Slate magazine’s Future Tense channel is running a series of stories inspired by and excerpted from Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, exploring about the connections between science fiction storytelling, scientific discovery, public policy, and real-world innovation. Check back to this post for updates as more pieces are published!
Hieroglyph Book: September 9
Check out our anthology of techno-optimistic science fiction and fact, Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, published by HarperCollins.
- Oct 8 2014Science Fiction TV Dinner: Buffy the Vampire Slayer 5:00pm
- Oct 22 2014Project Hieroglyph and Changing Hands – in Phoenix, AZ 7:00pm
- Oct 24 2014Kim Stanley Robinson: The Chauvet Cave Paintings and the Human Mind 7:00pm
- Oct 26 2014Doctorow and Stephenson: Reigniting Society’s Ambition with Science Fiction – in Seattle, WA 7:30pm
- Nov 5 2014An Evening with Margaret Atwood: Imagination and Climate Futures 7:00pm
Project Hieroglyph on Slate’s Future Tense ChannelSeptember 30, 2014
Slate magazine’s Future Tense channel is running a series of stories inspired by and excerpted from Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, exploring about the connections between science fiction storytelling,…September 30, 2014 Joey Eschrich
Book Comment: Exploring Science through Science FictionSeptember 25, 2014
One of the projects we’re working on at the Center for Science and the Imagination is an effort to trace the lines of communication between science…September 25, 2014 Elizabeth Garbee
One of the projects we’re working on at the Center for Science and the Imagination is an effort to trace the lines of communication between science and science fiction. We know the two disciplines talk to each other, that they influence one another, and that both inspire new generations of authors and scientists. So what we are trying to do is map their interactions, and perhaps shed some light on the subsequent sequence of causes and effects.
One of the ways we’re investigating this is by compiling a database of inventions or innovations described in works of science fiction and their corresponding real world technologies, the most worn-out example of which is the Star Trek communicator inspiring the invention of the mobile phone. But did you know that Ray Bradbury predicted earbuds, or that the TASER was inspired by a story about an adventurer on safari with an electric rifle? However, we are not the only ones interested in this question of uncovering the science in science fiction.
Barry B. Luokkala’s Exploring Science through Science Fiction (Springer, 2014) is a new style of textbook, meant to bring science fiction enthusiasts some of the basic physics behind their favorite films and television series. While clearly aimed at the undergraduate level, the book touches on some bleeding edge avenues of research, such as the possibility of faster-than-light travel, stable wormholes, and teleportation through groundbreaking particle physics.
The chapters are organized not according to a linear progression of science content, but rather according to major themes in science fiction, and the examples and exercises given at the end of each chapter test the reader’s understanding of the material while putting them in a familiar science fiction context. Perhaps one of the most useful features of the book is a thorough set of appendices of films cited, with information about the science concepts illustrated therein.
While certainly not rigorous enough to replace any introductory physics texts, Exploring Science through Science Fiction would surely be a welcome, entertaining, and thought-provoking addition to any discussion on the science behind science fiction—and it will serve as a great resource in our efforts at CSI to map the structure of science fiction and its scientific roots.
Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASUJuly 25, 2014
This article originally appeared in ASU News. Internationally renowned novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will visit Arizona State University this November to discuss the relationship…July 25, 2014 Joey Eschrich
This article originally appeared in ASU News.
Internationally renowned novelist and environmental activist Margaret Atwood will visit Arizona State University this November to discuss the relationship between art and science, and the importance of creative writing and imagination for addressing social and environmental challenges.
Atwood’s visit will mark the launch of the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative, a new collaborative venture at ASU among the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the Center for Science and the Imagination and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Atwood, author of the MaddAddam trilogy of novels that have become central to the emerging literary genre of climate fiction, or “CliFi,” will offer the inaugural lecture for the initiative on Nov. 5.
“We are proud to welcome Margaret Atwood, one of the world’s most celebrated living writers, to ASU and engage her in these discussions around climate, science and creative writing,” said Jewell Parker Rhodes, founding artistic director for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Piper Endowed Chair at Arizona State University. “A poet, novelist, literary critic and essayist, Ms. Atwood epitomizes the creative and professional excellence our students aspire to achieve.”
