Science Fiction Books/National History Fair
I am creating a documentary for the National History Day competition and I wondered if there was someone who could answer some questions and possibly do a phone interview for my documentary?
I am interested to know if you can tell me about Enrico Fermi's Paradox and Science Fiction?
If so how?
I also am curious of how much does science fiction influence real science? I was reading an article that claims Physicist Leo Szilard read H.G. Wells novel "The World Set Free," and it inspired him to research and develop the neutron chain reaction that lead to the development of the Atomic Bomb.
I find it interesting that all of these ideas are so connected.
If you have time for an interview I can email you some more questions.
I'm afraid I can't tell you much more than what is already on the wikipedia page on the Fermi paradox, and the Drake Equation.
The 2nd issue is not often talked about which is rather sad. The most famous example I can think of is when Cleve Cartmill wrote a science fiction short story in which he detailed how to make a nuclear bomb, and the ensuing issues with the FBI:-
Here's a fuller story of the affair plus a vague mention of 2 other SF stories by 2 other SF writers which caused similiar problems:-
There are other more cringeworthy examples, of course, such as the recent naming of one of Pluto's moons as "Vulcan" in honour of that horrible, tacky "SF" TV show "Star Trek". Then there is Murray Leinster's brilliant SF story "A Logic Named Joe" which is an eerie SF story that accurately predicts both the arrival of the Internet and the invention of the small personal computer(most other SF writers had made bad predictions in which future computers were all depicted as being vast, factory-sized ones:-
"Murray Leinster" was the pseudonym of Will F Jenkins who was a real-life scientist and inventor in his own right, much like Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov among many others. It is therefore unsurprising that he was able to predict such things:-
There's plenty more info, already anyway available online of what I already know:-
There are plenty of SF stories which are highly likely to have influenced future scientists. Bob Shaw"s SF short story collection "Light of Other Days" for example refers to "slow glass" in which light travels much slower through a type of special glass, which foreshadows recent scientific research showing that light travels a little slower in certain mediums.Frank Herbert"s Dune saga undoubtedly inspired many followers of the ecology/environmentalist movements, though I don't recall specific instances(actually, I now find that Dune was the inspiration for "Earth Day". Bruce Sterling"s groundbreaking book "Schismatrix" and William Gibson"s book "Neuromancer" undoubtedly have very strongly influenced the whole modern "Singularity" movement. You'd have to ask Singularity luminaries such as Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil etc. about that. Vernor Vinge, come to think of it, is an SF writer and primary Singularitarian advocate at the same time.
SF stories have, however been claimed to have a negative effect on science. Buzz Aldrin once complained that science fiction had portrayed unrealistic near futures with which real scientific advances could not compete, such as matter transportation etc., and that that had led to increased public disinterest in real spaceflight.
If you want further detailed info or an interview, I would strongly suggest getting hold of another person who has led a life more fully linked with SF. There is the MIT Science Fiction Library,
the largest in the world, and the University of Liverpool Science Fiction Library, where you can find such eminent people.