It's always fun when scientists manage to duplicate our favorite gadgets from sci-fi. Even if they what they make isn't exactly the same as it is in our franchise of choice, it's nice to know that there are those in the scientific community who not only share our geeky interests but have the technical know-how to make it happen. Whether it's a functioning tricorder or a jailbreak tweak that turns Siri into a Universal Translator, real life sci-fi technology helps us feel like the future we see on TV and in the movies might not actually be all that far off.
Recently, scientists at Scotland's Dundee University have managed to duplicate the sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who. Well, not duplicate, exactly. Whereas the Doctor can use his sonic screwdriver for anything from picking locks (its most common use) to performing scans to controlling his TARDIS to making alien technology explode (and yes, it does actually drive screws), the Dundee version is a bit more limited. At present it uses ultrasound to lift a rubber disk floating in a cylinder of water and rotate it in the desired direction. While that may not sound like a big deal, it's actually pretty impressive. The level of fine-tuning that this advance represents has huge implications for the use of ultrasound for things like incision-less surgery, drug delivery, and a host of other medical applications.
Dundee University has a brief video of their sonic screwdriver in action. Unfortunately it lacks any narration. Apparently the ultrasound transmitter sits under the jar and is used to both raise and spin the rubber puck. You can check out the video below, and read the BBC's report for more information.
Now, for a little comparison, take a look at BBC America's top 11 uses of the Doctor's sonic screwdriver:
So yeah, the Doctor's sonic screwdriver is a little more varied in what it can do, but Dundee's version is definitely a step in that direction. And when you think about the fact that they're using sound to lift and move things, it gets pretty darn impressive.