Today we have a special visit from science fiction writer S.H. Jucha. He is the author of The Silver Ships, and enjoys discussing all things science fiction and space related. He stopped by Working for the Mandroid today to discuss a little bit about the connection between science fiction and science fact.
Science Fiction and Science
By SH Jucha
Historically, fiction writers have been the harbingers of our future science. You need look no further than the incomparable Isaac Asimov, a master of hard science fiction, who detailed robotics, artificial intelligence, and space exploration more than sixty years ago. Robert A. Heinlein anticipated the cell phone in his book, Space Cadet, thirty-five years before the technology was invented by Motorola, and Arthur C. Clarke, often called the “Prophet of the Space Age,” proposed a satellite communication system in 1945.
However, in the 21st century, science has been stealing the headlines away from science fiction. New Horizons sent us images of Pluto and its moons—Charon, Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos. Philae landed on a comet, and NASA's Kepler spacecraft has identified another near-Earth planet in the habitable zone of a sun-like star.
Two more significant scientific endeavors are set to unfold in the near future. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to be launched in 2018 into an orbit around the sun. It will be able to view events 200 to 300 million years after the Big Bang. Over the remainder of this decade and the next, the “Mars One” mission plans to establish a human settlement on Mars.
In addition to hard science prognostications, fiction writers have long envisioned mankind’s future encounters with aliens and have portrayed sentient life in a myriad of ways from war-faring empires to symbionts, who ride a human’s brain, to artificial intelligences, which have left their creators behind. Recently, science has been catching up with fiction writers on the subject of life in outer space.
Investigations of carbon-rich meteorites have found evidence of life apart from that of Earth. Amino acids, which are the essential building blocks of life, have been discovered on meteorites. Most telling is that the amino acids were created in both low-level and high-level temperatures.
If you follow the numbers—billions of galaxies and up to 300 billion stars per galaxy—astronomers estimate that there are about 70 billion trillion stars. In our short investigative period, we’ve already discovered 4,696 exoplanets, creating an enormous potential for life. Maybe the science fiction writers have been right about the possibilities of aliens.
While we dream of space exploration far into the future, I would like to express my hopes for the near future, events that might take place in the next few decades. I see incredible potential for space exploration, especially long-term space habitation, which may provide solutions for many of Earth’s critical problems.
Self-sufficient space habitats will require alternative methods of recycling of many material categories. It will be too expensive to ship trash back to Earth. One category, petrochemical products, includes plastics, which are quite durable and slow to degrade, but there are examples of micro-organisms accelerating the degradation processes. Imagine the value of developing bio-engineered bacterium, fungi, yeasts, algae, and lichens to completely recycle plastics. It would be a win-win for space habitation and humankind if scientists perfected solutions which could efficiently breakdown plastics, especially the billions of tons of discarded plastics on Earth, into environmentally friendly compounds.
Science fiction writers continue to envision a variety of futures for the human race, but it will be the duty of science to bring one of them to fruition.
S. H. Jucha is the author of the science fiction series, The Silver Ships. For more information, about the author, visit his website at http://scottjucha.com. His books are available on Amazon in several formats.
The Silver Ships
An explorer-tug captain, Alex Racine detects a damaged alien craft drifting into the system. Recognizing a once in a lifetime opportunity to make first contact, Alex pulls off a daring maneuver to latch on to the derelict.
Alex discovers the ship was attacked by an unknown craft, the first of its kind ever encountered. The mysterious silver ship's attack was both instant and deadly.
What enfolds is a story of the descendants of two Earth colony ships, with very different histories, meeting 700 years after their founding and uniting to defend humanity from the silver ships.