Skip to content

Sci-Fi Flix: Fact or Fiction:The Fantastic Voyage (1966)

Expert Commentators

The Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Sunday November 15th, 2020 @ 7PM
Expert Commentators: Dr. Jennifer Fiegel (CBE), Dr. Ed Sander (BME), & Others

The Fantastic Voyage

A 1966 American science-fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer and written by Harry Kleiner, based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. The film is about a submarine crew who are shrunk to microscopic size and venture into the body of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain.

Sci-Fi Inspiration for Modern Times

The Fantastic Voyage released in the US on August 24, 1966. The Cold War's Space Race was well underway with Sputnik having shot across the sky in 1957 and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wouldn't walk on the surface of the Moon for another 3 years on July 20, 1969. With this world and technology as the backdrop, a movie about the United States and Soviet Union developing a shrink ray and a scientist looking to defect to the West is a great movie plot!

Now 54 years removed from the release of the film it is possible to explore how the film impacted modern medicine and how close Sci-Fi is to becoming reality!

  1. Dr. James Giordano,  chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center, was 7 years old in 1966. In an interview with Sloan Science & Film of the Museum of the Moving Image Dr. Giordano cites the film as sparking his desire to explore the brain however as he says, "this is in the middle of the 1960s; there was no neuroscience; there was no field that was titularly called neuroscience." 
  2. A 2019 story from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed "microscale rockets powered by acoustic waves and an onboard bubble motor that may one day navigate through landscapes of cells and blood vessels inside the human body." The researchers are hoping this technology will one day be able to help with tumors, clogged arteries, and with additional sensors help doctors diagnose patients from the inside.
    • The eBook Medical Device Innovation from Concept to Market by Peter Ogrodnik "addresses medical devices' regulatory (FDA and EU) requirements, shows the essential methodologies medical designers must understand to ensure their products meet requirements, and brings together proven design protocols, thus enabling engineers and medical device manufacturers to rapidly bring new products to the marketplace"
    Researchers at the NanoRobotics Laboratory of École Polytechnique de Montréal’s Department of Computer Engineering and Institute of Biomedical Engineering succeeded in guiding a microdevice inside an artery via computer control in 2007. The device they were controlling was a 1.5- millimetre-diameter sphere that traveled at 10 centimeters/second! One of the researchers said "Injection and control of nanorobots inside the human body, which contains nearly 100,000 kilometers of blood vessels, is a promising avenue that could enable interventional medicine to target sites that so far have remained inaccessible using modern medical instruments."
    • The Gale Interactive: Human Anatomy provides 3D, interactive views of more than 4300 structures and 13,500 identifiable landmarks in the human body. The database organizes the views into the various body systems of Skeletal, Muscular, Nervous, Circulatory, Digestive, Respiratory, Urinary, and Reproductive - so it is possible to virtually explore all 100,000km of the Circulatory System.  
  3. How many nanometers are in an inch? There are 25 million nanometers in an inch and in 2018 scientists from China’s National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNT) and Arizona State University announced they had developed robots that are "a few hundred nanometers across". These robots were able to shrink tumors by blocking its blood supply. The hope is to help with cancer treatment because "researchers showed that the nanorobots only targeted the tumors and didn’t cause clotting elsewhere in the body. They say this offers a promising future of cancer treatments free of side effects."
    • Cancer Cell is an Open Access journal that publishes reports of novel results in any area of cancer research, from molecular and cellular biology to clinical oncology. The primary criterion for considering manuscripts is whether the studies provide major advances into answering important questions relevant to naturally occurring cancers.
  4. Scientific American discussed the evolution of "Robot Pills" to explore the development and history Pill Cameras and pill-sized robotic capsules. The first wireless camera pill, M2A, from 1999 "established the usefulness of examining the gastrointestinal tract with a wireless device." The practice of taking a pill is known as capsule endoscopy - however because they are passive devices they lead to a high rate of false negatives because they miss the problem areas.
    • Several standard organizations exist to help guide researchers and manufacturers towards making safe products. Found within TechStreet, ISO Standard 14971:2019, titled Medical Devices - Application of Risk Management to Medical Devices, exists to "provide manufacturers with a framework within which experience, insight and judgment are applied systematically to manage the risks associated with the use of medical devices."