Focusing in particular on CliFi, the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative will explore how imaginative skills can be harnessed to create solutions to climate challenges, and question whether and how creative writing can affect political decisions and behavior by influencing our social, political and scientific imagination.
“ASU is a leader in exploring how creativity and the imagination drive the arts, sciences, engineering and humanities,” said Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination. “The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative will use the thriving CliFi genre to ask the hard questions about our cultural relationship to climate change and offer compelling visions for sustainable futures.”
The multidisciplinary Initiative will bring together researchers, artists, writers, decision-makers and the public to engage in research projects, teaching activities and events at ASU and beyond. The three ASU programs behind the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative have a track record for academic and public engagement around innovative programs, including the Sustainability Solutions Festival; Emerge; and the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.
“Imagining how the future could unfold in a climatically changing world is key to making good policy and governance decisions today,” said Manjana Milkoreit, a postdoctoral fellow with the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. “We need to know more about the nature of imagination, its relationship to scientific knowledge and the effect of cultural phenomena such as CliFi on our imaginative capabilities and, ultimately, our collective ability to create a safe and prosperous future.”
For more information, please visit climateimagination.asu.edu or join the Twitter conversation at #climatefutures.
Media Contact: Jason Franz, email@example.com
(480) 727-4072Filed under: News
The Diamond Age: TechnologyJuly 22, 2014
Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age (1995) has had a significant impact on many people; not only is it one of the precursors to the Center for Science…July 22, 2014 Zachary Heth
Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age (1995) has had a significant impact on many people; not only is it one of the precursors to the Center for Science and the Imagination, but it has also been used by the likes of Amazon for code words related to the development of the Kindle e-reader. The ideas in it are representative of the creative and innovative writing of Neal Stephenson and the story’s flow and characters make it an absolute pleasure to read.
The Diamond Age posits a future that isn’t quite dystopian or utopian, but similar to what we have now: a mix of good and bad. In this future it is not only the political and cultural landscape which is interesting, but the technology as well, and perhaps most interesting of all is how humans interact with technology.
There are three technologies in The Diamond Age which I think merit mentioning here. The first is the central technology of the book, the illustrated primer. This is an electronic book developed to teach young girls how to be “subversive.” It is an interactive storytelling instrument that personalizes everyone’s education by taking in information from its surroundings and presenting it to the child in a manner that is tailored to their life situation, personality, and learning style. In many ways this book presages today’s debates about personalized education. It recognizes different learning styles, it gives individualized attention, and it meets each child where they come from.
A second technology I found interesting was the Matter Compiler (MC). The MC is akin to a 3D printer, but much more advanced and user friendly. MCs are widespread in this future and available to everyone as a sort of utility. There are even public ones which, like all MCs, can make food. The MC is a solution to the age-old problem of humans trying to meet their basic necessities. So long as you have a roof over your head and an MC it seems that you can get by. Of course this doesn’t mean people don’t work, or don’t struggle; there’s still crime, there’s still manipulation, there’s still a need to fill the day with hustle and bustle, because we are still human.
The third technology that really stuck out to me is nanotechnology, which yes, is a buzz word, and perhaps might be overhyped, but the possibilities presented by Neal Stephenson make me forget about all that and enjoy the technology for what it is in the story: really cool and often quite helpful (but occasionally terrifying). Nano-drones, called mites in the story, can do anything and everything. They watch the streets, search for things, act as an artificial immune system cleaning harmful microbes from the sky, and even crawl up and down your nervous system and function as a torture device. Naturally, for all their benefits, mites can be, and are, used for nefarious purposes. No technology is immune to human meddling, after all.
Though this new world of The Diamond Age is not purely good nor bad, I posit that it is optimistic. Humans are still struggling with one another, and there are certainly social issues plaguing this futurescape, but there is still hope for a better life, and people have not tired of trying to reach it. This perspective underlies important elements of the story: after all, why were transformative technologies like the primer or mites invented? Because they all serve a purpose in trying to lift humanity away from the drudgery and degradation of ignorance and poverty, and to help those who are vulnerable, because humans are still trying to solve their problems – they haven’t given up yet. We might think that it is naïve to believe the future will be utopian, and perhaps it is. But as The Diamond Age shows, we don’t need a utopia to have an optimistic or bright future. We just need to keep trying.
