Physics and science

Ten Things Predicted in Classic Sci-Fi Literature

Technology is moving forward at an incredible pace, there is a large metal doughnut under most of Switzerland smashing atoms together at almost the speed of light to err…. do something or other…. I’m not sure what exactly. There are government departments all over the world working on top secret projects, technology unthinkable a generation ago will exist within the next century because the building blocks are there we just have to push the boundaries further and we will probably react with a shrug and a ‘whatever’ as no new technology amazes us, in fact we almost expect things like teleportation to exist sometime soon.

Sci-fi writers of the past working with the restrictions of steam power and valves had to use their imagination to show the future. So here are ten things that were predicted before Quantum Physics and Silicone chips.

Shall we start with Jules Verne?

Giant Submarines

Although submarines had been around as a concept since ancient Greece, by 1867 they had advanced to an 46 foot steam powered example. Just three years later Jules Verne published 20’000 Leagues Under The Sea which featured a giant electric powered submarine with a full crew compliment which could stay under water for weeks recycling the air. It was commanded by a renegade Captain and was chased around the oceans by the then world’s super powers….. Cold War? Hunt For Red October?

Taser

Also in 20,000 leagues under the sea, they went hunting with an invention of Verne’s that he called Leyden balls which used the principle of the ‘Leyden Jar’ an early type of capacitor invented in the 18th Century to discharge an electrical current contained in a glass and lead ball into the body of the target, a full century before the concept became a reality with the ‘Taser’ the go to weapon for police wanting a non fatal stop.

Moon Shot

In 1961 John F Kennedy delivered a speech announcing that…. ‘I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.’ Nearly a century earlier (1865) and before any type of rocket other than glorified fireworks had been launched, Jules Verne described a successful Moon mission and described all the problems that N.A.S.A had to overcome in the next century.

Moving on to John Wyndham…..

G.M Crops

Genetically modified crops are a 21st century ‘thing’ right?….John Wyndham wrote about the Triffids, a Orchid/Venus fly trap concoction in the 1951 novel ‘Day Of The Triffids’ It was created to solve a global food crisis, it also discussed the importance of productivity/quality over Health and Safety. The Triffids were bred to help starvation, providing easily harvested vitamins and nutrients. They were also ‘designed’ to produce a sustainable source of oils to do away with the reliance on fossil fuels, Bio fuel?

Satellite Weapons

In 1951 when Day of The Triffids was written, the first artificial satellite ‘Sputnik’ was still six years away and Ronald Reagan’s (not implemented) ‘Star Wars’ speech was decades in the future. But Wyndham got it spot on describing how weapons were in orbit above the earth ready to inflict catastrophic disasters against a countries enemies. In the book bright lights burnt out the retinas in your eyes, Ronald Reagan described high powered lasers……….

The ‘Celeb’ Culture

Not exactly Sci-Fi but Wyndham predicted the 21st obsession with fame in a short story entitled ‘Where O where is Peggy Rafferty?’ A teenage girl Peggy Rafferty is obsessed with becoming famous, to this end, Peggy applies to go on a quiz show (the nearest the thing to reality T.V when it was written in the 50’s) she’s a hit with the viewers and is coached by the station to become a star appearing in movies, when she later goes back to her town they don’t recognise her as she looks the same as all the famous girls in the magazines they read……..

Atomic Bombs

H.G Wells wrote an almost exact account of an Atomic bomb explosion in his 1914 novel ‘The World Set Free’ while he predicted ‘The Manhattan project 30 years early, even he was beaten to by the lesser known author Robert Cromie in his 1895 novel ‘The Crack of Doom’ In this novel Cromie describes an explosion from splitting the atom that the world witnessed fifty years later over two different Japanese cities.

