As the human race progresses, we more than ever can see a need to prepare for the future. The beginning of this millennium brought many advances in technology and science, as well as new problems to overcome. Thankfully, some rather forward-thinking scientists have been planning for various eventualities, ranging from war to extinction, and even population expansion.
Most science projects are geared towards helping mankind, but these projects are particularly long-term, and their immense forethought and vision are targeted towards helping future generations.
10. Solar Influences Data Centre (SIDC)
Humanity’s interest in space has long been part of philosophical thought since the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras. Since the invention of the telescope, astronomers such as Galileo have been making illustrations of the sky; Galileo in particular recorded sun spots. In 1848, Swiss astronomer Rudolph Wolf began making systematic observations of the Sun – in the hope that we can further understand our star.
As knowledge of the Sun’s influence on our planet increased, several scientists saw the merit of compiling all the information on solar activity, and so the SIDC was born, even utilizing some of Galileo’s 400-year-old data.
The SIDC collects new observations every month to increase the understanding on the Sun, and predict solar events which can affect the Earth’s atmosphere and satellites in orbit around it. The work at the SIDC aims to help us plan ahead for solar events, such as flares and coronal mass ejections. What makes it truly innovative is how it sources data, utilizing a network of hundreds of amateur astronomers.
There is no denying that CERN is the one of the best examples of long-term, forward-thinking science. Founded in 1954, CERN aims to better the understanding of the atom. Now it also deals with particle physics, and is trying to understand the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them. In 2012, they discovered a Boson particle consistent with the theoretical Higgs-Boson, which is integral to our current understanding of particle physics.
Unlike many of the entries on this list, CERN is purely a research-based project. It does have many practical applications, though those are not part of its immediate agenda. Regardless, CERN is furthering our understanding of some of the key components of the universe, and will no doubt help to better the lives of millions in the future.
8. The Crypt Of Civilization
One of the oldest projects on this list, the crypt was conceptualized in 1936 by a chap named Thornwell Jacobs. He took his inspiration from the Pyramids, and the sheer lack of culture that had been preserved since the Egyptian era. In granite bedrock below Oglethorpe University in Georgia America, Jacobs constructed an airtight vault, with the purpose of accurately recording aspects of contemporary culture for future generations.
Inside the vault was a varied selection of many different artifacts, ranging from a dry martini complete with olive, to 800 works of classical literature transcribed onto micro film. Even a copy of Gone With The Wind was included – all stored in inert gas cases to aid preservation. Jacobs included various manual apparatus to help read and watch the media stored, in the event that electricity was no longer used in the future. The vault is set to be opened in the year 8113 as, at the time, Jacobs believed that 6117 years had passed since the Egyptian calendar began, and so he set the opening of the crypt to be 6117 years from the crypt’s closing.
The Guinness Book Of World Records cites that this is “the first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants of visitors to planet Earth” which makes this project probably the most “far-reaching” in terms of scope.
7. Millennium Seed Bank Project
The destruction of the Earths rainforests and natural habitats is one of science’s greatest concerns, as the loss of biodiversity could have a huge effect on the world. The Millennium Seed Bank is an ongoing project linked to London’s Kew gardens. This endeavor began in the year 2000, with an aim to “provide an insurance policy” to prevent the extinction of plants in the wild by storing seeds from all over the world. Its initial target was to bank 10% of all plant species’ seeds, and its continuing aims are to bank seeds from every example of flora in the United Kingdom. There are similar projects to this all over the world, like the installation at Svalbard – all designed to preserve seeds for future use, in the event of a disaster.
6. Frozen Ark Project
The destruction of natural flora and habitats goes hand-in-hand with the destruction of animal life. Started in 1996, the Frozen Ark Project was designed to store the DNA of many, if not all, endangered species. Currently, it contains 48000 samples, from both endangered and non-endangered species. Similarly to the Seed Bank, the mission of the Frozen Ark is to act as a failsafe to guard against the destruction of entire species, with the hope that extinct animals can one day be cloned and reintroduced.
