One of the most popular Science Fictions movies of the last few years was the Martian. I should say that their might be some spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t already seen the film or read the book, then read it and go watch the Blu-ray, preferably in that order, its always better to read the book first. I didn’t watch it at the cinema and unusually hadn’t read the book either, for some reason even with the hype I just hadn’t been drawn towards it, perhaps I’d read to many Mars books.
I ended up watching it on a long haul plane flight, and enjoyed it immensely, I’ve since read the book as well to see what was missed. For the first time in a while I was drawn completely into a movie. Even though we cannot yet get to Mars, we all know that there are several companies pushing towards this and its sets a very believable scenario.
Does realism matter
The film also wasn’t about colonising mars but a simple exploratory mission like the ones we’ve sent to the moon, there’s more realism to us in this kind of journey. But what made it completely engaging was that everything happening to astronaut Mark Watney was rooted in current scientific and technological principles, either through existing equipment and thinking, to what people are currently working towards for Mars exploration. Even the flight of his crew back to earth was believable. There was no cryogenics, no stasis pods, they were on a long one way journey back to earth and even when they are sent back to get him, the principles for this are based on real physics, a gravity sling shot around earth and a long journey back to mars. His journey to the rendezvous point takes 90 days, no ‘wonder-machine’ that can get him there in a day. His communication device to get back in touch with Earth is the Previous Mars Pathfinder probe sent to explore the red planet. His methods for surviving and growing food are also based on sound agricultural and horticultural theory and practice. In essence everything about this story was believable, it used current technology and scientific thinking, with a future that is highly probably. This is most likely what drew so many to watch and enjoy this film. You can read more about how NASA was involved in the writing of the story and how much technology is already possible here.
Science journals are even getting in on the act
Even science journals are starting to realise the strong connection between science fiction and the work being done by scientist at the moment. One of the major journals read by myself and many other scientist, is Nature, you can even find this journal on the shelves of some newsagents. Hidden in all the scientific articles is a section know as “Futures”. I’ve been reading it since it started in 2007 and features short science fiction stories written by established authors, budding new ones and the scientist who normally contribute to this journal. In Natures words its about “What does the future hold? Is there life beyond the stars? Will artificial intelligence take over the world? Is time travel possible? All of these questions and more are addressed every week”.
Does your favourite science fiction present you with a picture of what your future might be like?