5 Futurist Predictions in the World of Science

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Scientists Use LiDAR to Discover Massive Lost Mayan City

Scientists Use LiDAR to Discover Massive Lost Mayan City

LiDAR made it possible to discover the remains of a massive Maya settlement hidden for centuries. HowStuffWorks looks at the technology.

Author's Note: 5 Futurist Predictions in the World of Science

As a blogger for the Science Channel, I've written extensively about technological change, and I've learned that imagined future inventions fall into three categories. There are inventions that turn out to be game-changers, such as the telephone and the personal computer. But for each of those gadgets that transform civilization, there are probably just as many other technological visions that never actually come to pass, even though they're at least technically feasible -- such as the massive networks of pneumatic tubes under cities, envisioned by the Victorians, which would have delivered mail, packages and even freshly cooked dinners to residents. But there's also a third group, composed of unexpected discoveries that changed the world, such as British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin, the first antibiotic, in the late 1920s. Those, I think, are the ones with the greatest transformational power, because they can rapidly, radically affect change that we're not prepared for.

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