Survey Shows Many People Believe Science Fiction Is Real

HOVERBOARDING: As many as 40 percent of people surveyed believe hoverboards exist. (Photo: Phantom Leap/Flickr).

It is often said that reality is far stranger than fiction, but for a startlingly large number of people, that distinction might be moot. A recent survey of Britons has revealed that between 20 and 50 percent of people believe that sci-fi technology like light sabers, hoverboards, teleportation, invisibility cloaks and even memory-erasing technology actually exists, according to Birmingham Science City news.

Here are some of the survey's details:

  • Over a fifth of adults incorrectly believe light sabers exist.
  • Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of people are wrong in their belief that humans can be teleported.
  • Nearly 50 percent of adults wrongly believe that memory-erasing technology exists.
  • More than 40 percent of people incorrectly believe that hover boards exist.
Furthermore, nearly a third of people believed it was possible to move objects with their mind (though none of those surveyed were reported to have actually performed the feat), almost a quarter of them believed that invisibility cloaks exist, and 18 percent of those surveyed even thought that they could "see" gravity. Ten percent of people couldn't rule out the possibility that they could grow an extra pair of eyes. No

So the question remains, have Hollywood special effects really gotten that good, or are many people just that gullible?

The director of Birmingham Science City, Dr. Pam Waddell, thinks there might be a third, more diplomatic possibility: "While films and TV can be acknowledged as creating confusion, it is also worth highlighting how advanced science has now become and many things deemed only possible in fiction have now become reality or are nearing creation due to the advancements of science."

In other words, maybe it's not that people are crazy — they're just optimistic. After all, many of the technologies the survey asked about really are beginning to be actualized by modern science.

For instance, consider invisibility cloaks. Although science is no where near replicating the magic of the Harry Potter movies, scientists have nevertheless devised material that bends light around an object, thus rendering it nearly invisible.

Hoverboards are still a fantasy, but scientists have learned to make objects hover using electromagnetic energy, and even with sound waves. Hovercrafts, which ride on a pocket of air, are already a reality.

Scientists have also invented devices that, in many respects, allow people to move objects with their mind by translating brain waves into electrical signals. For instance, a car that can be steered by thought was recently invented. Science is even inching closer to real memory-erasing technology like what was envisioned in the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

And what of those who believe that they can grow another set of eyes? Science is working on that too. Not only are scientists already learning how to use stem cells to grow new organs, but they are also studying how certain animals like frogs (which can grow a new set of eyes!) or lizards regenerate tissue so that a similar process might someday be fostered for humans.

So although a number of the Britons surveyed by Birmingham Science City have fanciful beliefs about what is real and what is fiction, they aren't necessarily completely out of touch. Perhaps they're just ahead of their time.

"What’s clear from this research is that science captures everyone's imagination," said Waddell. "We must continue to invest in it and strive to develop the latest 'stranger than fiction' creations!"