Victor DiCara (A.K.A. Vraja Kishor) asks if the science in Cosmos is being presented with adequate humility. "What could be more unscientific than claiming to know everything better than anyone else?" Victor is concerned about how Neil Tyson compares the modern scientific view of the cosmos to pre-scientific ideas about the world. After all, Victor laments, "maybe we are just as wrong about the world as they were" (March 31, 2014 at 10:10 comment).
When Knowledge Conquered Fear”) provides a good example of the unprecedented power of science: using the Newtonian understanding of gravitation to predict events such as the periodic return of comets to the inner solar system.
Many of us are charmed by the ancient idea that a comet might be a "starry messenger" sent to herald some great terrestrial event. However, I can't take seriously the suggestion that we in this age, when the orbits of comets can be calculated and we can land space craft on them, are just as wrong about comets as the ancient pre-scientific cultures that came before us.
|What supports the turtle who supports the elephants?|
This idea that our universe might be inside a black hole that is inside another universe begs the question: how did the first universe come into existence. Is it turtles all the way down?
|Cover art: Trysta views Realities.|
Another fictional invention that was used in Asimov's fictional universe was a technology for viewing alternative Realities. Using that technology, Noÿs Lambent was able to select the Foundation Reality as the most desirable future for Earth.
Episode 1 of Cosmos started with the claustrophobia felt by Bruno over the idea that the cosmos was delineated by a crystalline sphere with affixed stars that spun around the Earth once a day. Modern cosmologists, after having extended the dimensions of our observable universe to a larger sphere (about 30 billion light-years across) are also feeling trapped...so much so that they keep inventing new hypothetical models of a multiverse.
For the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that unconventional matter in the Sedronic Domain provides the basis for that memory of other Realities and the basis for a technology for viewing alternative Realities. The unusual genetic endowment of Ivory and her clones makes it possible for we Earthlings to tap into the vast information sources that are available in the Sedronic Domain.
|Kach and Lycaun|
Sagan's book The Demon-Haunted World and the television program Cosmos are about science. Sagan stressed the importance for science of a marriage between the human sense of wonder and healthy skepticism. However, we humans are story tellers. We use out imaginations to impose order on the universe. When we invent stories (such a giant turtle to support the world) we can be amused by - or even have faith in - our invented stories, but if we don't want to be fooled and find ourselves believing nonsense then we need to be skeptical about the veracity of our imagined accounts of reality.
To what extent is the formula of unified wonder and skepticism useful in constructing science fiction stories? I like the idea of making skeptical inquiry a part of the Exode Trilogy. Kach is born on the distant planet Hemmal where she studies the hermaphroditic Prelands and their faith in a Creator who made the Prelands. The Prelands believe that their descendants will eventually transcend their physical form and merge with their Creator.
Kac'hin. However, there is a fundamental problem confronting Kach. The Huaoshy are as different and remote from we humans as we are from a bacterium living on the wall of a deep cave.
Kach wants to meet and understand her Creator, but that is about as likely as a bacterium having a conversation with a human.
What if creatures as primitive and limited as we humans are simply not able to understand the true nature of Reality? In the Exode Trilogy I imagine that the pek know, from long experience, that biological creature like we humans are a danger to ourselves. Hence, the pek spent the past million years working hard to replace us with Prelands. As told in the Exode Trilogy, it is only grudgingly that the pek allow we humans to develop a technological civilization and grope towards the stars. It is not at all clear that our freedom will have a happy outcome.
We humans have always been in direct physical contact with our DNA, but it was only during the past century that anyone conceived the possibility of reading out the information content of our genes. Similarly, in the Exode Trilogy, a few Earthlings suddenly become aware of the fact that we have always been immersed in the Sedronic Domain. Clone sisters Angela and Anney discover that they can tap into the vast information ocean of the Sedronic Domain, but they are unable to understand what they "see", much like a European gazing upon Mayan writing for the first time.
the editor is infected with nanites that provide a key for decipherment of the flood of information that Angela can access via the Bimanoid Interface. With Ivory mediating a collaboration between Angela and the editor, all it takes is some time and effort for the story of the Exode Trilogy to be told. Sadly, Ivory and her clones remain hidden away where their unusual genetic pattern cannot be confirmed and the primitive nanotechnology of Earth cannot hope to reveal the zeptoscale symbionts that give humans access to the Interface. The Exode Trilogy can only be understood as science fiction.
In his science fiction novel Contact, Sagan explored the possibility that a scientist might be given powerful, life-altering experiences that can not be shared objectively with the rest of humanity. While sharing a sense of wonder and adventure through our fictional stories we can also bring into play characters who exercise scientific skepticism. In Contact, Sagan made the wonderful choice of using a man with religious faith (Palmer) as the skeptical judge of Ellie's evidence for aliens.
Hiding in the Light
In the Exode Trilogy, I imagine that in the Ekcolir Reality a technologically advanced Etruscan empire comes to dominate Europe. In that Reality, methods for glass blowing were brought to central Europe from the east and by 2,000 ago, optically clear iron/manganese-balanced glass was already widely available in Europe. In the Ekcolir Reality, spectroscopy and telescopes were both well developed significantly earlier than in our Reality.
|an alternative renaissance|
Cultural differences in the Ekcolir Reality.
supernova 1987a, having arrived at Earth hours before photons from the explosion. Is it possible to detect neutrinos from the big bang or will the search for evidence from the earliest universe lead us to a different view of how the Cosmos began?
|Parthney trying to expand his mind on the planet Luk'ru (see)|
A more realistic animation.
global warming is a major topic. It is not clear that we could prevent sea level rise by attaining a clearer scientific understanding of photosynthesis or even demonstrating an efficient laboratory method for capturing solar energy. Growing plants provide a flexible solar collection system. If this were science fiction, we might engineer an artificial plant that could use sunlight to produce hydrogen gas and and send it to our homes through biotubes, thus providing us with a clean and convenient chemical fuel.
|Keep it clean: How old is our planet?|
episodes 1 and 2