The Refurbished MeJuly 15, 2014
“Who wants to live forever?” The late, great lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, crooned. “Well, I wouldn’t mind the option.” I responded flatly, the guy…July 15, 2014 Kraig Farkash
“Who wants to live forever?” The late, great lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, crooned.
“Well, I wouldn’t mind the option.” I responded flatly, the guy parking his car at ASU.
While on campus, I pondered that recent conversation with my stereo. I surmised that Dr. Doris Taylor, Director of Regenerative Medicine Research at Texas Heart Institute, heard the same tune. She is at the bleeding edge of a new frontier: whole organ decellularization (a.k.a. prepping organs for transplant). Her techniques are disquieting for some, almost Promethean, but intriguing nonetheless.
Dr. Taylor started with a rat-heart. She inserted a catheter into the recently harvested organ and slowly drained its original cells. Then, after cleansing the heart, only its connective tissue remained. She proceeded to fill its empty spaces with fresh cells acquired from the body of its new host.
The lifeless organ also needed an electrical signal, mechanical blood pressure, and oxygen. A bioreactor sufficed; an artificial body that resembled a pickle jar on life support. However, that’s no pickle inside. They could tell because after merely a week of lying dormant, the heart spontaneously began to beat…on its own.
It was 2005 when Dr. Taylor forged that organic, thumping “Ghost Heart.” It was a first for laboratory scientists, as well. What’s more, Dr. Taylor has shown her process works with other organs, like a set of lungs. Her efforts have reanimated the dead organs of rats and pigs. She sees this technology working in humans in years, not decades.
The arch-nemesis of a successful organ transplant is tissue rejection. Dr. Taylor’s phenomenal technique could allow for organ transplantation from cadaver to patient without such concerns. It could negate the need for a lifetime of anti-rejection medications that suppress the immune system, cause nausea, tremors, and more.
Humans are creatures of life, but all of history implies that we’re built for death. Yet, here we are, at the brink of reconfiguration with lifespans no longer truncated by decay. There is an entire torso crammed with life-sustaining goodies, which ripen and long for replacement. The potential of Dr. Taylor’s labors are a means to that end – and a pathway to immortality.
CSI partners with World Bank on science fiction, gaming and social innovationJuly 9, 2014
The Center for Science and the Imagination is partnering with the World Bank to create a series of stories and artwork to integrate into an online game, EVOKE, designed to get young people in the developing world involved in social innovation and civic engagement.July 9, 2014 Joey Eschrich
This article originally appeared in ASU News.
ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination is partnering with the World Bank to create a series of stories and artwork to integrate into an online game, EVOKE, designed to get young people in the developing world involved in social innovation and civic engagement.
The project is an extension of the EVOKE pilot, launched in 2010 and aimed specifically at engaging teens and young adults in Africa. The story of the original EVOKE graphic novel and alternate reality game follows a secretive group of African social innovators in the year 2020 who use their talents to address global grand challenges such as food insecurity, access to clean water, poverty and climate disruption. The original EVOKE game was developed by the World Bank in collaboration with Jane McGonigal, author of the book “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.” Since 2010, EVOKE has been played by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, and has expanded to Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.
This new partnership between the World Bank and the Center for Science and the Imagination will expand EVOKE’s network of creators to include world-renowned science fiction authors from ASU’s Project Hieroglyph, futurists, visual artists and subject area experts on a range of pressing global issues. These contributors will collaborate to build narratives in EVOKE’s fictional universe that will power future deployments in Africa and other regions.
“Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool for encouraging people to prototype possible futures that they actually want to inhabit,” says Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and Department of English. “When those stories are infused with real-world knowledge, they give people a sense of agency about the future. Stories can be a bridge from imaginative visions to real-world impact, and EVOKE is an exciting example of using stories to make innovation happen.”
During summer 2014, graphic novelist, filmmaker and author Kiyash Monsef and anthologist, author and Project Hieroglyph co-editor Kathryn Cramer are creating a “story bible” that maps out the history, background, setting, main characters and overall aesthetic of the EVOKE fictional universe, providing a common foundation for contributions from a diverse set of writers and artists for future EVOKE episodes. Throughout the summer, science fiction writers and futurists will collaborate virtually on ASU’s Project Hieroglyph digital platform, using the story bible as a launch pad to create characters, scenarios and stories that connect EVOKE’s fictional universe to real-world challenges and actual scientific and technological realities.
