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General SF&F Chat > Science behind sci-fi

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message 1: by D. (new)

D. Snyder | 51 comments I wrote a paper once discussing this sort of topic. Ambitiously, I proposed it to cover all manners of sci-fi tropes (from atmosphere generators to zap-guns). I didn't get past the outline before I realized the scope of such a project would fill a hundred volumes and limited my paper to common star drives. Even there, I selected a few and talked only about their literary need and demonstrated physical limitations.

There have been several television series and specials discussing the scientific advancements into science fiction technologies (you can't read a news story about experiments in quantum teleportation without reporter making a reference to Star Trek). These tend to focus on development of technologies that resemble or bring us closer to imagined science -- science fiction leading real science development or life imitating art. I might suggest "The Prophets of Science Fiction" on science channel, though this is TV.

As for art to imitate life, you might simply look to writers guides for science/science fiction. Personally, when I write realistic science into a story I start with a topic or ability I want to give a character, and then I start doing research to make the tech realistic. The basis of the fictional science being one part personal experience, two to five parts research, and another few parts expert opinion.


message 2: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments In the beginning, much of the better grounded SF was based upon one or a few assumptions of scientific progress/change and extrapolated from there.

For instance, in our current day world, one development that could drastically change almost everything would be a lightweight, very high capacity battery technology. All of a sudden solar/non conventional powered vehicles (including aircraft) would be possible. So would human exoskeletons, laser weapons, and much more. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility that some new energy storage medium will be invented in the near future? I would argue not. So while we could not get there from here at this moment, the concept and application is already in place.


message 3: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2177 comments I googled your question & found this site that might interest you.
http://www.scifiscience.co.uk/


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited May 06, 2015 07:28AM) (new)

Jim wrote: "I googled your question & found this site that might interest you.
http://www.scifiscience.co.uk/"


Interesting website, Jim, though a number of topics just cite pseudo-science. (E.g. the extensive bibliography under Crystal Power.)

It also doesn't seem to think much of biological sciences. ("we can already do cloning. Remember Dolly?" dismisses the whole genetic engineering field. Nancy Kress weeps.)

Might be fun to have a wiki on the topic.


message 5: by Brendan (last edited May 06, 2015 07:34AM) (new)

Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments What the heck is this website? "As a professional scientist with a PhD in science" is, I can guarantee you, not a phrase any scientist would ever use. I don't see anywhere that says who these "professional scientists" are, where they got their degrees or what their degrees are in.

EDIT: Sadly it stopped updating a year ago, but this was my favourite place for hard science explanations in sci-fi.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited May 06, 2015 07:54AM) (new)

Brendan wrote: "What the heck is this website? ..."

Darn, until I saw that, I thought the Internet was completely reliable. :)


message 7: by Brendan (new)

Brendan (mistershine) | 743 comments I'm just having trouble figuring out if it's earnest but misguided or a joke that I'm not getting.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

V.W. wrote: "In the beginning, much of the better grounded SF was based upon one or a few assumptions of scientific progress/change and extrapolated from there...."

In the modern era, I think it's John W Campbell's stint as editor of Astounding/Analog magazine (1937-1971) this usually credited with the sci-fi style of speculative science/what if, with a story that conjectures some gadget or physical fact. Such as the Heinlein story I mentioned in our World Jones Made discussion, or Solution Unsatisfactory, which postulates an atomic super weapon (pre-Manhattan Project) or Asimov's Nightfall, which considers a planet orbiting multiple suns.

The New Wave "speculative fiction" begun in the late 60's was in some ways a rebellion against such scientific constraints.


message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited May 06, 2015 07:40AM) (new)

D. wrote: "The basis of the fictional science being one part personal experience, two to five parts research, and another few parts expert opinion. ..."

I wish more authors did more research. I'm fine with authors inventing "new science" to drive a good story, whether it's faster than light space travel or uploading minds into computers, but (as I've pontificated before) I wish they'd get the existing science right.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

It occurs to me that Neil deGrasse Tyson has over last couple of years found a publicity gold mine by going on Twitter & TV and pointing out scientific errors in sci-fi movies.


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2177 comments Brendan wrote: "I'm just having trouble figuring out if it's earnest but misguided or a joke that I'm not getting."

I'd guess it's a mixture of earnest & snake oil. Has some fun lists & observations, though.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

if you go pre-Campbell, to Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories, even back to pre-Amazing and Uncle Hugo's mag The Electrical Experimenter (or was it Science and Invention, I forget), the stories were offten just an excuse to pontificate on some real-world scientific matter or other...if the lecture wouldn't fit into the story, Gernsback was perfectly happy to add long and ponderous footnotes....


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

In fact, the lectures and/or footnotes the stories contained helped a young Isaac Asimov convince his father to let him read the SF pulps in the first place...they were educational!!!

:D


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