Some science fiction "firsts"

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by RAMA, Jan 17, 2011.

  1. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nanotech and "Gray Goo" scenerio: The first conceptual use of nanotech was in 1959 by Richard Feynman. The term was coined in 1974 by Norio Taniguchi. Between 1979 and 1985, Eric Drexler refined the concepts which led to the book that popularized nanotech: "Engines of Creation" in 1986. He coined the term "gray goo" which simply put would mean: a large mass of replicating nanomachines lacking large-scale structure reducing raw materials to basic components.

    Just as Sci-fi misjudged the effect of computers, nanotech was also underused. Arthur C Clarke wrote a 1956 story that that included microscale robots. In 1969, Robert Silverberg wrote of nanobots that created a stereo speaker. In 1983, Greg Bear wrote a short story that was expanded in 1985 into "Blood Music", a novel which was adapted to a degree in the new Outer Limits in the 1990s. Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson(1995) is widely considered the best nanotech story to date.

    [​IMG]

    In visual fiction, the first use of microtechnology was in 1966's "Fantastic Voyage" and again in "Innerspace" in the 1980s. True nanotech would appear in Sept, 1989, in the "Evolution" episode of STNG. Not only do these nanomachines replicate, but they act with another trope of Sci fi: a hive mind, leaving the viewer to wonder whether or not they might evolve into the early gray goo scenerio from the early 1990s from the Battle Angel Alita manga. Outer Limits included nanotech in several episodes in its first 2 seasons (1995-96) The first movie to use nanotechnology appears to be "Deep Red" in 1994. "Virtuosity" followed in 1995. STNG's "First Contact follows in 1996, finally showing how the Borg assimilate their victims. The gray goo scenerio first made its appearance in 2008's "The Day the Earth Stood Still". G. I. Joe included it on a smaller scale a year later.

    For good measure: IBM logo written in nanoscale: 1989. First nanotechnology company formed: 1997. LED nanotech TV: http://gizmodo.com/5625184/nanotech-first-claimed-by-lgs-lex8-led-tv

    RAMA
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
  2. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Well it almost feels a given that Verne and Wells came up with a lot of "firsts". I wanted to focus on things Sci-fi fans took for granted and were less well known...thing we almost feel were only invented in our lifetimes.

    That didn't stop anyone from building supercomputers, electromagnetic rails guns, nuclear aircraft carriers or the like.

    Jet/rocket packs seem to be one of the most spectacular failures of 20th century sci-fi speculation so far. Only two modern examples exist and they are barely more advanced than the the US military versions in the 60s.

    http://www.jetpackinternational.com/equip.html

    http://www.tecaeromex.com/ingles/RB-i.htm

    ..on that note...the first known rocketpack? Possibly 1928 in Amazing.

    [​IMG]

    RAMA
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2011
  3. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Solar sailer(s): The fact that electromagnetic radiation produces pressure was discovered in 1871. In 1924, Friedrich Zander proposed solar sails as a means of propelling a spacecraft.

    Likely the earliest story in sci-fi involving this method of propulsion was in 1960's: "The Lady Who Sailed the Soul", by Cordwainer Smith. In 1964, Arthur C. Clarke speculated about a "solar yacht race" in "Sunjammer".

    In visual fiction, Tron(1982) used a "solar sailing simulation", though it was not actually a physical spacecraft. The first appearance of a physical solar sailer was in May of 1995 on STDS9's "Explorers", followed closely by Outer Limits in July, 1995 with "The Message".

    [​IMG]

    Ikaros, the first actual non-experimental solar sail mission ever was launched in 2010 by the Japanese space agency, followed by the Nanosail-D2 by NASA in Nov, 2010.

    RAMA
     
  4. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Electromagnetic "rail" guns: In 1918, French inventor Louis Octave Fauchon-Villeplee invented an electric cannon. It was patented in the US in 1922, as an "Electric Apparatus for Propelling Projectiles". The idea was revived by Germany in 1944 as a large scale weapon but a working model was never built and would have been impractical based on the technology of the time. In 1950 a working railgun was used for experimental purposes in Australia.

    In Literature, 1897 science fiction novel A Trip to Venus by John Munro used a "mass driver" calling it an "electric gun". Arthur C Clarke used a fortress based EM gun to shoot a warship in 1955. Gauss rifles became common in the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison and Known Space series by Larry Niven in the 1960s.

    1932

    [​IMG]

    The "Last Starfighter" used mass drivers to launch asteroids in 1984, but possibly was predated by "This Island Earth", in 1953. Disney's TV movie "Earth Star Voyager" used railguns to launch tracking devices in 1988. Mass Drivers were used to destroy the surface of Narn in Babylon 5 on Oct, 1995.

