Doctor Who sonic screwdriver and Star Trek tricorder are real

Scientists have developed working models similar to Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver and the tricorder seen in Star Trek.

Scientists have boldly gone where no-one has gone before this week -- while shouting "Geronimo!" Probably. Separate teams have developed working gadgets similar to Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver and the tricorder seen in Star Trek.

Backroom boffins at the University of Dundee have developed an ultrasound array that can lift a 10cm rubber disk and spin it around without touching it, a bit like the Doctor's famous sonic screwdriver.

Or to be more precise, they used a 1,000-element ultrasound transducer array to create an ultrasound vortex beam shaped of intertwined helixes to exert torque on the 90g disk.

And open any door, we're guessing. Unless it's wood.

The ultrasound technology is being researched for use in surgery and drug delivery that would remove the need to cut a patient open. Whether it will also reverse the polarity of the neutron flow is unconfirmed.

The breakthrough is part of research by a group of universities working on a project known as Sonotweezers. Hmm -- sounds like Sontaran nose-hair-clippers are on the cards too.

And in Canada, scientist Dr Peter Jansen has developed a working tricorder-like device. He's been building prototypes since 2007, and has now come up with a Mk 4 model that can measure atmospheric conditions, magnetic fields, motion and distance.

Jansen has posted all the open-source details of how to build the tricorder -- for just £125 -- at Logical, captain.

The first person to come up with a proper working medical tricorder could earn themselves a hefty chunk of gold-pressed latinum. Qualcomm -- the firm that makes the chips in Nokia Lumia phones, among others -- is offering more than £6m in its Tricorder X-Prize Contest.

Meanwhile, Britain and America's leading sci-fi franchises go head-to-head for the first time next month in Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation2 from IDW comics. The eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory join Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D to battle the Borg and Cybermen.

Which would you rather have in your pocket: a sonic screwdriver or a tricorder? Which is cooler: bow-ties or spandex jumpsuits? Beam up in the comments or set course for our Facebook page at maximum warp. Engage! And, er, allons-y!

Image credit: IDW Comics

About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.


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