Real Science and Science Fiction

So I was listening to Literature Lab, which is one of my favorite podcasts (and if you haven't checked it out before, please do.  It's a marvelous resource for thinking critically about literature.)  Anyway, I was listening to the podcast about Mars and Mars-based fiction, and how it has changed over time.  The Martian fiction expert, Professor Crossley, talks about how Mars goes from being a viable planet with breathable air (Unveiling a Parallel and  The Martian Chronicles) to being an inhospitable wasteland (Mars Crossing and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.)  This shift was informed by scientific expeditions, namely the Mariner and Viking missions, which revealed the true nature of the Martian environment.  Science informing fiction, fact informing art, that seems to be the natural order of things, right?

Well, it gets more complicated than that.  It seems that art has a reciprocal effect on science, or rather, on the people who research, create and design new advances in science.  Consider these ten now-indispensable technologies inspired by science fiction.  Or that the John Carter of Mars series inspired a young Carl Sagan.  Art inspires dreaming and imagination, and it's that kind of outside-the-box thinking that is so critical for moving progress forward.  And that's more crucial than ever given how wacky the universe is proving to be.

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