Thursday, January 11, 2007

Spaced Out

The problem I have with modern science fiction is that there seems to be altogether too much fiction and not much science involved. Jonathan Swift, in “Gulliver’s Travels,” I could handle, since his was essentially a satirical comment on his times, although I imagine most readers may have missed that point. Jules Verne, apart from “A Voyage to the Moon,” kept his feet on the ground or under it, as in “A Voyage to the Centre of the Earth.” It seems to have been left to H.G. Wells to lurch into space with “The War of the Worlds,” Orson Welles subsequently discovering just how gullible mankind was when he broadcast it to a panicking New York population.

Later writers of the stuff seem to overlook the physical problems involved and it would be refreshing if some author could come up with something that involved believable science, not unbelievable fantasy, along with a good story.

I am reliably informed by those in the know, that in several billion years, the exact figure escapes me but I know it’s a lot, the sun will engulf the earth, an event which puts global warming into true perspective. Personally I don’t think this is something you should worry about since mankind will have launched itself into the self-destruct mode long beforehand.

Having rendered our planet both uninhabitable and undesirable by our own efforts, there are those who suggest that we should look around for a sort of weekend retreat in space, and NASA is busily preparing for a campsite on the moon. Personally I prefer the South of France where the beaches and climate are better and, when the sun does swallow us up, I reckon it’s going to be more comfortable there than sitting on Mars or the Moon, both of which look undeniably unwelcoming, without decent bars or restaurants. The sun’s going to swallow them too, so what’s the point?

I view the activities of NASA with grave suspicion. Major nations in general and the United States in particular, rarely do anything pro bono publico. I suspect they may have struck oil there.

The visionaries of science fiction have us shuttling off to far away planets, presumably well out of reach of an expanding sun. The problem here is that man’s longevity puts a bit of a damper on things. Even with modern drugs, one hundred years seems to be about tops and you don’t get far in the universe in a hundred light years. And who wants to spend a lifetime in a glorified airliner. The only things that live much longer are the Galapagos tortoise and the occasional elephant, neither of whom have evinced much interest in space travel.

So there it is, folks. I’m afraid it’s all over (well, in a few billion years – I’ll get back to you with a more accurate estimate). But before then we’ll all be long gone. It will be left to the cockroaches of the world to experience the final death throes. As they have neither religion nor world wars to concern them, I’m sure they’ll survive until then, much as they have done for millions of years in the kitchen cabinets of mankind.

Now they might be a good subject for a science fiction book.


Post a Comment

<< Home