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Thread: Does science fiction create reality or the other way round?

  1. #1 Does science fiction create reality or the other way round? 
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    It is curious how we think of something creatively and then something happens to show how real it can be. HG wells wrote The Time Machine, followed a few years later by Einstein's theories, Sci fiction writers write about inter dimensional travel and then Hawking is talking about the possibility of wormholes later, Star Trek talk about warp drives and now NASA is making one. Does anyone else notice something funny going on here?


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    Yes - I'm onto this too. Something fishy here. Perhaps it is an interactive thing


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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Well, we still don't have time travel, inter-dimensional travel, or warp drives. While Einstein's theories do not exclude the possibility of time travel, it is incidental to them and certainly nothing remotely like the Wells' method is possible. Inter-dimensional travel remains an undemonstrated, vague possibility. NASA is not making a warp drive. (Be wary of pop-science summaries. Pop-science is part of the entertainment industry.)

    Something funny going on? Yes. You have cherry picked some bad examples, ignored all the times SF writers got it badly wrong, and avoided the really interesting ones where they got it right.

    But interesting topic. Welcome to the forum.
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    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Also, people have been writing stories about time travel, visiting other planets or alternative realities for thousands of years. So not much of a coincidence there.

    On the other hand, many people have been inspired to get involved in science and technology because they love science fiction. They may then go on to work on ideas that have appeared in fiction.
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    NASA depends on government funding which means they need popular support. If they can bamboozle enough Trekkies into thinking they are making a warp drive, so much the better for their chances of getting their budget approved.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    On the other hand, many people have been inspired to get involved in science and technology because they love science fiction. They may then go on to work on ideas that have appeared in fiction.
    Very true. The sense of wonder is present in both.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Well, we still don't have time travel, inter-dimensional travel, or warp drives. While Einstein's theories do not exclude the possibility of time travel, it is incidental to them and certainly nothing remotely like the Wells' method is possible. Inter-dimensional travel remains an undemonstrated, vague possibility. NASA is not making a warp drive. (Be wary of pop-science summaries. Pop-science is part of the entertainment industry.)

    Something funny going on? Yes. You have cherry picked some bad examples, ignored all the times SF writers got it badly wrong, and avoided the really interesting ones where they got it right.
    Some examples:

    For the badly wrong, Cyrano de Bergerac, once suggested that since dew seemed to be "drawn up by the Sun",you could fly by collecting dew in bottles, strapping them to your body and standing in the Sun.

    Wells also wrote The Invisible man, in which he envisions a serum which can turn living tissue transparent. This ignores the fact that such a drastic change to tissue would make it unable to perform its natural functions, and even if such a thing were possible without killing the subject, it would leave them blind. (The irises wouldn't be able to confine light to only coming through the pupil, the lenses would be unable to focus it, and an invisible retina would not be able to react to light hitting it.)

    For the middle of the road, for as much as Verne got right in the From the Earth to the Moon, he also made some blunders. Despite the precautions taken in the book, his passengers would have been killed by the launch, and he only had them go weightless at the point where the Earth's and Moon's gravities canceled. (rather than during the entire ballistic flight)

    On the interesting side, in 1869, Edward Everett Hale wrote a short story about launching an artificial satellite to be used as a navigation aid to sailors; a precursor of the GPS system.
    And in 1946, Murray Leinster wrote A logic Named Joe, In which you would swear he was describing a PC hooked up to the internet.

