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Matthew
2003-Oct-08, 09:50 AM
What has science fiction (books/movies) come up with that is scientifically fiesable if not currently possible?

What has science fiction done to space and how it is viewed?


Science fiction has inspired people to look up at the stars and wonder if there is life out there. The concepts of landing on the moon and the atomic bomb were devised in science fiction before the events occured in 'real' life.

all_isone
2003-Oct-08, 01:34 PM
science fiction offered great inspiration to modern technology.
lots of ideas that started in SF books are by now parts of our everyday life.

i also believe that 'truths' have been disguised as fs novel plots.
not to say that some old sf books were quite prophetic.

today, reality seems as -if not more- far fetched than sf.

Haglund
2003-Oct-08, 01:50 PM
Science fiction is one of my favourite genres, but it must be well written and somewhat believable (which is different for all of us of course). What is believable also changes with the times, for example going to the moon was not very realistic when Jules Verne wrote the book, today it is reality. That is, except for the method they used in the book...

Teleportation is another thing, although we're not anywhere near the Star Trek style teleporters where we can teleport large structures and even living matter. Maybe it will be possible one day, maybe not.

Interplanetary communication was something Jules Verne predicted as well, but from the story I read, it appears as if we're communicating with alien life forms and not other humans on other planets. Biological warfare was described briefly in the same story, not sure if that was the first time it was mentioned or even if it was practiced way before that. And no, I don't quite remember the title of the story right now, but when I do, I will post it here. "Contact" is one of my favourite movies of all time, and it is about our first contact with another civilization. I think we have the technology to detect such a message directed right at us, but so far it has not yet happened.

The french illustrator Albert Robida predicted, during the late 19th century, the television, however it wasn't wireless. He also "invented" something called "telephonoscope" (my translation from swedish to english), which, according to the book I read it in, was used by a young lady doing her homework, while watching a monitor on which she could see and probably communicate with the teacher.
And did anyone predict the internet before it was invented some 30 years ago, or even before the web was invented and popularized?

jkmccrann
2005-Oct-22, 05:47 AM
In regards to teleportation, i'd reckon teleportation of inanimate objects, like perhaps a pistol, may be possible, although i have a hard time believing it will ever be truly possible for humans. in terms of something like a pistol though, do other people share that view and when do you think we might get there, purely speculative of course.

I'd believe we'd get there around 2300 as long as we don't destroy ourselves first.

Enzp
2005-Oct-22, 08:45 AM
I think teleportation and the Star Trek transporter are about the least likely things to come to pass. There is a nice little book called The Physics of Star Trek. I think the author is Krauss, maybe? In fact I think he might have written a second volume. In it he discusses the various technologies we see on screen and what it would take to actually create them. It is not a technical book, it is an easy read and nothing to worry about it being over your head. I liked it.

I think a lot of the proposed technologies in SF books fail to consider the energies needed to pull it off. Your pocket phaser has to have an energy source that fits in your palm and yet has the energy to melt through a sheet of steel. That alone is the major problem, let alone the method of projecting that power.

We see worm holes and other space warping technologies. We would have to be able to harness control, and dispense the energy of whole stars to pull that off.

SUb-space communication requires some sort of path through other dimensions - dimensions where the two point at the ends of the communication touch. The signal cannot go faster than light, so we have to somehow shorten the path through alternative dimensions.

REplicators? Right in there with transporters really, but probably more feasible. At least it doesn;t require something whole and living to start with that expects to remain that way afterwards.

I also wonder how we might conceptually detect living forms on a planet across a star system with "sensors."

I love SF too, but I have to find it plausible or so well written I don't notice the faults. I think it is inspiring, makes kids think about how things could be.

SF has changed with the times. In the 1950s any spaceship had to have some sort of dufus with a Brooklyn accent on the crew as comic relief. Now it tends to be a little more credible.

Paul Beardsley
2005-Oct-22, 09:20 AM
I don't think teleportation will ever happen in the form of "break down the person/object into constituent atoms, transport them across space and then rearrange them at the other end". Among other things, there's simply no need! Why transport the atoms when you could use different atoms at the other end? It's only the information that's needed.

