He has very warm hands.
Soaring through space at warp speed, travelling through time, and being indestructible are, unfortunately, all out of the reach of present-day science. The technologies we need to achieve wondrous feats, such as these, remain a mystery to us.
Do not drink!
Luckily, science-fiction creators are not bound by the known and can use their imagination to fill in the gaps in current understanding, creating marvellous substances that can achieve the seemingly impossible. Here follows a summary of some of the most famous substances that only exist in our collective imagination.
These pants are impossible to find.
The fittingly named 'unobtainium' is a rare element found in both the film The Core as well as popular culture. In the 2003, disaster film, The Core, unobtainium is a type of metal that increases its tensile strength the greater the pressure placed upon it. It is used to construct a drilling vessel that can survive within the core of the earth.
This isn't what we're talking about.
The term 'unobtainium' has been used since the 1950s, specifically in engineering circles to describe any element that does not exist or is very difficult to get hold of. This is not to be confused with 'unobtanium' which features in the 2009 film, Avatar and is an incredible precious metal that is valued at '20 million a kilo'.
This device measures the passing of time.
Featured in Star Trek, Futurama and even kid's cartoon Teen Titans, 'chronitons' in all there incarnations are a substance linked with time control. In Star Trek, chronitons are sub-atomic particles with temporal properties that can be used to measure an object's journey through time and, if properly applied, can be used to instigate time travel.
A chroniton particle being squeezed.
Similarly in Futurama, chronitons are used to travel through time and can also cause an object to regress through time. In the cartoon network program Teen Titans, the destruction of chronitons in a given area will cause the flow of time to stop, creating a form of stasis.
A vial of delicious spice.
'Melange', more commonly known as 'The Spice' in Frank Herbert's Dune series, is a geriatric drug that gives the user a longer life-span and heightened awareness. It can also grant some users the ability to see into the future.
A navigator in his spice laced tank.
In Dune, spice is the most treasured and valuable commodity in the universe, due to it being required for interstellar travel. Ships in the Dune universe require navigators who are immersed in a tank of spice. This is to grant them the required prescience to navigate folded-space.
Everybody loves vibranium.
'Vibranium' is a fictional metal from the Marvel universe. It is most commonly known as the metal used in the construction of Captain America's shield, but is also used by many other heroes and villains of the Marvel canon.
Vibranium Type B likes classical music.
There are two types of vibranium: Wakandan and Antarctican. Wakandan vibranium is the most common variety and is able to absorb any vibration or kinetic energy directed towards it. Antarctican vibranium, more commonly known as 'anti-metal', produces vibrations that break down the molecular bonds in any metal, essentially liquefying them.
This is an expensive cocktail.
'Latinum' is a rare silver liquid used as currency by many non-federation civilizations in Star Trek. Latinum's value comes from its inability to be replicated, making it a finite resource unlike most other materials in the Star Trek universe.
Bricks, bars, strips and slips.
It is most often suspended within gold, to make it easier to use as a currency and is then referred to as gold-pressed Latinum. Gold-pressed Latinum appears in various denominations, each increasing in size and value, such as slips, strips, bars and bricks.
Don't forget your bucket and spade.
'Tylium' is a metallic ore used to fuel spaceships in both the original and re-imagined Battlestar Galactica (BSG). In both versions of BSG, tylium is a rare mineral that is essential to power both the human and Cylon space ships.
A tylium refinery that's just about to blow up.
There are three kinds of tylium: ore, refined-precursor, and refined. In its raw form, tylium is a fine, powdery substance that needs to be refined into a liquid to be able to be used as a fuel.
Stick this in your warp drive.
In real life, 'dilithium' is a molecule consisting of two lithium atoms. However, in the Star Trek universe, 'Dilithium' is a hard, crystalline mineral that is used in a warp drive. The purpose of the dilithium crystals in a warp drive is to regulate the annihilation reaction of matter and anti-matter, and without dilithium crystals, a warp drive would explode.
Do not replicate.
It is possible to replicate dilithium crystals; however, a replicator can only produce low-quality crystals, which do not work as well as naturally grown crystals. This leads to dilithium being a much sought after natural resource, similar to oil in the real world.
The chemical symbol for a famous 80s singer.
An indestructible metal alloy, adamantium is most well-known for being the metal bonded to the skeleton and claws of the Marvel comics character Wolverine. Inadvertently discovered by metallurgist Dr Myron Maclain, while trying to recreate his prior discovery, a unique alloy of steel and vibranium that was used to create Captain America's shield, adamantium is a series of iron compounds mixed with chemical resins.
Wolverine finds it hard to get gloves that fit.
Used by a variety of heroes and villains in the creation of armour and armament, adamantium's difficulty to produce, inability to reshape once set, and incredible cost prevents its widespread adoption in the Marvel universe.
Superman is attacked by a giant hand.
A fictional substance so famous that it's in the dictionary, kryptonite, is the ore form of a radioactive element from Superman's home planet, Krypton. The most common form of kryptonite is green kryptonite, which weakens Superman's famous strength and causes him severe pain. There are over twenty different versions of kryptonite, which come in a variety of colours and have varied effects.
Kryptonite comes in a variety of flavours, except chocolate.
Interestingly, in 2006 a mineral known as 'jadarite' was discovered while drilling in Serbia. This mineral has an almost identical composition to that of kryptonite as described in the 2006 film Superman Returns, but is unfortunately white in colour.
Cake of the future?
For now, these substances remain firmly in the realm of science fiction, but with scientific advances occurring in the arena of materials, and companies investing in extraterrestrial mining, the future may bring these substances out of science-fiction and into science-fact.
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