One of the main tropes of science fiction has to be the self-aware robot or computer – one mobile, the other not, but both presented as self-aware and able to think as we do, although often better. Often, Frankenstein-style, the AI develops malevolence. That was a trope long before HAL; virtually all of Asimov’s robot … More Why AI won’t work. Probably.
I was reminded the other day of a wonderful 1948 story I read as a kid, ‘In Hiding’, by Wilmar Shiras (1908-1990). I read it in a 1960s-era anthology of sci-fi stories, and it left a huge impression on me. Shiras wrote it, apparently, for her children. And the plot was straight forward: a school … More What makes people smart?
There’s an apocryphal story about the time an eminent scientist was asked to write 500 words for a leading magazine on whether alien life might exist. The resulting article consisted of the words ‘nobody knows’, repeated 250 times. That point’s still true today. There are plenty of clues that point towards the idea that life … More Are there aliens? Nobody knows…
Arthur C. Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust (1962) impressed me for lot of reasons when I first read it. The book still does – not least because, seven years before the first Moon landings, he predicted (a) that the only life found on the Moon would be bacteria retrieved from human-built probes, and (b) the … More The writers who predicted the future
I recently read Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind, the official sequel to H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Back in the day there were a fair number of unofficial sequels to Wells’ classic – mostly involving the intrepid Brits inventing spacecraft and heading off to Mars to give those rotten old Martians a … More Mars attacks – 1920 style
One of the things the Star Wars franchise isn’t particularly known for is the ‘science’ part of the science fiction calculation. I’m talking about everything from visible bolts of laser light that move at about 130 mph (ie: 0.00002 percent of light-speed) through to one-climate worlds, space ‘fighters’ that manoeuvre like First World War dogfighters, … More Science silliness with Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It always intrigues me that whenever we see something in the sky that doesn’t meet our existing idea of what’s out there, the first call is ‘ooh – aliens!’ It happened with KIC 8462852, also known as ‘Tabby’s Star’ after the astronomer Tabetha Boyajian – who led the intitial study. This star was exhibiting some … More I’m not saying it’s aliens… but it’s aliens…