I live among scientists. Because of the small science and engineering college in my small town, most of my friends are scientists, science students, or computer geeks of some kind. That doesn’t mean I understand what they are talking about most of the time, but it does give me insight into how much cutting-edge science is happening all the time, from lightning research to explosives testing to chemical experiments to tracking activity under the Earth’s crust to peering at far-off galaxies.
As just one example, here’s an article on the Magdalena Ridge Observatory I wrote for a local magazine. The Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) includes a telescope 2.4 meters in diameter, used to study asteroids, comets, satellites, and planets, plus a separate array of 10 small optical/infrared telescopes called an interferometer (currently under construction), which will act like a telescope 340 meters across and will make detailed images of astronomical objects—about 100 to 300 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. Wow!
Since I wrote this article for a “general audience” in New Mexico—everyone from ranchers to homemakers to business owners to politicians—I focused less on the hard science and more on the advantages to the community: tourism, jobs, and national defense, for example. Sadly, many people dismiss science research as an unnecessary waste of resources, whether because they don’t want to pay taxes to support it, or because they are suspicious of the “brains” doing research. But this one project shows how much a community can benefit from supporting science. Plus, it’s so cool!
Science fiction writers draw upon real-life science in varying degrees. Some have no problems making wild assumptions about future possibilities, while others draw directly on current theories. (Surprisingly, of the two groups, the latter is not always more accurate. Scroll down to Greg Fishbone’s post on The Test of Time from Wednesday for one example.)
Either way, readers may enjoy pondering the future through the science fiction writer’s vision. These days, dystopia is part of that trend, suggesting that a lot of readers don’t have much confidence in the future. But speaking from among the scientists, I can say that most of them still retain a childlike wonder about the world, and enthusiasm for what their work can do. Some amazing work is happening, often well under the radar of the average person, but available to writers hungry for new ideas.
Do you pay attention to science news? Where do you find it?
Do you like “hard science” science fiction, or does it matter? Or do you avoid science fiction altogether?
Chris Eboch has written two science books at the second grade level—about the level of her own typical science comprehension.