November 18, 2015 / 7:17 PM / 2 years ago

Five major advances the next 10 years will bring

This article was produced independently of Reuters News. It was created by the public relations department of Thomson Reuters’ Intellectual Property & Science division, and Reuters Brand Content Solutions.

By Matt Kwong

The last decade saw a phenomenal rise in mobile communications, wearable electronics, the ubiquity of GPS and even the discovery of surface water on Mars. So what’s in store for the decade ahead? Looking to 2025, Bob Stembridge, an analyst with Thomson Reuters’ IP & Science division, outlines the five things that could generate major changes in science and technology in the next 10 years.

Nuclear fusion

The dream of an unlimited source of energy that could replace man’s reliance on damaging fossil fuels now appears within reach. Nuclear fusion involves two atomic nuclei merged together to become one large nucleus, an action that would in theory release a huge amount of energy. Stembridge points to advancements in the ability to contain plasma — the superhot fuel for fusion — in a magnetic field as an encouraging development.

“The running joke is that nuclear fusion is 30 years away and always will be,” Stembridge says. “However, recent advances in taming the conditions necessary to create a mini-star here on earth are such that there’s good reason to believe the problems will be cracked by 2025 and commercial nuclear fusion will become the answer to the planet’s energy problems.”

The beginning of the end of aging?

The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded jointly to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar recognized the trio for great strides in understanding how DNA repairs itself from damage caused by a number of routes, including aging.

“Tomas Lindahl discovered base excision repair; Paul Modrich showed how cells correct errors during DNA replication and Aziz Sancar explained nucleotide excision repair,” Stembridge said. “Together, if these mechanisms could be harnessed and controlled, that could lead to the potential for immortality.”

Farming to beat famine

While global crops may be suffering from climate change, innovations in crop breeding of “super seeds” designed to survive in drought, heat and pestilence were identified in the Thomson Reuters 9 Billion Bowls report and credited with being able to help feed the planet in 2025.

Stembridge also points out that new drone technologies could help in spotting diseases in crops by doing flybys “to identify crop problems before they have significant effect.”

Driverless cars

Stembridge says autonomous vehicles could soon run the streets, as Google continues evolving its self-driving cars program and even GM’s Cadillac experiments with a Super Cruise technology. Uber is also reportedly developing a driverless vehicle.

The technology exists today, but the political and social questions will take longer to address. Nevertheless, the driverless car will be common-place on our streets by 2025, according to Stembridge.

A home base on the Moon

It sounds like a throwback, but Stembridge notes that manned space exploration “has been confined to near-Earth orbit since the early 1970s.” The last time a human touched down on the Moon was in 1972, as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

Stembridge says that with the likely demise of the International Space Station at the end of this decade, the Moon will be used as a “staging post for manned exploration of our solar system.”

NASA is on board with the plan. The space agency says that astronauts will again explore the surface of the Moon before the end of the next decade. “And this time, we’re going to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond.”

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