I’ve been thinking lately about the importance many readers and authors place on science in science fiction.
It doesn’t bother me that people like to have science in their fiction: it’s one way to create the effect of reality and it can be intellectually stimulating and educational at some levels and in some ways. But, it’s only one way to create the effect of reality…
Most of the early writers of science fiction seemed to be either amateurs who began writing sf when they knew of no market for it, or professional writers on mostly quite other themes, who jumped over to science fiction for its freedom of plotting.
While NASA is busy extending the Internet to outer space by increasing fault-tolerance and caching for packets traveling long distances over long periods of time, Chinese scientists are helping invent something that could make communication between Mars and Earth even more reliable. Or help create the next generation of quantum computers.
I’m talking about data teleportation. Data has been teleported before — as far as 89 miles — but never between two large, physically visible objects.
So the scientists at Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences in Anhui, China entangled photonic quantum bits in a quantum memory node, sent one of the entangled particles to another quantum memory node via an optical cable, made changes to the spinwave state of the nearby photon, and observed the same changes happening in the remote photo.
If you understand this, you’re a genius. Stop reading immediately and create a Star Trek-style matter teleporter, charge the world royalties, and retire as the richest human in the history of the world.
The stupid translation — meaning one I can understand — is that some super-smart geeks mysteriously connected two tiny particles so that they want to be twins but cruelly separated them. They then made changes to Mike (the nearest one) and observed equivalent changes automatically happening in Ike (the farthest one).
One of the debates currently roiling the section of the blogosphere devoted to science fiction is the one regarding the relative standing of genre and literary fiction - a now-ancient argument into which Arthur Krystal's essay in the New Yorker back in May, and a follow-up this past month, have breathed new life.
On October 11th of 1981, having just seen a pre-release glimpse of Blade Runner — a movie that was based on his novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and which is now regarded by many as the greatest science fiction film ever made — a delighted Philip K. Dick wrote the following letter to the production company responsible for the film and shared his enthusiasm.
"And, I think, partly because I’m terminally infected with the metaphor: that we can build our way out of anything, bound not by our imaginations but only by the speed at which we can develop the necessary skills to make what we see in our heads. I mean, if we’re going to be in the business of selling fantasies, I don’t think it’s a bad one to sell."
Published for the first time ever in today's issue of The Strand Magazine—the venerable publication that first brought Sherlock Holmes to the world—is perhaps the final lost story from the late Ray Bradbury. Among the endlessly appealing aspects of Bradbury; his insistence upon clinging to childhood at all costs remains perhaps his most consistent theme. Bradbury believed that “If you enjoy living, it is not difficult to keep the sense of wonder.” Further, he was delightfully immature about his interests, asserting “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
This book covers a LOT of ground. I consider myself fairly well versed in physics in a broader sense having always found that science quite interesting. Even following the field to some degree, it’s easy to get “behind.” The Hidden Reality really did an excellent job of capturing my interest and discussing the topic at hand: multiple universe (multiverse) theories.
It's not just human limbs that can be replaced. For the vision impaired there are artificial retinas and plastic polymer replacement lenses under development. And hundreds of thousands of electronic cochlear ear implants have allowed the deaf or severely hearing impaired to hear. Hip and knee joint replacements are almost routine.
NOTE: Thank you so much to everyone who wished us health and safety during and after Hurricane Sandy! I’m happy to report that we’ve got power, cell service, Internet, and cable TV all working again. Thanks again. If anyone wants to help those hit much worse than we were, I urge everyone to make a donation to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief fund.
No matter how many times the community debates science fiction’s viability, direction, and future, a fundamental question goes unasked: What is the purpose of science fiction? The answer to that question is at the heart of every (often recurring) debate about the genre, yet I have rarely seen it asked directly. Consider:
Although he died when he was only 53 years old, Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982) published 44 novels and 121 short stories during his lifetime and solidified his position as arguably the most literary of science fiction writers. His novel Ubik appears on TIME magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels, and Dick is the only science fiction writer to get honored in the prestigious Library of America series, a kind of pantheon of American literature.
Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world or a conworld.[better source needed] The term "worldbuilding" was popularized at science fiction writers' workshops in the 1970s. Developing an imaginary setting with coherent qualities such as a history, geography, and ecology is a key task for many science fiction or fantasy writers. Worldbuilding often involves the creation of maps, a backstory, and people for the world. Constructed worlds can enrich the backstory and history of fictional works, and it is not uncommon for authors to revise their constructed worlds while completing its associated work. Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games.
Most science fictional and futurist visions of the future tend towards the negative — and for good reason. Our environment is a mess, we have a nasty tendency to misuse technologies, and we're becoming increasingly capable of destroying ourselves. But civilizational demise is by no means guaranteed. Should we find a way to manage the risks and avoid dystopic outcomes, our far future looks astonishingly bright. Here are seven best-case scenarios for the future of humanity.
Before we get started it's worth noting that many of the scenarios listed here are not mutually exclusive. If things go really well, our civilization will continue to evolve and diversify, leading to many different types of futures.