David Hughes: Science Friction

4 May 2012

Recently David Hughes gave an exciting talk for the packed out NE branch talk series.

Institute of Physics News

Science Fiction is one of the most popular art forms in western culture and yet the representation of science and scientists within the genre is largely wrong. 

This erroneous depiction leaves the man in the street with a distorted view of what scientists do, the importance of the scientific method and the level and sophistication of our technology.

We begin with the history of science fiction from the earliest examples such as Lucian of Samosata and Johannes Kepler, through the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, and onto its descent into pulp fiction (Edgar Rice Burroughs). 

This is followed by modern classics such as 1984 and Brave New World, and how the terminology developed in those two works has entered the mainstream vocabulary. We also examine the rise of the Hollywood Blockbuster, and we ask if Star Trek really is the future.

We also look, in depth, at the movie "Armageddon", using simple sixth form mathematics and basic astronomy to illustrate how the central premise of the movie - preventing an asteroid from colliding with the earth by exploding a nuclear bomb - is fundamentally flawed.

The talk concludes with an examination of the possible consequences for our culture, our environment and, ultimately, our species.