It's no coincidence that so many of our modern gadgets seem to have come from Star Trek -- our inventors and engineers all grew up watching it. In many ways, science fiction, not science, leads the way.
But while it's easy to imagine watching the hopeful utopia of Star Trek and saying, "Let's make that real!" it's a little stranger to think the same after watching Blade Runner or Gattaca. Yet ...
5 A Lab Is Brewing Apocalyptic Superdiseases
The Sci-Fi Premise:
Movies about a worldwide superplague seem to come along every few years (see: last year's Contagion), but within that genre is the more cynical and outlandish "Lab creates and accidentally releases a pandemic" subgenre, like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Stephen King's The Stand.
The premise is flawed from the start, as is typical of apocalyptic movies. Why in the hell would the government allow a top-secret lab to create a world-killing microbe in the first place? In terms of movie logic, it falls right into the category of "Hey, let's turn our nuclear arsenal over to Skynet" and "We should absolutely take this huge, destructive monkey back to New York."
"Tyrannosaurs are the new house cats!"
And thankfully, for once, we're right! There's no top-secret lab creating an apocalyptic disease. Because the lab is not secret at all, and it's located in Rotterdam.
"It's down past the open-air asbestos dump. If you see the puppy slaughterhouse, you've gone too far."
That's right, in a lab comfortably decorated with a disco ball and functional beer tap -- because if you're going to be working with ridiculously dangerous viruses, it's best to do it while drunk and listening to the one genre of music most likely to destroy your faith in humanity -- virologist Ron Fouchier has experimented on the feared bird flu virus, creating a new mutation that's more dangerous and potentially more contagious than the already-deadly original. In his experiments infecting ferrets with the virus, it eventually became airborne, so direct contact was no longer necessary for infection. The victim just needs to breathe the same air.
At least if he ultimately causes the apocalypse, we can call him Ron "Douchier."
The details of Fouchier's work remain unclear, mainly because the voice of reason that is America's National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has said, "Hey, guys? What you're doing is cool and all, but couldn't terrorists get hold of this and kill basically everyone?" Even if they couldn't break into the lab, there's already evidence that groups like al-Qaida are trying to recruit college-educated members who majored in mad science with a minor in playing with deadly viruses -- so what can't be stolen can still be replicated.
Fouchier's work hasn't been published, mainly to prevent someone from copying it and using it less in the pursuit of science and more in the pursuit of the end of the world as we know it. Meanwhile, we hope they've got some amazing locks on that place.
"Eh, that should be good."