Unlike the Seed Bank however, its other aim is to help maintain healthy variations in existing gene pools. The project is still on-going and taking in various DNA samples from zoos and veterinary practices the world over, and aims to preserve as many samples as physically possible.
5. Arcosanti Project
Arcology is a concept developed by Paolo Soleri, that involves changing the way in which we construct and live in cities. The name itself is a portmanteau of architecture and ecology, the two major parts of Soleri’s idea. Paolo believes that, by combining both architecture and ecology in compact, three-dimensional structures, we can help reduce pollution by eliminating the need for public transport and better utilizing the space around us. These structures would contain all the amenities required to live (shops, workplaces, homes, power plants and utilities,) and are often portrayed as self-sufficient with regards to food production, economy and energy. Essentially, you would never need to leave the structure.
Arcosanti is an on-going experimental town designed by Paolo himself, to demonstrate the key ideas of Arcology: “how urban conditions can be improved whilst minimizing the destructive impact on the Earth.” With an ever-increasing global population, as well as an increasing need to protect our planet, this particular project seems on the forefront of forward planning and thinking.
4. BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neuro-technologies)
BRAIN, with a budget of over $100 million, will focus on, well, mapping the human brain! The project has a view towards helping sufferers of various conditions such as Alzheimers, dementia, autism, and post-traumatic stress. All of these conditions are hugely debilitating and currently treatable, but most are not curable and treatments could be vastly improved. By mapping the brain, we can better understand the causes of these problems, and better target research into cures.
This project is expected to take at least a decade to complete, but will provide a huge boost in quality of life for many suffers of various conditions, and will perhaps help us towards developing artificial intelligence.
3. Moon Express (Mining The Moon)
With the continual progression of mankind comes the ever-increasing demand for materials. As we continue to exploit sources on the Earth, it is becoming clear that some are running out. For example, rare earths are intrinsic in the production of a whole array of different devices, ranging from camera lenses, lasers and magnets to X-ray tubes, nuclear batteries, and even energy-efficient light bulbs. As it stands, these rare minerals occur almost exclusively in China, and they are steadily running out.
So the people at Moon Express have laid out plans to explore and exploit mineral deposits on the Moon, using specially-designed robots to extract rare earths, Helium-3 (a possible future energy source), and titanium deposits from the Moon’s surface, ensuring a steady supply for the future. Ultimately, this will enable us to continue producing machinery used by many science labs – thus ensuring further scientific advances.
2. Hornsleth Deep Storage Project
The Hornsleth Deep Storage Project is the brain child of the controversial conceptual artist Kristian von Hornsleth. This venture, half-art installation/half-scientific project involves the construction of vast star-like sculptures. Many of them will be on land, however one in particular will be sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the ocean. This sculpture will contain within it the hair and blood samples of 5000 volunteers, as well as select few endangered animals. The purpose of this is to preserve the DNA exactly like a time capsule, so that it can be utilized by future scientists in the event of a catastrophe, or to bring back extinct species. Perhaps they could even clone the ancient human volunteers themselves!
1. Mars One
With space programs closing down, the future of space exploration could be seen as quite bleak. However as one door closes, we see another open; with crowd sourcing and renewed public interest in space travel, we can see the beginnings of a new Space Age. Mars One is a wonderful project envisioned by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdrop. Combining thrifty business endeavor with science, Mars One is planning to land the first people on Mars.
However, this is not just a round trip. These people would be setting up a permanent colony, which should be established by 2023. The ingenious part of this project is how it will be funded; the people at Mars One hope to introduce a reality TV show, which will provide a large part of the income for the mission. It doesn’t stop there; every year, the project plans to send two more astronauts to the colony, with the hopes of increasing the population to 20 by the year 2033.
The ramifications for this are amazing, if they manage to pull it off. This could be the very beginning of the human colonization of Mars itself, leading to access to rare earths and other minerals on the planet’s surface, as well as further research and technological advances, and possibly an answer to the steadily increasing population on Earth.