    The US Navy tested a world record mach 8 railgun in Dec, 2010. Warships are expected to field similar weapons by 2020. The next generation of US aircraft carriers are expected to use EM catapults to launch aircraft. http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/dd21/

    RAMA
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  5. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Nova is airing an episode about nanotech Jan 26th: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/making-stuff-smaller.html

     
  6. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hey I forgot about this thread...this was one of my favorites ever....the reason behind it were two-fold: 1) Yes, SF can predict the future, though that's not it's true reason for being, it is interesting to take a look back how it parallels real scientific development. 2) A lot of the tech we think of as radical and brand new really WAS thought of a long time ago...but what is more fascinating is the accelerated growth of recent technology, it's redefining what we think of the future in more profound ways than sky cities, jet packs and floating cars. Now some of the tech we've seen from decades ago is being thought of on realistic terms, ie: suspended animation...probably would never work without nanotech after re-animation.

    Here's something specific: Minority Report, the film version has some controlled motorways and guided transportation that are interlinked, these are low profile vehicles to save space. There are numerous versions of such guided traffic in real life speculation and SF, most notably might be the film "Designing the Future" sponsored by GM.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iepyjVthBM&hd=1

    http://www.wired.com/autopia/2011/12/autonomo-concept-is-half-car-all-driver/

    http://i.bnet.com/blogs/minority_report_automated_driving.png

    Another example would be I,Robot.

    RAMA
     
  7. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "Last man" fiction was actually popular in the early 19th century; Shelley was by no means the first to tackle the theme. There's an 1805 French novel, a poem by Byron, and a painting, at least, as I recall.

    Edward Page Mitchell's "The Clock That Went Backward" precedes it by over a decade; it was published in 1881. It also invents the predestination paradox in fiction.
     
  8. Ar-Pharazon

    Ar-Pharazon Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    Not the first ever sci-fi movie, but....Metropolis. The reason I finally went blu-ray.
     
  9. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Whether you agree with elements of the movie or not...Metropolis did establish that SF could make a commentary about humanity and technology and do it well. The other side of the coin might be "Things to Come", which again puts society in the hands of a chosen few "elite" but with different results. These two films can make you wonder why such commentary and budgets were not applied to the copycat system of movie making more often.

    RAMA
     
  10. xortex

    xortex Commodore

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    Who invented the transporter and replicator? And computer?
     
  11. Ar-Pharazon

    Ar-Pharazon Vice Admiral Premium Member

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    That was me. Yeah. But I can't officially back that up with paperwork or anything.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Teleportation:
    http://www.magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/thisthat.html#beam

    Matter/food synthesizers like the replicator have been a staple of science fiction for many decades, and arguably go as far back as Jules Verne's 1889 book In the Twenty-Ninth Century: The Day of an American Journalist in 2889: http://scifi.stackexchange.com/ques...tion-of-artificial-food-generators-in-fiction


    One could argue that the earliest known computer is the Antikythera mechanism built sometime in the second century BCE, and presumably there were others before it. But the type of programmable device we call a computer today was first proposed by Charles Babbage in 1837, and Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer. Together, they fought crime! Or would have, in a more awesome reality than this one.
     
  13. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Admiral

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    And I remember John Carter of Mars running into "mechanical brains" in one of the early Barsoom novels . . . .
     
  14. xortex

    xortex Commodore

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    I guess the first cro-magnon magician - Zargon the magnificent - made the first rock disappear and reappear in his hand, just like the most famous song ever - 'Happy Birthday' was written by a woman school teacher to greet her class every morning. She still gets royalties. If she's still alive she's very old.
     
  15. Lapis Exilis

    Lapis Exilis Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A Logic Named Joe by Murrary Leinster published in 1946 Astounding Science Fiction:

    "You know the logics setup. You got a logic in your house. It looks like a vision receiver used to, only it's got keys instead of dials and you punch the keys for what you wanna get. It's hooked in to the tank, which has the Carson Circuit all fixed up with relays. Say you punch "Station SNAFU" on your logic. Relays in the tank take over an' whatever vision-program SNAFU is telecastin' comes on your logic's screen. Or you punch "Sally Hancock's Phone" an' the screen blinks an' sputters an' you're hooked up with the logic in her house an' if somebody answers you got a vision-phone connection. But besides that, if you punch for the weather forecast or who won today's race at Hialeah or who was mistress of the White House durin' Garfield's administration or what is PDQ and R sellin' for today, that comes on the screen too. The relays in the tank do it. The tank is a big buildin' full of all the facts in creation an' all the recorded telecasts that ever was made—an' it's hooked in with all the other tanks all over the country—an' everything you wanna know or see or hear, you punch for it an' you get it. Very convenient. Also it does math for you, an' keeps books, an' acts as consultin' chemist, physicist, astronomer, an' tea-leaf reader, with a "Advice to the Lovelorn" thrown in."

    The only thing this lacks for decribing the internet is a mention of porn.
     
