Saturday Sci-Fi

Check out today for the usual science-fiction fare. Lots of goodies to scope out. SciCinema Saturday starts at 9:00 a.m. and culminates with Christina Ricci’s werewolf movie Cursed. Todays movie theme seems to be “evil things that stalk and kill young people”.

SciFi Channel’s Saturday movies always seem to have a theme to me. Maybe I’m nuts.

One of the discussions I had on one of my science posts yesterday was the idea of the space elevator. According to the Wikipedia definition:

A space elevator is a proposed structure designed to transport material from a celestial body‘s surface into space. Many different types of space elevators have been suggested. They all share the goal of replacing rocket propulsion with the traversal of a fixed structure via a mechanism not unlike an elevator in order to move material into or beyond orbit. Space elevators have also sometimes been referred to as beanstalks, space bridges, space lifts, space ladders or orbital towers.

The most common proposal is a tether, usually in the form of a cable or ribbon, spanning from the surface to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit. As the planet rotates, the inertia at the end of the tether counteracts gravity because of the centripetal force that keeps the cable taut. Vehicles can then climb the tether and escape the planet’s gravity without the use of rocket propulsion. Such a structure could theoretically permit delivery of cargo and people to orbit with transportation costs a fraction of those of more traditional methods of launching a payload into orbit.

Recent proposals for a space elevator are notable in their plans to incorporate carbon nanotubes into the tether design, thus providing a link between space exploration and nanotechnology.

I don’t use Wikipedia often because it tends to use biased information, but in this case the definition it uses is pretty accurate. I’m talking about this subject today for two reasons; an expressed interest from a frequent poster, and it brought back a memory for me an Arthur C. Clarke novel called The Fountains Of Paradise (disclaimer, Wikipedia spoilers within). This was the first introduction of the concept to me and an entertaining book. Well, to a nerdy kid like me, who happened to be in the U.S. Marines at the time (trying to hide my nerdiness) it was entertaining anyway. Clarke’s works tended to be kind of dry at times. But it spurred my nascent techno-geekiness since I was in Marine Aviation and working around alot of technology.

Here are a few places where the novel is still available:

This is the most recent review

Clarke’s later solo works never matched the quality of this one, except for The Songs of Distant Earth, written in 1986, but that’s for a later day.

21 responses

  1. If anybody has more scifi links and or ideas, add them in your comments. I specialize in hard science-fiction, meaning stories extrapolated from present day physics and technology.

    Singularity stories too. I might delve into that theme next week.

  2. I love Arthur C. Clarke. Thanks for the reading suggestions.

  3. I’ve been reading Clarke since I was ten years old. Heinlein and Asimov were my early favorites too.

  4. Hey dad! I forgot about the Clarke mention of the space elevator. I mentioned Robinson’s Mars trilogy because that was the first time it seemed to make sense enough that it could actualy work and thus it stuck in my head.
    The first I ever read of Clarke was the Rama stories which I did like (they were the first sci-fi books I read, before that it was strictly history). I’ve liked some of Heinlein’s stuff especially Starship Troopers and I’ve read about 40 Asimov books. I’ll look through my bookshelves to see if I find anything you might like that slipped under your radar. I only got about 200-300 sci-fi books and that’s after I sold a bunch of them before moving last fall.

  5. I’d call that contraption a suicide machine! I think I’d go for a matter-transfer device like the “Enterprise” transporter before I’d go for the ‘rope into space’ idea. I think that Jack’s beanstalk wouldn’t be as far-fetched! Ol’ Doc McCoy didn’t like his molecules “scrambled” either, but I think he’d have settled for that over abseiling into space from a drilling rig!

    Guess I’m old-fashioned, but I’d sooner strap myself to a missile and do it the ‘hard’ way like it’s always been done… the illusion of safety is stronger! LOL!

  6. D : I had over 500 books at one time, and that’s not counting the Analogs, Galaxys, Worlds of If, Fantasy and Science Fictions and early Asimovs I had. Some I donated to libraries over the years because of lack of space from my growing family and most were destroyed from a house fire my parents had in 1993. Broke my heart. Clarke is noted for many firsts, fiction and non-fiction. He doesn’t write anymore, unless it’s with a partner, lately it’s been Steven Baxter. Clarke turns 90 years young this year. I’ll cry when he dies I think.

    Rock: Personally, I’ll ride the elevator, I’ll bet on the safety factor. The only thing about the transporter theory now (particle entanglement) is that the original body is destroyed while being scanned and reassembled at the other end with prepackaged matter when the entangled signals are decoded. Nah, no thanks.

  7. I have one of the Clarke/Baxter books somewhere. Can’t recall the name of it right now. He has come up with some good ideas over the years and is one of the best in hard Sci-fi.
    I like to check the bios of authors to see if they have a background in science. Sometimes it leads to some interesting stories like the works of Alistar Reynolds, Peter Hamilton, David Brin and Gregory Benford. The works of Larry Niven are always fun and interesting too. Among many others of course.

