The Washington Post

Does Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver really exist?

A Cyberman, a Dalek and a Silent (L to R) invade the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Feb. 2, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images for Worldwide)

“Doctor Who” fans, rejoice. The sonic screwdriver is real...sort of.

For those unfamiliar with the BBC series, Doctor Who is a quirky but benevolent humanoid alien who travels through space and time and uses his sonic screwdriver as a factotum of sorts. It’s capabilities range from the conventional screwdriver to super-duty lock-pick and detonator. And, for years, fans have been wondering if the device would ever be fully realized.

The BBC reported Thursday that scientists at Dundee University in Scotland may have come a step closer. They claim to have created a machine that uses ultrasound waves to not only vertically move a large plastic disc suspended in a tube of water, but turn it as well. While ultrasound has been used to push objects, according to the BBC, it has been said that this is the first time ultrasound waves have been used to turn an object.

The findings are slated to be published in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Letters, the BBC says, and could prove to be a critical step in realizing a future without invasive surgery, which was addressed in a 2011 TEDMED talk by Israeli surgeon Yoav Medan:

Beyond noninvasive surgery, advancements in ultrasound technology could allow for medication to be directed through the body — perhaps even into a tumor — and activated at a particular time.

Thanks to Gizmodo for putting the original BBC report in our path. Also, thanks to Brad Plumer over at Wonkblog for bringing our attention to the TEDMED video.

View Photo Gallery: Some of the world’s greatest inventions have science fiction to thank for their easy-adoption and popularity among consumers.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Vivek Wadhwa | My wasted day on Capitol Hill

Dominic Basulto | The end of ideology?

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