Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Imagination or Predictions?

Jules Verne

Isaac Werner did not have a horse, and he broke the sod for his timber claim by hand, gently placing the cuttings of cottonwood trees into the virgin prairie soil, and hand weeding the sunflowers that tried to steal the meager rainfall from the young trees.  He traded his labor with neighbors who had horses to break the tough prairie sod.  Only after several years did he finally buy a horse and the simple implements needed to work his land.  What would he have thought of the massive tractors and implements that farmers of today use in farming the same land?  Isaac knew about trains, but what would he have thought of airplanes?  Even with his imagination and gift for invention, what would he have thought of space ships landing on the moon?

I could not help but think of Isaac when I watched the successful launches of passenger rockets developed by Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson soar into the sky in the summer of 2021, carrying the first passengers into space on privately funded spacecraft.

H. G. Wells
Men have long dreamed of space travel, and for decades fiction has predicted it.  Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, both sometimes called the "father of science fiction" have written of unbelievable achievements.  Jules Verne tended to keep his adventures earthbound, with books like Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) and Twenty Leagues Under the Seas (1870).  It was H. G. Wells who made flying a part of his science fiction, with books like The War of the Worlds (1898) and The First Men on the Moon (1901)  However, it is Arthur C. Clarke who probably came closest to predicting most accurately the potential for future space travel.

Not only that, however, he described many other things that came into existence in a form quite consistent with his descriptions.  For example, in 1959 he wrote about a 'personal transceiver' small enough to carry, with which personal communication worldwide would be possible and global positioning could avoid getting lost.  These are the things we take for granted now with our smart phones.  In an interview five years later he described telecommuting and telemedicine.

Arthur C. Clarke
However, it was a short story competition in 1948 that caught the eye of Stanley Kubrick that led to Clarke and Kubrick developing the story into a novel and a movie in 1964, which may have fueled the imaginations of many people to believed that space travel would someday be possible.  Consider some of the other projections from "2001: A Space Odyssey" that have come true, particularly the iPad, and computer software that was able to read lips (which allowed H.A.L to know what the humans were saying.)

Clarke's stories have predicted what he called 'automatic control cars;' the potential of enabling a satellite to remain in a fixed orbit to transmit radio and television signals; and remarkably, he predicted in 1947 the year of the first moon rocket to be 1959.

Some of his predictions remain unfulfilled, like settlements on Venus and Mars by 1980.  But, that does not belittle the potential influence he may have had on the dreamers of today, like Jeff Bezos and  Richard Branson.  

1 comment:

Grace Grits and Gardening said...

Oh gosh, you have referenced so many of my favorite books! And I watch 2001: A Space Odyssey anytime I see it on television. (A friend and I even saw it at the theater a few years ago.) I've not read The First Men on the Moon. I'm going to try and find it. I remember reading The Martian Chronicles when I was in 7th grade. It's one that stuck with me. I love how you so eloquently tie past with present. And btw, a friend's son just started work at Space X. How cool is that?!