Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fermi Meets Sagan

My (very) short story, "Fermi Meets Sagan," will be out in the December issue of Analog.  It was inspired by this nonfiction article I wrote for The Conversation website.


Kathy said...

How would you rate the time span between the dawning of intelligence and advanced technology?

Consider this: more time elapsed between the building of the Pyramids of Giza to the time of Cleopatra, than from Cleopatra's time to our own (about 2,500 vs 2,000 years). Yet the world of Cleopatra would have seem recognizable to Khufu, technologically speaking, while our world would be completely alien to them both.

Another thing I wonder is why developments which could have been made any time, literally, took millennia to come about. Consider the printing press. Since at least Ancient Greece, the knowledge of how to print text was known, look at any ancient coin and most have some text on them. Yet no one thought to apply it to ink and papyrus or parchment.

Robert Scherrer said...

There was a sort of mini industrial revolution during the Hellenistic era, but it just petered out for some reason. (In fact, that's the plot of a famous SF story -- maybe by Asimov?) It seems like cultural factors are just as important as technology in determining when societies develop and utilize new inventions.

Kathy said...

"The Red Queen's Race," indeed by Asimov. It's about a chemistry book that is sent back in time.

Rome was very conservative and very averse to change. It also possessed an abundance of slave labor. So the need to power mills, or to move tons of rocks from mines, was not a problem with so many slaves available. No need for steam engines, had they thought to make them.

Yet the Romans literally lived by military power, and they innovated in this arena without reservation, though not in a methodical fashion. Thus the changes to the Phalanx over time, the establishment of a salaried standing army in the time of Marius, etc.

But I think there's more than that. The freedom to act and to do business is a big factor. Bell, for example, was free to develop the telephone and to sell it as a service. Edison could sell light bulbs and the means to power them. And those two inventions, along with the telegraph, went a long way in developing widespread, basic power and communication infrastructures the world over.

Will you reprint your short story here?

Robert Scherrer said...

Analog has exclusive rights to the story for a while after the issue date of the magazine.