  16. Asbo Zaprudder

    Asbo Zaprudder Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Vannevar Bush came pretty close to describing hyperlinks and the WWW in the 1930s - being pre WW2 and electronic computers, his Memex system and its "associative trails" would have been based on microfilm technology. Not a SF author but his ideas were circulated widely and well regarded. He's also purported to have been a member of Majestic 12 if you give that any credence.
     
  17. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Charles Babbage gets a lot of mileage these days, inventing what is basically a mechanical computer called the difference engine, which a working model was made of in 1991 from his design! Usually when we think steampunk, this is where it originates from.

    Computers using more familiar techniques appeared in 1939. In 1940 a computer used remote accessing(like the internet...no Al Gore wasn't around). In 1944, a machine called Colossus did it's number crunching in breaking Nazi codes, it was kept a secret till the 1970s! The famous, and gigantic ENIAC appeared in 1946. The first microcomputer appeared in 1971, things moved slowly but surely, finally snowballing 10 years later into PCs and Macs. In 1960 the first modem was used, and in 1970 Arpanet was started. During the 70s SF writer's often had their terms "used" be real life researchers, such as "worm", et al...

    BUT SF writers seemed to be slow in understanding the implications of computers, preferring slide rules to stored program or even mechanical computers of more sophistication. The earliest mention I can find of an info giving machine was in 1726, in Gulliver's Travels. "The Machine Stops"(1909) was a revelation:it provided life support, entertainment, communication and lots of things we associate modern computers with. In 1939, the ever reliable Robert Heinlein used a ship with a navigation computer.

    I'm not including other forms of AI in this post.

    Computer History

    Replicators: First mention..Tom Swift(1910)...byproducts of a cyclotron are used to make any material desired. 1933, The Man Who Woke includes a dizzying array of technologies, including molecular replicators:

    Today when we think of replicators, we think of nanotech assemblers, creating whatever we might want from molecules upward. Some current examples of 3D printers are primitive examples of making items out of raw materials for just about any need. NASA uses electron beams in experiments in orbit to create objects.

    3D Printing
     
  18. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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  19. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    You've never heard of Google or Wikipedia, have you?
     
  20. RAMA

    RAMA Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Sometimes Science fiction begats or spurs forward whole philosophies and new fields of study, working almost hand-in-hand with scientists/technologists/futurists. In terms of the Singularity--possibly one of the future defining moments of mankind--defined as a point in time where computers or AI outstrip the natural evolution of human intelligence to the degree that predicting the thought process and technological leaps afterward are impossible to those preceeding it unaided.

    The first conceptualization: 1847, the "Primitive Expounder" suggested eventually machines may become perfect, and surpass the ideas of humanity. 1951, Alan Turing expected machines to eventually outstrip humans and take control. In 1958, Stanislaw Ulam wrote:
    I.J. Good wrote of an intelligence explosion in 1965. The idea didn't seem to go anywhere until 1983, when scientist and science fiction writer Verner Vinge was central in popularizing it in his: "The Coming Technological Singularity" essay(expanded in 1993), and it specifically tied the term in with AI. He wrote novels using the speculation in 1986 and 1992, "The Fire Upon the Deep" being one of the most acclaimed and popular of the sub-genre. Advances in computers tied into Moore's Law of exponential growth in transistors placed on an integrated circuits and later processing speed and memory capacity made the idea seem more plausible. Cybernetic researchers such as Hans Moravec claimed the reality of advancing AI would have a timeline, and predicted the future on these mathematical models in 1988. The pace of sholarly and speculaive books continued, in 2005 Ray Kurzweil combined theories of nanotech, AI and immortality into a book which was made into a film. He espouses the positive side of the explosion of intelligence. Also in 2005, the story Accelerando makes an attempt at the "impossible", trying to discern what generations of a family might be like before, during and after the singularity. Another type of singularity might be the evolution from physical beings to discrete energy beings, or those that evolve and "leave" the universe. Speculation on such events have often led directly from first evolving into AI or mechanical beings, as in Gregory Benford's far future stories of the Galactic Center, or the nanotech manifested, virtual beings of Stephen Baxter's "The Time ships". Star Trek has multiple examples of such beings.

    So far 3 non-fiction movies have been made on the subject of a technological singularity.

    In SF, visual fiction has barely touched the topic...Colossus:The Forbin Project(1970), Demon Seed, War Games, Terminator have all scratched the surface of the subject portraying relatively one-sided views of computer takeover. A much more expansive film, The Matrix and it's sequels go into it with more depth, where AI and humanity finally reach an uneasy equilibrium in the end. A culture that builds a Dyson sphere/swarm or other monumental works involving whole solar systems including ringworlds, might well have gone through a Singularity, or even several. Examples of these have appeared in STNG, Andromeda, Stargate, Halo, Ringworld.

    RAMA