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Sci-Fi Writers Help Scientists Bridge Gap

From: Terry W. Colvin <fortean1.nul>
Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:48:19 +0700 (GMT+07:00)
Archived: Thu, 25 Oct 2012 17:01:18 -0400
Subject: Sci-Fi Writers Help Scientists Bridge Gap


Source: CNN.Com

http://tinyurl.com/8spzaaz

October 24, 2012

Sci-Fi Writers Help Scientists Bridge Gap Between Fantasy
And Reality

By Eoghan Macguire, for CNN

Arizona State University recently launched the Center for
Science and Imagination which will bring scientists, acclaimed
sci-fi writers and artists together to work on "moon shot"
ideas. Arizona State University recently launched the Center for
Science and Imagination which will bring scientists, acclaimed
sci-fi writers and artists together to work on "moon shot"
ideas.


Story Highlights

New research body at Arizona State University aims to
bridge gap between the lab and sci-fi inventions

Center for Science and the Imagination (CSI) brings
creative thinkers into collaboration with scientists

Academic, private corporations and non-profit stakeholders
involved in the project

"Science fiction has a proven ability to inspire scientists
and start technological innovation," sci-fi author says



(CNN) -- The transition of science-fiction gadgets into
scientific reality is seldom a simple process.

More than 20 years on from the Back to the Future trilogy and a
breakthrough in hoverboard technology is still eagerly
anticipated -- not to mention anything close to "Doc" Brown's
time-traveling DeLorean car.

But a new research body at Arizona State University is aiming to
bridge the gap between the lab and the most evocative inventions
of the sci-fi genre.

The Center for Science and the Imagination (CSI), which opened
last month, will bring sci-fi writers into collaboration with
inventors, engineers and technologists.

See also: How search for aliens can sustain life on earth

The goal is to create a network hub for so-called "moon shot"
ideas, where scientists and artists can meet, converse and
potentially put their ideas into practice. "We want to create
conversations that cut across all these different boundaries and
get people thinking in a more expansive way Ed Finn, CSI

Corporations, including computer-tech behemoth, Intel, and
publisher, HarperCollins are already involved with the group's
early endeavors.

"It's an unusual thing for a university to do because it brings
together a variety of different people who wouldn't usually work
together," says CSI director, Ed Finn.

"We want to create conversations that cut across all these
different boundaries and get people thinking in a more expansive
way about their own work."

One of the center's first projects has pitched acclaimed sci-fi
writer, Neal Stephenson, with ASU professor and structural
engineer, Keith Hjelmstad.

Stephenson is a chief proponent of the dark sci-fi genre,
Cyberpunk, and has spoken publicly and passionately about
arresting the malaise he believes has stunted the imagination of
American science and science fiction.

The pair have so far probed the viability of a 20-kilometer tall
steel tower that could launch vehicles into space more
efficiently.

While this may not be a project that can instantly deliver
practical results, the hope is it will encourage scientists and
sci-fi writers to think big and pose each other challenging
questions.

"This is really what the whole Center for Science and the
Imagination is all about," says Hjelmstad.

"The writers of science fiction or any writers for that matter
are very different from the usual crowd that I hang with."

See also: Scientists to stimulate human brain inside
supercomputer

"People from outside engineering will toss in very basic
questions that specialists will often forget to ask, in this
case 'how high is the tallest structure you can build?'"

"It was incredibly interesting for me to consider the open
question: 'what can you do with structures?' which I hadn't
really done before." "Science fiction has a proven ability to
inspire scientists and start technological innovation Kathryn
Cramer, Hieroglyph

As it turns out, Hjelmstad's concludes that a 20-kilometer tall
tower is possible but would likely never be built due to the
resources required (some 55 million tons of steel, he says) and
financial costs involved.

For companies such as Intel however, solutions that can be
immediately put into practice are not as important as the
dialogues and ideas these inter-disciplinary interactions
encourage -- for now at least.

The technology giant is working with the CSI to create the
Tomorrow Project USA, a new website designed to engender expert
conversation on the future of subjects such as sustainability,
energy and education.

"In science fiction writing and the conversations, you can
explore how the technology can impact in both positive and
negatives ... showing us the kinds of future we want and [just]
as importantly the kind we don't want," says Steve Brown,
Intel's mystically titled technology evangelist.

"It also allows [us to play] with the moral and ethical con-
sequences for the technologies as well," Brown adds.

Other projects in the pipeline at the center include a plan to
design the ideal city of the future, drawing contributions from
writers, engineers and urban designers.

In the coming years meanwhile, the talents of other artists
including musicians, painters, actors, dancers and those in the
performance arts will be harnessed, predicts Finn.

See also: $1 billion project to reach Earth's mantle

But as scientists, engineers and tech corporations benefit from
opening their disciplines to exciting new ways of thinking,
what's in it for the writers and artists?

According to Kathryn Cramer, a sci-fi author and editor of
Hieroglyph -- an anthology project that will compile
conversations of scientists and authors at ASU for publication
by HarperCollins -- the center will help inform a more realistic
and artistically rich genre of sci-fi.

"For authors, having the contact with [scientists] allows for
further refinement of their ideas into something that is
potentially more workable," says Cramer.

Some writers may already undertake such processes by themselves
but by formalizing this relationship, Cramer believes a more
fluent and rewarding conversation between science and sci-fi
will arise.

Like Hjelmstad, Brown and Finn before her however, Cramer
tempers expectations by stating that the practical
implementation of these ideas will likely have to wait.

"I don't think you can guarantee that the project will come up
with ideas that can be put towards venture capitalists and off
we go tomorrow. But science fiction has a proven ability to
inspire scientists and start technological innovation," Cramer
explains.

"It's worth doing but one should bear in mind that, in the past,
where there have been ideas that have worked there has also been
a sea of ideas that didn't work."


Terry W. Colvin
Ladphrao (Bangkok), Thailand
Pran Buri (Hua Hin), Thailand
http://terrycolvin.freewebsites.com/
[Terry's Fortean & "Work" itty-bitty site]


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