Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why we should read science fiction

io9 has a great excerpt from a longer article up about why people should read science fiction.  From the article: "Why should you be reading more science fiction? Not just for the thrills or awesome science. You should read SF to explore ideas about society that academics and pundits won't talk about, writes Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest."

Read more here >

That's always been the major draw of science fiction for me: what happens to the people of the speculative elsewhere/when?  I think it's why I like political science theory so much - basically it's all about trying to imagine what people will do when put into a certain situation.  Sci-fi usually incorporates much more, of course: it's also about technology, of discovery and innovation.  And aliens.  However, while I love all that about sci-fi, it's really what the people do when they encounter these new things that interests me.  

It's kind of interesting to look at sci-fi from an historical point of view, as well: since sci as a whole often reflects our cultural fears and societal norms of the time, reading something like Alas, Babylon or pulp novels from nearer to the turn of the century like People of the Mist or War of the Worlds can be an interesting exercise in social history.  I like to call those retro-futures (and for a tangible example, wandering around the Tomorrow World part of Epcot Center is the biggest retro-future phantasmagoria I can think of).  They reflect all the hopes and fears of the time when they were created, as well as all the cultural biases and bigotry.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Artificial skin made from nanowires

Things like this make me happy: reports that "A pressure-sensitive electronic material made from semiconductor nanowires—dubbed e-skin—could one day give new meaning to the term “thin-skinned.”"