Men have walked on the Moon. Siri and Alexa manage—at least often enough to be helpful—to make sense of the things we say. Biologists have decoded DNA, and doctors have begun to tailor treatments to suit our individual genetic make-ups. In short: science and tech happen.
But faster-than-light travel? Time travel? Telepathy? A six million dollar—as adjusted, of course, for inflation—man? Starfaring aliens? Super-intelligent computers? Those, surely, are mere fodder for storytelling. Or wild extrapolations. Just so many “sci fi” tropes.
Sometimes, yes. But not necessarily.
In Trope-ing the Light Fantastic, physicist, computer engineer, science popularizer, and award-winning science-fiction author Edward M. Lerner entertainingly examines these and many other SF tropes. The science behind the fiction.
Each chapter, along with its eminently accessible scientific discussion, surveys science-fiction—foundational and modern, in short and long written form, on TV and the big screen—that illustrates a particular trope. The good, the bad, and occasionally the cringe-worthy. All imparted with wit (and ample references to learn more).
So forget what the Wizard of Oz advised. Let’s pull back the curtain…
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Table of Contents
by Trevor Quachri 9
A NOTE TO THE READER & LINK DISCLAIMER 13
All Troped Up 15
Ruminations about Language, Communications,and Science Fiction 19
I GOT THE LONG-DISTANCE BLUES
Why Interstellar Travel is Hard 38
Rising to the Challenge 49
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING PHOTON
The Why, Where, and (Perhaps the)How of Faster-Than-Light Technology 68
Beyond Rubber Suits 83
ALIEN WORLDS: Not in Kansas Anymore 105
ALIEN DIMENSIONS: The Universe Next Door 131
ALIEN AWOLS: The Great Silence 146
ALIEN ALTERCATIONS: Star (Spanning) Wars 170
HERE WE GO LOOPEDY LOOP: A Brief History of Time Travel 194
HERE WE GO LOOPEDY LOOP: Back and There Again 215
ALTERNATE ABILITIES: The Paranormal 239
HUMAN 2.0: Being All We Can Be 259
HUMAN 2.0: Mind Over Matter 277
A MIND OF ITS OWN: Artificial Intelligence 293
A MIND OF ITS OWN: Superintelligence 316
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 339
END NOTES 340
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