Thursday, 6 October 2016

How is Sci-Fi a precursor to the Future?


Image Courtesy Nishthaa Lekhi (an ex-student of mine )


An interesting discussion with faculty members of the eighth grade brought about the immense scope of the Science Fiction genre in today's world, especially because of the fact that most of what science fiction writers wrote (Ahead of their times) turned into reality after some time. 
A few science fiction writers who come to mind include, Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C.Clark. Jules Verne was far ahead of his times when he wrote Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. The very idea of underwater travel would become a reality with the invention of Diesel Electric Submarines in later years. The use of submarines as weapons would become a deadly reality with U-Boats sinking allied ships during the second world war.
H.G.Wells described time travel in his book, The Time Machine, and he described Space Travel in his book, War Of The Worlds.His book, The Invisible Man describes the possibility of invisibility.  These concepts might have appeared weird and outlandish to their reader at the time when the books were published, but then with the passage of time, they became a reality. Space travel became a reality with Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man to go into space, although not in a shell fired from a huge gun, but in a rocket. The concepts of time travel and the relativity were explored by Einstein much before people even began flying at the speed of sound. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clark were well ahead of their times when they explored the possibility.We have robots today that display a fair amount of usable Machine Intelligence, we live in a world of virtual reality, and we know what Augmented Reality is when we play games like Pokemon Go.
It is clear more often than not that Scientists cannot invent things that have not been dreamt. A Scientist who is a dreamer would be a great asset, however, the constraints of rationality and logic often curb flights of fantasy with the result that they often have to depend on what their poet friends have dreamt for them. The steam engine was not invented out of a drawing, rather it was first dreamt and then put on a drawing board.The structure of the Benzine molecule was inspired by a dream that Friedrich August Kekule saw of a snake seizing its own tail!
Today we seem to have accepted time travel as a strong possibility and are in the process of exploring inter dimensional travel. The randomness of Quantum Physics might, as such suggest the possibility of parallel dimensions existing at the same time. The possibility of the existence of parallel worlds would indeed presuppose the existence of an infinite number of possibilities and outcomes of catastrophic events that took place in the past. Take for example the outcome of Hitler winning the Second World War, or for that effect, the outcome of Sadashivrao winning the third battle of Panipat. Science fiction is an important genre of literature and it explores the immense possibilities of creativity which in might have in many cases, the ability to look into the future.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle is one such book that is way ahead of its times. The book written in the early sixties describes the warping of space to leap forward in space. The characters, Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which travel from Earth to the planet Uriel, the third planet of the star Malak in the spiral nebula Messier 101.According to Mrs Whatsit, "We tesser. Or you might say, we wrinkle."
When Jayant V.Narliker, a well-known Astrophysicist describes how Professor Gaitonde managed to get knocked into a parallel dimension after being hit on the head, he is describing the possibility of making a transition to another world. The story, "The Adventure" an adaptation of a story by Jayant V. Narliker,  appearing in the NCERT English textbook Hornbill for grade eleven, explores the immense possibilities of making leaps through dimensions by warping space rather than travelling in a linear manner. Jayant suggests how "The lack of determinism in [the] quantum" world might help the traveller in space to make a transition from one world to another world by making a quantum leap like electrons do when they jump from one atom to another. What if this were to happen at a macro level, what if the spaceship was an electron with the space traveller inside it and what if the planet was the atom, would it not, therefore be possible for the space traveller to travel to a distant planet by making a quantum leap?

Narliker,Jayant: The Adventure.Hornbill, Textbook for Class XI (Core Course) 2011 P.60
L'Engle Madeleine.A Wrinkle In Time, New Delhi, Puffin, 2007

1 comment:

  1. Eugene Thacker's view of science fiction maybe great to be discussed in this article. Mainly coming out with the following points.
    - potentialities.
    It is an imaginative extension of the real world situations.

    -it is a comment about the history of the present and what is actually happening or has happened in the real world and therefore is not entirely fictional.

    - This exaggerates real world political and ethical dilemmas

    ~nishthaa

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