When Fiction Becomes Fact
A little over four days from this posting, the latest in a long line of Mars landers will set foot — or wheel in this case — on Mars. Curiosity, as this probe is called, continues our quest to learn more about the Red Planet, which has fascinated and tantalized us for centuries. Its objectives include searching for evidence of conditions favorable to life, studying the Martian climate, studying Martian geology, and collecting data for a future manned mission to Mars, according to NASA’s web site.
What will Curiosity find on Mars? Will it find evidence of life, either now or in the past? Countless stories have been written, over the years, about life on other planets and other things that seemed pure fantasy — at least at the time. Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon was a story of fiction and humor, written in 1865, yet just over a hundred years later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, creating fact from fiction.
Jules Verne predicted other things in his writing, such as underwater travel in submarines, but he isn’t alone in spinning tales that eventually become real. H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and a host of other writers, have all had elements from their stories become reality in one form or another. Science Fiction doesn’t have a stranglehold on this phenomenon either. George Orwell’s socio-political novel, 1984, has had some of its predictive elements come to pass, albeit not exactly in the time frame he envisioned. Terms and ideas, such as Big Brother, which come from that 1949 work are still with us today.
Sometimes, things we feel certain should come to pass don’t. (I’m still waiting for my flying car Back to the Future!) Many stories written in the sixties, seventies, and even later, told of flourishing moon and mars colonies by this time. Even Clarke’s 2001 and 2010 novels overestimated our technical abilities. Yet, even if the writers had their timelines a bit off, many elements in those stories don’t seem nearly as fantastic or impossible as they did when they were written.
If you’d like to see more things that have become fact from fiction, or look to soon be, have a look at the Science Channel’s Prophets of Science Fiction series. What element or piece of technology from a story you’ve read would you most like to see come true? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Godspeed and good luck to Curiosity! I’m looking forward to your discoveries.