This is my second list of inventions that present technology cannot yet supply, but which might be developed, given sufficient creativity and determination. To some extent this list, like my first one, is something of a wish list. They are all inventions that would benefit a significant portion of humankind, some more so than others. I take the view that our future technology does not emerge, for the most part, from chance discoveries, but because we are striving towards it. We start with problems or shortcomings, and we set our creativity and our resourcefulness working to provide solutions. We often succeed. Here’s my second list:
6. A really quiet, low-emission aircraft engine. Jet engines are more efficient every year, and much quieter than formerly. We need a jump to a new type of engine that does what we want. It must use less fuel (or less fossil fuel, at least), yet generate more power more quietly. Designers in Cambridge are working on lifting-body shapes with top mounted engines, but we perhaps need something more radical yet, something to replace the jet engine just as the jet engine replaced the propeller.
7. A wearable device which can cool the body and dehumidify the air in close proximity to it. This has to be portable, perhaps worn on the belt or in the pocket, or incorporated within clothing. It could be a small air conditioner circulating cool air around the body, or a perhaps something using the cooling effect of passing current through joined metals.
8. A sonic interrupter. This will not be a noise-cancelling headset. What is needed is something that will give a bubble of silence around the user. It might detect incoming sound waves and flatten them or degrade them sufficiently. Armed with one of these people will be able to create their own zones of silence in public places such as trains and restaurants.
9. Something to pulverise fish bones into fine powder without damaging the soft fish. A lithotripter uses ultrasonics to do this to kidney stones, but we could use something similar to do this to fish bones in supermarkets, restaurants, and even homes. It would end the unpleasantness of people finding bones in their mouth, and the deaths caused by choking on them. Instead the bone powder will add nourishment to the meal.
10. A device that chills as rapidly as a microwave heats. We need something of similar size that can, within seconds, chill a bottle of wine or soft drink, or rapidly cool cooked dishes such as fruit compôte that are best eaten cold.