Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

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Why the West Loves Sci-Fi and Fantasy: A Cultural Explanation

September 5, 2013

Hollywood’s had a long love affair with sci-fi and fantasy, but the romance has never been stronger than it is today. A quick glance into bookstores, television lineups, and upcoming films shows that the futuristic and fantastical is everywhere in American pop culture. In fact, of Hollywood’s top earners since 1980, a mere eight have not featured wizardry, space or time travel, or apocalyptic destruction caused by aliens/zombies/Robert Downey Jr.’s acerbic wit. Now, with Man of Steel, it appears we will at last have an effective reboot of the most important superhero story of them all.

These tales of mystical worlds and improbable technological power appeal universally, right? Maybe not. Bollywood, not Hollywood, is the largest movie industry in the world. But only a handful its top hits of the last four decades have dealt with science fiction themes, and even fewer are fantasy or horror. American films in those genres make much of their profits abroad, but they tend to underperform in front of Indian audiences.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t folk tales with magic and mythology in India. There are. That makes their absence in Bollywood and their overabundance in Hollywood all the more remarkable. Whereas Bollywood takes quotidian family dramas and imbues them with spectacular tales of love and wealth found-lost-regained amidst the pageantry of choreographed dance pieces, Hollywood goes to the supernatural and futurism. It’s a sign that longing for mystery is universal, but the taste for science fiction and fantasy is cultural.

Excerpt from an article written by CHRISTINE FOLCH at The Atlantic. Continue THERE

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Will we ever communicate telepathically?

April 13, 2013

In a lab at Harvard Medical School, a man is using his mind to wag a rat’s tail. To send his command, he merely glances at a strobe light flickering on a computer screen, and a set of electrodes stuck to his scalp detects the activity triggered in his brain. A computer processes and relays the electrodes’ signal to an ultrasound machine poised over the rat’s head. The machine delivers a train of low-energy ultrasound pulses into the rat’s brain, stimulating its motor cortex – the area that governs its movements. The pulses are aimed purposely at a rice-grain-sized area that controls the rat’s tail. It starts to wag.

This link-up is the brainchild of Seung-Schik Yoo, and it works more than 94% of the time. Whenever a human looks at the flickering lights, the rat’s tail almost always starts to wag just over a second later. The connection between them is undeniably simple. The volunteer is basically flicking a switch in the rat’s brain between two positions – move tail, and don’t move tail. But it is still an impressive early example of something we will see more of in coming years – a way to connect between two living brains.

Science-fiction is full of similar (if more flamboyant) brain-to-brain links. From the Jedi knights of Star Wars to various characters in the X-Men comics, popular culture abounds with telepathic characters that can read minds and transmit their thoughts without any direct physical contact or the use of their senses. There’s no evidence that any of us mere mortals share the same ability, but as Yoo’s study shows, technology is edging us closer in that direction. The question is: how far can we recreate telepathy using electronics? A human wagging a rat’s tail is one thing. Will we ever get to the point where we can share speech or emotions or memories?

Excerpt from an article written by Ed Yong at Phenomena/NatGeo. Continue HERE

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In Lab Lit, Fiction Meets Science of the Real World

December 4, 2012

KATHERINE BOUTON: Lab lit is not science fiction, and in my opinion it’s not historical fiction about actual scientists (though some fictionalized biographies do appear on the list). Instead, in the Web site’s words, it “depicts realistic scientists as central characters and portrays fairly realistic scientific practice or concepts, typically taking place in a realistic — as opposed to speculative or future — world.”

Continue this New York Times article HERE

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UNDER TOMORROWS SKY: Speculative visions of a future city

November 25, 2012

Under Tomorrows Sky is a fictional, future city. Speculative architect Liam Young of the London based Tomorrows Thoughts Today has assembled a think tank of scientists, technologists, futurists, illustrators, science fiction authors and special effects artists to collectively develop this imaginary place, the landscapes that surround it and the stories it contains.

In online and live discussions held during the past months the think tank came together to design this future city and discuss the possibilities of emerging biologies and technologies. This time there are no dystopian visions of the future, we’ve seen enough of those. Under Tomorrows Sky imagines a post-capitalist urbanity full of optimism and joy, full of life and aspiration.

It is a city of extraordinary technology but at first glance appears indistinguishable from nature. It is an artificial reef that grows and decays and grows again as the city becomes a cyclic ecosystem. A city as a geological formation of caves and grottos covered by a thick layer of soil and slime, a biological soup of human and non-human inhabitants. The city and us are one, a symbiotic life form. The city grows and we grow with it. Together we form a giant complex organism of which ecology and technology are inseparable parts.

At this moment the phase of creation has begun. An intricately detailed miniature model of this future city will rise under tomorrows sky and come into being at MU in the upcoming weeks. Between August 10 and October 28 all involved with the creation of the model will develop a collection of fictions based in the city. The model will be the backdrop for animated films and a stage set for a collection of stories and illustrations. The audience will also be invited to contribute their own narratives to the city through a series of workshops. Under Tomorrows Sky will be the starting point of a new ecological urban vision. The city of the future is not of a fixed time or place but it will emerge through the help of many.