C.C.T.V and communication monitoring

No list of predictive Sci-Fi novels would be complete without Orwell’s grim view of the future in 1984. C.C.T.V is everywhere and monitoring of communication channels. The reasons may be different (depending on your political views) in 1984 it is to monitor and control the proletariat or ‘prols’ (as Orwell calls us), everyone is monitored throughout their lives by cameras and you have to walk down back streets and write on normal paper rather than computers to avoid detection, town centre C.C.T.V and government monitoring of emails and texts? It is obviously done for our safety now and not control but the technology is still the same. In the book same he also predicted perpetual war and switching of alliances based on political need.
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In-Vitro fertilisation

Aldous Huxley in his 1931 novel ‘Brave New World’ predicted both what the tabloids describe as designer babies and what used to be called test tube babies, now called ‘In vitro fertilisation’ which although it sounds posher and more ‘politically correct’ because it’s in Latin. It actually means exactly the same thing In Vitro translates as ‘In glass’. Huxley wrote the book a full twenty-two years before Watson, Crick and Wilkins sequenced human D.N.A and nearly half a century before the worlds first ‘test tube baby’. He also described a similar society to Orwell’s ‘1984’ where people were conditioned to play a particular role in society determined on their intelligence……. Jeremy Kyle show?

Finally some reversed prediction

Charles Darwin and Pierre Boulle

In 1859 Charles Darwin published ‘ On the Origin of Species’ outlining how he thought we had developed from single cell organisms through to apes and finally man. He used terms like ‘survival of the fittest’ a hundred years later Pierre Boulle after writing the classic ‘Bridge on the Kwai’ an account of the building of the Burma – Siam railway during the second world war, the film version had the classic scene of Alec Guiness (years before he became a Jedi Knight) falling on the detonator, realising he had helped the Japanese war effort after asking himself, ‘What have I done?’…. I digress…. ten years later Mr Boulle turned his hand to sci-fi and took Darwin’s theory full circle and had apes overtaking us as the dominant species…. will this Sci-fi come true as well?

It might if we don’t stop being so smug and clever…..

The Lottery, Cheese and Entropy….

We all love a go on the lottery, we know we probably won’t win big, but there is that small chance that we might win a few grand. If you can afford it and have the inclination to play it, what’s the harm?   The trick is not to become addicted to it and spend hundreds of pounds a month chasing the dream. I have one line of numbers and I play by direct debit. They email me if I win and pay prizes into my bank account.

If something disastrous happened to our family finances then this would be the first luxury to go. I deliberately haven’t memorised my numbers which I picked at random a few years ago,  I know what half of them are but if I stopped playing and saw the winning lottery numbers, I couldn’t be certain they were mine and therefore not regret it for the rest of my life (clever eh?).

I do occasionally have an additional line or two, based on either a hunch or a madcap idea I had that week, as everyone who knows me will tell you that I do not own a Ferrari and live in a mansion…. I am happy to share them. They will I realise make me look at best a little weird and at worst totally barking with no grip on reality.

Here we go……. in no particular order…

1. Three key numbers. Pick 3 numbers and do 5 lines with these 3 numbers present in all 5 lines. IF (big IF there) these 3 come up then the chance of a big win is significantly increased. I did get 4 numbers once using this method once….. but the increased ticket price has made this idea prohibitively expensive taking it from a fiver to a tenner.

2. Playing every number. Write all the numbers down and pull them one by one out of hat. You will have at the end 8 lines with totally different numbers and 1 line with 2 unique and 4 repeated numbers. When the numbers are drawn in the lottery you WILL have all the numbers, obviously the trick is getting them all on the same line……..

Again this has been made too expensive to do on your own but for a syndicate this could be a good idea…. done this one every now and again with a few mates but no luck……

Now we get to the slightly odd ideas….

3. Cheese and red wine. That’s right you did read it correctly. Cheese and red wine. Occasionally a story comes along in the papers where a winner claims to have dreamt the winning numbers. I tried to pre-empt this by eating a particularly strong cheese  (we are talking at least a blue Stilton or Gorgonzola) and downing a bottle red wine after watching that nights lottery draw… never dreamt any numbers or won anything but the wine and cheese were both good so the problem with me trying this again is……?

4. Entropy and the multiple universe theory. This one is a weird idea but is soundly based a concept in Physics and Maths so errrr….. bear with me….

The multiple universe theory says that every possible outcome is covered and acted up on, therefore every happening or choice we make generates another time string (told you that you would think I was barking) and entropy is the concept that every event is random but by bringing in a second random event, the original event ceases to be random, that’s my take on it anyway after reading dozens of baffling pages on ‘Tinternet’ if a Science teacher is reading this then he may think this is complete b*****ks, if you are and do… then you can explain it properly to me and then for an encore explain why water (being made from a fuel – hydrogen and an accelerant – oxygen) doesn’t burn.

