Wonderworker Ilon and the infinite source of energy. Expected Breakthroughs in 2020 Science
We will see how hot plasma flows in a huge thermonuclear reactor. The first people will merge with computers and share their thoughts into analog and digital. The Americans will land on the Moon again, and Elon Musk will send the colonists to Mars. We want to believe all this, even if the proportion of skepticism regarding all these events is damn high. We talk about the main events in the science of the new decade that will change our lives.
Burning plasma is the energy from charged particles created by a nuclear fusion reaction. Similar to the one that underlies the existence of the Sun and other stars. To enclose this almost endless (by the standards of man) source of energy in a cell is the blue dream of more than one generation of physicists.
In December 2025, the first truly powerful fusion reactor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), will be launched. It will be an important “step in bridging the gap between current understanding and the knowledge needed to design and operate thermonuclear power plants as safe and sustainable energy sources," eminent experts in fusion issues write.
ITER is an experimental thermonuclear reactor. He will not generate energy, all his heat will be dissipated in the atmosphere. It will work on a pulsed basis, provide scientists with a unique opportunity to study plasma combustion, develop tools necessary for its better understanding, and confirm forecasts.
The reactor will be able to generate 500 MW of power for more than 300 seconds. Previously, the power achieved in thermonuclear installations did not exceed 16 MW (Joint European Torus in the UK). The experiments will give fundamental answers to questions of central importance to the prospects of synthesis.
In 2010, the Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR) project was launched. It is being developed at Skunk Works, Lockheed Martin’s secret laboratory, which often works on aviation military projects. The result should be a compact fusion reactor, which will become a noticeably cheaper alternative to ITER.
It was assumed that the CFR could fit in a large truck and weigh about 20 tons, but later these assumptions were adjusted. The new parameters are approximately the following: 18 meters in length, 7 meters in diameter and about 2 thousand tons of weight.
In 2020, China should also launch its artificial sun. Tokamak HL-2M is located in the city of Leshan, and ... there is very little information about it on the English-speaking Internet.
In 2012, the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors technology broke into the world stage of research medicine. Genetics have learned to carve harmful mutations from DNA. The development caused a stir in the scientific community, as it is cheaper, faster, more accurate and more efficient of existing methods for editing the genome. This method was spied on by bacteria, which in this way shut off the viruses, cutting their DNA in the right place.
In all the headlines of the media, under the sunset of the last decade, the story of a Chinese researcher threw these genetic scissors on embryos to make them immune to HIV.
However, this technology remains evolving. Genome editing can be a magic wand in the treatment and prevention of human diseases. But while experiments are carried out mainly on cells and animals. After all, if the scissors miss and cut off their target, they will disrupt the natural functioning of the genome and can potentially lead to the development of cancer. Experiments on editing primary germ cells and embryos are still banned in many countries.
We want to believe that in the next decade the safety of this method of editing the human genome will be finally proved, and the results of human testing of technology will be published in peer-reviewed journals. For example, Editas Medicine announced that it would undertake trials of its developments based on CRISPR-Cas9 for the treatment of a rare hereditary retinal disease - Leber's amaurosis, which leads to complete loss of vision. In November 2018, the company received permission for clinical trials.
In the second half of 2020, clinical trials of Intellia Therapeutics may begin, which chose amyloidosis as the enemy - the accumulation of abnormal proteins in tissues.
In the field of space travel, we have much more clarity regarding breakthroughs. So, there are planned reference points for the 20s of this century.
March 30, 2021 finally should launch the long-suffering space telescope named after James Webb. The device for 10 years should conduct more than 2 thousand observations of planets and small bodies inside the solar system, for exoplanets, galaxies and other universal things. It is assumed that with the help of a new telescope, astronomers will be able to see the light of the first stars formed after the Big Bang.
The device was originally planned to be launched back in 2007, but the deadlines were constantly shifting: the manufacture of an optical system for a telescope proved to be an extremely difficult task, and the budget for this soon grew to almost $ 10 billion.
