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Today's Sci-Fi will be tomorrow's technology?

  1. Dec 9, 2005 #1
    Today's Sci-Fi will be tomorrow's technology???

    Lynn here!
    I'm a recruitment Consultant for the Science and Technology Industry and we've been having a chat about yesterday's Sci-fi being technology we use today in everyday life!! How exciting to consider that today's sci-fi could be the technology of the future!
    If anyone has any opinions about this, please feel free to chat with ,me!
    L x
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2005 #2
    yeah, I like how the clamshell phones look like Kirk's communicator :-D

    as for today's sci-fi.... well, we still do not have FTL travel, we do not have the energy production to be able to change matter into food or to transform matter on a large scale (particle beam transportation, not Quantum transportation)

    I think that the next leap in tech will have to come after we learn to generate massively more amounts of energy because we will need it to do the things that are in sci-fi.
  4. Dec 9, 2005 #3
    To the extent I'm aware of the history of Sci-Fi I get the impression that very, very little of it gets realized. What happens instead is that we discover how to do other things than those that were predicted, and these different but real advances are never as simple or smoothly operating as the gizmo's in the old books and TV shows.
  5. Dec 9, 2005 #4


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    That today's sci-fi becomes tomorrow's technology is no coincidence.

    Speculative fiction writers (a more accurate term than sci-fi writers) are *in the business* of preparing for the future. Many of the best ones are scientists or mathematicians and spend quite a bit of time consulting with other full-time scientists. Many not only attend, but are strong participators in various science efforts, including the space program. This also means they are privvy to the very latest in discoveries and engineeering achievements.

    So often referenced it is almost a cliche, Arthur C. Clarke "invented" geostationary communication satellites before we even had satellites.

    People often wonder at writers' abilities to imagine the future. It's what they *do*!
  6. Dec 9, 2005 #5
    One SF author I find impressive in this regard is the the 19th-century author Jules Verne. He envisioned a fully functioning submarine. He also described space travel to the moon.
  7. Dec 9, 2005 #6


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    At the time (1869-1870) Jules Verne wrote "Vingt mille lieues sous les mers" (Twenty Thousand Leagues (Miles) Under the Sea), submarines had been conceived in 1775 (Bushnell's turtle - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtle_(submarine)) and constructed by 1776. However, larger craft were a long way off - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine#Early_history_of_submarines_and_the_first_submersibles.

    Science fiction, in which physical laws are violated, will always remain science fiction.

    And sometimes, science fiction comes after science and technology has been developed. There needs to be some basic understanding of the natural physical laws, e.g. nuclear energy.

    I am reminded of some journalist's comment during the 1990's that NASA's Xe ion propulsion system was a realization of Gene Roddenbury's concept from Star Trek (1960's). Actually, ion propulsion had been studied at least as early as the 1950's, and possibly earlier based on ion sources and particle accelerators.
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  8. Dec 9, 2005 #7
    I wonder whether solar sails first arose as SF. They have been used by the famous Cornell astronomer's foundation.

    As you pointed out, Verne's ingenuity was to see a fully functional submarine in which people can remain for an extended period of time.
  9. Dec 9, 2005 #8
    problem with solar sails is that the object will get stuck at the heloppause.
  10. Dec 9, 2005 #9
    Recently they have been used to propel a Sagan Foundation spacecraft, haven't they?
  11. Dec 9, 2005 #10


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    Most people don't realize that Gene was an airline pilot before becoming a writer, and thus had a pretty reasonable knowledge of propulsion technology. He was aware of ion engine theory, and knew that such would never be able to attain the sort of acceleration depicted in the show. The name 'Impulse' was deliberately vague so it couldn't be disproven.
  12. Dec 12, 2005 #11
    Some parts of sci-fi such as nanomorphs, unbreakable metals (e.g. adamantium), anti-gravity devices and perpetual machines (free energy) will probably always remain in the realm of human imagination.
  13. Dec 12, 2005 #12


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    One of the the most spookily accurate predictions I've come across in SF is in a 1946 story called A Logic Named Joe by Murray Leinster.

    In it, the modern reader can't help but recognise the desk top PC complete with internet access.
  14. Dec 12, 2005 #13
    In the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe I own there is an afterward for his story http://www.poedecoder.com/Qrisse/works/phaal.html [Broken] which actually describes a history of stories related to traveling to the moon which predates even Verne.
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  15. Dec 13, 2005 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    However, until [if ever] physics is complete, and even then there wouild be a little room for doubt for a long time to come, apparent violations of physical laws may or may not remain so forever. Unless someone is psychic, I don't see how the distinction can be made with any certainty. We can only talk about the limits of what the current physics allows. What we might learn a thousand [or a million!] years from now is tough to say.

    Keep in mind that what has been called the most fundamental assumption of physics, causality, could still be up for grabs according to some models. According to Hawking's 2002 book, "The future of Spacetime", there is no consensus that reverse time machines have been ruled out.

    Note also that we might interpret some proposed Sci-Fi technology as violating physics, say for example in the sense that flight was once believed to be impossible, or as time was once believed to be immutable, but this could be more a comment on our limited thinking rather than the limits of physics.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2005
  16. Dec 13, 2005 #15
    This is interesting. How close is it to a computer? To what extent does he explain how it operates?
  17. Dec 13, 2005 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    This may or may not be a credible source, but at a glance I was surprised to find Scotty's transparent aluminum under development.

    Science Fiction Inventions by Subject Area

    Transparent Aluminum [under Armor on the page above]
    http://www.tswg.gov/tswg/pp/pp_ma.htm [Broken]
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  18. Dec 13, 2005 #17


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    Since this was a story and not a engineering treatise, the actual working are left somewhat vague.

    As to how close, here are a few things the story does mention.

    Desk top model with keyboard and vision screen.

    Widespread use with one in almost every home.

    Onboard logical processing (as opposed to a number of simple monitors tied to a single central processor.)

    User friendly, common language usage (no need for knowledge of a programming language to use.)

    Access to a data network(internet) from your desktop

    Real-time updates on weather, stocks etc.

    Real-time video and audio comumication

    Parental control blocks for access to adult content.

    TV over desk top.

    On screen help.

    Ability to upload software.
  19. Dec 13, 2005 #18


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    Great site, Ivan! I've added it to my 'favourites'.
    Janus, that's a fine bit of foresight regarding the computer. Another one that got my attention was a novella called 'Nerves' by Lester del Rey. Although I haven't read it in over 25 years, my recollection is that it's a dead-on accurate account of a nuclear station meltdown... written in 1934.
  20. Dec 13, 2005 #19
    That's pretty eerie. It seems so close that it's more like he saw into the future than inspired it. I'm sure I've never heard of that story or the author before. Is he well known among the Sci-Fi cognoscenti, or did you run into this story by accident on your own? It's so outside the usual or at least famous, early Sci-Fi take on computers, which is the fear of Hal, or the fear of sentient robots equiped with computer-brains. As far as I know, the only people who knew about computers at that time were people in the government. I wonder what he was extrapolating the idea from.
  21. Dec 13, 2005 #20


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    Zoob, Murray Leinster is one of the icons of SF. (And I will point out right now that using the term 'sci-fi' to a science fiction fan is equivalent to calling his mother a whore.) He was a prelude to, and part of, the 'Golden Age of SF', where the likes of Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Robert Heinlein, and their friends were physics students who started writing professionally for 2 cents a word.
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