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Topic Title: E&T magazine - Debate - Does science fiction offer inspiration to technologists?
Topic Summary: Do works of science fiction offer inspiration to scientists and technologists in the real world?
Created On: 14 August 2013 10:56 AM
Status: Post and Reply
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 14 August 2013 10:56 AM
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jpwilson

Posts: 60
Joined: 16 May 2007

For
Works of science fiction do offer inspiration to scientists and technologists in the real world

Against
Works of science fiction do offer inspiration to scientists and technologists in the real world

The argument for
Too often in science everything is defined by equations, which leads us to think that we know all we need to know. I think that sci-fi opens that up, and I find that as a scientist it opens my eyes to other possibilities. When you're doing research that's important. A lot of sci-fi has a serious, present day scientific basis to it, where the authors are starting to look outside the box. If there isn't seriousness of intent then I find it hard to believe. But when it's done with science 'as we know it', and the author is attempting to extrapolate on that in unusual directions, then I can find the results quite credible.

The argument against
It seems to me that science fact and science fiction are two really significant things that the human species does. There is cultural crossover between them, and that is because of the nature of us coming from an intelligent technological civilisation. That's not in dispute. But I'm really interested in good stories. In sci-fi movies, a lot of the stories are disappointing. I'm on the lookout for narratives with that perfect curve that make you remember it for days and days, if not years, after it. There are enough fantastic stories, documentaries about or reporting on science fact. I've never thought that I've exhausted these stories sufficiently to warrant going down the fictional route. There are only a certain number of hours in a day, and so I decided to devote my life to science fact.
 15 August 2013 12:30 AM
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kengreen

Posts: 400
Joined: 15 April 2013

There is a real problem (for me) with Science Fiction in that not all authors know how to put a story together; when they run out of ideas so they tend to run off the rails.Even the best of them such as Isaac Asimove abandons many of his tales when there is still plenty of meat on the bone but it is surely true that the best sci-fi novels have always originated with some one who knows his way around the science of his day.
Ken Green
 15 August 2013 07:02 PM
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jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

It's a very debatable subject. There definitely are cases of science fiction becoming reality. One such example is the computer book carried by Penny in Inspector Gadget. When the cartoon was created about 30 years ago such a device could only have been dreamed of. From today's perspective it could be seen as an early prototype for an iPad.

http://inspectorgadget.wikia.c...%27s_computer_book.png

The opposite to science fiction is also equally as important when a product is developed that nobody predicted. The microwave oven being a high profile example of this.
 15 August 2013 09:44 PM
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westonpa

Posts: 1771
Joined: 10 October 2007

Many scientists are inspired by science fiction because they were boys/girls before they became scientists. However, the truth is often more way out than science fiction. Science fiction is a story which has twists and turns, reality is much the same.

Regards.
 16 August 2013 01:17 PM
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MAWilson

Posts: 48
Joined: 22 February 2006

The great thing about science fiction is the unintended consequences so to speak which results from the mind of its creator. There are many examples of this just thinking of the 1960's Star Trek. From this short series we get:

1) The MRI machine - Created by a scientist who watched the programme and was inspired by the non-invasive body scanners.

2) the wharp drive, though scientifically inaccurate at the time has inspired persons to study this field with NASA carrying out research.

3) Teleportation, used in the series because of budgetting restraints, inspired the field of quantum entanglement. I think the scientist who discovered it was a big Star Trek fan from memory.

There's many bad examples of science fiction but a good one can inspire a generation I believe.
 21 August 2013 07:28 PM
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jencam

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There is a slight problem that science fiction is not very popular or fashionable amongst the younger generation any more. It seems to prefer fantasy and mysticism like Harry Potter. It is a subject that has been discussed within home education circles and the outcome is basically that we just have to wait for science fiction to come into fashion again. Could the economic climate to be to blame? I think that we live in a far less optimistic society than during the last two recessions. Is science fiction connected with optimism whereas fantasy is a retreat into some mythical past?
 23 August 2013 02:35 PM
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irevans

Posts: 192
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I am not sure that there is such a gulf between science fiction and fantasy, take Star Wars - often considered a classic example of science fiction and yet it is basically fantasy with spacecraft. Fantasy has the evil queen asking her mirror "who is the fairest one of all?"; science fiction has Captain Picard asking "Computer, how many Borg does it take to change a light bulb?"; science has us surfing the internet for answers.

Any debate on whether science fiction offers inspiration must be purely accademic. There seem to be examples where it has and examples where it hasn't - as you might expect really.

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irevans
 23 August 2013 09:26 PM
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jencam

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Originally posted by: irevans
I am not sure that there is such a gulf between science fiction and fantasy, take Star Wars - often considered a classic example of science fiction and yet it is basically fantasy with spacecraft.


There definitely is a potential for overlap between science fiction and fantasy. The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31 are other classic examples.
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