Sunday, 19 June 2016

Doublethink 19 - My Fuel is Alive



6 comments:

  1. I thought immediately of course of the deleterious side effects of the natural sciences. It all looks attractive on the surface of it, until the side effects make themselves felt: our 'own goals' as Hawking recently referred to them.

    At the same time, there seems to be something in this cartoon that strangely reminds me of an e-mail Inbox ...

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    1. I think it is because the writing is a bit like an advertisement :)

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  2. Very creative, Youngjin; an enjoyable read!

    One close thing that came to mind in reading about your ‘unlimited energy’ from space was the almost-as-exciting real-world plans to develop ‘solar sails’ that harness the continuous push of sunlight—photons—against the large, ultrathin, reflective (mirror-like) sails of a spacecraft. Photons from the sun would bounce off the sails, pushing them by the transfer of the photons’ momentum—analogous (albeit imperfectly) to wind blowing against the conventional sails of an earth-bound boat. The spacecraft’s propulsion will be propellant-free, cheap, and efficient—and anticipated, with enough time, to accelerate the spacecraft to several tens of thousands of miles per hour. There have been (limited) proofs of concept to date, with major demonstrations on the docket for this and upcoming years. As the 17th-century astronomer, Johannes Kepler, proclaimed, “Let us create vessels and sails adjusted to the heavenly ether.”

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    1. Wow, I didn't know that people in the 17th century could imagine things that were so far ahead of their time.
      When I was in middle school, I once read a novel called "Le Papillon des étoiles" by Bernard Werber. It was a story of a group of people sailing through space in their enormous butterfly-shaped spacecraft, which was propelled by solar radiation. The author is a French novelist who used to work as a journalist. Unfortunately, only one of his novels, "Les Fourmis", has been translated into English because he is not well-known in Europe and North America. However, all of his novels have been translated into Korean because he is extremely popular in South Korea.

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  3. Yes, Youngjin, it is surprising that “Le Papillon des étoiles” did not appear in English, given how successful “Les Fourmis” was, its hitting the shelves, to flattering reviews, as “Empire of the Ants.” All the more so in light of the many other languages that “Le Papillon des étoiles” was translated into and the impressively large number of copies sold. More than just puzzling, however, I believe it was a missed opportunity, given Werber’s vision of people traveling through space for centuries, in a vehicle powered by the energy of photons (like today’s solar sails), to a distant exoplanet. Shades of imagination exhibited by various players of today, from NASA to the private sector’s SpaceX. Since the period in which Werber wrote those books, the many hundreds of exoplanets subsequently detected by astrophysicists makes his prescience and vision all the more remarkable.

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    1. Bernard Werber is indeed a genius writer who knows how to mesmerize his audience. He created a new genre which incorporated both science fiction and fantasy into a single theme. This is pretty amazing because these two can hardly go together.
      There are reasons why Bernard Werber is not so popular outside of my country, though. First of all, his understanding of science is pretty weak. In his novel "Paradis Sur Mesure", he even tells the story of a person who manages to send small objects back in time by accelerating them beyond the speed of light using a particle accelerator. This is absurd because it is a common sense that nothing in our world can move faster than light.
      The second reason why he is not a popular author is that his worldview is quite narrow-minded. Throughout his novels (especially in "Les Thanatonautes" and "L'Empire des anges"), he depicts his protagonists as the only intellectuals who know the ultimate truth of our universe, whereas the rest of the world is filled up with helplessly dumb, superficial individuals who are only concerned with money and sex. In his "Cycle des dieux" series, he even introduces his own number system which classifies people into different "levels" of intellect, and tells the reader that those who belong to lower levels of intellect can never understand those who belong to upper levels of intellect.
      Such an elitist attitude may be accepted in my country in which Confucian ideas still remain, but must not be tolerated in Western Europe (especially in France) where undermining individual intellect is deemed very offensive.

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