The idea of scanning every part of a human seemed a bit silly to me, so I wrote a story in which the transmitting teleport booth simply scanned the DNA and sent the genetic information to the receiving booth. The receiving booth created an instant fully-grown clone. The traveller's memories were then scanned, transmitted, and downloaded into the clone, and the original body was destroyed. (The story was called "The Scar", and it appeared in a magazine called The Gate in the early 1990s.)

The idea of destroying the original had been done before, and the philosophical implications already considered - i.e. is the clone with the memories the same PERSON as the one in the transmitting booth? My own story raised the question, what if you have a genetic fault that was put right by surgery? The traveller arrives in the receiving booth with the problem restored.

Larry Niven wrote a series of stories about teleport booths which explored the social implications of people able to go anywhere effortlessly. For instance, a woman who divorces her overbearing husband and moves to another country to get away from him suddenly finds he can turn up at any time to bother her. And if an area of outstanding natural beauty is shown on TV, a proportion of viewers (maybe quite a few thousand) will want to teleport in to see it for real... and then the place is overrun with litter-dropping tourists, who are also rich pickings for pick-pockets. Niven called this the flash-crowd. And although we don't have teleportation, we have the internet, and some of the things Niven predicted have their parallels in real life. For instance, Friends Reunited has reunited happily married people with fondly remembered sweethearts... and ended marriages. Flash-crowds are organised on websites. And so on.

Science fiction is often dismissed by literary types because of what it doesn't do. In many cases, this seems to be because these people have no real conception that reality extends beyond the office, the pub and the fast-food restaurant. To many people, Mars is either the thing that gets mentioned whenever a NASA probe fails, or something to do with the zodiac. The fact that it is an actual world - and one of many - does not seem to register with them.

Enzp
2005-Oct-22, 09:39 AM
Actually I liked the stories about teleportation with that premise. Destroy the original after making a remote copy. That seemed more reasonable and likely, although committing someone to die with the thought that they would live on as a copy elsewhere is a tough sell.

There was an episode of Outer Limits where a woman is to be transported out but ther is a delay in reception, so they don't destroy her right away. of course she eventually does arrive and now must be killed. The station operator has established a relationship with her in the meantime and zaniness ensues.

I do recall, and I know I have it here somewhere, a book about a guy runnign a way station for the teleportation system, and he had to destroy the bodies. Vats of acid and solvents in the basement. I was thinking Theodore Sturgeon, but could have been someone else like Niven. That description doesn't match my memory of the book though. Not a new theme.

Beaming the info to a remote station to make a copy is one thing, but for continutiy sake, you also need to copy the state of all the cells in the body as well as the electrical states for the mental processes. Would be tough.

zebo-the-fat
2005-Oct-22, 10:33 AM
If you can scan the body for teleportation, why not save the data and use it as a "backup". If the original body is killed or seriously damaged just replace it with the backup. (Teleport the data across the room!)

ZaphodBeeblebrox
2005-Oct-22, 10:47 AM
Actually I liked the stories about teleportation with that premise. Destroy the original after making a remote copy. That seemed more reasonable and likely, although committing someone to die with the thought that they would live on as a copy elsewhere is a tough sell.

There was an episode of Outer Limits where a woman is to be transported out but ther is a delay in reception, so they don't destroy her right away. of course she eventually does arrive and now must be killed. The station operator has established a relationship with her in the meantime and zaniness ensues.

I do recall, and I know I have it here somewhere, a book about a guy runnign a way station for the teleportation system, and he had to destroy the bodies. Vats of acid and solvents in the basement. I was thinking Theodore Sturgeon, but could have been someone else like Niven. That description doesn't match my memory of the book though. Not a new theme.

Beaming the info to a remote station to make a copy is one thing, but for continutiy sake, you also need to copy the state of all the cells in the body as well as the electrical states for the mental processes. Would be tough.
The Original Story, From Whence that Outer Limits Episode Arises, Is Called "Think Like a Dinosaur".