Text and Image via Under Tomorrows Sky

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The Philosophical Roots of Science Fiction

August 14, 2012

People use science fiction to illustrate philosophy all the time. From ethical quandaries to the very nature of existence, science fiction’s most famous texts are tailor-made for exploring philosophical ideas. In fact, many college campuses now offer courses in the philosophy of science fiction.

But science fiction doesn’t just illuminate philosophy — in fact, the genre grew out of philosophy, and the earliest works of science fiction were philosophical texts. Here’s why science fiction has its roots in philosophy, and why it’s the genre of thought experiments about the universe.

Science fiction is a genre that uses strange worlds and inventions to illuminate our reality — sort of the opposite of a lot of other writing, which uses the familiar to build a portrait that cumulatively shows how insane our world actually is. People, especially early twenty-first century people, live in a world where strangeness lurks just beyond our frame of vision — but we can’t see it by looking straight at it. When we try to turn and confront the weird and unthinkable that’s always in the corner of our eye, it vanishes. In a sense, science fiction is like a prosthetic sense of peripheral vision.

Excerpt from an article written by Charlie Jane Anders at io9. Continue HERE

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Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation

March 1, 2012

Kyle Munkittrick: Mass Effect is epic. It’s the product of the best parts of Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and more with a protagonist who could be the love-child of Picard, Skywalker, and Starbuck. It’s one of the most important pieces of science fiction narrative of our generation. Mass Effect goes so far beyond other fictional universes in ways that you may not have yet realized. It is cosmic in scope and scale.

Sci-fi nerds have long debated over which fictional universe is the best. The Star Trek vs Star Wars contest is infamous into banality, with lesser skirmishes among fans of shows and books like Battlestar Galactica, Enders Game, Xenogenesis, Farscape, Dune, Firefly, Stargate, and others fleshing out the field. Don’t mistake this piece as another pointless kerfuffle among obsessive basement dwellers. Mass Effect matters because of its ability to reflect on our society as a whole.

Science fiction is one of the best forms of social satire and critique. Want to sneak in some absolutely scandalous social more, like, say, oh, I don’t know, a black woman into a position of power in the ‘60s? Put her on a starship command deck.

Most science fiction, even the epic universes in Star Wars and Star Trek, pick only two or three issues to investigate in depth. Sure, an episode here or a character there might nod to other concepts worthy of investigation, but the scope of the series often prevents the narrative from mining the idea for what it’s worth.

Mass Effect can and does take ideas to a new plane of existence. Think of the Big Issues in your favorite series. Whether it is realistic science explaining humanoid life throughout the galaxy, or dealing with FTL travel, or the ethical ambiguity of progress, or even the very purpose of the human race in our universe, Mass Effect has got it. By virtue of three simple traits – its medium, its message, and its philosophy – Mass Effect eclipses and engulfs all of science fiction’s greatest universes. Let me show you how.

Read Full Article at PopBioethics

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Unknown Fields, Roswell to Burning Man Festival

February 11, 2012

Unknown Fields is a nomadic studio that throws open the doors of the A A and sets off on an annual expedition to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies. Each year we navigate a different global cross-section and map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures. You will be both visionaries and reporters, part documentarian and part science-fiction soothsayers as the otherworldly sites we encounter will afford us a distanced viewpoint from which to survey the consequences of emerging environmental and technological scenarios.

This year the Division will be heading off on a reconnaissance road trip to chronicle a series of extraterrestrial encounters from the borderlands, black sites, military outposts and folkloric landscapes of the United States. From the ‘illegal aliens’ of the New Mexico border towns we will head north exploring territories of negotiation and conflict, zones of transgression, suspicion and speculation. We will rumble along the UFO highway, past the mythic territories of Area 51, listening to tall tales from conspiracy theorists amidst the sonic booms crackling in the quiet desert air. We will visit covert military test sites and the alien technologies of the aeronautics industry as we shape our own experimental craft to launch in the skies above the psychedelic community of the Burning Man Festival, where our journey ends. By the bonfires we will examine the mysteries and conspiracies that surround what lies off the map, off-grid and below the radar as we propose new truths and expose alternative fictions.

Joining us on our travels will be a troupe of collaborators from the worlds of technology, science and fiction. Together we will form a traveling circus of research visits, field reportage, rolling discussions and impromptu tutorials that will be chronicled in an annual publication and traveling exhibition. Throughout our journey the Division will identify opportunities for tactical intervention and speculative invention as we examine the unknown fields between truth and fiction.

Applications

The deadline for applications is 6 August 2012. All participants traveling from abroad are responsible for securing any visa required. After payment of fees, the AA can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop. A portfolio or CV is not required, only the online application form and payment.
Fees

The AA Visiting School requires a fee of £695 per participant, which includes a £50 Visiting Membership. If you are already a member, the total fee will be reduced automatically by £50 by the online payment system.

Eligibility
The workshop is open to architecture and design students and professionals worldwide.

Via AA