Last edited by psikeyhackr; October 5th, 2012 at 12:39 PM.
I am not redefining real world science (and if I was, your Carroll reference would indeed be applicable). This is a conversation about science fiction. The genre (especially particular sub-genres) is chock full things that make real scientists cringe. The definition I gave, that you have complained about, is for what to consider as science (or sciencey enough) to separate science fiction from fantasy. As that is a matter of pure opinion and not at all related to the definition of science in the real world, our banter has really had no point as we have been referring to different things, one real, one fictional. The only corner of science fiction where your definition applies is hard sf. The rest requires a broader definition (or you would probably prefer some different term to cover the broader scope).Nothing in the scientific principle requires that the results scientists obtain by exercising it must be retroactively "plausible" to people of earlier ages. By stating that to be "science fiction" a tale must be constructed round science that is "plausible" to the folk of our age, you are creating your own definition of "science", and it is at considerable variance with the consensus definition. The Lewis Carroll character is a classic, well-known metaphor for folk who use words by will in a manner materially different from the norm; invoking it is gentle reproof, not dire insult, but frankly, have it as you will.
When trying to describe the science in much science fiction, you encounter things like positronic brains, hyperspace, cloaking devices, downloading brain patters, and various ESP abilities. None of these things exists in the realms of real science or even theoretical science. So, for science fiction, I refer to these and plausible science; meaning that they are treated as future developments of science that sound like they could happen. Vern and Wells did a lot of this and it is usually the arena that inspires scientists to expand our horizons. As I said before, because of Star Trek, warp drive has migrated form plausible to theoretical, as has the transporter. In other words, it has migrated from pure science fiction into real world science, at least on the theoretical level.
The genre (especially particular sub-genres) is chock full things that make real scientists cringe. The definition I gave, that you have complained about, is for what to consider as science (or sciencey enough) to separate science fiction from fantasy.
Last try: science is a generation's best understanding of the impersonal laws that regulate the cosmos, and is necessarily educible by application of the scientific principle. Nobody give a flying wahoo whether or not it makes anyone "cringe" in the way that Einstein's work made most physicists of his day cringe.
None of these things exists in the realms of real science or even theoretical science. Yeah, and . . . ? Did curved space exist in the realms of real science or even theoretical science before relativity was propounded and, eventually, deomonstrated?
The only requirement on the "science" in a science-fiction tale is that it be presented as the impersonal laws of the cosmos as found by application of the scientific principle. THE END.
What in blazes is so hard to grasp there?
Last edited by owlcroft; October 7th, 2012 at 12:27 AM. Reason: fix typo
Anyway, why should SF strive to teach kids about science? If people want to learn about science they should read science fact (many of which are written in interesting ways). If you want science fiction to focus purely on the scientific aspects instead of things like character development, that's your own personal opinion, and there's plenty of "hard SF" out there, but not all science fiction has to be held by whatever laws Clarke or Asimov came up with.
To answer the question, science fiction is a story where something that vaguely resembles "science" (as opposed to explicit magical/supernatural phenomenon) is used to drive a story. It doesn't matter if the science is accurate or even theoretically possible, but ideally it should stay within its own established rules (then again fantasy should do the same).
SF does not strive for anything. SF is an abstraction. What a particular SF writer strives for is his business.
I provided a link to a video with Cold As Ice by Charles Sheffield and an explanation of von Neumann machines. Sheffield uses the term quite often but he is referring to what John von Neumann called Universal Constructors. But the term has another meaning. I don not think it was John von Neumann who created the term. Other people did and gave it two different meanings.
But if you do a little research you will find that most computer science books today do not use it at all.
I have never suggested that ALL SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS use or describe good science. But it does seem that most SF discussed by so called sci-fi fans does not.It is like Gibbson's "Golden Ghetto" comment. The Liberal Arts people invaded SF and took over for the money and kicked the science out.
In my personal opinion a book is SF if I say it is......and noone will convince me otherwise. All of my opinions are facts. I have a teeshirt that says so, so it must be true.
(where's a tongue in cheek smiley when you want one?)
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
I once asked a PhD economist to explain how a piston engine worked. He could not do it. He did own a car. For him, his car was magic. Of course he would not admit that and would regard himself as intelligent and educated.
That is what is so absurd about today's society. Computers everywhere. People using computers to access the Internet to say science is unimportant in science fiction. Oh, the Irony!
Just because I don't think science fiction needs to have accurate science to be classified as such, it doesn't mean that I think science itself is unimportant. In fact I'm doing my masters in human genetics, so don't presume that I'm some sort of anti-science loony.
Also there's no more reason for an economist to know anything about physics, than there is for a chemist to know anything about the history of Pakistan. What you're saying is that scientific knowledge is the only form of intelligence. Do you consider that not everyone is interested in learning about the same things? How many physicists are interested in economics? How many people here do you think have any knowledge of computer programming? Not everyone chooses to be "educated" in the same subjects. Believe it or not, most people can live perfectly normal and productive lives without knowing anything about how their television works.
Like I said, if I want science I'll read a text book or a science website. I look for other qualities in fiction, such as plot, character development, explorations of humanity, and maybe even just plain ol' shallow entertainment. I don't know why someone who's apparently so intelligent can't understand that. I'm not talking about being ignorant of basic facts (like the pointless video you posted), I'm talking about not needing a science lesson in our fiction. Many "soft" SF writers have science degrees as well, but they don't feel the need to be bound by current scientific understanding in their works.
