Saturday, January 26, 2008

....and the geeks shall inherit the earth.

Let's start this blog with a horrendous confession: I grew up with a very serious science fiction problem.

Though my "problem" has mostly remained dormant over the last several years (due mostly to being crowded out by obsessions over avant-garde cinema and godawfully obscure music), it's begun to poke up every so often in recent times: a little bit of Heinlen and Herbert's novels,a sprinkle of the new Battlestar Galactica here and there, a taste or two of Fireflybetween a helping of Jeffrey Eugenides and Cormac McCarthy. My latest guilty pleasure has been in the announcement of a new film that will "reinvigorate" the original Star Trek story.

As I sat at my desk the other night, reading through PC Magazine reviews and fawning over the iPhone I will never afford to own, I had a twofold realization smack me squarely across the jaw: A) the future of which we collectively dreamt in 'Star Trek' is now (and even cooler than what we'd dreamed!)and B) as much as I'd love to disown it, that science fiction is partly to thank.

For every step humankind has made, there has been a wild-eyed dream that fueled it. Our first rocket flights to space? Jules Verne dreamed up combustion rockets that blasted explorers into space nearly a century beforehand. The artificial satellites that orbit our earth and transmit data in giant networks? Imagined by Arthur Clark well before they ever hit the sky. How about those shiny and glorious networking iPhones over which I've drooled endlessly? Take a look at Roddenberry's original Star Trek series; you might see something familiar. Not long ago, sci-fi novelists talked of mapping and manipulating genes; today, the Human Genome Project is using their completed draft map to explore the purpose of over 20,000 genes in our bodies. Though Asimov could only dream of handheld computation devices in 1950, today we can not only compute but also network, design and entertain, often in packages even smaller than the golden-age writers predicted.

Okay, so maybe we haven't terraformed Mars or built HAL-9000, but that's still a pretty darn good track record.

Heck, sci-fi has even shaped some of our scientific directions in-progress. Did you know that, partly inspired by the visions of Romulan Cloaking devices and invisibility gear, scientists have begun building devices that bend light around particles so as to make them invisible to the naked eye? They have! Did you know that the obscure work of Dröscher and Heim have reignigted the possibility of unification between general relativity and quantum mechanics and, consequently, created a theoretical model of subspacial travel that brings to mind books like "Dune" and "A Wrinkle in Time"? Heck yes.

Aren't these exciting times in which we live? Hello, new sci-fi world of gene-mapping and commercial spaceflight! So, yes, perhaps I'm still a bit ashamed of my hang-up on science fiction, but little realizations like these make me a little less ashamed- maybe even a bit proud. Even as we dream, long and wish, we as humans take a step forward.

Rejoice, oh, ye of sci-fi revelry, for you have inherited the earth!

Nick Garcia
Adult Services Dept.