Science in science fiction

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Science in science fiction is the study of how science is portrayed in works of science fiction. It covers a large range of topics, since science takes on many roles in science fiction. Hard science fiction is based on engineering or the "hard" sciences (for example, physics, astronomy, or chemistry), whereas soft science fiction is based on the "soft" sciences, and especially the social sciences (anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and so on). Likewise, the accuracy of the science portrayed spans a wide range - sometimes it is an extrapolation of existing technology, sometimes it is a physically realistic portrayal of a far-out technology, and sometimes it is simply a plot device that looks scientific, but has no basis in science. Examples are:

  • Realistic case: In 1944, the science fiction story Deadline by Cleve Cartmill[1] depicted the atomic bomb.[2] This technology was real, unknown to the author.
  • Extrapolation: Arthur C. Clarke wrote about space elevators, basically a long cable extending from the Earth's surface to geosynchronous orbit. While we cannot build one today, it violates no physical principles.
  • Plot device: The classic example of an unsupported plot device is faster-than-light drive. It is unsupported by physics as we know it, but needed for galaxy-wide plots with human lifespans.

Hard science in science fiction[edit]

Social science in science fiction[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ CARTMILL, CLEVE. "Deadline." IN: Astounding Science Fiction, Vol. XXXIII, No. l, pp. 154-178. New York: Street & Smith, March 1944.
  2. ^ Atomic Energy Collection Section 15. Fiction, Poetry, Drama, etc., 1912-1989