Arthur C. Clarke is no more!


JF-Expert Member
Feb 4, 2007
Arthur C. Clarke, that British institution, visionary,pioneer, scientist, author, essayist and arguably the most fitting successor to H.G Wells, is no more.He was up there with Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. "2001:A Space Odyssey" is probably his most famous sci-fi novel.I also enjoyed his essay collection "Greetings, Carbon Based Bipeds!"

Childhood's end: Arthur C. Clarke passes away at age 90

Arthur C. Clarke is perhaps best known for his three laws of prediction. These laws may not have been perfectly planned, and the second one was added by his readers; it simply appeared in the same essay as the first. The third was added by Clarke 11 years later, making an even set. The laws state:

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.

These are simple words, but in them exists a very singular hope: science can do anything that strong and able minds ask it to, and that a faith in science doesn't remove one from a sense of wonder. This is still an important message, that science doesn't mean magic doesn't exist, it just means that magic is something that takes discipline and time to learn and wield. Arthur C. Clarke has passed away at the age of 90 but, in these simple laws, he gave something we'll never lose: a blueprint for dreaming.

Arthur C. Clarke and Stanly Kubrick launched a novel experiment in storytelling when they began to work on 2001: a Space Odyssey together. The movie and the novel, both based on a short story called "The Sentinel," would be created at the same time. Due to circumstances, the book ended up being released well past the release of the movie, but science fiction fans know that both can be enjoyed singly, or together. The movie is an amazingly visual journey that exists as a sort of cerebral puzzle, open to many interpretations. The book is a much more fully conceptualized piece of literature. Both are worth your time.

Do yourself a favor and find a friend who hasn't seen the movie or read the book in a while, and launch into your own experiment. One of you read the book, and then watch the movie. The other watch the movie, and then read the book. Get together and discuss the journey that both take you on, and how they influenced each other. These days, science fiction movies wrap up their endings in small little packages, this movie and novel will give you the stars. Show a gamer the film, and you'll realize how these visions still resonate with modern audiences. Would we really have had a scene where our nameless protagonist destroys a rogue AI in Portal by destroying her piece by piece as she tries to talk you out of it without Clarke's HAL?

Clarke didn't just give us great fiction, although that will be a major part of his legacy. He had degrees in science and mathematics, and his nonfiction work is important in a way that's hard to overestimate. While Clarke didn't invent the idea of geosynchronous orbit-that honor belongs to Herman Potočnik-Clarke did see the promise of this idea for communication and wrote extensive about the idea. Most broadcast satellites orbit the earth in geosynchronous orbits, sometimes called Clarke orbits. With Clarke's love of differing mediums, from the printed word to his television shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers and his fascination with instant communication such as e-mail, this must have been a satisfying legacy indeed: the idea that his work has increased our connection with each other.

Clarke was also a believer in the technology of space elevators, with the idea that an object in geostationary orbit with Earth, connected to a terrestrial location via a number of possible materials, could be a cheap and effective way to place objects into space. Arthur C. Clarke died before this technology matured, but work continues on the concept. It's very possible in the next decade we'll see space elevators being used to cheaply deliver payloads into orbit.

George Whitesides was the executive director of the National Space Society. He said that Clarke's enthusiasm "was what I think made him so popular in many way..

"He was always thinking about what could come next but also about how life could be improved in the future," Whitesides told the BBC. "It's a vision that I think we could use more of today."

One of the striking themes of Clarke's work was the moment where we made contact with another intelligence, and what it might do to us. This lead to powerful scenes, but the thought behind it was almost plaintive. Technology is getting more powerful, and yet we're still our normal, violent and hateful messes. Clarke seemed sometimes to be looking into the stars and wishing for help. What he may not have realized is that with his fierce intelligence and limitless imagination he was helping us, and in the work he left behind he will continue to help us. He knew that technology can make the world better, and that a rational mind was no less beautiful than any other.
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