In a speech at the 2007 Venice Film Festival at special screening of his seminal noir thriller Blade Runner, Sir Ridley Scott, the legendary director of Alien, announced that he believes that science-fiction as a genre is dead.
But that is rarely the case, according to Lawrence Krauss, a Foundation professor in the School of Space and Earth Exploration and the Department of Physics at Arizona State University. No doubt, science fiction has taken inspiration from the cutting edge science of its day. And, as Stephen Hawking reaffirmed in the preface of Krauss's bestselling book, the Physics of Star Trek, science fiction helps inspire our imaginations. But Krauss believes science fiction is not a match for reality.
"Truth is stranger than fiction," Krauss said at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago.
"The imagination of nature far exceeds the human imagination, which is why we constantly need to probe the universe via experimentation to make progress," he said. "In fact, I tend to think that what makes science fiction most interesting is what they missed, not what they got right."
Krauss, a renowned theoretical physicist and science popularizer, was giving his talk, "Physics of the future," on Feb. 14 at AAAS as part of a session titled "Where's my flying car? Science, science fiction and a changing vision of the future."
As examples, Krauss mentioned the World-Wide-Web, developed at the CERN scientific laboratory and which governs the world in ways that were not anticipated. He also described "The World Set Free," often quoted as a prophetic book by H.G. Wells, which was published in 1914 and anticipated the development of atomic weapons that could be used in war. It even coined the term "atomic bombs" decades before they became a harsh reality in the modern world and perhaps influencing some of the scientists who went on to create these weapons.
"Nevertheless not only did Wells' continually burning atomic weapons bear no resemblance to the engines of destruction in the real world," Krauss emphasized, "he thought it would unite the world into one society whereas we are painfully aware that it hasn't changed human thinking, except to divide the world into nuclear haves and have-nots."
"Nevertheless it is instructive, and fun, to compare the 'science' of science fiction with that of the real world," said Krauss, who also is the director of the Origins Project at ASU. "Rather than dwelling on things that don't work, it is fun to explore closely related things in the real world that might work."
Krauss discussed a variety of classical science fiction standbys – space exploration, faster than light travel, time travel and teleportation. It seems almost tragic that science fiction is full of space travelers, freely and technologically effortlessly fulfilling their manifest destiny in space while we remain stuck on Earth. But the reality of the situation, according to Krauss, is that space travel costs a lot of money and energy, is a very risky endeavor and humans, as "hundred-pound bags of water," are not built for space.
On a more positive vein, Krauss described how exotica live warp drive and time travel are not ruled out by known laws of nature, though from a practical perspective even if possible in principle they are likely to be impossible in practice. While it is not likely that humans will be "beamed" from one place to another, quantum teleportation might revolutionize computing in ways that science fiction has just begun to come to grips with, said Krauss, who has authored more than 300 scientific publications and nine books, including the international bestseller The Physics of Star Trek, a tour of the Star Trek universe and our universe, and Beyond Star Trek, which addressed recent exciting discoveries in physics and astronomy and takes a look at how the laws of physics relate to notions from popular culture.
Krauss concluded that predicting the future of science if fraught with problems.
"The best part of physics of the future is that we have no idea what the exciting discoveries of the future will be," he said. "If I knew what the next big thing would be, I would be working on it now!"
In a speech at the 2007 Venice Film Festival Ridley Scott announced that he believes that science-fiction as a genre is dead -gone the way of Westerns (which didn't seem to prevent him from directing Prometheus in 20012).
Scott believes, as we do at The Daily Galaxy, that although the flashy special effects of block-busters such as The Matrix, Independence Day and The War of the Worlds, may sell at the box office, that none can beat Stanley Kubrick’s haunting 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film is as fresh (and perhaps more relevant) today as the day it premiered.
The video at the end of the post -Kubrick 2001 -The Space Odyssey Explained- is a minor masterpiece in itself and is not to be missed. In a speech at the 2007 Venice Film Festival at special screening of his seminal noir thriller Blade Runner, Sir Ridley Scott, the legendary director of Alien, announced that he believes that science-fiction as a genre is dead -gone the way of Westerns.
“There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it,” Scott said.
Made at the height of the “space race” between the United States and the USSR, 2001 predicted a world of malevolent computers and routine space travel. Kubrick had such a fanatical eye for detail, he employed Nasa experts in designing the spacecraft.
