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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Technologies & Physics

   
Author Topic: Technologies & Physics
Matt.Simpson01
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I'm working on ideas for new stories, and while I have quite a few of my own, I'd like to pick your brains for some more.

My main interest is science fiction & fantasy literature. I've read most of the contemporary authors of the day, Card, Weis & Hickman, McCaffrey, Herbert the younger, and many others. All have written fabulous books that I have read more than once.

What I'm asking is this. What technologies and/or physics related problems that are not a part of our world do you find to be interesting? When I say physics related things, i'm talking more of things like super large inhabitable worlds the size of the sun or something along those lines that according to our science are impossible, but in the fictional world would be feasable.

I have been browsing scientific journal websites and such for a bit to see what interesting stuff is there to use as background material.

What do you guys and gals think?


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philocinemas
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Concerning great story ideas, I must say that I am a bit selfish in that regard - I imagine you will find this to be a common trait among aspiring writers.

However, I am a regular reader of Popular Science and Scientific American as well as an occasional reader of National Geographic and Discover magazines.

I also, when time allows, watch The Universe and other science-related series on The History Channel.

Other than that, I get inspiration from every day life, which can often be stranger than fiction, especially when the situation is given a little twist.


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Matt.Simpson01
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I apologize for wanting story ideas from any responses. I guess i should have simply asked what technologies real or fake that you found interesting. There are many that have been imagined over the course of history, i just thought it would be nice to know what other writers thought was facinating technology wise.
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philocinemas
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Don't apologize - I wasn't offended by the question. It's just that most writers keep a list of ideas that they intend to write someday, and disclosing those ideas would be a little self-defeating. Most every subject in science fiction has already been explored, and it is just a matter of putting one's own personal twist on the idea or story that makes it unique.

As far as "impossible science", there has been a consistent drive in the last several decades to make the "science" in science fiction as true to fact as possible. Most decent writers go to great lengths to research the science behind their world or technology to make it as believable as possible.


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satate
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Personally, I wish someone would invent teleporting. Just think, no more cars, no more travel time, you could live anywhere and still be close to everything. I think it would be interesting to write about a society that never had to travel.
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DerekBalsam
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Just thinking out loud, I personally find it fascinating what amazing things might be possible within our own physics. A lot of Larry Niven's works have themes like this: Ringworld (an artificially constructed ring as big as Earth's orbit encircling a star), The Integral Trees (a natural environment of free-floating plant life with no planet, around binary stars), Fleet of Worlds (five planets harnessed together and speeding through space). Hal Clement did this in Mission of Gravity and other works on the world of Mesklin, a gigantic nonspherical planet. Robert Forward, a master of this sort of thing, has the very interesting Dragon's Egg, about life on a neutron star.

[This message has been edited by DerekBalsam (edited August 15, 2010).]


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BenM
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I like stuff that surprises me, while tech that I've seen before tends to feel a little used and clichéd. It perhaps makes writing SF a little harder, but I think it becomes a lot more rewarding as I feel my story is mine and not derivative. Of course, then a critiquer says 'it was a bit like Movie X' and I can't resist sighing just a little bit.
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KayTi
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Have you read/heard of the book The Physics of the Impossible? Definitely worth a read - see if your library has it or get it. Many fun ideas in there.

I saw the author has a new series on one of the sciency cable channels I get, you might be able to find the tv show, too.

For me, I think stuff like what is presented in Ringworld is really fascinating, and Rendevous with Rama. The way the authors figured out some nifty weather problems unique to their artificially constructed worlds was cool. Of course anything to do with wormholes and FTL travel is also interesting to me.

My personal interests take me smaller-scale, closer to home, with the ideas of evolving machine intelligence or artificial intelligence. I tend to put these into my stories.



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Teraen
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I usually like the idea of taking the normal scifi tropes (interplanetary travel, colonization of planets, etc) and see what the major obstacle is to why we don't currently do that now. Then I invent something that could theoretically work with what we currently know about technology. This means I usually only have a single new scientific concept so my readers don't have to suspend disbelief too much. One Eat is acceptable, too many become unpalatable.

For instance, if I was making a story about faster than light travel, the biggest obstacle is how far away other stars are. (Answer: really far.) The ways to circumvent this problem are pretty well established in the genre (warp drives (like in Star Trek), Einstein was wrong (like in K-Pax), wormholes, colony ships, etc...) So I choose which one of those I want to concern my story and then go from there.

Incidentally, this is also what I find interesting about science fiction. I think there is a reason such technologies have become science fiction staples: they are interesting!

My personal list of interesting stuffs includes ramifications of new discoveries of currently unknown phenomenon:
-Magnetism
-Gravity
-Dark energy/matter
-nuclear stuffs (meaning atomic properties, not big explosions)

(And don't try to say we understand gravity or magnetism, because we don't- we just know a little bit about how it works, not why...)