If ANYTHING, It Is More Chilling, As we Are Privy to Many More, of The Operator's Thoughts ...

Same Ending, though ...

Paul Beardsley
2005-Oct-22, 12:15 PM
If you can scan the body for teleportation, why not save the data and use it as a "backup". If the original body is killed or seriously damaged just replace it with the backup. (Teleport the data across the room!)
Well exactly.

Good SF considers the consequences of an innovation. Bad SF just uses the innovation as a plot device.

In movies and TV, the spectacle is often considered enough in its own right. "Oh look. That bloke just disappeared... and now he's reappeared somewhere else! Wow!" But when it comes to books, the reader demands a bit more. "Okay," says the reader, "so he can disappear and reappear somewhere else. That's fine, that's a potentially interesting concept. Now let's consider how he could have done that. And if one person could do it, what's to stop other people doing the same? And if loads of people could do it, what effect would it have on crime, transport, the environment? And if, as zebo-the-fat points out, you could keep backups, why would the teleporter want the 'new' body to be the current model, and not the backup which is a few years younger?" And so on.

I find Star Trek and its ilk unsatisfying because it generally fails to address these points - almost as if the writers don't even realise that they've raised the points in the first place!

tbm
2005-Oct-22, 03:46 PM
Greetings.

Science fiction has always been a sort of "what if" initiator for scienctific advances. Good science fiction writers (Verne, Asimov,Welles, Bradbury, etc.) always seem to take the improbable but possible and make it seem just out of present touch but, in the future, inevitable. These same writers also KNEW that what they wrote was fiction and didn't try to pass it off as real.

Guys like Hoagland, McCanney, Stevens, etc., on the other hand, have fodder for good science fiction, but blow it by passing it of as reality. Since these guys are neither (good) writers nor scientists, they instead play the middle ground as '"researchers" of sorts. This way their "information", concocted and convoluted as it is, can be disseminated without the normal literary or science checks and balances.

Regards, tbm

Paul Beardsley
2005-Oct-22, 04:06 PM
I agree with tbm's distinction. It's the difference between sharing an imaginative vision, and lying to someone.

Incidentally, I rather like it when writers of fiction go that little bit further to convey the illusion that what you are reading is not fiction. For instance, Michael Moorcock, in his (rather good) Nomad of Time series, had a framing device whereby the first story was actually told to Moorcock's grandfather, who wrote it all down and put the manuscript in a casket before getting killed in World War I - and then decades later Moorcock used his clout as a big name author to get the manuscript published! In the third book, I think the story was told to Moorcock himself.

Musashi
2005-Oct-22, 09:14 PM
That reminds me, I was in Border's bookstore today and I noticed something neat. They now have a section titled "speculative" that is not near the science and contains junk books like stuff by Percy and Icke. Kudos to Border's.

snarkophilus
2005-Oct-23, 12:15 AM
Biological warfare was described briefly in the same story, not sure if that was the first time it was mentioned or even if it was practiced way before that.


During the Middle Ages in Europe they would launch the bodies of plague victims over the walls of towns to begin sieges, hoping that the disease would spread. So the aerial dispersal of biological agents is at least that old. (Get it?)

There are reports of biological weapons as far back as 600 BC, poisoning water supplies. This article calls it "bioterrorism" when it is clearly not terrorism at all, but whatever...

http://www.npr.org/news/specials/response/anthrax/features/2001/oct/011018.bioterrorism.history.html

This is kind of a funny fact, because I have found a lot of web sites that plagiarize it from each other, but I couldn't hunt down an original source with any real details. Maybe it's just really common knowledge... but all of the writeups (on many different sites) are almost exactly the same. Weird.



Science fiction has always been a sort of "what if" initiator for scienctific advances. Good science fiction writers (Verne, Asimov,Welles, Bradbury, etc.) always seem to take the improbable but possible and make it seem just out of present touch but, in the future, inevitable. These same writers also KNEW that what they wrote was fiction and didn't try to pass it off as real.


