As we ring in a new year and dream about all it may bring, let’s take stock of the remarkable new technology we saw in 2018. These discoveries are still changing the world — and solar system — we live in. There were plenty of advances to choose from, ranging from biology to artificial intelligence to space travel. Here are five innovative technology stories that caught our eye.
Until 2018, the only way to produce an embryo in the laboratory was the old-fashioned natural way, starting with a sperm cell and an egg cell. All of that changed when, as Science Daily reported, a team at Britain’s University of Cambridge succeeded in producing mouse embryos using only stem cells, along with a molecular scaffolding structure.
Lead researcher Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz noted that the “artificial embryos underwent the most important event in life in the culture dish,” a process called gastrulation in which the body structure starts to take form. “They are now extremely close to real embryos,” she added.
Quantum computing has been in the works for decades. According to MIT Technology Review, quantum computing prototype devices are now being tested and further developed. What is quantum computing? The short answer is mind-boggling. The longer answer would take a textbook on quantum physics, but you can look up “Schrödinger’s cat” for a teaser. Suffice to say that quantum computing can make difficult computing tasks easy, and permit some computations that are impossible with today’s technology.
Computer security experts are concerned that quantum computing technology could render existing encryption technology all too easy to “crack.” But the coolest new technology in 2018 also includes the defense that cybersecurity experts have been looking for.
As ZDNet reported, complex algebraic structures called lattices can be used to produce encryption so robust that even still-theoretical quantum computers could not crack the encryption. Lattice cryptography may even allow computation on encrypted data without decrypting it — eliminating the biggest vulnerability of all existing encryption technologies.
3-D Metal Printing
For years, people have used 3-D printing to create objects or structures out of plastic, but there is a limit to what plastic can do. Now, Inc. magazine says that 3-D printing is using a new medium — metal.
3-D printing of metal can not only make fabrication of specialized parts much easier and cheaper, it can allow fabrication of metal parts shaped in ways that would not be practical at all without this innovative technology. All of which may change metal manufacturing in ways we can hardly even guess.
Parker Solar Probe
No list of truly cool new technology in 2018, or any year, can be complete without something that Goes Really Fast. And NASA‘s Parker Solar Probe, launched in August, fits the bill perfectly. The probe earned the year’s top innovation billing from Popular Science for passing the 153,454 mph mark on its way to a blazing top speed of 430,000 mph — yes, you read that right! — en route to a close encounter with the sun. When it gets there, it will also endure blazing heat — 2,500 degrees F — on a specially designed heat shield that will keep the probe’s instruments at a mild 85 degrees F.
Northrop Grumman built the third stage engine that will give the Parker Solar Probe the final punch up to record-breaking speed. If the prospect of working on the cutting edge of new technology excites you, check out our career opportunities.