Arthur C. Clarke died today (*). The man was a genius. I’ve only recently started reading his books, but his impact has been felt throughout my life. Nearly every piece of science fiction created since the 50s owes something to Clarke. More directly, seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey as a kid, even though I didn’t fully understand it at the time, probably had quite the impact on me. It’s a testament to human curiosity about life’s most perplexing questions, and the fact that there is more to life than this earthly existence, with no need to invoke the supernatural to appreciate it. Perhaps this was part of what sparked my interest in science.
Speaking of which, anybody interested in science should take note of Clarke’s laws of prediction:
- 1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- 2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- 3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
There’s a lot to take out of those three little statements. But I think the main message is one of hope rather than cynicism. What seems impossible may very well be possible; what we consider magic today may be within our reach tomorrow.
Even though it’s impossible, let’s hope Clarke is now a glowing fetus looking down on us from a bubble floating in space. Float in peace, Arthur C. Clarke.
* Actually, he died tomorrow, since he was in Sri Lanka, where it’s already Wednesday.