“The opportunity to merge the creative voice of Project Hieroglyph and the World Bank focus on empowering young people is incredibly exciting,” says Bob Hawkins, senior education specialist at the World Bank. “Tapping into the vision and voices of some of the greatest storytellers in science fiction is a powerful way to inspire young people around the world to take the first step to addressing global grand challenges and creating a more prosperous future.”
In fall 2014, the Center for Science and the Imagination will host a multi-day “Narrative Hackathon” event at ASU, uniting several interdisciplinary teams of writers, futurists, artists and subject area experts in-person to build stories, art and game mechanics for future EVOKE deployments. Each team will start with a specific grand challenge, creating materials that tell compelling stories while simultaneously inspiring readers and players to take concrete, tangible actions to improve their communities, and to plan social ventures tailored to the specific needs of those communities.
“EVOKE and ASU share the goal of developing solutions to a range of complex global challenges,” says Ed Finn. “We’re excited to bring two great experiments together in Project Hieroglyph and EVOKE. This collaboration fuses literary and artistic approaches with the amazing research that is going on at the university, and we look forward to igniting new conversations at ASU and expanding the Center for Science and the Imagination’s global impact.”
Media Contact: Joey Eschrich, firstname.lastname@example.org
ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate changeJune 23, 2014
Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.June 23, 2014 Joey Eschrich
This article originally appeared in ASU News, and was written by Amelia Huggins of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. The Center for Science and the Imagination will be contributing to the Foresight Initiative by developing design principles, prototypes and tools for geo-narratives and other interventions at the nexus of storytelling and geospatial data.
Arizona State University was selected for a competitive, five-year award of $20 million by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to launch a research partnership, effective June 1, to explore approaches for anticipating and mitigating national security risks associated with climate change.
Known as the Foresight Initiative, the cooperative agreement venture will explore how the effects of climate change on resources, such as water, food and energy, could contribute to political unrest and instability, and gain insights to sustainability and resilience strategies for mitigating the effects.
This initiative will play a key role in collaborative research efforts to accelerate the evolution of Activity-Based Intelligence addressing system level activities, dynamics and interdependent network effects in the context of global climate risks to water security. This multi-year research partnership leverages ASU expertise and thought leadership in visual analytics, complex modeling and transdisciplinary decision-making evolving from years of internal and external investments at ASU.
“NGA’s investment and partnership with ASU is a game-changing relationship,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This innovative research initiative will develop solutions and be a catalyst for the critical and creative thinking needed to address the complex challenges that come with climate change.”
Leveraging computing and system modeling initiatives at ASU and partner organizations, the Foresight Initiative will apply ubiquitous cloud computing and storage technologies, advances in natural user interfaces and machine learning to address unique geospatial data handling and visual analytic challenges driven by the volume and character of future persistent data flows. The resulting capabilities will allow analysts and decision-makers to dynamically interact with diverse data sets in a real-time modeling and simulation environment. This will help them assess the effectiveness of plans, policies and decisions; discover second- and third-order causal relationships; and understand spatial and temporal patterns that reveal non-obvious underlying interconnections and dependencies.
“I am very proud to announce our partnership with ASU, a world-class research university,” said Letitia Long, NGA director. “Our partnership is a prime example of the intelligence community working smartly with academia to address strategic global issues and to create capabilities that benefit everyone.”
Key areas at ASU that will be integral to this work include the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Public Programs, Decision Theater Network and Decision Center for a Desert City.
For example, ASU’s Decision Theater provides advanced modeling and simulation that allows diverse groups of stakeholders to visualize large amounts of data, policy parameters and environmental uncertainties on panoramic HD displays. Scientists, analysts and decision-makers can easily interact in real-time to tweak the rules and data sets to account for new insights and deeper understanding of relationships, providing a range of outcomes based on the changes. This allows for more effective decision-making among people from different backgrounds.