Colonization of the moon
Somewhere in the mid-2020s, the Americans, as part of the Artemis mission, are going to return to the moon, eventually build a habitable settlement there and create a foundation for the exploration of Mars. For speeding up this project, the administration of Donald Trump is pleased. The American president set the task in 2019: the landing should be carried out in 2024.
At the end of 2022 there will be a manned orbital flyby of the Earth satellite. It is planned to be implemented using the Space Launch System booster rocket and the Orion ship. The first stage of SLS could already be observed recently during its transportation for testing.
The success of the program will allow us to begin the construction of the international near-moon station Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. She will study the moon and deep space, and in the more distant future will become a staging post for astronauts who will fly to Mars. Finally, the station, according to optimistic estimates, can be assembled by the end of this decade.
Colonization of Mars
Another tidbit for a person in this star system can also experience the weight of its sole. Elon Musk more than three years ago promised already in this decade to deliver a man to Mars and even establish a full-fledged colony there, which could support its existence. As usual, the American plan is extremely ambitious and fleeting: the landing of a person on the Red Planet should take place in 2024. As a result, everything can stretch along the timeline to a much larger interval.
In November 2019, Musk shared an updated plan for the colonization of Mars, according to which about a thousand Starship spaceships will have to be sent there. In 20 years, they will deliver goods, infrastructure and settlers to the Red Planet.
In the near future, SpaceX plans to begin testing the Starship spaceship with a height of 118 meters and a capacity of up to hundreds of people. This year, he should fly around the moon with tourists on board. What will come of this, we will see very soon.
Creating a quantum computer
At the end of 2019, Google announced the achievement of "quantum superiority" - a turning point when a quantum computer can solve a task that is almost beyond the power of a classical computer. The company's specialists say that they managed to complete the calculation in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, which would take about 10 thousand years for a traditional computer. But the Google system can perform only one calculation and is not universal.
Quantum computers use the phenomenon of quantum superposition to process data. If a regular computer operates on the values 0 and 1, then quantum ones operate on qubits, which have both the values 0 and 1, which radically increases the speed of work. The creation of the first real quantum computer is called the key to the world of the digital future.
The achievement of Google was soon challenged by IBM, the original publication of the study was deleted. Many experts believe that the results of the experiment were exaggerated and had no practical application.
Nevertheless, the potential of quantum computers is considered almost unlimited. Especially against the background of the speed of modern supercomputers. A quantum computer will be able to click messages encrypted with the most modern cryptographic algorithms, and there will be nothing hidden in the world. For the one who will not be the first to create an experimental, but a working quantum computer.
But until then, scientists will have to solve a lot of practical problems in various fields of physics. Despite all the difficulties, experts look to the future with cautious optimism. IBM Vice President named the next three to five years as the first commercial quantum computers.
The brain-computer interface
The idea of combining the human brain and computer over the past decades has been dreamed by both science fiction and scientists. Nevertheless, the ability to implant into the human brain the power of a modern computer is both attractive and frightening. First of all, the brain-computer interfaces would be useful to people who, for one reason or another, are partially limited in their mobility.
Elon Musk got to the neural interfaces. In 2016, he founded the company Neuralink, which is engaged in promising developments in this field. Last summer, she showed her achievements: flexible, thinner than “human hair” threads, through which the brain will exchange signals with a machine, a neurosurgical robot that can accurately inject these threads into the human brain, and also a chip that can read, clean and amplify brain signals.
The technology has already been tested on rats and monkeys. Musk mentioned that some animals were able to control a computer program using only the power of their brain, but did not go into the details of the experiments. In the second quarter of 2020, after obtaining permission from the regulator, the company plans to begin testing the technology in public.
Like any brainchild of Mask in various fields of science, Neuralink is the loudest in the field of neural interfaces. But the development is carried out by other companies. For example, Second Sight in 2017 received approval for the clinical trials of its implant, which is capable of reversing a partial or complete loss of vision. The chip is implanted in the cerebral cortex, it stimulates the neurons of the visual cortex and helps patients see at least something.
We look forward to breaking news and breakthroughs in the 2020s.