Filed under: Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, H. G. Wells, Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Mark Twain, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Robert A. Heinlein, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Space, tech, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aberystwyth University, Aeon magazine, Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, futurism, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Iwan Rhys Morus, jim downey, Kindle, literature, movies, optimism, paleo-future, predictions, reviews, Robert A. Heinlein, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Victorian, Wales, writing
A very insightful essay into the role which speculative fiction played in the Victorian era, and how it is still echoed in our fiction today: Future perfect Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future
Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is very much worth reading:
It’s easy to pick and choose when reading this sort of future history from the privileged vantage point of now – to celebrate the predictive hits and snigger at the misses (Wells thought air travel would never catch on, for example); but what’s still striking throughout these books is Wells’s insistence that particular technologies (such as the railways) generated particular sorts of society, and that when those technologies were replaced (as railways would be by what he called the ‘motor truck’ and the ‘motor carriage’), society would need replacing also.
It makes sense to read much contemporary futurism in this way too: as a new efflorescence of this Victorian tradition. Until a few years ago, I would have said that this way of using technology to imagine the future was irrecoverably dead, since it depended on our inheritance of a Victorian optimism, expressed as faith in progress and improvement as realisable individual and collective goals. That optimism was still there in the science fiction of Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, but it fizzled out in the 1960s and ’70s. More recently, we’ve been watching the future in the deadly Terminator franchise, rather than in hopeful film such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The coupling of technological progress and social evolution that the Victorians inaugurated and took for granted no longer seemed appealing.
I think this is very much why many people find that Communion of Dreams seems to fit in so well with the style of SF from the 1950s and 60s — in spite of being set in a post-apocalyptic world, there is an … optimism … and a sense of wonder which runs through it (which was very deliberate on my part). As noted in a recent Amazon review*:
James Downey has created a novel that compares favorably with the old masters of science fiction.
Our universe would be a better place were it more like the one he has imagined and written about so eloquently.
Anyway, go read the Aeon essay by (who happens to be a professor at Aberystwyth University in Wales — no, I did not make this up).
*Oh, there’s another new review up I haven’t mentioned.
Filed under: Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait, Science, Slate, Space | Tags: asteroid, Astronomical Unit, astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Douglas Adams, fear, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, jim downey, Light-year, Moon, Phil Plait, science, Slate, space, UR116, Wikipedia
Phil Plait has another in a long series of articles about a space rock that isn’t going to hit Earth. Seriously:
This is Part N of what is apparently an infinite series of “No, Asteroid XXX Is Not Going to Hit the Earth” posts.
I’m sure he’s right. I have no doubt that he’s right. The latest rock in question isn’t going to get any closer than about 5 million kilometers. Which, as Plait notes: “That’s a pretty wide margin, well over 10 times the distance to the Moon.”
But I think that the problem with this kind of thing is that most people just have no clue how great that distance actually is. Seriously. I remember reading that a series of studies were done where if you asked people what they thought of the relationship between the Earth and the Moon was in terms of distance, where the Earth was represented by a basketball and the Moon by a softball, they’d typically say that the distance between the two was about a foot. Some would say a yard. As in, 3 feet. Maybe they’d say a meter if they were feeling sciency.
Whereas the proportional distance would be more like 24′ in actuality. (Based on just memory, I originally said 18′. A friend who actually knows this stuff gave me the correct number – thanks, Brent!)
Space is big. Most people have no damned clue how big. So when you say that some fast-moving rock will pass by the Earth by as much as 10x the distance of the Earth to the Moon, they’ll get scared, thinking that it is going to be a hell of a lot closer than it actually is.
It’s all a matter of perspective, not science. Like most things.
Edited to add: My friend Brent, who set me straight on the actual proportion above, added a comment on FB to note that if you have the distance of the Sun-Earth (one AU) set to one inch, then a full light-year would be right about a mile total distance. Which would put our nearest neighboring star at about 4.5 miles distance.
Yeah, space is BIG.
Filed under: Blade Runner, Humor, movies, Ridley Scott, Science Fiction, Space, Travel, YouTube | Tags: Blade Runner, blogging, humor, jim downey, Michael Shanks, movies, Ridley Scott, Science Fiction, space, Time Trap, time travel, video, www youtube
… that Ridley Scott was going to spend on making a bad sequel to Blade Runner and give it to the director of this brilliant and funny little short, and see what he comes up with. I mean, no matter what, even if he just wastes it all on bad booze and worse food, and doesn’t make another movie for the rest of his life, we’d *still* come out ahead.
Seriously. Have a good laugh: