A new, digital revolution might be about to hit us. Autonomous cars are driving our way, cities and companies are rapidly ramping up the use of sensors – also called the Internet of Things (IoT) – and virtual and augmented reality are making rapid strides.
A powerful new form of computing could help scientists design new types of materials for nanoelectronics, allow airlines to solve complex logistical problems to ensure flights run on time, and tackle traffic jams to keep cars flowing more freely on busy roads.
Quantum computers pose a big threat to the security of modern communications, deciphering cryptographic codes that would take regular computers forever to crack. But drawing on the properties of quantum behaviour could also provide a route to truly secure cryptography.
European scientists have spent 100 years developing the field of quantum mechanics – a branch of physics dealing with the atomic and subatomic scale – and we need to reap the profits now that quantum computers and other technologies are becoming a reality, according to Dr Thomas Monz from the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
Staring at rows of numbers or formulas on a page can be off-putting for many children studying mathematics or science in school. But music, drawing and even body movement are providing promising new ways of teaching complex subjects to youngsters.
Online voting is often considered a way to improve voter turnout and security. But according to Dr Steve Kremer of the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation, computer scientists have got a long way to go before they make it a viable alternative to pencils and paper.
Next-generation wheelchairs could incorporate brain-controlled robotic arms and rentable add-on motors in order to help people with disabilities more easily carry out daily tasks or get around a city.
Few technologies have the potential to disrupt old institutions as much as blockchain – a system that maintains records on huge networks of individual computers. As with any new technology, it could be used for social good – such as supporting people who are priced-out of the current bank accounts – but the big challenge is how to limit its unintended consequences.
Robust, intelligent robots that react to their surroundings are being developed to work in situations that are too dangerous for humans, such as cleaning up Europe’s decades-old radioactive waste or helping during a nuclear emergency.
Car manufacturers are rolling out higher levels of automation but public acceptance is lagging behind.
Topography can reveal asteroid types – crucial to know for mining or deflecting Earth-bound rocks.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.