• Project Hieroglyph on Slate’s Future Tense Channel

    Project Hieroglyph on Slate’s Future Tense Channel

    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,…

    Project Hieroglyph on Slate’s Future Tense Channel

    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!

    Elizabeth Bear, “Story: Covenant”

    Joey Eschrich, “Forget the Tricorder: Why gadgets aren’t the coolest part of science fiction”

    Ed Finn, “The Inspiration Drought: Why our science fiction needs new dreams”

    Lee Konstantinou, “Only Science Fiction Can Save Us! What sci-fi gets wrong about income inequality”

    Charlie Jane Anders, “Story: The Day It All Ended”

    Deji Bryce Olukotun, “Meeting My Protagonist: When I wrote a novel about a Nigerian space program, I didn’t expect it to be so close to the truth”

    Patric M. Verrone, “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow: How Futurama‘s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare”

    Annalee Newitz, “The Dystopian City and Urban Policy”

    Ramez Naam, “Don’t Diss Dystopias: Sci-fi’s warning tales are as important as its optimistic stories”

    Neal Stephenson, “Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation”

    Joelle Renstrom, “Almost Humane: What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war”

  • Book Comment: Exploring Science through Science Fiction

    Book Comment: Exploring Science through Science Fiction

    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…

    Book Comment: Exploring Science through Science Fiction

    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 ASU

    Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    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…

    Author Margaret Atwood to discuss creative writing, science at ASU

    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, jason.franz@asu.edu
    (480) 727-4072

  • The Refurbished Me

    The Refurbished Me

    “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…

    The Refurbished Me

    “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.

     

    Image courtesy of 2il org, used under a Creative Commons license

  • ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    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.

    ASU, NGA to address national security risks of climate change

    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.”

  • Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 2014

    Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 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.

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    Ed Finn at the Congress on the Future of Engineering Software 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.

    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.