival.

The panel made the recommendation Thursday after a daylong hearing at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville.

The recommendation now goes to the Naval Personnel Command. A final decision will be made by the Secretary of the Navy.

The panel recommended downgrading Nowak from captain to commander and giving her a discharge of “other than honorable.”

So what exactly did Nowak do?  It was pretty sensationalized back in the winter of 2007, but basically she went to the Orlando International Airport armed with paraphernalia ranging from pepper spray to a black wig to a BB gun with the alleged purpose of kidnapping Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, the girlfriend of Nowak’s kinda sorta secret boyfriend William Oefelein, who was also an astronaut.

Despite being pepper sprayed by Nowak while sitting in her car, Shipman managed to reach the parking lot booth and get help.

Nowak was arrested at the airport and charged with attempted kidnapping, battery, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, and destruction of evidence (an officer saw Nowak trying to put some stuff into a trash container).

Obviously—and with good reason—Nowak was fired from her NASA assignment.  She pled guilty to felony burglary charges and misdemeanor battery through the court system and was sentenced to a year of probation, although her fate with the military—including possible charges in that venue—have been looming over her.

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