2063 AD

On October 21, 2063, as the maglev train shot silently through the tunnel connecting the cities on opposite sides of the chain of hills, there was just a single sound that rang out feebly. A tiny pebble, dislodged from its place at the ceiling of the tunnel by a small rodent, had struck the side of the train. The impact at 450 km/hr had created a nasty gash about an inch long on the glossy surface of the train. Immediately, there started a silent movement among the meshwork that lay below the surface of the vehicle. The arteries that were exposed by the gash were now sensing an imbalance between the chemical potential within them and outside. The pasty material inside them started diffusing out of the semi-permeable membrane of the mesh. As it came into contact with air, it slowly hardened. The rate of diffusion got slower, but it was never quite zero. As the train emerged out of the kilometer long tunnel, its surface was smooth and flawless to the human eye. To the computer eye, that is, sensors, the surface was near perfect. There was a recorded log of the outflow of material from the meshwork in the concerned area. A repair schedule had been fixed when the train would reach its terminal station.

After the passengers had dismounted, the train pulled into its hangar. The repair robot moved to the specified coordinates and measured the depression of a few microns at the site of the accident. The robot extended its arm and sprayed a small quantity of the same pasty stuff on to the surface of the train. Now the body was flawless to robot eyes too. The train moved out for another trip.
Though steel was still used for most of the beams and columns of the shell of the mega-city, and also for the supporting rail of the maglev trains, this ‘pasty stuff’ had revolutionized the world of materials since the late 2010’s. It was a lightweight material with adequate strength to endure light impacts. Traffic jams and in general road accidents had dropped to zero after all vehicles became controlled by the supercomputer at the traffic department. The only accidents were of the form described at the beginning; the so-called ‘natural catastrophes’. Even with these accidents, the
self-healing process done by the meshwork below had rendered this material the universal choice.
Close relatives of our material here were extensively used in hospitals, and to a lesser extent, in common households, where the walls were covered with a germ repelling paint. The more affluent customers had a mesh installed directly on the walls before the painting was done. This gave their walls a self-healing property too.
After dinner, each member of the family put his/her plate into the dishwasher. As the last plate was in, the machine started its daily task. After the leftover food had been scraped off, the clean plates were dried and elevated out of the machine. A free flowing clear liquid filled the chamber of the dishwasher. This liquid was the new universal solvent. It dissolved almost everything except the inner lining of the dishwasher and the pipes that carried it. As the liquid flushed out of the machine, the chamber was left sparkling clean. The underground pipes from dishwashers, industrial plants, and toilets, among a variety of other places, carried the garbage-saturated fluid to the processing station. Here by the simple principle of fractional distillation, the low-boiling liquid evaporated first, leaving all other residues behind. This waste was divided between biodegradable and non-biodegradable on the basis of its source. The residues were sent for recycling or degradation, or for filling purposes.
Now that dinner was done, I proceeded to my favourite couch. It was a new one. It had in its memory, the comfort settings of all the family members. As I sat down on it, the sensors identified me by my weight and posture of sitting. Signals were sent to the small nodes at the large number of joints just under the soft surface of the chair. These nodes, on receiving the signals, produced an appropriate temperature at the respective joint. Taking all the joints in conjunction the effect produced was wonderful, the shape of the couch changed to suit me. I felt myself sinking in ever so slightly, yet there was a firm support for my lower back. The small thermal expansions and contractions had moulded the couch just for me. I decided to buy a bed of the same series.
Just then my sister walked in. She had bought one of those new skin patches. She tapped her right temple lightly and a soft glow of the right side of her face indicated that the patch was active. With a very subtle movement of her eyes, cheek and eyebrows, she switched on the television. This patch was synchronized with most household electronic devices. The signals through movement of eyes, eyebrows and cheeks were simple and easy to learn. Each gesture produced a different state of stress inside the patch. The material of the patch was inlaid with several million microscopic piezoelectric crystals arranged in a network. As the stress was relieved, all the stressed piezoelectric crystals released a unique combined electric signal. This signal, within limits of human error, was interpreted by a small processor hanging behind my sister’s ear, and sent wirelessly to the concerned device as an instruction. Even considering the wide range error for humans, it was still possible for the processor to identify and send several hundred thousand different signals. The TV showed an advertisement for the new skin patch that would allow us to type and control cursors on computers with just the subtle gestures of our faces. Of course, learning to use it was an issue.
Suddenly, I thought of my uncle, who worked at a public Laundromat until it closed down nearly thirty years ago. Not only that particular Laundromat, but all of them. All clothes today are made of material having an obtuse angle of contact with all water-based liquids, grease, dirt and most foodstuffs. Washing clothes was a thing of the past. Just a simple jerk to the cloth was enough to remove any loosely adherent dust.
I slept early that night; I had a presentation the following day. The next morning I was up and ready to present my idea for the new line of cars that our company would start manufacturing. Reaching the office, I headed directly for the conference room where the board members were already waiting. I pressed my thumb lightly on the small pad on the wall beside the door. The green light confirmed recognition and the doors parted to let me in. After the necessary protocol, I drew up the slides in each of the directors’ personal viewing screens from my computer. The new car was to have a wholly different type of propulsion. The spherical wheels of the car would fit into a larger cavity on the underside of the car leaving a small section outside to contact the road. The inside of this cavity and one equator of each wheel would be lined with magnets. With the static magnetic field, the repulsion would balance the weight of the car and leave the required gap between the car body and the road as well as the wheel and the cavity. Superimposed on this field would be another dynamic field, which would cause the wheel to rotate such that the magnets on the wheel remain in a vertical plane. This system would eliminate friction between the car and wheel and provide acceleration. I had had this idea when I was in engineering college, but it had not proved feasible due to the large mass of high strength magnets. With the discovery of the magnetism of carbon, it has now become easy to use this system with lightweight carbon magnets and electromagnets. The directors loved the idea and sanctioned the funds for research in this area.
That evening I had a small party celebrating the success of my presentation with a few relatives and close friends. At night, I sat down to watch a movie. My friends had recommended it as the best watch among the latest releases. It was about a young engineer in the decade of 2000-2010 who had drawn up plans of several of the technologies that common people use today. Truly, today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact.

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