Series: Science and Fiction
210 pages, 20 colour & 7 b/w illustrations
The material in Exploring Science Through Science Fiction forms the basis of an interdisciplinary, college-level course, which uses science fiction film as a vehicle for exploring science concepts. Unlike traditional introductory-level courses, the science content is arranged according to major themes in science fiction, with a deliberate progression from the highly objective and discipline-specific (e.g. Reference Frames; Physics of Space Travel and Time Travel) to the very multi-disciplinary and thought-provoking (e.g. Human Teleportation; Science and Society). Over 100 references to science fiction films and television episodes are included, spanning more than 100 years of cinematic history. Some of these are conducive to calculations (solutions included).
1 Introduction: Discerning the Real, the Possible and the Impossible
1.1 The first sci-fi movie
1.1.1 exploring the science in Le Voyage dans la Lune
1.2 The first literary work of science fiction
1.3 Reference frames, revisited
1.4 Roadmap to the rest of the book
2 What is the Nature of Space and Time? (the physics of space travel and time travel)
2.1 Changing perspectives through history
2.2 Newton’s Laws
2.3 Einstein and relativity
2.3.1 special relativity and time dilation
2.3.2 general relativity and distortion of spacetime
2.3.3 gravitational waves
2.3.4 faster than light, but not faster than light
2.4 Stephen Hawking, black holes, wormholes and quantum gravity
2.4.1 black holes
2.4.2 the multiverse hypothesis
2.5 Other time travel scenarios
3 What is the Universe Made of? (matter, energy and interactions)
3.1 The Standard Model of Particle Physics
3.2 The atomic nucleus: protons, neutrons, isotopes and radioactivity
3.4 Solid state materials
3.5 Phase transitions
3.6 Transparency and invisibility: optical properties of materials
3.6.1 transparent solids
3.6.3 stealth technology
3.6.4 metamaterials and cloaking
3.7 Energy and power
3.7.1 kinetic and potential energy
3.7.2 chemical energy
3.7.3 distinguishing between power and energy
3.7.4 nuclear energy
3.7.5 matter-antimatter annihilation
4 Can a Machine Become Self-Aware? (the sciences of computing and cognition)
4.1 Computer hardware performance specifications
4.2 Analog computers
4.3 Digital computers
4.4 Beyond digital computers
4.5 Information storage
4.7 Robot behavior
4.8 Toward the creation of artificial consciousness
5 Are We Alone in the Universe? (the search for extraterrestrial intelligence)
5.1 Major considerations
5.2 Searching for ET: government agency or private industry?
5.3 Listening for ET: what form of communication might we expect?
5.4 Conditions necessary for intelligent life to arise
5.4.1 the origin and diversity of life on Earth
5.5 Cinema and the science of the SETI project
5.6 Where might first contact occur and how will humans and aliens interact?
6 What does it Mean to be Human? (biological sciences, biotechnology and other considerations)
6.1 Bodies with replaceable parts
6.2 Resistance to disease
6.3 Cell structure and radiation damage
6.3.1 detection of ionizing radiation
6.3.2 biological effects of exposure to ionizing radiation
6.3.3 UV radiation and skin cancer
6.4 DNA and the human genome
6.4.1 DNA sequencing and genetic engineering
6.6 Human teleportation
6.6.1 the problem of duplication
6.6.2 getting all the + and – signs in the right place
6.6.3 the uncertainty principle: limitations on precision of quantum measurement
6.7 Teleportation estimations
6.8 Beyond biology
6.9 What can we learn from an android about what it means to be human?
7 How do We Solve Our Problems? (science, technology and society)
7.1 The public perception of science and scientists
7.1.1 science as obsession
7.1.2 science and arrogance
7.1.3 science as an act of futility
7.1.4 the model scientist
7.2 The methodology of science
7.3 Science, pseudoscience and nonsense
7.4 Problems to be solved
7.4.1 How can we increase public awareness of science?
7.4.2 How do we respond to threats or attacks?
7.4.3 How can we feed the hungry?
7.4.4 How can we conserve our natural resources?
7.4.5 How can an unstable government avoid total collapse?
7.4.6 How can we provide better healthcare?
7.4.7 How can a company sell more products?
7.4.8 How do we establish justice?
8 What Lies Ahead? (the future of our technological society)
8.1 Accurate predictions
8.1.1 space and time
8.1.2 matter and energy
8.1.4 planets in other star systems
8.1.5 biomedical technology
8.1.6 communication technology
8.1.7 brain-computer interfacing
8.2 Coming soon: possibilities for the not-so-distant future
8.2.1 space exploration
8.2.2 dark matter and dark energy
8.2.3 real adaptive camouflage
8.2.4 room-temperature superconductivity
8.2.5 quantum computers
8.2.6 robots in the home
8.2.7 cybernetic devices
8.2.8 artificial heart
8.3 Science fiction in historical context
8.3.1 The Island of Dr. Moreau
8.3.2 The War of the Worlds
8.3.3 The Day the Earth Stood Still
8.4 Visions of the future
8.4.1 defining culture in terms of technology
8.4.2 social divisions
8.4.3 technophiles and technophobes
8.4.4 turning over too much control to technology
8.4.5 the rise of AI
8.4.6 what is real?
8.4.7 sentient VR characters
8.4.8 civilization destroyed by its own technology
8.5 Responsible technology
Appendix A: Catalog of Movies Cited
Appendix B: Catalog of Television Series Episodes Cited
Appendix C: Catalog of YouTube Videos Cited
Appendix D: Solutions to Estimation Problems
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