  8. Brin and Benford are actual scientists, Benford is a nuclear physicist. Baxter worked for JPL. Reynolds I believe is an actual scientist too. I’ve read most of Reynolds works last year. He is a Singularitarian too. That’s my newest fad, the Singularity.

  9. Ditto. I reiterate: strapped to missile, light fuse… BOOM!

    Better yet, strap Bush to missile, (with warhead) aim at moon, light fuse…

  10. And I love Larry Niven, the “Known Space” and Ringworld series are classics. Luv ’em.

  11. Send Bu$h through the matter scanner and reassemble him using cowsh*t, oh, wait a minute, not much difference there!

  12. I thought they used bullshit, Dad… that’s what spews out of his pie-hole!

  13. Interesting. “Particle entanglement.” The term doesn’t exactly invoke trust in the mechanism, does it?

    Singularities — you mean in quantum physics? Like black holes? Alternate universes and… my favorite… time travel?

  14. The singularity thing is hard for me to wrap my head around but I love the challenge of it!
    Niven may be my favorite sci fi author. I’ve read most of his novels EXCEPT for many of the known space ones. The man-kzin wars ones I can’t find. I read all the ringworld ones…Loved ’em.

  15. Another Beowulf Schaefer fan : I might have known. TANJ is something you have seen once or twice. I think a Puppeteer a wild speculation, or a Pak Protector.
    Campbell was the editor for your kind of work – but the genre changed drastically around 1960.
    I’m sure I saw an engineering contest for ‘climbers’ to run up tethers to orbit.
    Mary Jane Cherryh has written both fantasy and sci-fi – and has an approach on alien psychology I found unique. Try ‘Foreigner’.

  16. Watched Children of Men last night. I highly recommend it. Takes place in 2027. A more realistic imagining of the future than Blade Runner — although not as beautiful.

  17. D-Day: As proposed by science-fiction author and mathematician Vernor Vinge: “The acceleration of technological progress has been the central feature of this century. I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence. There are several means by which science may achieve this breakthrough (and this is another reason for having confidence that the event will occur):

    There may be developed computers that are “awake” and superhumanly intelligent. (To date, there has been much controversy as to whether we can create human equivalence in a machine. But if the answer is “yes, we can”, then there is little doubt that beings more intelligent can be constructed shortly thereafter.)
    Large computer networks (and their associated users) may “wake up” as a superhumanly intelligent entity.
    Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.
    Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect.

    Or a singularity is what is at the center of a black hole.

    Opit: Louis Wu fan actually, but Beowulf Schaefer raised him as his own son. Schaefer is known as a “crashlander” in Known Space terms, a native of Procyon V(?). Been a while. “tanj” is an apt curse and it fits many situations. There certainly isn’t any justice now-a-days. I’ll check out ‘Foreigner’, psychology isn’t really my shtick, but I’m open minded.

    Rock: Particle entanglement: According to Fergus Ray-Murray; “Particles which are arbitrarily far apart seem to be influencing each other, even though according to relativity this means that what seems to be causing an event from one point of view, from another point of view doesn’t happen until after the effect being caused.

    Quantum mechanics is screwy and Einstein hated it, even though it was a result from his discovery of light being composed of ‘photons’. Einstein believed in a supreme ‘something’ that created the Universe and like Newton, believed there was an order to it. Quantum physics and mechanics threw that out the window, since both are based on probabilities. Which means that how ever a small chance there is, you could be crossing the road where you live to get the mail, you could dissolve and reincarnate on Mars, or in the future, or another planet in another Universe! Weird shit. But real.

  18. Christopher: I’ll probably get it on video, I don’t get to the theaters much.

  19. Actually, I do recall odd stories recounted as real about about people ‘displaced’ from their native timelines. That was a favourite ‘explanation’ for fantasy worlds. From other worlds ? The UFO genre of the 50s did a good job of turning me off that stuff : Rice Burroughs didn’t make much of a pretense of realism. Whit Scrieber was a good proponent of time travel/black ops ‘explanations’ later on.

  20. Buy the DVD, Dad. It has a beautiful and fascinating series of interviews with futurists and sociologists who address the endgame of global capitalism and peak oil and water shortages on civilization. We woke up this morning still talking about the film.

  21. opit: Burroughs was definately fantasy. His John Carter never sold like Tarzan did. 1950s UFO stuff was encouraged by the US and other world governments to cover for black-ops projects during the Cold War. When it comes to UFOs, I’m a healthy sceptic, but I find the phenomenon facinating.

    Christopher: That’s what I generally do with movies I might like, but we have digital cable and a DVR, so I’ll probably’ll rent it when the time comes.

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