One of the coolest things about reading and writing sci-fi is finding out about all these new technologies coming out that sound like sci-fi but are actually in use today or workable now. Earlier today I heard an NPR story about US soldiers on the ground in the US using robots in combat in war zones, then going home to sleep in their own beds (the story was sobering, talking about much higher PTSD rates in those soldiers, and the ethical issues of automation and this distance-strike technology. Murky stuff.) The interviewee referred several times to the "sci-fi technologies" that are in use in the military right now.
But meanwhile, in a much cooler and way more upbeat article, there's news of a new material that scientists want to use for a space elevator!
The funniest part is, they have created about 18m of the substance and one of the scientists is quoted as saying NASA would like to order 144,000 miles of it. Someone's going to have to get on that manufacturing challenge, LOL. Space Elevator article
What other cool stuff have you heard about lately?
The space elevator article, the downstream link from which it derives remarks that NASA's not doing anything to replace the shuttle fleet. See http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/constellation/news/ESAS_report.html for what's on the horizon. There's a plan to achieve George Bush's Return to the Moon initiative, and beyond. The page linked above indexes the current NASA Explorations Systems Architectural Study. Fascinating stuff.
[This message has been edited by extrinsic (edited January 22, 2009).]
Well, it may not be all that "science-fictional" any more, but it's something I remember reading about and finding it pretty futuristic at one time:
My daughter and son-in-law gave us a webcam for Christmas, and we were able to use it today so that she could see her visiting niece and nephews from her own webcam where she lives in a distant city. Seeing her on the screen and knowing she could see us while we talked was, to me, something out of a science fiction story.
Science and technology are catching up with and surpassing the imaginations of some science fiction writers. We need to stay on the ball in order to stay ahead.
Keep in mind, that the biggest difficulty in the later series of Star Trek, was trying to stay ahead of modern science and invention. Except for artificial gravity, space warp, tractor beam, and teleporter, we have just about come up with everything in the first star trek series, and many of the others.
I remember the incident where Leonard Nemoy, Spock, was in the city. He takes out his flip phone cell phone and flipped it open. the people all around him cracked up laughing. He had the communicator from the series!!!
We have the situation where science fiction will come up with some technology for the stories, using plausible science or invention, and then scientists and inventors will come up with a version of that technology because they were inspired by the stories.
As a writer, the fun is to come up with a new invention in our story that will cause people to invent it. Our big problem is to get published and read enough for it to happen...
It is also fun to read stories written back in history and see what they thought of as cutting edged, super advanced technology. In some things, we are well behind what they thought possible, and in others, we find we were way beyond them. The computers in MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Hienlein, were main frame computers that he had to type in each command for it to hit the targets. Of course, in the same story, they were colonizing the moon which we have not done. They also tended to see social political things happen a whole lot faster than in reality. The stories based on near future written before the 80s are always fun to read for this effect.
Apparently a new technology based on something called 'electron-nodulating' has allowed scientists to travel a few seconds forward in time--not in space. So that perceptually what you see dissapears and then reappears, but time has moved forward a few seconds.
Just make it up. Take ideas that are usually considered magical and give them a science (pseudo-science) explaination. Preferably have a good reason to avoid explaining anything.
"Well, Jack, it's based on nerve induction technologies. The myelin sheath on a human nerve resonates--"
"Stop." Jack lifted a hand and shook his head. "Y'know, I know you're talking english, Professor, but do I really need to know how it works? When I pull the trigger, the bad guy falls over, doesn't he?"
Professor Plum pushed his glasses up his nose a little. "Er, yes, but..."
"No, buts--let's get moving. We gotta get to an escape pod before the ship explodes."
[This message has been edited by skadder (edited January 23, 2009).]
A lot of what the government is working on is cool, but does it scare any of you? I've heard that the military is working on invisibility technology, which I cannot imagine being used for anything but nefarious purposes.
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From what I have been told, the suits do not turn them invisible to the eye. They make them invisible to IR and UV nightsights, and land based radar.
Some scuttlebutt takes it further and suggests the addition of a network of transmitters on the surface of the suit that act as perfect camouflage, showing the view as uninterrupted. Again not invisibility but pretty near it.
In all things, especially in the military, knowledge is the most effective tool anybody can have. If you know exactly what your enemy is doing, you can design your battle plan around what they are doing. If your enemy does not know what you are doing, then you can operate hit them and they can do nothing. If you have the advantage of knowing what they are doing, and they don't know what you are doing, they are yours.
Many societies are very closed, where even the weather report is a state secret. The big thing with the cold war, was that both sides knew what the other was up to and they were assured the other was not about to commit violence. We had high tensions, but we had a form of peace. Gathering information is key to keeping the peace. The problem with Terrorists, is that we are reacting to what they are doing and we don't always know who they are or what they are doing.
Invisibility allows us to find out what they are doing by allowing our people to infiltrate their lines and report what is going on, or it prevents them from knowing what we are doing by sneaking our forces without observation. Whether it is good or bad, depends on what side of the sneaking, one is experiencing it.
I like the personal spacecraft, hands-free healing and automated language translator. I'm nervous of what might be done with X-ray vision and cloaking; and I shudder to think what soap and deodorant advertisers might do with smell-o-vision.