Those who have watched the hit series Dr. Who over the past few decades will likely be aware of the Doctor’s inseparable dependence on a science fiction gadget called a “sonic screwdriver.” And now thanks to the efforts of engineers in Bristol, the device may be the latest addition of the ever lengthening list of things that have gone from science fiction to next year’s wish list. The device is expected to have many applications in the fields of medicine and research.
“Could it unscrew things?” is the first question many people asked when they learned that a device was being created to use sound waves in order to manipulate objects. When the answer, “Yes,” came back from the engineers at Bristol a wave of delight ran through Dr. Who fans and science fiction aficionados alike who had always dreamed of owning a sonic screwdriver. But in reality, the new device will have more limitations than the sonic screwdriver of the series. It will not, for example, be able to create cell phones that can communicate through time or cut barbed wire. It will, however, be able to grab single cells and move them around by running an electric current between two tiny crystals on the end of the device that can cause a sonic impulse that grabs onto objects. The device will be very similar in several ways to the device on the hit television series that has been wowing audiences since 1968, but will be different in a few key ways. The question on so many minds of course, will it be able to pick locks? Yes it will.
So when will we be able to have one of these devices? Those involved directly with the project have said that it may be some time before we actually have a working model on the market, but they are expecting the developments in the meantime to be nothing short of breathtaking. When looking through the various possibilities a handheld sonic device could perform, engineers have come up with hammering nails without effort on the part of a person, removing bolts, pushing objects short distances, loosening screws, opening jars, applications in defense, releasing piercing and even deafening sounds, assisting in complex surgery, and perhaps most astoundingly holding objects in place as though hovering. So in a few years or so when these devices finally become cheap enough to put underneath the Christmas tree, the device will no doubt be a hot seller with the blue light attachment option no doubt included.
As this latest addition to the arsenal we will all be able to enjoy in the future is announced we can’t help but wonder if that other invention so often used in the same science fiction series will one day be developed – time travel. Of course no doubt time travel in itself would be very different from what we currently understand. But before you step into your own personal time machine, be sure to bring your sonic screwdriver with you. You never know when it might come in handy.