There's only one it's-the-future-why-don't-we-have-x trope that rivals the flying car, and that's the space elevator. (First proposed in 1895, it might even predate it.) The idea of a giant tower that can carry us from Earth to outer space is legend, and it probably will be for a long time.
Space elevators have been our shared dream for years, but like other promising technologies of the future, they’re just concepts on a distant horizon. Now a Japanese construction firm that specializes in the very tall could make them a reality. By 2050, so still pretty far on that horizon, but hey, it’s a start.
A laser-obsessed entrepreneur whose mosquito-zapping project demoed at the TED 2010 conference has bigger plans for energy beams. Tom Nugent envisions using lasers to deliver energy over long distances -- whether that means juicing up an aerial drone's batteries or beaming solar space power down from orbital satellites, according to Xconomy.
For a few years now, we’ve been excited about the possibility of a cable-based space elevator as an alternative to expensive rocket launchers. To date, though, the various attempts to make it happen–including annual contests and Japan’s recent initiative–have come up short. The problem? Space elevators have one major hang-up: most designs call for braided cords of extremely strong nanotubes, which unfortunately don't exist yet.