Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Using Science in Fiction ~ Tread Carefully . . .


I used the words “Science in Fiction” not “Science Fiction” in the title of this post… 

Cat's Eye Nebula

Image Courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope Image Site

Most fiction that isn’t science fiction doesn’t use much science.

And, much science fiction doesn’t use real science.

There’s a breed of “science fiction” that goes into imaginary worlds that have no support or anchor in true science—many of these stories are fun to read.

There’s also a substantial amount of what folks like to call “hard” sci-fi that stays as close as it can to what is thought to be true science.

But, there’s a problem here

Much of the science (especially astrophysics) that is used to create science fiction is purely imaginary and has little to do with knowledge generated through the scientific method.

I’ve probably lost many of my readers by now; but, if you’re still there, I may have something yet to say that might benefit anyone—even those who don’t care much about science.

Let’s talk about fiction itself.

Should fiction be based on truth?

I have two past posts that approach the issue:

Does Fiction Always Tell The Truth?

How Much Truth Should Be In Fiction Stories?

A few excerpts:

“Truth” can be a slippery topic—it can have “layers”—it can change over time…

Then, there’s the word “fiction”—sometimes used to mean, “an untruth”; sometimes to mean, “an invented statement or narrative”.

And, being “invented” doesn’t automatically make something untrue…

Certainly, any story that resonates with most readers must have a heap of truth in the fiction…

Many fiction writers expend great effort in their research to learn “facts” that will lend some “truth” to the “lies” they tell.

One particular genre (among many) where this can be important is Science Fiction.

What I say next can easily be applied to many other genres…

Imagine a science fiction writer who wants to add science facts to their story.

They conduct research and, usually, adapt whatever they find that is given by “experts”.

One problem with this method:

“Experts” are not necessarily Experts.

That last excerpt is from the post, How Much Truth Should Be in Fiction Stories?, and that post has a fascinating video from a scientist who talks about “unscientific” science

But, the writer of any genre of fiction must still balance the “truth” they want to convey with the “facts” that are true

There’s another past post that I feel any writer could profit from reading (it also has a profound video)—Setting A Few Things Straight About The Universe . . .

Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Ultimately, because psychology shows that the deepest, not-conscious information and motivation have profound effects on conscious action, the closer I can get to the Truth about the Universe and my place in it, the better I should be able to write works that relate well with my readers.

Naturally, there are writers who skim the surface of life, write about it, and sell thousands of books to readers who gobble up the result…

So, I’ve been loudly hinting that much of science is bogus.

But, even though I’ve spent many years doing the research, no one should believe me without checking things out on their own

Perhaps I can help you begin that trek by sharing a few brief excerpts from an article from New ScientistIn science, is honesty really always the best policy?

“…one-third of scientists confessed to ‘questionable research practices’ such as cooking data…”

“…researchers see plagiarism as more heinous than making results up. They are more likely to report a colleague they catch in an act of plagiarism than one fabricating or falsifying data.”

And, if those don’t make you start wondering about the “truth” of “science”, this one should:

“…teaching research ethics made students more likely, not less, to misbehave.”

Also, in case you’ve seen the hoopla about scientists finally detecting gravity waves (from two merging black holes), you might want to perform a reality check by visiting the Thunderbolts Project Forum

The following video, with a real scientist (which was banned by TED), could also help you begin a search for truth in science; and, if you can find a way to judge truth in science, you’re well on your way to finding truth anywhere


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For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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