8 sci-fi ideas that might become science fact pretty soon (pictures)

We're still not holding our breath for ubiquitous hoverboards or flying cars, but we could soon see a breathing woolly mammoth. Plus, seven other crazy things that sound impossible today.


Eric Mack

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1 of 8 Smithsonian Channel screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

Woolly mammoths' big comeback

Scientists have managed to sequence a nearly complete woolly mammoth genome, and plans are in place to bring back a cloned version of the ancient animal in the coming years, not for purposes of putting it on display, "Jurassic World" style, but as part of a broader plan to combat climate change.

Resurrecting long-extinct species is just one of several seemingly impossible ideas that are on the verge of becoming real in the next few decades.

Click the rest of the way through the gallery for more details on the future.

2 of 8 HTT/JumpStartFund

Supersonic commuting

Just as ultra-fast MagLev trains are beginning to reach their potential in Asia, far-out transportation concepts like Elon Musk's Hyperloop are beginning to be constructed here in the US (just test tracks for now, but a handful of startups are looking to make the supersonic train-in-a-tube a reality).

Making sure that safety, funding and government approvals are all in place could wind up being the biggest hurdles to super -speedy commuting in the coming decades, as it's becoming clear that the technology is on the verge of pulling into the station.

3 of 8 Hitachi

Internet everywhere... literally

Imagine everything, everywhere is online...even the air.

RFID chips are shown here in a slide near a thick black line. That line is a human hair under magnification. These chips are technology from 2006.

By 2026, "smart dust" chips like this could float around in the wind, constantly measuring the weather and other atmospheric conditions. We might even breathe them in and use them as biometric sensors some day.

4 of 8 Harvard Center for Astrophysics

Finding "another Earth"

Space telescopes constructed decades ago have given us revolutionary new insights into just how common other planets -- including many like our own -- are in the universe. A new generation of telescopes coming online soon will finally give us the tools to track down evidence of life beyond Earth...if it's out there.

Some of the astrobiologists leading the search aren't shy about saying that in the coming decades they hope to be able to point to a star in the sky and declare to their children that the distant sun is orbited by "another Earth."

5 of 8 Warner Bros. Pictures

Artificial friends no longer a bad thing

Artificial intelligence may either save us or destroy us, depending on whom you ask. But perhaps more likely in the near term is the vision shared by some at Google and in the Spike Jonze movie "Her" -- AI will just hang out with us.

AI development is already underway that will have enough common sense and linguistic ability to be our friend, or perhaps even something more, despite what skeptics like me might think.

6 of 8 Google

In the future, car drives you

Slowly but surely, self-driving cars are becoming less weird. Laws are being passed to accommodate them as more companies begin to test their own designs. But will they ever be more than just a novelty a la the Segway?

Elon Musk and others certainly think so. Musk's Tesla cars are already capable of an autopilot feature that's a clear step toward vehicle autonomy, and he sees a world dominated by self-driving cars just 20 years or so into the future.

7 of 8 James Martin/CNET

Living (much) longer

Google co-founder Larry Page is among the many in Silicon Valley and beyond who believe that fighting aging is really a matter of engineering.

Google-backed Calico Labs has set out to "cure" aging, and Google Engineering Director Ray Kurzweil famously believes that we could all become immortal, at least digitally, within a few decades.

This may sound like Silicon Valley hype, but there have also recently been promising scientific studies detailing how gene manipulation can "turn off" or even reverse aging.

8 of 8 Deep Space Industries

Space mining

Maybe it's our inability to see beyond the current paradigm we live in or grew up with, but many sci-fi epics like "Dune" and "Star Wars" are actually about trade and natural resource extraction rather than something more high-minded and futuristic. Or maybe they're dead on, because space mining is just around the corner.

Whether it's efforts to drill the bottom of the moon, or to tap asteroids for their precious metals and -- believe it or not -- their water, space mining companies exist today, they have money and are beginning to launch early testing craft.

Asteroid roughneckers could soon be the new Beverly Hillbillies.

What other sci-fi visions are you betting could soon become science fact? Let us know with a tweet @crave.

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