Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Guardian's Art from Mars

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Texas A&M/Cornell

This beautiful feature from the Guardian represents the best pictures sent back from NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, over a decade spent photographing Mars. From dazzling dunes to vast craters to space blueberries, these amazing shots are full of imaginative possibilities and offer a glimpse of life on the Red Planet.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Asimov's 2014 World Fair

What better way to start 2014 than with Isaac Asimov's 1964 New York Times article, 'Visit to the World's Fair of 2014', a speculative glimpse 50 years into the future, published on the occasion of New York City's hosting of the World's Fair. In it, Asimov imagines a world which sounds very much like our own:

“The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction…. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages.”

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”

“Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.”

Even those domestic issues close to home do not escape scrutiny:

“The appliances of 2014 will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long- lived batteries running on radioisotopes. The isotopes will not be expensive for they will be by- products of the fission-power plants which, by 2014, will be supplying well over half the power needs of humanity. But once the isotope batteries are used up they will be disposed of only through authorized agents of the manufacturer.”

Mindful of the threat of nuclear war that overshadowed the Cold War years, Asimov writes, “if a thermonuclear war takes place, the future will not be worth discussing. So [...] let us observe what may come in the nonatomized world of the future”, a sentiment that perfectly embodies the spirit of SF literature and seems an apt way to see in the New Year.