National Reading Movement

Inventions Inspired By Science Fiction

Have you ever watched Back to the Future and thought to yourself how much you wanted a hoverboard just like Marty Mcfly? Well, in early 2015, Lexus announced that the hoverboard from Back to the Future has been developed and became a thing of a reality.



Isn’t it amazing that science fiction inspired people to create something?

In fact, science fiction has inspired scientists for the longest time, and today we’ll look at some of those said inventions.


Submarine Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea



You may not have heard of the author Jules Verne, but it’s likely that you’ve heard of at least one of his titles. His novels such as Around The World In Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth have captivated and inspired the minds of many.

One book published in the 1870s caught the eye of Simon Lake, the father of modern submarines.



In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, the novel begins with the sighting of a mysterious underwater creature which later turns out to be…



…none other than a submarine named Nautilus.

Back in 1878, Simon Lake became captivated by Verne’s undersea adventures at the tender age of 12 and decided he would make his own submarine. 16 years later, Lake made the first prototype submarine named Argonaut Junior, earning him a personal congratulatory note from Verne himself.


Tablets 2001: Space Odyssey



When people think about tablets, they think of the Bill Gates’ tablet computer. But the tablet already made its appearance back in 1968 in 2001: Space Odyssey, both in the novel and movie.



The film’s screenplay was written by both Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, while the novel was written by Clarke himself, due to a falling out between the two men. Nevertheless, the book details what earth would be like in 2001, filled with technological advancements. The first half of the novel describes an alien race influencing the evolution of humans while the other half, set in 2001, follows a team dispatched to Saturn to find this alien race.

While the most parts of the novel and movie are highly intense, one scene is criticised to be mundane. That scene was when the team was en route to Saturn. Instead of epic space battles or dodging asteroids, the crew were eating their meals, watching a pre-recorded video on what is known as a Newspad. The Newspad consists of a black rectangular frame surrounding a digital screen with buttons at its base (sounds familiar?).

In fact, Samsung even used a still image from the 2001: Space Odyssey movie to dispute Apple’s claim that they invented the tablet!


Taser Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle



When Edward Stratemeyer (pen name: Victor Appleton) created his character Tom Swift, he wanted Tom to be a genius inventor, and each series would feature one of Tom’s invention and his adventures with them. Originally published in 1910, the series spanned over a whopping 100 volumes!

In Volume 10 titled Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle, Tom made a gun that fires (yes, you’ve guessed it)… electricity.



In the book, the gun is said to look exactly like a contemporary rifle but capable of discharging adjustable bolts of electricity. That’s not all; the weapon is even able to fire through solid walls without leaving a hole, and powerful enough to kill a whale.

Jack Cover, A NASA physicist, was so inspired as a child by Tom Swift, he made his own electric rifle in his garage. While it’s unable to shoot through walls or kill a whale, the invention was capable of delivering a brief jolt of 50,000 volts paralysing anyone for a short period of time. The name of the invention? Taser, short for Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle. 😱

While this old book may be hard to find, you can read it online at this link.

Who knows, maybe even something like intergalactic travel might just be a few short years away. As Lexus’ Chief Engineer, Haruhiko Tanahashi, said in the hoverboard video:

“There’s no such thing as impossible, it’s just a matter of figuring out how.”

Go on! Get inspired by picking up any of these sci-fi novels or the many others that NLB provides.