    What this really shows is that the human imagination is very fertile, and with so many ideas running around out there in SF, some of them are going to come close to the mark.
    "Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feelings for the strength of their argument.
    The heated mind resents the chill touch & relentless scrutiny of logic"-W.E. Gladstone


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    Hi there. You might want to check out this - it provides the run down on the research being undertaken by NASA on warp drives:TODAY, August 2013, NASA developing Star Trek-like warp drive for future space travel

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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Janus View Post
    What this really shows is that the human imagination is very fertile, and with so many ideas running around out there in SF, some of them are going to come close to the mark.
    I was thoroughly enjoying your post until you said SF writers were the same as economists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiet Nguyen
    Hi there. You might want to check out this - it provides the run down on the research being undertaken by NASA on warp drives
    Thank you for confirming my statement in post #3 that NASA is not making a warp drive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Well, we still don't have time travel, inter-dimensional travel, or warp drives. While Einstein's theories do not exclude the possibility of time travel, it is incidental to them and certainly nothing remotely like the Wells' method is possible. Inter-dimensional travel remains an undemonstrated, vague possibility. NASA is not making a warp drive. (Be wary of pop-science summaries. Pop-science is part of the entertainment industry.)

    Something funny going on? Yes. You have cherry picked some bad examples, ignored all the times SF writers got it badly wrong, and avoided the really interesting ones where they got it right.

    But interesting topic. Welcome to the forum.
    Check out TODAY, August 2013, NASA developing Star Trek-like warp drive for future space travel
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    As I've just pointed out in my previous post, the article confirms my point that NASA is not developing a warp drive. The NASA researcher, Dr. White, is conducting research to determine whether it might be feasible to create a warp bubble. It's not even clear that the research is designed to create such a bubble, merely to establish whether it might be possible. Were it possible then research to create such a bubble would follow. Then research to create a large bubble. Then research to incorporate that bubble in a warp drive. That sequence is very different from the false image created by the headline grabbing "NASA developing a warp drive".

    All of which is precisely why I said: Be wary of pop-science summaries. Pop-science is part of the entertainment industry.

    But thank you for commenting on it and welcome to the forum.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiet Nguyen View Post
    Check out TODAY, August 2013, NASA developing Star Trek-like warp drive for future space travel
    NASA ceased any "development" programme in 2002.
    Marc Millis was in charge of the Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, which lasted for 6 years. It didn't come up with any hardware and many of the proposed "solutions" relied on hypothetical fields/ particles.
    In short, it was a bust.
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    I think that if there are any new theories in physics that aren't amazingly far fetched people might start believing in physics again, but that wouldn't fit the financial model so expect more amazing statements like:
    "THE FUTURE SABOTAGED THE RESULTS."
    "THE UNIVERSE IS A HOLOGRAM INSIDE A WORMHOLE."
    "BLACK HOLE HIDES SECRETS TO WIN THE LOTTERY."
    "NASA CREATES A VIRTUAL WARP DRIVE."
    "THE STANDARD MODEL HAS NEARLY FINISHED BEING TWEAKED SO THAT ANY NEW THEORY CAN BE INCORPORATED WITHOUT ANY CRITICISM."
    "PERPETUAL MOTION FOUND TO EXIST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS."
    "MULTIPLE UNIVERSE WHERE UP IS DOWN AND RIGHT IS LEFT DETECTED IN PHYSICS LAB."
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    Utter nonsense. Physics has nothing to do with "belief", the fact you think it does shows your lack of understanding of the subject so your twitterings can be safely ignored.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I think that if there are any new theories in physics that aren't amazingly far fetched people might start believing in physics again, but that wouldn't fit the financial model so expect more amazing statements like:
    "THE FUTURE SABOTAGED THE RESULTS."
    "THE UNIVERSE IS A HOLOGRAM INSIDE A WORMHOLE."
    "BLACK HOLE HIDES SECRETS TO WIN THE LOTTERY."
    "NASA CREATES A VIRTUAL WARP DRIVE."
    "THE STANDARD MODEL HAS NEARLY FINISHED BEING TWEAKED SO THAT ANY NEW THEORY CAN BE INCORPORATED WITHOUT ANY CRITICISM."
    "PERPETUAL MOTION FOUND TO EXIST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS."
    "MULTIPLE UNIVERSE WHERE UP IS DOWN AND RIGHT IS LEFT DETECTED IN PHYSICS LAB."
    Amazing statements like: "IDIOT POSTS TO SCIENCE FORUM"
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    I think the question is, what information does a scientist discard when she's looking at a broad field of scientific possibilities, and what does she keep. Bear in mind whatever she develops must be true to the laws of science, but potential paths of research will go unexplored, inevitably.