I think that a lot of people who actually do science were inspired by the science fiction they read as children. In that way, a number of futuristic inventions from those works become real, because the people inventing things are inspired by those books. I can't think of any specific examples of this, but I know I've heard many. People are inventive. If enough people hear of something that would be useful or just plain cool, there's a good chance someone will make it.

Shirow Masamune's Ghost in the Shell is a pretty popular comic, and I'm willing to bet that someone, somewhere gets inspired by it and figures out a way to keep a brain in a suitcase, to be plugged into whichever prosthetic body is convenient.

And then, it's only a matter of time until someone develops psychohistory.... :)

eburacum45
2005-Oct-23, 01:18 AM
There might turn out to be two different types of teleportation possible in the long term future; the first is a way of copying the original article by scanning it very closely (with or without destroying the original) and assembling a copy, or a number of copies at another location using local materials.

This would be a lot easier if the article was designed from scratch to be replicated in this way. In some ways, this sort of replication has been possible ever since the first recipe was shared between cooks, or the first stone axemaker showed someone else how to knap. Most of our industry is based on replication of some sort; if the entire process of manufacturing an article were put in a single black box then you could consider that a replicator. Sending blueprints and recipes over the internet, or by radio is already possible; is this a form of teleportation? If nanotechnology or miniaturisation allowed the black box replicator, and the replicator were on another planet- is it teleportation yet?

How about sending people in this fashion? I had a wacky idea that a person's DNA could be sent via radio, together with an uploaded copy of their mindstate, and assembled at a distant location into a person; this of course was suggested long ago by sci-fi authors, not least by Fred Hoyle in A for Andromeda (http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~lloyd/tildeImages/Film/Andromeda/A-for-Andromeda/).
Here is my version of this idea (http://www.orionsarm.com/historical/Audubon_Engenerator.html)...

But there is a second form of teleportation, quantum teleportation, which involves transmitting the states of individual particles from one location to another. Because of something called the no-cloning theorem the information can only exist in one place at once, so if you transmit it the information ceases to exist in the original location.
More info here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_teleportation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-cloning_theorem

I don't see how this could ever be used to transmit macroscopic objects, but if it were, the original would be destroyed (or perhaps merely randomised) and the copy would be the only remaining instance of the teleported item. This is quite a different concept to replication, and is likely to remain fiction in my opinion, although it might be useful for the transfer of some kinds of information.

Planetwatcher
2005-Oct-23, 06:29 AM
The principles of Star Trek type transporters are getting very close to reality, as long as the objects being transported are not living.
That is still quite a long ways off.

However, I'm more impressed with Nswr's potentual. Nswr may very well be our first attempt at intersteller travel, which has been so fictional before. It could take a very long time, but it might just work.

JohnD
2005-Oct-23, 11:13 AM
Matthew,
You are proposing the theory that science fiction can predict future science development. As this is a science website, let us treat it as a science theory. First, is this is a testable hypothesis? What predictions have been made by past SF/speculative writers?

Choose some of the oldest SF writers, as they have had longer for their predictions to come to pass:
Jules Verne - Submarines (20000 leagues). The execution and implications of a large, long duration dive submersible he got spot on.
- Lunar travel (From the earth to the Moon). Not so! Explosive launch, unbraked landing, atmosphere and inhabitants.
(See a list at: http://technovelgy.com/ct/AuthorTotalAlphaList.asp?AuNum=50 . IMHO, many of these do not qualify, either as predicted developments or ones that have come to pass.)

Rudyard Kipling - Flying machines. (As easy as ABC. etc.) Based on a lighter than air concept. No. Submarines - yes! (Same story) The ABC as a world government (he was thinking towards the League of Nations) has not arrived.

