I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how science and science fiction continually inspire each other. Science comes out with a new discovery that revolutionizes the way we view things, science fiction takes that idea and runs with it. The converse is true, too! Doubly so!
The Submarine – American inventor Simon Lake had been captivated by the idea of undersea travel and exploration ever since he read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870. Lake’s innovations included ballast tanks, divers’ compartments and the periscope. His company built the Argonaut—the first submarine to operate successfully in the open ocean, in 1898*
The Rocket – Robert H. Goddard, the American scientist who built the first liquid-fueled rocket—which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926—became fascinated with spaceflight after reading an 1898 newspaper serialization of H.G. Wells’ classic novel about a Martian invasion, War of the Worlds. As Goddard would recall later, the concept of interplanetary flight “gripped my imagination tremendously.”*
The Cell Phone – Martin Cooper, the director of research and development at Motorola, credited the “Star Trek” communicator as his inspiration for the design of the first mobile phone in the early 1970s. “That was not fantasy to us,” Cooper said, “that was an objective.”*
Quicktime – Apple scientist Steve Perlman says that he got the idea for the ground breaking multimedia program QuickTime after watching an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” wherein one of the characters is listening to multiple music tracks on his computer.*
The list doesn’t end there. Space exploration owes quite a bit to dreamers who imagined what may be on neighbouring planets. The more we discover about our universe, the more fiction we write; the more fiction we write, the more inspiration there is to fledgling scientists.
This is the only feedback loop that matters, all boiling down to inspiring our youth and fledgling scientists to make more and more discoveries about the universe and our place within it.
What are your thoughts?
Ever since humanity first understood that other lands existed across vast oceans, we’ve been cursed with an everlasting itch to see what was there. Regardless of the perils, countless brave men and women set their sights on traversing immense distances in their ships, all for the chance to be the first people to set foot on foreign territory. Some were in search for new foods or spices, others for flexing their military muscles in dominance.
For the most part seeking new lands was a bargain, especially if the waters were uncharted. They did not know if they would succeed and return home or fail and perish at sea. The uncertainty of their fate, I imagine, is what drives people to try their luck. The hazards involved are an inseparable component of the potential glory.
I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Curiosity is the driving force behind exploration. Most of the Earth (save for the ocean bottoms) have been visited, mapped and studied. Our playground for learning exploring is growing smaller. Where else is there to look but to other worlds? We are destined for the stars.