Stranger than fact

The European Space Agency is turning to the writers of science fiction for new ideas on how to "boldly go" to the far corners of the universe. Seems sensible enough. Arthur C Clarke foresaw the internet in the Sixties (that would have been a dot.com worth investing in). The Star Trek "warp drive" for travelling faster than the speed of light is conceivable if we mess about with ideas of curved space and time.

The European Space Agency is turning to the writers of science fiction for new ideas on how to "boldly go" to the far corners of the universe. Seems sensible enough. Arthur C Clarke foresaw the internet in the Sixties (that would have been a dot.com worth investing in). The Star Trek "warp drive" for travelling faster than the speed of light is conceivable if we mess about with ideas of curved space and time.

What, then, is today's clever idea that will become science fact in 2050? The worrying thing is that children's fiction is full of the improbable consequences of genetic manipulation, turning teenagers into various forms of wild life or combining the qualities of different animals in one creature. Yet even this is beginning to seem less improbable. Last week it was reported that scientists had isolated a gene which allowed mice to eat twice as much without getting fatter. Next week, they will have found a way to transfer the gene to humans. Then Weightwatchers will close down, all that shelf space in newsagents can be cleared of slimming magazines and no one will drink "diet" drinks again. So science does offer hope of progress, after all.

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