“This is a tremendous partnership and opportunity for a real, tangible impact in addressing strategic security and humanitarian needs,” said Nadya Bliss, principal investigator of the Foresight Initiative and assistant vice president, research strategy with ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “It is also pioneering how the academic and government research communities can leverage each other’s strengths to seek solutions to these global-scale issues while advancing fundamental transdisciplinary research. ASU is the perfect place for this initiative because of the culture of use-inspired research and exceptional quality faculty working across traditional disciplinary boundaries.”Filed under: News
Hollywood star visits ASU to promote teen reading, science explorationJune 20, 2014
Nathan Fillion may very well be the friendliest, most unpretentious spaceship captain, mystery-solving author and science fiction heartthrob in the known universe. The “ruggedly handsome” star of TV’s “Castle” was the delight of fans as he headlined a fundraiser on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, June 7.June 20, 2014 Joey Eschrich
Nathan Fillion may very well be the friendliest, most unpretentious spaceship captain, mystery-solving author and science fiction heartthrob in the known universe. The “ruggedly handsome” star of TV’s “Castle” was the delight of fans as he headlined a fundraiser on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, June 7.
The “Serenity, Softwire, and the Science of Science Fiction” event, benefiting the ASU Department of English and advertised as an “intimate evening for a small group of 50 people,” included considerable face-time with Fillion, who in-person proved surprisingly similar to the witty, charming and compassionate characters he plays on television and in film.
Starring with Fillion in the ASU evening’s festivities were science fiction author PJ Haarsma (a close friend of Fillion’s) along with ASU professors Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination; Peter Goggin, a literacy expert in the Department of English and senior scholar with the Global Institute of Sustainability; and School of Earth and Space Exploration faculty Jim Bell, an astronomer, and Sara Imari Walker, an astrobiologist. In addition to the Department of English, sponsors included ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Center for Science and the Imagination.
The event began with each panelist explaining how he or she arrived at his or her respective careers, and whether science or science fiction played a role in that journey. All panelists pointed to reading and imagining as formational to their senses of themselves and their places in life.
A number of big questions were posed to the panelists: “What is the likelihood of life on other planets?” and “What is the physical practicality of traveling to other planets?” ASU scientists Bell and Walker deftly fielded these complex planetary inquiries, while Goggin and Finn explained how the intersection of science and humanities – embodied in science fiction books and film – encouraged children and scholars alike to think creatively about the future. Attendees reported that they found the conversation “intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking as well as fun and entertaining.”
During the ensuing discussion, Haarsma and Fillion bantered back and forth comically, as we are told they often do in real life, at one point raising the group’s awareness of the mission they have shared for many years: promoting reading in the lives of young people. The two founded the Kids Need to Read Foundation, which provides books to underserved schools and libraries. Fillion, the son of retired English teachers, attended Concordia University of Alberta, where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Society, an organization that emphasizes literature and debate. His brother, Jeff, is a highly respected school principal. Fillion’s story about the importance of books and reading in his childhood home was a rare moment of seriousness for the actor.
The most delightful aspect of the evening, according to guests, was the good nature of Fillion himself, who arrived with Haarsma earlier than expected and stayed later than scheduled. Fillion spent several minutes with each individual or group of friends, laughing with them, using their phone cameras to snap group “selfies” and showing a genuine interest in getting to know them.
Audience members each received copies of science fiction books: Haarsma’s teen novel, “Softwire: Virus on Orbis I,” and the Tomorrow Project science fiction anthology “Cautions, Dreams & Curiosities,” which was co-produced by the Center for Science and the Imagination with Intel and the Society for Science & the Public. Guests presented their new books and assorted other items to Fillion and Haarsma for autographing and a bit more conversation before the evening came to a close. It was then time for Fillion to head back downtown to his hotel, but not before one cadre of friends “asked him to take one last group shot of us at the end of the night, to which he replied with a smile, ‘I thought you’d never ask.’”
Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 2014June 6, 2014
On April 25, 2014, Ed Finn spoke at the 2014 Congress on the Future of Engineering Software, in Scottsdale, Arizona, about the Center about thinking big, science, technology and the power of narratives to shape the future.0June 6, 2014 Joey Eschrich
On April 25, 2014, Ed Finn spoke at the 2014 Congress on the Future of Engineering Software, in Scottsdale, Arizona, about the Center about thinking big, science, technology and the power of narratives to shape the future.
Watch the video to learn more about the cultural imaginary, “science fiction of the present,” 20km tall steel towers, flying drone routers, 3D printing with Moon dust, and how science fiction storytelling sets targets for our technological future.