Anyway back to entropy if you cut up a lottery play-board and mix it with rice and then throw it into a box…. you’d think that it might create a random event that mirrored the one in your universe… well it doesn’t. I can guarantee it.

But the multiple universe theory says that hundreds of different versions of me have won every single lottery draw. Just not the version of me writing this…..

I won’t include the links to Wikipedia articles on Entropy or Multiple universe theories as both articles went about fifteen feet above my head…

5. Advance knowledge of events (or precognition). There is a theory that because we know about an event that happens tomorrow after it happens tomorrow, then we actually know about it today. We just don’t know we know (did you follow that?) therefore we can concentrate on that future event and see it happening today….. Tried it…. NO YOU CAN’T……

And now the most reliable and sensible idea.

6. Keep the same numbers. Pick 6 numbers and play them every draw. The odds of getting 3 numbers from  6 is about 30 to 1 (it is I promise, I’ve worked it out) so every 30 draws or so (15 weeks or 3 – 4 months) you should win £25 quid… and I would say I probably do….but one day the 3 numbers might combine with a 4th  or 5th.

There you go, 6 ideas to win the lottery and I didn’t even mention the last couple of paragraphs of my Time Travel blog post… If you want weird  with a capital W then that’s it.

So to sum this blog-post up, I’m slightly strange, drink wine and eat cheese in the name of science and the most reliable way of winning the lottery is the most boring…. (number 6)

Photo credit. Me. I took it a while ago at a wedding with a phone so forgive the quality.

Time Travel….

I love a good article on Time Travel, the problem is though normally after the first paragraph I’m way out my depth, when the writer starts talking about Quarks, Protons, etc, and quoting Einstein’s theory of relativity.

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of time travel from a young age when I tried to build a time machine out of Lego and Meccano aged six after being scared witless watching the original ‘Time Machine’ with Rod Taylor… I’m telling you those blue Morlocks were scary.

And then who doesn’t love Marty and Doc travelling in time using a nuclear powered Delorean? The strange thing is though Time Travel exists. Fact, and I don’t mean that we are all moving through time at one second per second.

Einstein said speed was the key to time travel. In the 1970’s (and many times since) several experiments were carried out using atomic clocks aboard aeroplanes. The ones on aboard the planes gained time therefore had travelled through time faster than natures norm… I will point out we are not talking minutes or even seconds. We are talking Nano-seconds or in layman’s terms a gnats arse…. But what it does mean is that when you fly any distance you will arrive at the same point in time quicker than someone else who stayed on the ground. As I said real time travel.

Read about the first experiment (and subsequent repetitions) HERE

Then there’s the university professor called Ronald Mallett, who reckons time travel into the past could be a reality within the 21st century. He is currently working on a prototype machine, will he succeed? I really hope he does.

He started working on time travel when in his early twenties. His father had died of a heart attack when Ronald Mallett was a young child and he wanted to go back and warn him, He now accepts that this will never happen but he hopes to create time travel for particles within his lifetime.

Ronald Mallett

Have you read that link? I didn’t understand much of either…..

You may now be thinking that full on time travel can’t be possible, otherwise we would have seen travellers from the future wandering around. I think I know the reason…

Any machine that can create time travel will be enormous, I assume about the size of the Large Hadron Collider, (L.H.C) that is under most of Switzerland, Therefore not be able to travel through time itself  just provide a method to facilitate it. So you will only be able to go back to moment the machine was finished and switched on, because you will need it to reassemble the traveller at the ‘destination’ time.  If this type of machine is ever built, will Bookies and gambling become a thing of the past?

If you are fascinated by the thought of time travel as portrayed in films and on television, like Joan Collins getting run over in the 1930’s and Jim Kirk breaking down in tears because he stopped Bones saving her, then I assume you have heard of Bold Street in Liverpool.

If you haven’t then that’s the one link you REALLY do need to read, no science involved it’s just spooky.

If you live in Liverpool and visit Bold Street a lot, you need to make sure you carry last weeks Euromilions numbers in an envelope with an address known to you or your family from the 1960’s through to the 1990’s in case a time-slip like in the above link occurs, so you can post them to yourself (or parents) with a note to keep them safe until the date written on the envelope. You will then have them last week before the draw took place… If this crazy scheme works for anyone reading this… then don’t forget it was my idea and I want a serious share of any winnings…..

Photo credit – Alan Cleaver