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SF That Inspires/Hinders Real Science

In a recent interview, Buzz Aldrin said that science fiction was partially responsible for public apathy toward the space program (saying, in essence, if you see enough fictional tricorders, advances in CAT scan technology don’t seem very interesting any more).

io9–which does love its lists–has responded with SF books and movies that particularly inspire (or hinder) real scientific research.

Hindering: Blood Music
One of the earliest novels about nanotechnology and the dreaded “gray goo” scenario, Greg Bear’s book is about nanotech that goes awry, becomes sentient, and eats the entire world. Consumed by the nano, humans enter a kind of transcendent “noosphere” while their bodies become the raw materials of a new world. While this is a cool idea, it’s led to the myth that the outcome of nanotech is inevitably the (literal) breakdown of society.

Inspiring: The Diamond Age
Neal Stephenson’s gorgeous and complex novel The Diamond Age is set in a nano-enabled world where human minds are used for distributed computing and electronic children’s books are so close to being sentient that they can raise children without the help of human adults. A young woman raised by one such book grows up to become a wise and brilliant leader. You can find a similar scenario in Linda Nagata’s nanotech novel The Bohr Maker, where an impoverished woman discovers a nanofabricator and uses it to transform the developing world.

It’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of positive and negative works for a particular branch of technology.


Posted in Books & Authors July 16th, 2008 by Chip
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