Thursday, March 20, 2008

RIP Arthur C. Clarke

And a giant takes his leave of us. The last of the Big Three of Science Fiction (Along with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein), Arthur C. Clarke died yesterday aged ninety, having left his touch felt by everyone not just readers of SciFi. A pioneer of Hard Science Fiction, a departure from the Flash Gordon style of adventure SciFi and into the realm of tangible physical possibilities, he wrote such classics like "Rendezvous with Rama" and "Childhood's End". Yet he is perhaps best known as the author of the book (and movie, filmed simultaneously by Stanley Kubrick) "2001: A Space Odyssey", an exploratory and prophetic journey into the destiny of Man in space. Both book and movie were not only ahead of their time, predicting space stations and moon landings, they remain untouchable iconic figures in the genre, much like the mysterious black monoliths of Space Odyssey themselves. Space Odyssey was so influential that forever now will the image of space be connected to Strauss' "Thus Spake Zarathustra" echoing the movie's famous musical motif.

But Arthur C. Clarke was more than just a SciFi writer. Trained as a physicist he was also a visionary and a futurist. In 1945, when humanity was just taking its first baby steps into space, he published a paper called "Extra-Terrestrial Relays - Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" in Wired Magazine. In it, he put the groundwork into what was to become the geosynchronous communication satellite. He used to joke that he would've made millions had he thought of patenting the idea. The orbit that the satellites that give us modern day essentials such as TV, internet and cross continental communication is named after him, the Clarke Orbit. He is also known for popularizing the idea of the Space Elevator, now a fixture in most SciFi and the target of much real research.

Farewell Arthur. You've left the world a better place.

  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.
- Arthur C. Clarke's Three Laws of Prediction.


Dotsson said...

Sri Lankan boys will sleep easy knowing he is dead ;)

I'm a big fan of him... loved 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Saudi Jawa said...

That's terrible Dot :)