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What is science fiction?

Science fiction is where you have some form of entertainment (film, games, books etc) that makes the leap from current scientific thinking into what could maybe some day be the future - both near and distant future. It may also seem to be completely and utterly impossible from our current perspective. For example in the time where transport was by horse, the idea that simply entering and controlling a box on wheels it would be possible to move along the ground at a speed faster than a horse can gallop was considered absurd. This is the point of this website - to explore what could be versus what will probably never be.

There are some examples of science fiction from films and television shows that have now come to be true life, such as discs to hold data and mobile phones. Both were featured in Star Trek years before anyone had invented them. It is worth pointing out that although Star Trek got the disc and mobile phones right, we still do not have faster than light starships, phasers or warp drive - the question is, will we ever? That question is still science fiction, which is completely different to fantasy where the material is make-believe, such as magic in Harry Potter, which does not exist.

A fact is described as something that actually exists, a reality, a truth whereas fiction is described as without basis in reality, a fantasy. These concepts apply in science and when new discoveries are made, fiction can sometimes be proved to be a fact. This does not happen all the time! it can also be said that the opposite occurs, where a science fact (which was believed to be true at the time) is shown to be false, like the aether, which was widely considered to scientifically true at the time.

Some examples of science fiction concepts that became fact are::

  • In Star Trek the use of the communicator before the technology for wireless communication.
  • In Star Trek the use of discs to hold information, this was before the CD or even the floppy disc.
  • In an early Arthur C Clarke book, he describes a system to communicate around the world by putting communication devices into orbit and bouncing signals off them. This was before the first satellite was put into orbit. The orbit is now called "The Clarke Belt" after the author who first mentioned it.

Remember, all scientific theory is just that - theory. However, if you keep throwing different experiments at a theory and it holds up, then you have more confidence in the theory. However, a day could come that an experiment is undertaken that disproves the theory. Some of our most enduring theories are, for example, gravity and Darwin's theory of evolution. Both of these theories have withstood every test that has been thrown at them over the last 100 years! That doesn't mean they are complete, it just means they are the best we have currently.

If you're interested in finding out more, I recommend the following books:

 

THE MAGIC OF REALITY

Magic takes many forms. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting that the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods' bridge to earth. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality - science. Packed with inspiring explanations of space, time and evolution, laced with humour and clever thought experiments, The Magic of Reality explores a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? What causes tsunamis? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, inspirational detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist too.

I'M WORKING ON THAT

During the 1960s, in an age when the height of technology was a crackly AM transistor radio, Star Trek envisioned a time when communication devices worked without wires. "WORKING" Computers of the decade took up entire climate-controlled rooms and belonged only to the government and a few very large corporations. Yet Captain Kirk had one small enough to sit on the top of his desk - and it talked back to him. "AHEAD, WARP FACTOR 2" While man still hadn't walked on the moon, the crew of the Starship Enterprise traveled between star systems faster than the speed of light. Its crew was able to walk on other worlds. Over the past three decades, Star Trek has become a global phenomenon. Its celebration of mankind's technical achievements and positive view of the future have earned it an enduring place in the world's psyche. It has inspired countless viewers to become scientists, inventors, and astronauts. And they, in turn, have wondered if they could make even a little piece of Star Trek real in their own lifetime. As one noted scientist said when he saw a plywood, plaster and plastic set that represented the ship's warp engines, "I'm working on that"