    This is where scifi and fiction come in. If a scientist sees the possibility for a warp drive, or invisibility cloak, or Ironman outfit in some field of possibilities, in some data, they'll identify it. However the won't see the possibilities to build the Zorf sphere, or the Geegoxo transformer, because their minds haven't been trained to look at them, because that scifi hasn't been written yet. So they can pass right over a revolutionary possibility, because they haven't even imagined it. They would have to build the idea from scratch in their imaginations to see it. They wouldn't necessarily recognize a world changing thing if they were looking right at it.

    That's why its so important the dreamers keep dreaming. The science world needs them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I think that if there are any new theories in physics that aren't amazingly far fetched people might start believing in physics again, but that wouldn't fit the financial model so expect more amazing statements like:
    "THE FUTURE SABOTAGED THE RESULTS."
    "THE UNIVERSE IS A HOLOGRAM INSIDE A WORMHOLE."
    "BLACK HOLE HIDES SECRETS TO WIN THE LOTTERY."
    "NASA CREATES A VIRTUAL WARP DRIVE."
    "THE STANDARD MODEL HAS NEARLY FINISHED BEING TWEAKED SO THAT ANY NEW THEORY CAN BE INCORPORATED WITHOUT ANY CRITICISM."
    "PERPETUAL MOTION FOUND TO EXIST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS."
    "MULTIPLE UNIVERSE WHERE UP IS DOWN AND RIGHT IS LEFT DETECTED IN PHYSICS LAB."
    1. Can you please provide me with the references for the published research papers that made these declarations. If, as I strongly suspect the case, you are unable to do so, then recognise that you are not talking about physics, but about the interpretation of physics by journalists and science writers. What is a key goal of such writers? To be published and to sell copy. "Far fetched" sells copy.

    2. If you, or the public at large, are judging physics theories on the basis of how sensible they seem to you, rather than on the facts, then you are not really entitled to hold an opinion on them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    1. Can you please provide me with the references for the published research papers that made these declarations. If, as I strongly suspect the case, you are unable to do so, then recognise that you are not talking about physics, but about the interpretation of physics by journalists and science writers. What is a key goal of such writers? To be published and to sell copy. "Far fetched" sells copy.
    I was expressing an opinion that science fiction seems to be a driving force in physics funding, I think that it is relevant in regards to the thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    2. If you, or the public at large, are judging physics theories on the basis of how sensible they seem to you, rather than on the facts, then you are not really entitled to hold an opinion on them.
    Why can't I or the public have any opinions on physics?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    Why can't I or the public have any opinions on physics?
    Of course you can have an opinion, the question is how valid is your opinion if you do not know enough physics to make a competent assessment (and judging by your posts so far you don't)
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I was expressing an opinion that science fiction seems to be a driving force in physics funding, I think that it is relevant in regards to the thread.
    How much experience of the science funding process do you have? How many research proposals have you written or reviewed?

    Do you have any data to back up this claim, or are just basing it on some newspaper healdines that you invented?

    Why can't I or the public have any opinions on physics?
    I suppose you can have an opinion. But if your opinion is based on whether an idea seems "sensible" to you, rather than the evidence, then there isn't really any reason for anyone to take it seriously. As someone said, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    How much experience of the science funding process do you have? How many research proposals have you written or reviewed?

    Do you have any data to back up this claim, or are just basing it on some newspaper healdines that you invented?
    I have had no funding process experience, but I was basing the statement on what I have read about physics funding, like the LHC.
    Why would I need random experiences to qualify me to have an opinion about the state of physics funding as I see it?
    Am I not allowed to state opinions about physics funding in a general discussion thread?
    I suppose if I was to have a research proposal, I would need to have a fixed opinion about physics, such as not try and disprove Higgs Bosons or something?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    Why would I need random experiences to qualify me to have an opinion about the state of physics funding as I see it?
    But they are not "random experiences" they are experiences that would give you an insight into the area you are currently (from a position of ignorance based on newspaper reports) speculating about.