Last edited by JoshuaD; October 6th, 2012 at 05:17 PM.
This thread is starting to go off the deep end with various conversations all on the verge of becoming heated because our opinions differ. That's the whole point, a discussion of opinions. I think we all need to take a breath, calm down, and remember that WE DON'T HAVE TO AGREE (or can agree to disagree).
People talking past each other, people (including me) tilting at windmills, Psik being Psik. We seem to have this thread over and over and it always devolves. To the same base arguments. Sigh, entropy in action.
I suppose I just don't see the value in defining SF so tightly as to force out the vast majority of the SF that is enjoyed by the majority if whatever fans still remain. Keep going and we can define our genre out of existence save a few self published physicists. We have even had people on here complain about the lack of science in the works of that notorious hater of all things scientific, Alastair Reynolds. It has gone too far. Can't we all just get along? (not, of course, at speeds faster than the speed of light. That would be science fantasy)
That farrago of nonsense is extraordinarily annoying. First, it is absolutely, positively not indistinguishable from magic by the folk who devised and are using that technology. Second, even to folk who do not know or understand the technology, it is indistinguishable from magic only if they are at a cultural stage that still largely believes in magic. Were what we may call a "flying saucer" to land tomorrow on the White House lawn, what fraction of the American population--who could not, collectively or individually, have any least idea how its tech works--would thus conclude that, in David Copperfield's words, "It's maaagic!" Clarke was a knowledgable engineer, a mediocre writer, a terrible philosopher, and no kind at all of sociologist.In my opinion Arthur C. Clarke came up with the perfect quote for people like you.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
They do not need to; your opinion is your own business, and that is not at all hard to understand. What is not your own business is whether that opinion conforms with the prevailing understandings of terms. If you choose to define "science" in a way that differs markedly with the consensus understanding, you are free to do so; you are not free to disparage the consensus view merely because it is not yours.That our opinions do not agree. What is so hard to grasp about that? Why must my definition and yours be the same?
We live today in an age that has extended the idea of equality and entitlement too far: into the zone of the actual.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this week's edition of 'Science Today'. Our topic this week is the origin and constitution of Earth's moon. On my left is Professor Arnold Savant, a doctor of both physics and astronomy and current head of the astrophysics program at YIT; for many years now, Dr Savant has expressed the view that the moon was formed by a collision between the Earth and a Mars-sized protoplanet during the formation of the early solar system, and he believes that recent data from lunar orbiters on the implied mass distributions within Luna enhance the probability of his theory. On my right is Mr Melvin Kowznofski, an unemployed plumber's assistant from Secaucus, New Jersey, who believe that the moon is made of green cheese, and was placed in its present orbit 352 years ago by The Flying Spaghetti Monster. We'll hear first from Mr Kowznofski, right after these messages."
And that is not A Good Thing.
But no one even said they read all three stories to make comparisons. Without categories then the worst and dumbest stuff that meets some definition must be included. But what good does such a definition by itself do us?
That is quite enough of this conversation.
I hope that I am not making a point that has been made by many posters earlier but there do seem to be two different types of science fiction.
To illustrate one type, we can note that if you read Egan's Quarantine, you encounter an interpretation of quantum mechanics that no one has ever seriously considered but you might be drawn into trying to understand the issue of the observer in QM. If you read Watts' Blindsight, you might feel tempted to read about scientific theories of consciousness. If you read Vinge's Fire upon the Deep or Stross' Accelerando, you might look at ideas of a singularity while if you read Rainbow's End, you might become concerned about possible developments of biotechnology. Thus all of those fairly recent novels could cause a reader to use Google to look for further information or even possibly visit a library.
Another type of science fiction, for example one of Roger Zelazny's novels, might be equally enjoyable but is not so likely to cause a reader to search for information about the science mentioned (although they might look up Hindu theology).
I suspect that Psik feels that reading the first type is more likely to lead to our society having a better understanding of its technology and that this should be encouraged.
I like to divide it into three types (a variation on Asimov's proposal) - "hard" SF, classic/adventure SF and "literary"/social SF. I'm more likely to read works from the latter two types (both for different reasons). That's not to say that all hard SF is bad, but works that have no merit apart from the science factor are not worth my (and probably several others') time. That says nothing about my opinion on science itself. I don't think you'd find too many SF fans tell you that they don't read much hard science fiction much purely because they hate science.
I don't know what's the fuss is about anyway, while the hardest of hard SF may not always get high praise from some of the more prominent professional critics, user reviews on sites such as Amazon are generally in favor of such works, and almost every SF forum seems to have people who praise works solely for the hardness factor. I've seen too many amateur reviewers dismiss entire works purely because they contained inaccurate science. Not counting the more household name authors like Card, Herbert, Asimov, etc., you're more likely to find people discussing Egan and Vinge than Zelazny and Harrison on non SF forums as well. You're also far more likely to find forums and websites dedicated to hard science fiction than forums that exclude it.
If that is really what he meant, it is a bit more understandable. I don't necessary agree, but at least it's something. However, what I get from his posts is that anyone who isn't seriously into science is somehow inferior, and that scientific knowledge should the highest priority for absolutely everyone, no matter what their chosen career path is, and, worst of all, that anyone who doesn't want to read detailed descriptions about physical laws in fiction that can easily be read somewhere else (and probably for free) is a Luddite.I suspect that Psik feels that reading the first type is more likely to lead to our society having a better understanding of its technology and that this should be encouraged.