Monday, May 24, 2010

The Science of Science Fiction: 12 Events That Will Change Everything

The June 2010 issue of Scientific American has a must-read article for science fiction writers. It's called, as you may have guessed, "12 Events That Will Change Everything." You can find an interactive presentation, complete with the text of the individual stories, here.

The events listed include many staples of science fiction: cloning of humans (considered likely to happen by 2050), the rise of self-aware machines (also likely), and fusion energy (considered unlikely, unfortunately). Some of them, such as the discovery of extra dimensions, may have more effects on science itself than the everyday world. (The odds of this event occurring are given as 50:50). On the other hand, a big earthquake in California (almost certain) or a deadly pandemic (50:50), would have much more impact on people's lives. One event, the creation of artificial life, actually was announced last week. In theory, being able to design the genes of an organism base by base would allow scientists to create new food and energy sources, as well as create organisms that could break down toxins, form useful materials, and even grow naturally into pieces of furniture. In practice, how the genes are regulated and how the proteins they code are produced and expressed also play critical roles in how the organism works.

With twelve separate topics, there's too much material for me to analyze in one blog post. Plus, it's late, and I'm too tired to come up with much. But if you read the articles, please come back here and tell me which topic or topics interest you. If I get a significant response, we can look into some of the topics in more detail later.

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