    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    Am I not allowed to state opinions about physics funding in a general discussion thread?
    Of course you are, but as you have no experience in the area and don't know what you are talking about beyond what is reported in the mainstream media why should we take your opinion seriously over those of people who do have experience in the area and do know what they are talking about?
    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I suppose if I was to have a research proposal, I would need to have a fixed opinion about physics, such as not try and disprove Higgs Bosons or something?
    Rubbish, you write a research proposal to obtain funds to do research to test a new idea or hypothesis not to confirm a fixed opinion. This type of statement just emphasises the fact you don't know what you are talking about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I have had no funding process experience, but I was basing the statement on what I have read about physics funding, like the LHC.
    Why would I need random experiences to qualify me to have an opinion about the state of physics funding as I see it?
    Am I not allowed to state opinions about physics funding in a general discussion thread?
    Well, for example, do you know what the basis for the funding request was for the LHC? Or do you only understand the LHC in terms of stupid newspaper headlines about the "God particle"? Do you even know how many different experiments there are at the LHC and what their goals are?

    Am I not allowed to state opinions about physics funding in a general discussion thread?
    Of course,. But the opinion would be more credible if it was based on knowledge of how and why the project was funded.

    I suppose if I was to have a research proposal, I would need to have a fixed opinion about physics, such as not try and disprove Higgs Bosons or something?
    You would have to have a clear idea (not sure what you mean by a "fixed" idea). You would need to present a good case, based on existing evidence (experiments and/or observation and/or theory) that there is a reasonable possibility of getting a meaningful result. This would have to include what level of data you expect, what the thresholds are to confirm or falsify the hypothesis being tested, etc.

    If your experiment is simply intended to confirm some aspect of relativity then there is low risk to the experiment but also low reward, so you might find it hard to get funding.

    If your idea is to overturn some well-established theory then, because this is by definition high risk, you would need to present a really convincing case. You would probably have to stage the work so that funding could be released slowly as results are available. But, if it all works, you end up famous and with a Nobel Prize.

    (Note that I have never been involved in science funding, only engineering. But I assume the principles are the same.)
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    I got pounced on.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I got pounced on.
    It happens. As long as you learn from the experience and see it as a positive one, then all is well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Well, for example, do you know what the basis for the funding request was for the LHC? Or do you only understand the LHC in terms of stupid newspaper headlines about the "God particle"? Do you even know how many different experiments there are at the LHC and what their goals are?
    I was basing it on the hype about the "God particle", I realise that there are many other things that LHC can help with too, but the main selling point to the public was that would find the "God particle". Now they need to build a more expensive one to find it again.
    Maybe they need better media spokespeople, like a presidential address or the Queens speech to get their point across.

    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    If your idea is to overturn some well-established theory then, because this is by definition high risk, you would need to present a really convincing case. You would probably have to stage the work so that funding could be released slowly as results are available. But, if it all works, you end up famous and with a Nobel Prize.
    I would like to do that, and I am trying to find discrepancies or paradoxes in current theory.
    Maybe there aren't any, but someone has to look right?
    How many ladies will swoon when they meet me, a Nobel Prize holder!!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    How many ladies will swoon when they meet me, a Nobel Prize holder!!!!
    "Is that a Nobel Prize in your pocket or are you just pleased to meet me..."
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I would like to do that, and I am trying to find discrepancies or paradoxes in current theory.
    Why?
    Are you of the *cough* fixed opinion that they are flawed?