Sir Ridley said that 2001 was “the best of the best”, in use of lighting, special effects and atmosphere, adding that every sci-fi film since had imitated or referred to it. “There is an over reliance on special effects as well as weak storylines,” he said of modern sci-fi films.
More than anything, 2001 and its journey from the origins of life in prehistoric Africa in 4 million BC to Jupiter, where a new creature, the HAL 9000 computer inhabits the dark void of space. The film is Kubrick's philosophical statement about humanity's place in the universe, about where we as humans rate in the pecking order of life -- "feral, intelligent and hyper-intelligent."
The famous Monoliths at the opening of the film and the Star Child at the end indicates that entities have reached a higher level of consciousness. Despite the fact that humanity remains more or less earthbound, Kubrick -- through his strange, infuriating and by turns terrifying movie points towards our future: to our destiny beyond the Solar System.
The film's primary themes include the origins of evolution; sentient computers; extra-terrestrial beings; the search for one's place in the universe; and re-birth all seen within a cold, foreboding light. Viewers often read the monoliths as signposts of our discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Shortly after the film's release, however, Kubrick told a New York Times reporter that it's more a matter of the other beings discovering us.
Steven Spielberg called 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) his generation's "big bang," focusing its attention upon the Russo-American space race -a prelude to orbiting and landing on the Moon with Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. And it prophetically showed the enduring influence that computers would have in our daily lives.
The special effects techniques Kubrick pioneered were further developed by Ridley Scott and George Lucas for films such as Alien and Star Wars. 2001 is particularly notable as one of the few films realistically presenting travel in outer space, with scenes in outer space completely silent; weightlessness is constant, with characters are strapped in place; when characters wear pressure suits, only their breathing is audible.
Stanley Kubrick -director of Dr Strangelove, Lolita, and Clockwork Orange- spent five years developing 2001, collaborating with SF legend Arthur C. Clarke on the script, expanding on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". The screenplay and the novel were written simultaneously. The novel and the film deviate substantially from each other, with the novel explaining a great deal of what the film leaves deliberately ambiguous.
The film is notable for its use of classical music, such as Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra and Johann Strauss's The Blue Danube waltz, as well the music of contemporary, avant-garde Hungarian composer, György Ligeti (though this was done without Ligeti's consent). Atmospheres, Lux Aeterna, and Requiem on the 2001 soundtrack was the first wide commercial exposure of Ligeti's work.
The moon docking sequence, which preceded the actual moon landing by a year, looks remarkably accurate. It's no wonder so many people believe the Apollo 11 landing was filmed on a Hollywood sound stage -- Kubrick had already done it, and he made it look easy.
One of the more crucial elements of 2001 is the lack of sound that dominates the film, which is true to that there would be no sound in space (no atmosphere means no medium for sound transmission).
The real drama begins when HAL, one of cinema's all-time evil and terrifying characters, makes his appearance. The HAL 9000: a malevolent, homicidal, and sightly effete (he sings "Daisy") intelligent computer that controls the operations of the spaceship Discovery, which is on its way to Jupiter with a team of astronauts to explore the monoliths' origins.
In the movie's climatic sequence, Discovery crewmen David Bowman and Frank Poole attempt to disable the computer after the stability of his programming becomes suspect. Omnipotent in their microcosmic on-board setting, HAL doesn't take kindly to this suggestion. Bowman and Poole hole themselves up in space pod to engage in what they think is a private conversation. HAL, however, watches, reading their lips. Not good...
Sir Ridley is one of Britain’s most acclaimed film-makers. His extraordinary number of box-office hits include Alien – another sci-fi classic, best remembered for the scene of an infant creature bursting through John Hurt’s chest – as well as Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.
But it is for Blade Runner that sci-fi fans revere him most. Ridley's vision, writes Cinematical writer Kevin Kelly, turned Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? "into a look at a dystopian future that still influences the look and feel of science fiction films to this day."
Scott began his feature film directing career with The Duellists, a small but dazzling masterpiece, which brought him the Grand Jury Prize at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. His second film was the breakthrough hit Alien, which won an Academy Award for Special Effects. This was followed by Blade Runner, now considered one of the landmark science fiction films of all time. In 2003, Scott was knighted by the Queen of England.
The Daily Galaxy via Arizona State University