Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer, has died aged 90 in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, it was confirmed tonight (March 18th).
The visionary author of more than 70 books, who was nominated for a Nobel Prize after predicting the existence of satellites, was most famous for his short story "The Sentinel", which was expanded into the novel that was later adapted for Stanley Kubrick's film "2001: A Space Odyssey".
He was also credited with inventing the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality.
Clarke was the last surviving member of what was sometimes known as the "Big Three" of science fiction, alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.
He was responsible for the last time I was a religious believer. At about the age of 12 I read his short story The Star which reverses a great Christian myth to show how invalid the premise is. Being a contrary bugger even then I saw that the reverse premise was also unprovable & being rather to young & serious to see that Arthur wasn't insisting on the literal truth of the story either I immediately decided that a belief in the wonder of God was an equally good explanation. This lasted for all of 20 minutes.
Some of his predictions. Most of them either haven't happened or don't seem likely to. That doesn't mean he was wrong - in many of the cases it is clear reality has got it wrong & we could have done it:
2001 Jan. 1 The next millennium and century begin.
- Cassini spaceprobe (launched October 1997; arrives Saturn July
2000) begins exploration of the planet's moons and rings.
- Galileo probe (launched October 1989) continues surveying Jupiter
and its moons. Life beneath the ice-covered oceans of Europa
appears increasingly likely.
2002 The first commercial device producing clean, safe power by
low-temperature nuclear reactions goes on the market, heralding
the end of the Fossil-Fuel Age. Economic and geopolitical
earthquakes follow, and, for their discovery of so-called "Cold
Fusion" in 1989, Pons and Fleischmann receive the Nobel Prize for
Physics. P & F have clearly got some results though it may not actually be fusion, the shameful thing is that the effort has not been put into finding out
2003 The motor industry is given five years to replace all fuel-burning
engines by the new energy device.
- NASA's robot Mars Surveyor (carrying Lander and Rover) is
2004 The first (publicly admitted) human clone.
2005 The first sample launched back to Earth by Mars Surveyor.
- The Dalai Lama returns to Tibet.
2006 The world's last coal mine closed in India. the "environmentalist" Luddites have stopped this but the world could now be running on nuclear power
2007 NASA's Next Generation Space Telescope (successor to the Hubble)
- President Chandrika Kumaratunga gets the Nobel Prize for
restoring peace to Sri Lanka.
2008 On what would have been his 80th birthday, July 26, the film
director Stanley Kubrick, who made 2001: A Space Odyssey,
posthumously receives a special Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.
2009 A city in North Korea is devastated by the accidental explosion
of an A-bomb. After a brief debate in the U.N., all nuclear
weapons are destroyed.
2010 The first Quantum Generators (tapping space energy) are
developed. Available in portable and household units from a few
kilowatts upward, they can produce electricity indefinitely.
Central power stations close down; the age of pylons ends as grid
systems are dismantled. Cold fusion
- In spite of protests against "Big Brother" government, electronic
monitoring virtually removes professional criminals from society. Since Britain has the world's largest number of CCTV cameras & a lot of crime it seems there are enough amateurs to go round
2012 Aerospace-planes enter service. The history of space travel has
repeated that of aeronautics, although more slowly, because the
technical problems are so much greater. From Yuri Gagarin to
commercial space flight has taken twice as long as from the
Wright Brothers to the DC-3.
2014 Construction of Hilton Orbiter Hotel begins, by assembling and
converting the giant Shuttle tanks which had previously been
allowed to fall back to Earth.
2016 All existing currencies are abolished. The megawatt-hour becomes
the unit of exchange.
2017 December 16. On his 100th birthday, Sir Arthur Clarke is one of
the first guests in the Hilton Orbiter.
- China holds the first nationwide popular elections to its
2020 Artificial Intelligence (AI) reaches the human level. From now
onward there are two intelligent species on Planet Earth, one
evolving far more rapidly than biology would ever permit.
Interstellar probes carrying AIs are launched toward the nearer
2021 The first humans land on Mars, and have some unpleasant
2036 China overtakes the U.S. in gross national product to become the
world's largest economy.
2045 The totally self-contained, recycling, mobile home (envisaged
almost a century earlier by Buckminster Fuller) is perfected. Any
additional carbon needed for food synthesis is obtained by
extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
2047 Hong Kong celebrates its 50th year as an SAR by completely
eliminating border controls and barriers between itself and the
rest of China.
2051 Ground is broken on the moon for self-sustaining, robotized
colonies, where the elderly will survive longer, thanks to the
low lunar gravity.
2057 October 4. Centennial of Sputnik 1. The dawn of the space age is
celebrated by humans not only on Earth, but on the Moon, Mars,
Europa, Ganymede and Titan - and in orbit round Venus, Neptune
2090 Large-scale burning of fossil fuels is resumed to replace the
carbon dioxide "mined" from the air and postpone the next Ice Age
by promoting global warming.
Copyright Arthur C. Clarke 1999