Science Scan

Looking back at the future

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010


It's 2010 -- where the heck are the flying cars already? Matt Novak has compiled past visions of what the future would be like (an area of interest called "retro-futurism") on his blog In addition to flying cars and robots, futurologists often focused on jet packs, meal pills and space colonies. Newspaper archives have provided rich material for Novak, who's based in St. Paul, Minn. A 1955 article from the Gazette of Charleston, W.Va., features a doctor predicting that by 1999, people would live to be 150, the common cold would be eradicated and synthetic food would end famine and starvation. While erroneous predictions are the funniest (We'll be able to control the weather! From our domed cities!), sometimes people got it right. For instance, the 1967 film "1999 A.D." showed "fingertip shopping," which seems a whole lot like online shopping. Also, a 1988 video made by Apple includes a clunky harbinger of the iPad.

Branching out

"Keepers of the Trees"

(Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95)

Published on the heels of Earth and Arbor days, "Keepers of the Trees" introduces readers to 14 North Americans who are dedicated to the conservation and proliferation of trees. The book starts out with Andy Lipkis, the founder of TreePeople in Los Angeles, whose activism started at age 6, when he called the Los Angeles Times to report a year-round blossoming apple tree in his yard. There's also a 98-year-old working to save Canada's remaining old-growth western forests; a North Carolina arborist who measures record-breaking trees; and a pruner in Bozeman, Mont., who makes her cuts according to "what the tree is telling me," she says.

-- Rachel Saslow

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