HG Wells - Atomic warfare (The shape of things to come). No. He realised the possibilities of fission, but not the chain reaction. His 'atomic bombs' were more like small toxic geysirs than WMD.
His many other SF stories, WotW, Time Machine were not prescient, nor was the Island of Dr.Moreau, although some of that philosophy is applicable to current stem cell and genetic engineering.
(The site above has a similar list of 'predictions' for HGW, and I have the same reservations:http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/AuthorTotalAlphaList.asp?AuNum=54 )

I won't go on, and one with more knowledge than I of the literature is needed to compile an exhaustive list that would truly test the hypothesis. But my impression is that while they got some startling hits, they missed most of the time. My opinion, not based on class 1 evidence, is that science fiction does not predict future development.
If you place enough bets on a race, you get some winners, but not enough to beat the bookmakers!

Of course the paramount SF prediction that HAS happened is the geostationary satellite. However that can only be included because of AC Clarke's subsequent career. He envisioned this from his training in, and involvement in cutting edge electronics for WW2 radar, and published it in Wireless World, a non-fiction journal, as a semi-scientific paper: http://www.lsi.usp.br/~rbianchi/clarke/ACC.ETRelaysFull.html
(For the new generation, "Wireless" refers to 'radio broadcasting' rather than the present Internet application!)

JOhn

Paul Beardsley
2005-Oct-23, 12:48 PM
Matthew,
You are proposing the theory that science fiction can predict future science development. As this is a science website, let us treat it as a science theory. First, is this is a testable hypothesis? What predictions have been made by past SF/speculative writers?
I'm not sure Matthew IS doing that... Although testing the hypothesis is probably worth doing, as it is likely to be entertaining, and will encourage people to discuss quality SF.

I'll throw in my definition of SF - "Stories that deal with the fantastic in a rational (or seemingly-rational) way." I would add that it is not the purpose of SF to predict science development - any SF writer will tell you that - but what IS its purpose?

I reckon it has more than one. Purposes include:
* To stimulate the intellect in an entertaining way.
* To engage one's sense of wonder. (I hate it when people call it "sensawunda" BTW. It's as if it's something to be ashamed of, and so we have to distance ourselves from it by spelling it in an "ironic" way.)
* To encourage us to look back at our everyday lives and see it in the context of the cosmos, and to see the strange and the amazing in the ordinary. One example of this: consider the pricing gun (you know, those things shaped like guns that people in shops use to put price stickers on the things they sell). Do they have pricing guns on other planets? Perhaps, but that would mean our distant neighbours would have hands like ours, a money-based economy, and (possibly) a history of using hand-held firearms. If they DO have these things, how did they come about?
* To speculate about conditions in distant environments such as other planets, worlds that are not planets, universes where the constants of nature are different (Larry Niven and Stephen Baxter being major practitioners of this).
* To celebrate the romance of astronomy.

It's also worth remembering that a lot of SF has to be dramatic. John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids was a fairly prescient look at the concerns about genetic modification. Okay, so we worry about cross-pollinating GM tomatoes rather than rampaging stinging plants, but the core issue is still obvious.

Also, some of the not-yet-invented stuff still has relevance. (I have already drawn parallels between Niven's teleport booth sociology stories and the internet.)

genebujold
2005-Oct-23, 06:10 PM
In my experience, the "science" behind science fiction is perhaps its weakest contribution.

From Clark to Heinlein to Norton and beyond, the main thread behind science fiction is one of humanity, the rules that govern society and politics, if not the very relations between humans themselves.

It's a collective world of cooperation, if not collaboration, of both selfishness and selflessness, thereby underlining a basic tenet of humanity, and concern for our species, if not out entire planet, as a whole.

Planetwatcher
2005-Oct-24, 08:25 AM
I just thought of another sci-fi idea become reality.
In 1967, William Shatner flipped open a little case and spoke the famous words, "Kirk to Enterprise," into a device called a communicator.

Today, nearly everyone has a simular size device, which allows the user to talk to nearly anyone in the world, called a cell phone.

Many cell phones even look like Kirk's communicator. The only real difference is the keypad, compared to speaking into it, and some phones can even be made to do that now. Who knew?

AstroSmurf
2005-Oct-24, 11:50 AM
I do recall, and I know I have it here somewhere, a book about a guy runnign a way station for the teleportation system, and he had to destroy the bodies. Vats of acid and solvents in the basement. I was thinking Theodore Sturgeon, but could have been someone else like Niven. That description doesn't match my memory of the book though. Not a new theme.
That's "Way Station" by Clifford Simak. It's one of my favourites.

