Science and Fiction
Science Fiction is a very versatile genre, so it’s difficult to make general statements about it, but I think we can agree on the fact that it’s giving us a glimpse of the future in one way or another. Sometimes that’s a glimpse into the impossible, sometimes into the probable and some “predictions” even come true in one form or another. But I sometimes question myself: What is the Science? What is the Fiction?
I think as basic difference between the two we can state that Science requires proof whereas Fiction doesn’t. To publish a scientific paper you have to provide some kind of evidence. You will have a theory that you want to prove and for that you have to gather data. If you are writing Fiction, anything goes. You might want to try to stay within the limits of the probable, but you can also invent anything you like, as long as you set down firm rules for your invented world. But you can have warp technology and intergalactic travel, lightsabers, immortality, other dimensions, cyborgs, sentient robots and anything in between. It all depends on the approach the writer takes, but in general Science Fiction is more about creativity. Pure Science is about facts and evidence.
But where does the scientific data come from? Ultimately we can only know what our instruments tell us. And sometimes there are some numbers on a screen that we interpret in a certain way to actually mean something. These interpretations can be very likely based on what we know and can observe, but they can also be far-fetched. We go about research with a specific mind-set, as we have expectations on what we will/want to find and that approach can affect the result or interpretation. This is not meaning to discredit Science; I am just trying to make the point that ultimately any result will be a man-made model. Many times these are pretty accurate. But in the grand scheme of things we are far from solving all mysteries of the universe and knowing everything.
If we think about it… The realm of the atom has been studied for so many years and yet scientists still find new models to explain the world around us, sometimes completely negating or contradicting what we thought we knew before. So we don’t know what’s actually happening on a tinier-than-micro scale. Or if we think the other way: Our planet earth seems massive to us humans living on it. Modern travel has made it more accessible to us, but our breath is still taken away by the sheer enormity of some mountain panoramas or the depths of the see. Now lift your eyes to the night sky and you will find that our sense of “large” dwindles into insignificance compared to the universe around us.
This disparity of size, relativity of small and large, is worth giving a thought. If the atoms and their compounds exist on a scale so tiny we can’t actually see them and if the universe is so much bigger than we could ever fathom, where do we actually fit in? Our universe could just be a tiny atom in a much bigger “dimension” and whereas billion years are passing for our world, stars are born and die, the universe expands and contracts, the larger dimension only lives through seconds. Time is always relative… But those are mere thoughts and since I can provide no proof we shall have to file it under Fiction.
In a way the Big-Bang Theory is just a story, like the Old Norse creation myth of the world being made from fire and ice. In a way, they’re not so very different, are they? Only one has been proved by calculations and formulas, whereas the other is classified as old story. But we can only know what we know, to use a tautology. The Norsemen found their own explanation for earthquakes, which is that the bound-up Half-God Loki is in pain and rages when the snake that has been strung up over him drips poison in his face. From our viewpoint it sounds fantastic and strange, but how could they know better at the time? If people from the future hear our stories and see our state-of-the-art Science and technology they might laugh about us and our ignorance of the presence of the fifth dimension. Who knows? But that’s more Fiction again than Science…
Of course I “believe” in Science. It’s what we know at this point in time and it’s constantly stretching its limits and setting new boundaries. But as writer and SF fan I also like to believe in Fiction once in a while, at least as long as the book or the film lasts. And I think it’s good to dream and create a world that’s different to ours with a different kind of Science. I think in a way Science and Fiction can inspire and complement each other. A human being needs both – solid knowledge and compelling stories. So we could almost say that Science and Fiction with all their differences and similarities are part of our human nature.