Time to turn on the tardis

11th March 2011: Perhaps inspired by TV favourites such as Doctor Who and Ashes to Ashes, nearly a third of Britons (30%) believe that time travel is actually possible. The results were revealed in a survey of 3000 people, launched at the start of National Science and Engineering Week (11-20 March) by Birmingham Science City, which aimed to see just how blurred the lines between science and fiction really are.

Other findings included:
1. Over a fifth of adults incorrectly believe light sabres exist.
2. Nearly a quarter (24%) of people are wrong in their belief that humans can be teleported.
3. Nearly 50% of adults wrongly believe that memory-erasing technology exists.
4. More than 40% of people incorrectly believe that hover boards exist.
5. Nearly one fifth (18%) of adults have the incorrect view that they can see gravity.

However, when you consider some of the scientific advances being made across the world today, it is not surprising that sometimes people get their science fiction and science fact confused.

For example, over three quarters (78%) of Britons believe that invisibility cloaks exist only in the realms of fiction, and yet a team at the University of Birmingham, led by Prof Shuang Zhang, has developed a method for making objects appear invisible.

Almost 90% of people think it would be impossible to grow an extra pair of eyes, even though scientists, led by Professors Nick Dale and Elizabeth Jones, at the University of Warwick have found this is possible in frogs. The team believes they will be able to use the technology to explore eye development in humans and grow an ‘eye in a dish’.

Seven out of ten adults questioned thought it was impossible to move objects with their mind, yet researchers at Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute have collaborated with California-based company, NeuroSky, to develop a headset which can read analogue electrical brainwaves and turn them into digital signals. This allows the user to manipulate images on a screen and power user-interfaces in games, education and medical applications using only their minds.

Dr Pam Waddell, Director of Birmingham Science City comments: “We commissioned the survey to see how blurred the lines between science fact and fiction have become. While films and TV can be acknowledged as creating confusion, it is also worth highlighting how advanced science has now become and many things deemed only possible in fiction have now become reality or are nearing creation due to the advancements of science.”

“What’s clear from this research is that science captures everyone’s imagination, so we must continue to invest in it and strive to develop the latest ‘stranger than fiction’ creations!”

The survey also asked people what inventions they would most like to see created. Men opted for time machines or teleportation, each receiving 19% and 21% of the male votes respectively, whereas over a quarter (26%) of women instead favoured a universal cure for all diseases.

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