Donnie B.
2005-Oct-24, 02:23 PM
And did anyone predict the internet before it was invented some 30 years ago, or even before the web was invented and popularized?Yes, though like many such predictions, they didn't necessarily have the same form as today's reality.

One example: Asimov wrote stories in which everyone who could afford one had a terminal that gave access to a super library computer. One could ask it factual questions and get answers. (This appeared in the famous story called "The Last Question", published in 1956.)

Dave Mitsky
2005-Oct-24, 03:46 PM
Well exactly.

Good SF considers the consequences of an innovation. Bad SF just uses the innovation as a plot device.

In movies and TV, the spectacle is often considered enough in its own right. "Oh look. That bloke just disappeared... and now he's reappeared somewhere else! Wow!" But when it comes to books, the reader demands a bit more. "Okay," says the reader, "so he can disappear and reappear somewhere else. That's fine, that's a potentially interesting concept. Now let's consider how he could have done that. And if one person could do it, what's to stop other people doing the same? And if loads of people could do it, what effect would it have on crime, transport, the environment? And if, as zebo-the-fat points out, you could keep backups, why would the teleporter want the 'new' body to be the current model, and not the backup which is a few years younger?" And so on.

I find Star Trek and its ilk unsatisfying because it generally fails to address these points - almost as if the writers don't even realise that they've raised the points in the first place!

I completely agree with your opening statements.

IIRC, one of the STNG episodes dealt with just such issues regarding teleportation. I seem to remenber that one of the Star Trek novels (I stopped reading them many years ago) delved into the subject at greater depth.

Dave Mitsky

Krel
2005-Oct-24, 05:54 PM
Teleportation is not what is being done in "Star Trek", it is matter, anti-matter transmission. Teleporting is a mental ability in the psiconic category, think 'jaunting' in, "The Stars My Destination".

Most of what is used in tv, and movies is matter transmission, more often than not, with tragic results. All the "Fly" movies, "The Projected Man", and even the Star Trek series and movies have shown horrible accidents. The series "Blake's 7" used artificial teleportation, the person wasn't disassembled, but rather transposed from one location to another. Neither one is very proable, but I can tell you that there is no way you could get me to use a ST transporter. I don't like the ideal of suicide.

The original "Star Trek" didn't predict the cell phone, just a more compact, and powerfull walkie-talkie. GR used to boast that everything shown in "Star Trek" was based on current (for the 1960's) technology. Remember the 1930's movie "Things to come" had people using wrist communictors like you would use a cell phone, and that was a well used concept even back then.

David.

Ilya
2005-Oct-24, 06:08 PM
I don't think teleportation will ever happen in the form of "break down the person/object into constituent atoms, transport them across space and then rearrange them at the other end". Among other things, there's simply no need! Why transport the atoms when you could use different atoms at the other end? It's only the information that's needed.
Frederick Pohl's books "The Other End of Time" and its two sequels use teleportation in which the original is NOT destroyed -- but a copy is made at the other end. After some time there are quite a few copies of several individuals, all with identical memories up to the moment of teleportation, and diverging after that.

Moreover, once the copy is created the information is not destroyed, and new copies (obviously, with memories only up to the moment of original transmission) can be and are made later.

Donnie B.
2005-Oct-24, 06:09 PM
The very first Star Trek novel ever, Spock Must Die, used those very issues as a major plot element. A transporter modification led to Spock being duplicated without the original being destroyed.

Along the way it discussed the theory of operation of the transporter in some detail. As I recall, the (unmodified) transporter didn't destroy the original and create a replica at the far end. Instead, it caused each particle of the original to make a jump to a new location. The term used was "Dirac jump" -- now why did that detail stick with me all these years?

One wonders how it would feel to have that happen to you, especially since it doesn't happen all at once. Or maybe it can't -- perhaps you have to allow time for the air molecules at the far end to move out of the way.