10 Future Inventions Everyone's Been Waiting For

Food in a Pill
Will we one day survive on pills alone? (iStock/Thinkstock)

Since the 1800s, futurists have been dreaming about creating miniaturized, 100-percent synthetic food from chemicals, so it could be consumed in tablet or capsule form. Some envisioned it as a way to free homemakers from the drudgery of cooking or spare animals from slaughter, while others saw it as a way to feed the planet's growing population without overtaxing farm soil or other natural resources [source: Belasco]. A 1936 Popular Science Monthly article predicted that "modern alchemists" in food laboratories eventually would create "food pills that would contain everything necessary for life -- a feat that would render man forever independent of natural resources for his nourishment, and banish fear of crop failure and famine" [source: Rosner].

It's an idea that has persisted over the years in science-fiction fantasies. The problem is that unless someone figures out a way to alter the laws of physics, getting your daily nutrition from a capsule or tablet is pretty much impossible. Think of it this way: The typical human needs to ingest about 2,000 calories each day, and a gram of fat -- the most efficient way to provide them -- contains about nine calories. Thus, to meet your daily caloric requirement, you'd have to ingest 450 or so standard-sized capsules of fat, which would weigh roughly half a pound. And you still wouldn't be getting all the other nutrients -- protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber -- that you need to be healthy [source: Biba]. Besides, eating nothing but a pill for breakfast, lunch and dinner wouldn't exactly be living large. People like to eat because food tastes good. Pills generally don't.