What is the connection between science and science fiction? Are television shows like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Dr. Who” inspiring the next generation of scientists? Professor Lawrence Krauss explored these issues at the 2014 Annual Meeting in his talk, “Physics of the Future,” which was part of the symposium titled, “Where’s My Flying Car? Science, Science Fiction, and a Changing Vision of the Future” on Friday Feb. 14.
I have to admit that I’ve always had mixed feelings about Krauss. He often says intelligent and insightful things, but he’s also prone to obnoxious and ignorant statements.
Still, I have to agree with him on this:
The realities of space travel have proven that the science fiction’s vision of traveling throughout the galaxy, or even within the solar system, is probably not possible. Humans just aren’t made for space. We’re hundred-pound bags of water that do much better on Earth. If we send anything throughout the galaxy, at best it will be robots with instructions on how to make humans.
I’ve made this point myself a few times. I’m a big fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Doctor Who, but none of them give a view of what the future of space exploration is actually likely to be like. Of course, Star Trek is the only one of those series that is really trying to any extent to make predictions, and its vision is by necessity compromised by the realities of TV shows, and by the fact that that vision of the future is now 50 years old.
That’s not to say that those shows aren’t inspiring. I find them all inspiring to one degree or another, and I’m sure many scientists and engineers ended up in their fields based on the spark these shows initially planted in them.