Pirate FM News 4 minute read

VIDEO: Police Appeal For Hoverboard Witnesses

Cornwall News

Published at 9:00am 21st October 2015.

Devon and Cornwall Police have joined in the spirit of Back to the Future Day.

Thirty years ago, Marty McFly arrived today.

The hero of Back To The Future Part II left 1985 in a DeLorean, hit 88mph and found himself in 2015 - 21 October, to be precise.

"You mean we're in the future?" McFly asked Dr Emmett Brown.

Among the highlights of the film is the hoverboard that he "borrows" from a passing girl.

That has prompted Superintendent Ian Drummond Smith from St Austell to post this tongue in cheek tweet:

The 1989 film actually got a fair bit right - videoconferencing, robotic drones, using fingerprints to pay, electric cars (if not proper flying ones).

Other predictions didn't materialise.

A Segway is not a hoverboard.

But the film missed arguably the two biggest technological advances of the past 30 years, the internet and smartphones.

That's because predicting the future is tricky.

In honour of McFly's arrival, though, we're taking a look at two technologies being invented now that could change the world of tomorrow.

The first is quantum computers.

Jeremy O'Brien, director for the centre of quantum photonics at the University of Bristol, said: "A quantum computer is an information processing device that harnesses quantum mechanics for its very operation.

"By harnessing quantum mechanics it is extraordinarily powerful."

Two quantum principles are crucial.

Superposition, which states that a single particle can be in two places simultaneously.

And entanglement, which states that two particles can affect each other from a distance, even on opposite sides of the universe.

Normal computers work in binary: on or off, 0 or 1.

Quantum computers, though, could use both states, on and off, 0 and 1, at the same time.

That means they could in theory do many more calculations.

Prof O'Brien says the applications could be "transformative".

This huge computational power could help us comb billions of combinations of molecules to come up with new, effective drugs, for example.

"There's almost no area of our lives and society that won't be touched by quantum technologies."

And we might not use a computer and mouse to control quantum computers. 

At the University of Warwick, Christopher James, professor of biomedical engineering, is researching brain-computer interfaces.

He's already developed ways of controlling wheelchairs and cars with electrical impulses from the brain alone.

"With brain computer interfacing, what we're trying to do is get you to communicate with the outside world through just brain activity."

Prof James says the technology is already useful for those who for medical reasons have lost the ability to communicate - for example, he has been working with locked-in syndrome patients.

"It could well be that in the future this is a sixth sense almost, which allows you to communicate in a way that you don't with any of your existing channels."

He says it might only be a decade before information can be taken directly from brain activity.

After that, we might stick computers inside our brain.

"I personally think that we're heading down towards the future of implants," Prof Jones said.

"It's going to become more and more acceptable to have them for health reasons, but I think we'll start going it into the reason of 'why not have your phone attached to you physically?'"

According to Doc Brown in Back To The Future Part III, the "future is not yet written".

So 2045 might end up looking even weirder than 2015.

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