Ideas

Moonshot ideas, radical collaborations. Information to feed your imagination.

  • Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

    Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

    This piece is written by Luu Nguyen, and was originally published at ASU News. One of CSI’s major upcoming projects is the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project, which will…

    Exciting Spring 2015 Courses at ASU English: Frankenstein and Jane Austen

    This piece is written by Luu Nguyen, and was originally published at ASU News. One of CSI’s major upcoming projects is the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project, which will organize a broad range of activities to celebrate the bicentennial of the writing and publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 2016-2018. 

    Dubbing the mash-up “Beauty and the Beast,” the Arizona State University’s Department of English presents two separately offered spring 2015 hybrid courses – one on Frankenstein and the other on Jane Austen – in the same time slot, to help students make the most of their packed schedules.

    Both literature-based offerings meet from 9 to 10:15 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, alternating in-class and hybrid days. Students may take just one course or both.

    “Frankenstein and Its Others” (ENG 401) is taught by Mark Lussier, professor and chair of the English department. His course meets in person on Thursdays and online on Tuesdays. Students will delve into not only the written works about this “hideous progeny,” but will uncover how the Frankenstein novels influenced classic cinema as well.

    Texts to be explored include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which inspired many others), as well as Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jeykyll and Mr. Hyde and H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Film adaptions of these works include Gothic (1986), Blade Runner (1982) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990), among others.

    In celebration of the upcoming Frankenstein bicentennial (1818-2018), this class is a unique starting point for the university’s bicentennial project, exploring the intersection of science and literature to bring the creature alive once more.

    “Jane Austen (Women & Literature)” (ENG 364) introduces all things Jane Austen in an unusual team-taught structure, meeting in person on Tuesdays and online on Thursdays. The course, jokingly described as “married couple argues about Austen and tries to teach you something in the process,” is instructed by Austen scholars Devoney Looser and George Justice, who are husband and wife. They are both professors of English; Justice also serves as dean of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

    Texts to be discussed include Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and shorter works, including her raucous juvenilia. The course will explore Austen’s humor, irony and social criticism, looking at the ways she’s been used in popular culture.

    In answering the questions, “Why is Jane Austen so popular?” and “Is she just the author of ‘chick lit,’ best served up with zombies or vampires?” the course dissects historical and contemporary Jane Austen fandom. Looser and Justice hope that students come away with knowledge about Austen and about how reading her can inform new understandings of literature, love and life.

    Interested students may visit the Department of English’s website for enrollment information.

  • Imaginary College member G. Pascal Zachary on Technology Scholar Thomas P. Hughes

    CSI Imaginary College member G. Pascal Zachary wrote an article in the Spring 2014 issue of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society remembering the…

    Imaginary College member G. Pascal Zachary on Technology Scholar Thomas P. Hughes

    CSI Imaginary College member G. Pascal Zachary wrote an article in the Spring 2014 issue of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society remembering the late, great Thomas P. Hughes, a historian and sociologist of technology:

    Whenever I receive inquiries about the effects of technological change on American society, my response is to steer students away from the hype and embellishment of today’s tech writing, which has drained words like “innovation,” “progress,” and “advancement” of meaning. Instead, I ask them to read and reread the work of historian Thomas P. Hughes, who died in February 2014 at the age of ninety. Hughes helped to found two related disciplines: the history of technology and the sociology of technology (and its misunderstood sibling, science). He was revered by scholars but largely unknown outside academia; the New York Times, for instance, failed to run an obituary. Hughes’s work exhibited a rare capacity to build meaningful bridges between academic silos and, although he never found a wide audience, to address the broader public without condescension, dumbing-down, or weakly tying his content to fleeting enthusiasms.

    Read the full article at The New Atlantis.

  • House MD, Sept 30, 2014

    Recap: Science Fiction TV Dinner, House, M.D.

    What happened At this Science Fiction TV Dinner event on September 30 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, we screened “Cane and Able,” of…

    Recap: Science Fiction TV Dinner, House, M.D.

    What happened

    At this Science Fiction TV Dinner event on September 30 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, we screened “Cane and Able,” of the hit medical drama House, M.D. In the episode, House’s 7 year old patient was experiencing vivid hallucinations of alien abductions. But in reality, the boy was a genetic chimera with two distinct sets of DNA in his body—a condition that stemmed from his mother’s in vitro fertilization, when his embryo absorbed another implanted embryo in the womb. Once House and his team were able to remove all of the “foreign” cells in the boy’s brain, he was cured and his terrifying science fictional hallucinations ended.

    After the screening, CSI’s Joey Eschrich moderated a conversation with Dr. Cathy Seiler, scientific liaison at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, and Dr. Ken Ramos, associate vice president of Precision Health Services and professor of medicine at the Arizona Health Sciences Center at the University of Arizona.

    Insights from the Conversation

    • “[This episode of House, M.D.] is a quiet, almost invisible example of science fiction that shows us a vision of what the future of medicine could look like…” – Joey Eschrich, paraphrasing Cathy Seiler
    • “Chimerism…is when you have 2 different sets of DNA in your body…. You look like one person from the outside, but in some ways you are two people on the inside. You will be most familiar with this concept form organ transplants.” – Cathy Seiler
    • “Every single patient encounter that you go through [as a doctor] involves a great deal of detective investigation…. One thing we are trying to inspire medical students to do…is to take full advantage of the tools that are available to you to investigate diseases and find cures.” – Ken Ramos

    Join us next time!

    Our next Science Fiction TV Dinner event will take place on Wednesday, October 8 at 5:00pm at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. We’ll watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Intervention”, featuring the Buffybot, Buffy’s robotic doppelganger, then have a conversation with social scientists and technologists about identity, technology, and how fantasy and storytelling can help us understand who we are and where we’re going.

    The event is free and dinner will be served! Learn more and register today at http://buffytvdinner.eventbrite.com.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.