20 November 2008

Science Fiction vs. Hard Science

Aldrin inspects the LM landing gear.Image via WikipediaI enjoy reading science websites or blogs such as Space.com, Bad Astronomy and USGS. I also like to read science fiction blogs and I have been following a discussion about the effects of science fiction literature, movies, and television on science. At the third annual science blogging conference called ScienceOnline09, they are devoting part of the conference to a discussion on this very topic. Scientists from a variety of disciplines are being asked to give their opinions about science and science fiction and if there is a negative relationship. One example that was cited was the television show CSI. Some scientists feel that this show has given the general public a false sense of what real crime investigators do on a day to day basis so that when a juror is on a court case and has to review crime scene evidence, they expect fancy evidence like on television.
As well, the comments by astronaut Buzz Aldrin were seized upon. " Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. told SCI FI Wire that fantastic space science fiction shows and movies are, in part, responsible for the lack of interest in real-life space exploration among young people."
I have read in the past, that those students, young adults, and adults, who read science fiction tend to score higher on aptitude tests, especially in the vocabulary section. As well, students and adults who find science fiction interesting, in literature or visual media, tend to have better critical thinking skills. Strong critical thinking skills combined with a higher vocabulary, make for a person better able to examine situations and make appropriate decisions or judgments. I would go even further to say that individuals who enjoy science fiction have a higher interest in science and space exploration. While the astronaut Buzz Aldrin is entitled to his opinion, I believe he is wrong. On Space.com, for example, they are talking about shield deflector technology, an idea in the science community that has been around since the 1960's. They even call it Star Trek's deflector shield. So was this a case of science influencing science fiction because Star Trek TOS started in the 1960's. If there is a lack of interest in the space program it is because, unfortunately, money is not being invested in more research for new space craft or space related technology, it is not for a lack of interest. Again, it is unfortunate, but space exploration is not a high priority in life right now.
I do not know why the questions for the ScienceOnline conference are looking for negative correlations between science and science fiction, but if sci fi literature can raise vocabulary, spark an interest in science that may lead to a science career, then I see nothing negative about that.

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3 comments:

Healthy Bob said...

LOL, how can they compare the TV show CSI with actual Sci Fi TV series???!!!
They a-r-e very different. CSI IS NOT based on science fiction, the stories are fictional but not the medical information. CSI is based on whatever is being used so far in the investigative medical field.
Those people are "discussing" nonsense!

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Nice picture by the way.

I studied for a month in a NASA office many moons ago and was amused (in a good way) to find that a lot of people there were Trekkies - Star Trek may have inspired people to go and work in this field, or maybe the same people are inspired by science fiction and by the reality of the space programme.

MarkJ said...

I have found that my students who read in general have a better vocabulary and I doubt science fiction television or movies would be harmful to science ed.