...and stuff we'd do if we had advanced technology:
-terraforming/space colonies/solar system mining
-interplanetary travel
-alien civilations/species

[This message has been edited by Teraen (edited August 16, 2010).]


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DRaney
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I find it interesting that many of the scientific facts we know today were originally fleshed out in SciFi stories. And tho I'm not really a Trekkkkie (I do enjoy some of the movies), the PBS program/documentary "How William Shatner Changed the World" was 'fascinating'. It showed how emergent technologies like the cell phone were directly related to the widgets used in S.T. because the real-deal, Vulcan ear wearing, Scotty quoting Trekkies grew up to be super-geeks and invented the things to look AND work like the S.T. stuff.

argh-misspellled werds... especially the easy ones

[This message has been edited by DRaney (edited August 16, 2010).]


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axeminister
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Keep in mind too that whatever rules you invent for your story, as long as you stay consistent within them, are perfectly fine.

The FTL in my novel is completely built on the rules I created before FTL was discovered. Then, when it happens and is explained it's accepted within the story.

If I met you on the street and explained just how the FTL works you would think I was mad.

Regarding story ideas, I think browsing the scientific journals is brilliant. I can see myself doing that at some point in the future if/when I need a new idea.

You never know when an idea will strike. I find I've been very lucky with my ideas hitting me in the face over the years. Once, I looked at my Nintendo SmashTV cartridge and got an idea. I wrote around a thousand words and put it away, forgotten. Fifteen years later those words were the foundation for my entire novel. A hundred thousand words because I looked at a video game.

Good thing I didn't listen to my mother and put it away like I was supposed to.

Axe


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Strychnine
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There is an old axiom that states – today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s technology. This, for the most, has been true since the first science fiction. The earliest SF I can think of is Frankenstein, but there may be earlier works I don’t know of. In the early 19th century the idea of transplanting organs and limbs was an idea that was fantastically out of reach. We still can't do limbs, but organ transplants are pretty commonplace in medicine.

If you really want some good ideas for SF books, go talk to a group of 3rd graders and ask them what the world will look like in 50 years. In a group of 5 kids you’ll probably get 100 ideas.


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Brendan
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I am one of those scientists that hope my science fiction will produce real counterparts. :-) As for getting ideas, I don't worry about hoarding them - I can't yet do justice to the ones I currently have.

A couple of minor points on some comments above:

Magnetism is fairly well known - it is simply static electricity at relativistic velocities. Some of superconductivity is less well understood, and gravity, well. The real difficulty is where gravity meets quantum theory - there they don't fully know yet what happens. (One famous scientist has speculated that gravity is what causes quantum behaviour to revert to classical behaviour.)

Also, I would have thought that Get Smart was as important as Star Trek for popularising the cell phone.


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Teraen
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"static electricity at relativistic velocities"

What in the world does that mean? I've never heard of it before! Do you have any links or stuff that explain this?

What I meant by we don't understand magnetism is based on the "why" phenomenon. Three year olds really understand this. Take any phenomenon, and ask why. After a few steps, you eventually reach the limit of understanding:

"Why does the magnet stick to the fridge?"
"Because the fridge is made of steel, magnets attract steel."

"Why do magnets attract steel?"
"A magnetic field produced by the electrons in the magnet produce an attractive force with the field of the electrons in the steel."

"Why do spinning electrons make a magnetic field?"
"I don't know. Something about relativistic velocities of static attraction. Ask Brendan about it."

Some people may know a few more levels than I do, but eventually almost everything peters out after a few "whys." Notice, I could have equally asked why a field creates an attractive force, why a field exists, etc. A physicist trained in quantum field theory is more likely to answer a few more whys than I can, but soon the limit is reached -- and this is the case on all stuff we apparently "know."

That's why science is so cool!)


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PB&Jenny
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I agree with Strychnine. I've gotten tons of great ideas from kids around ages 4 to 7. Especially boys. They seem to be able to imagine impossible things that with a little thought just might be possible after all. They scare me sometimes.
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rstegman
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My favorite is particle accelerators.
You take something that is impossible at this second, such as Accelerating Bose-Einstein condensates of high atomic number atoms, or Accelerate antimatter atoms, and something happens in the energy fields.
I use it a lot when an opening to another universe is needed for some effect. It is also good for, let us say, warp drives. Consider an experiment where the atomic accellerator is torn off the surface of the planet and ends up in orbit?
I used to use Atom 108 as it had not been found and was thought to be somewhat stable based on where it was on the atomic charts. Science caught up with me recently....

Like teleportation and faster than light travel, As long as it is presented in a logical, believable method, one can accept just about anything if it is crucial in the story and the story follows the rules it presented from the start.
People accept fantasy so one, in the end, can do whatever is needed to create the story.



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