    Maybe there aren't any, but someone has to look right?
    Absolutely. I mean, it's not like these things are tested every day in actual use, is it?
    Oh, wait...
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    Quote Originally Posted by 514void View Post
    I would like to do that, and I am trying to find discrepancies or paradoxes in current theory.
    Maybe there aren't any, but someone has to look right?
    Maybe what we should do is get some excited, rebellious and imaginative young people to volunteer to do this. We could provide training courses to give them the necessary background information and then fund them to come up with new ways of trying to show the old theories are wrong, invent new ideas, test those ideas and push things forwards.

    Oh, we already do that: it is called science.
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    Science has a history of being unscientific, one can see this in the context of a whole lot of discoveries that were poowed on by respected scientists at their debut, from continental drift, to malaria being caused by Mosquito, to blood circulation, to protein diets etc... There are lists of Nobel Prize winning discoveries ridiculed by the establishment at their release, and it isn't hard to find out about them. Indeed both Darwin and Einstein were amateurs when they released their seminal theories. So there is plenty of room for everyone to have a say, and plenty of room for the scientific establishment to be wrong and the mortals of us to be right.

    In relation to imagination, Einstein wasn't joking when he said “imagination is more important than knowledge”. And he should know. He also said “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” So there is not only room for non-expert, but for the irrational, for as history shows, what is called irrational and what is not, can be as much political as technical.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Cowper View Post
    Science has a history of being unscientific, one can see this in the context of a whole lot of discoveries that were poowed on by respected scientists at their debut, from continental drift, to malaria being caused by Mosquito, to blood circulation
    I'm not sure what is unscientific about those. They are all the result of the scientific process.


    There are lists of Nobel Prize winning discoveries ridiculed by the establishment at their release
    I suspect it is quite a short list. But, more importantly, so what. The whole point of the scientific process is to be sceptical and reluctant to change. That is why it works. There needs to be really good evidence. It isn't like a kitten running after the next sparkly thing.

    Indeed both Darwin and Einstein were amateurs when they released their seminal theories.
    I don't know what you mean by amateurs. Darwin had decades of remarkable scientific work behind him when he published his work on evolution. Einstein had completed his doctorate, published a number of scientific papers (including the one that would earn him his Nobel Prize) before his theory of relativity.

    But how does any of that relate to your original question?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Cowper View Post
    Science has a history of being unscientific, one can see this in the context of a whole lot of discoveries that were poowed on by respected scientists at their debut, from continental drift, to malaria being caused by Mosquito, to blood circulation
    I'm not sure what is unscientific about those. They are all the result of the scientific process.No - that is my point
    There are lists of Nobel Prize winning discoveries ridiculed by the establishment at their release
    I suspect it is quite a short list. But, more importantly, so what. The whole point of the scientific process is to be sceptical and reluctant to change. That is why it works. There needs to be really good evidence. It isn't like a kitten running after the next sparkly thing.Actually quite a long list
    Indeed both Darwin and Einstein were amateurs when they released their seminal theories.
    I don't know what you mean by amateurs. Darwin had decades of remarkable scientific work behind him when he published his work on evolution. Einstein had completed his doctorate, published a number of scientific papers (including the one that would earn him his Nobel Prize) before his theory of relativity.But how does any of that relate to your original question?
    Look up 'amateur' - non professional. And how does this relate? I thought you were supposed to be smart one.
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    Scientific - yes that is my point.

    Long list! Surprised you don't know.

    Amateur means 'non professional'. It's relevance? Keep up! I thought you were smarter than this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Cowper View Post
    Indeed both Darwin and Einstein were amateurs when they released their seminal theories.
    Bollocks. Einstein had a professional science degree and was in contact with key physicists of the period.

    Darwin had studied under Sedgewick and Lyell and others before setting out on the Beagle. His work their was very much as a professional naturalist and the work he did was well recognised before he returned from the voyage. By the time he published On the Origin of Species he had a substantial reputation.
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    That's my point! You don't have to be an academic to be scientific.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harry Cowper View Post
    That's my point! You don't have to be an academic to be scientific.
    You are clearly using different definitions from me for academic, amateur and professional. Darwin, assuredly, was an academic.
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    I guess so
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