The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008Click to view Popular Science just published their mind-blowing "Best of What's New 2008" issue and it's packed with science fictional goodies that are coming to life right before our eyes. PopSci editor Sean Captain shared with us his favorites, including this "ground bot" for exploring other planets. See seven more of Captain's real-life science fiction picks below. The Ground Bot — For Exploring Other Planets Designed by Swedish physicists for exploring other planets,the GroundBot can roll up to 6 mph through just about anything-mud, sand, snow and even water. Two gyroscopically steadied wide-angle cameras and a suite of sensors give remote operators a real-time, 360-degree view of the landscape, letting them zoom in on prowlers or detect gas leaks, radioactivity and biohazards. Image of GroundBot via John MacNeill Illustration. The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 Self-Regenerating Hearts If your heart has failed you, you may not have to wait for a compatible donor to get a new one. According to PopSci:
Biologist Doris Taylor and her team at the University of Minnesota have created a whole new approach: Take a donor heart, remove the cells, and put the patient's cells back into it. The technique promises not only to shrink the transplant waiting list but also to keep patients' bodies from rejecting their new hearts.
Our Terry Johnson covered this technology in his Ask a Biogeek column. The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 This Car Drives Itself - But Isn't as Annoying as KITT Using lasers, cameras, and specialized software, this car — called "Boss" — can drive itself around a racetrack at about 30 mph without making any errors. Just make sure you download those updates or your crash may be a little worse than the sad Mac. Says Captain, "Be sure to check out the video of me driving Boss!" The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 Handheld Spectrometer Would Make Spock Proud Though it looks rather large and gas-pump-esque, this baby is the most portable spectrometer around. Which is to say, it actually IS portable, and will allow you to analyze the molecular composition of potential toxins — whether in air, liquid, or solid form. Strap it to the outside of your Hazmat suit and get ready to decontaminate. The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 Bombs, Not Boobs This device is for use in airports and other places where guards want to make sure you're not carrying firearms. But luckily for you, it's also designed to preserve privacy by not showing off your naughty bits while you're being scanned. The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 Yet Another Hydrogen Car — But This One Just Might Work! It's the Honda FCX Clarity, which the manufacturer says can pack its energy-making fuel cell into a 65 percent smaller space than competing models. It has a 280-mile range. How does it work? PopSci explains:
Inside the fuel cell:
 Hydrogen and air flow from top to bottom in Honda's fuel cell through wave-shaped channels. Along the way, an electrolyte surface transforms the hydrogen into water and electrons. The cooling system runs horizontally through the channels to keep the cell from overheating.
The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 Take a Vacation — In Space! It's another confection from Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's space tourism venture. The WhiteKnight Two is the largest carbon-fiber aircraft ever built, and will carry smaller craft into suborbital space — just for fun. You could be one of those suborbital joyriders as early as 2010. WhiteKnight Two might also be used to launch satellites. The Best Real-Life Science Fictional Inventions of 2008 Electric Plane for Two This totally silent electric plane is called a Taurus Electro, and two lithium-polymer batteries provide 30 kilowatts of power. Though it's classified as an experimental plane, there's a good chance you'll be able to buy one next year. "Best of What's New 2008" [via PopSci]