November 9th, 2012, 02:59 AM
Inspiration for SFF
Over in another thread somewhen, a poster was lamenting a lack of snazzy new imagining in SFF. Seeing as how SF often derives its imaginings from science and technology, and F from philosophy and the philosophy of science, I thought I'd share this -- TIME's Top 25 Inventions of the Year.
There's some really neat stuff here, and some of them might have a real effect on how we live (or hint at things to come). If by some chance I win a story contest soon, I'm going to suggesting that these inventions be the "theme" inspirations for everyone's stories. Either way, some of this might spark an idea or three.
The "Civilization Starter Kit" is very cool. Nevermind its humanitarian aims here on earth -- Colonization, anyone?
November 11th, 2012, 06:54 PM
it could be worse
That slippy coating is gonna go big. It will be on everything, everywhere. I imagine it will change things from oil drilling to intricate surgery...I think...
November 12th, 2012, 06:09 AM
November 12th, 2012, 04:58 PM
Most of the "inventions" are minor improvements on existing products. They'll have little long-term effects on society, and so not too useful except for short gimmick stories with a short shelf-life.
Several of them are variations of existing products which suggest major future trends that do offer writers grist for their story mills. This includes
- The adaptive drill: future machines will continue to be smarter and easier to use, toward the helpful and maybe talkative machine which can fool the naďve in thinking them sentient.
- Cars and other all-electric powered machines which will increasingly wean us off petroleum-based fuels.
- Smaller and cheaper drones. Already there are several toy versions which people can use to peep into their neighbors windows and prowl around their enclosed backyards or supposedly secured compounds.
For writers I'd guess these future developments will be more useful as parts of near-future settings rather than major plot tools. The human side of stories is more compelling to most people than stories of gadgets.
November 12th, 2012, 09:01 PM
There is no tomorrow
Thanks Fung Koo! I'm only able to see the first few at the moment but they look great! Definitely some great ideas in there.
November 13th, 2012, 03:27 AM
Of course the human element is a major function, but in terms of imagining where things are going -- i.e. the technological conveniences to come that will have small, but ubiquitous effects on daily life -- some of these suggest some interesting paths. The 3D printer could mean "I want that shelving unit" and BAM! you have a shelving unit. Taken a little further, it's a Star Trek replictor (for inorganic material, at least).
Originally Posted by Laer Carroll
Or Indoor clouds -- with current technology and precise control, we can do it. Now imagine the technology improves and with it our control, and suddenly we have a world filled with managed indoor microclimates. Sure we have indoor rainforests, but they are basically just humidity controlled greenhouses. Add clouds? Cool!
Then, maybe we can take the control outdoors into unmanaged environments, and manage them. Global warming averted? Or accelerated?
And following from there, if we can force water to condense into clouds, presumably it follows a target seed point in the controlled atmosphere. If we can control the location of that point, and then introduce foreign material into the environment, why couldn't we generate a cloud around a seed of foreign material -- say, a dangerous chemical compound -- and float it into enemy territory?
Who knows how these things could be seeds for others.
November 19th, 2012, 03:41 AM
Some of these really are "so what" gimicks (yet another slightly smaller digital camera, big whoop), but there's some great stuff in here too. Personally I think it's the more mundane-sounding things like the solar water distiller that have the potential to have the biggest global impact.
Could someone with more education than me maybe explain what "Element 113" is and why it might be important? I didn't even understand this one!
November 24th, 2012, 07:43 AM
Basically it's the next number up on the periodic table with a stable isotope to be artificially created and confirmed. Thanks to those pesky laws of nature, the periodic table sort of peters out when elements get such heavy atoms -- they aren't stable, collapse under their own weight, and they haven't been found in nature but we can build them in a lab and they last for a few seconds before they decay. We've observed elements up to 118 or 119, I believe, but I don't think anything above 113 has been created specifically following a repeatable process (???). I think basically we are finding out how high we can go simply to find out how high we can go... though the properties of some of these heavier elements might mean interesting things in the future. For example, it might be possible to stabilize one of these heavy elements by bonding it to other lighter elements, creating molecules that didn't previously exist -- sort of like putting a lattice into the earth on a hillside to support the weight of the dirt and keep in from sliding down the slope. And then who knows what they might be able to do, or how long they'll last, or what reaction chains they'll set off.
Theoretically there's not really a limit to how heavy an element we could manufacture, and what properties they might have could be bizarre. These artificially created heavy elements don't seem to conform exactly to the properties expected of them. Things that are expected to be gases are instead solids though they retain some properties of gases, and/or they might have properties of metals, too.
113 is basically just another step on the ladder, I think. In some respects, the process of successfully creating a heavy element tells us where our technological abilities are. We have figured out how to use what we know and what we have made to make something else that, as far as we know, nature doesn't produce by itself.
December 3rd, 2012, 08:09 AM
Oh okay, I actually sort of understood that! Thanks :-)