Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oh, the Boredom of Real Science

Posted by Trent Walters at 8:31 AM
Bacteria have been recruited to--not only consume pollution from contaminated water but to--continuously provide electricity. They form spores so that these hardy critters can be turned back on when needed. I hope the sense-of-wonder-only-thru-FTL-ships crowd can wake back up after that boring bit of scientific reality.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think any who include FTL spaceships in their work try to elicit sensawunda ONLY with them. It's also rather pathetic you find those bacteria boring. Oh, or were you being ironic?

6/09/2005 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Trent said...

Ah, but that's exactly my point. Can't we achieve "sensawunda" as frequently without the old tropes as with them? Naysayers don't seem to think so.

6/10/2005 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger S.M. Stirling said...

"Ah, but that's exactly my point. Can't we achieve "sensawunda" as frequently without the old tropes as with them? Naysayers don't seem to think so."

-- and who appointed who the Pope of Trope?

Why not just quietly use whatever themes and images you like?

'cause that's all it is -- your likes and dislikes.

6/12/2005 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Trent said...

But Stirling, I like all SF. Mundane SF separates itself from other SF because of a need to point out that there may not be infinite resources. Not straining the probable away from the less probable creates the illusion that all futures are equally probable, which in effect is exactly what much alternate history has to say.

There's a crucial place in SF for metaphorical SF, but if SF stands for science fiction, then writers should behave responsibly in its use of science.

6/14/2005 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger S.M. Stirling said...

"Mundane SF separates itself from other SF because of a need to point out that there may not be infinite resources."

-- Well, here you're trying to substitute an ideological preference for an objective fact, in an act of rhetorical bait-and-switch.

Trying to slip in an unexamined assumption, there.

The objective evidence suggests that as consumption increases, resources increase in tandem.

Eg., there are far more people now than in 1905, and they consume far more per capita, but nearly every natural resource(*) is more abundant, measured by objective criteria such as price and production.

More wheat, more timber, more iron, more energy/fuels... the more we consume, the more we have. I can get into the reasons for this, if you want. Or why there's more wild game in the US than there was in the same territory in 1492.

In other words, there's simply no evidence for your proposition, and futurism and SF based on it -- Erlich, the "Club of Rome", and all those resource-exhaustion dystopias -- have proven to be spectacularly wrong over and over and over again.

Yet you're still peddling it, in muleish disregard of the track record. Why?

(*) except wild oceanic fish, which is a classic 'tragedy of the commons' situation.

30 years ago, salmon was expensive and cod was cheap, and both were harvested wild. Now salmon is farmed, and cheap, and cod is harvested wild, and is expensive.

This is precisely what anyone who'd done Economics 101 would have predicted.

If we relied for beef on shooting wild aurochs in the woods, beef would be getting more expensive too.

6/17/2005 01:27:00 AM  
Blogger S.M. Stirling said...

"There's a crucial place in SF for metaphorical SF, but if SF stands for science fiction, then writers should behave responsibly in its use of science."

-- well, here we get nanny's wagging finger again.

My point is that you don't get a privileged position in _deciding what constitutes responsible use of science_.

I've already pointed out that several of the scientific assumptions you've paraded -- on the "booming" population and resource shortage, for example -- aren't science at all.

They're simply widespread misconceptions.

6/17/2005 01:29:00 AM  
Blogger Trent said...

I think there are clear cases of responsible uses of science. Take a good look again at Jonathan Swift, Mary Shelley and Nathaniel Hawthorne. They know very well about the responsible uses of science, and someone had damn well ought to think about it, lest we have another Tuskegee experiment.

6/17/2005 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Trent said...

I missed your final points. What makes you think there aren't shortages? What makes you think oil is a bottomless tap? What makes you think that using up fresh water sources what screw over environment and the people living around them?

As for "booming," there are still several countries booming though the adjective I ought to have used was "unsustainable." If we have to slash and burn rainforest for farmland that isn't useful for farming after a few years, then the population isn't sustainable.

The ecosystem has to have a balance. If deer overrun a territory and strip the trees and other plants, they not only destroy their own herd but many other creatures dependent on those plants as well.

6/17/2005 06:25:00 AM  
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