A squid that's bigger than a school bus!  A space ship that turns a man into a baby!  Aliens that attack the Earth in machines with three legs!  Science fiction writers bring us stories of the strange and tell us tales of the impossible.  But some of these writers have also made real changes on Earth.  They did it just by dreaming.


The sea is deep and strange.  With no air to breathe and all the water above pushing down, it's not easy to dive to the bottom to find out what's going on down there.  That does not mean we cannot dream, though.  Two hundred years ago, submarines were not very safe.  They were made of wood and could not stay under the water very long.  Then one dreamer came along.  Jules Verne was a science fiction writer who wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  In his story, he came up with many ideas for submarines that no one had thought of before.  The Nautilus ran on electricity, could stay under the water for days at a time, take in stuff from the sea floor, and do many other things.  It was a big inspiration to people who made submarines, but it took them almost one hundred years to build one that could do everything the one in the book could.  They named it the Nautilus, in honor of Verne's machine.

Now hang on. What are you going to do AFTER you spear the giant sea monster?


One hundred years ago, we were figuring out some big things about our smallest building blocks.  Scientists knew that some atoms, like radium, would take many, many years to go away if they were just left out.  They realized, though, that while it was going away, it let off a lot of energy.  H. G. Wells was a science fiction writer who wrote War of the Worlds.  In one of his stories, he imagined what would happen if we found a way to cut atoms apart and let out all of that force at one time.  He even called this "the atomic bomb."  He knew that the energy let out would destroy cities, and he warned his readers what would happen if we ever tried it.  He was right, but no one listened.  Thirty years later, when the Manhattan Project needed a name for their new bomb that would destroy cities, they used the name from his book.

This giant alien monster looks a lot like a giant sea monster, doesn't it?


One day, almost one hundred years ago, a man sat in a radio station.  He was playing with signals and he figured out that if he pointed it at a mountain, he may be able to bounce it much farther than if he just pointed it right where he wanted it to go.  It worked.  He got an even bigger idea.  What if he could bounce these signals off the moon?  The moon was too far away, of course, so he came up with the idea of something floating in space that turned with the Earth and bounced our signals to all parts of the Earth.  Arthur C. Clarke is the science fiction author who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey and helped come up with the ideas for the first satellite.  He gave us so many ideas that the place where satellites float is still called the Clarke Orbit.

This little guy doesn't look so scary, does he?


Sometimes the best thing for science is coming up with stories.  Writers might come up with ideas that will bring us deep into the sea.   They may guess that we will make a bomb with too much energy and tell us not to use it.  Or they might dream up something that floats above Earth and bounces back our signals, letting us talk to anyone anywhere at anytime.  Why are you still studying?  Get dreaming!


References:

Navy.  "The Submarine Technology of Jules Verne"  Navy, 2009.  <http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_21/verne2.htm>

Technovelgy.  "The Atomic Bomb"  Technovelgy, 2005.  <http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/content.asp?Bnum=1086>

Lakdiva.  "The 1945 Proposal by Arthur C. Clarke for Geostationary Satellite Communications" Lakdiva, 2013.  <http://lakdiva.org/clarke/1945ww/>