The Science in The Fiction

The Science in The Fiction

Our goal is to do a deep dive into the biggest ideas in science fiction. We'll be talking to sci-fi authors about science, and talking to scientists about sci-fi, and catalyzing conversations between the two. We'll ask both authors and scientists to envision the sci-fi future of our world. We use science fiction as a vehicle to promote scientific education, curiosity and vision.

Episodes

April 19, 2024 68 mins

Marty sits down with his university pals Drs. Peter Gorniak and Cyndey Nielsen, to discuss Karl Schroeder's book 'Stealing Worlds'.   As it happens, they both have PhD's and lifelong careers working in their fields of expertise - Peter in artificial intelligence and Cydney in data analytics and virtual/mixed reality, so they were the perfect people to bring their professional and personal perspectives to a discu...

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Karl Schroeder is a science fiction author and foresight analyst.  His fiction is known for both its scientific rigour and its visionary quality of bearing witness to what we can expect just around the corner – especially with his latest book 'Stealing Worlds'.  This book is jam packed with big ideas about artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).  We talk about the creation of LARPing worlds, i.e. Live Actio...

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In the second part of our interview with Peter Watts, we delve into his ideas about intelligence and consciousness.  Does consciousness serve any function, or can all cognitive processes get along just fine without it?  In his novel Blindsight, Peter postulates a hostile entity whose intelligence outcompetes our own, because it is not weighed down by the slow, clunky machinery of sapience.  But his thinking has evolved in recent ye...

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We talk to acclaimed science fiction author Peter Watts about Justin Gregg's book 'If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal'.  We ask if the human flavour of intelligence is maladaptive, and other creatures are smarter because they are so well adapted to their evolutionary niche - or are we comparing apples with moon rocks?  Ultimately, the question is whether the animal wisdom of bedbugs and crocodilians is going to get them off...

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Marty and Holly sit down with zoologist Justin Gregg to discuss his book 'If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity'.  We discuss which aspects of human intelligence (and stupidity) are unique in the animal world, and what sets our mental faculties apart from those of other animals.  We talk about our capacity for causal reasoning, the creation of language and our ability to lie, ...

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Marty and Holly sit down with Dr. Heidi Sevestre for a conversation about climate change and geoengineering, as portrayed in The Ministry For The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Dr. Sevestre is a glaciologist who is leading the call to action on climate change through her research and education initiatives. We talk about her recent expedition to Svalbard with Climate Sentinels, a zero-emission research expedition on skis to unders...

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In this episode we are super excited to present our conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, whose legacy will surely last deep into our sci-fi future.  We discuss his latest book The Ministry for the Future, and some of the many extraordinary ideas in that book for getting humanity through to the other side of the climate crisis.  We focus our conversation on various geoengin...

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This conversation was a great example of what we’re trying to do with this podcast, the perfect balance between Science and Science Fiction.  Marty sits down with Dr. Tim Swindle to discuss The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton and The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson, in relation to NASA's OSIRIS REx mission which has returned a sample of Asteroid Bennu to Earth, as well as the upcoming Mars Sample Return mission.  ...

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NASA's recent OSIRIS-REx mission has returned a sample of asteroid Bennu all the way to Earth for detailed analysis.  It is difficult to ignore the tempting similarities of this mission to the plot of Michael Crichton's 'The Andromeda Strain' and its sequel, Daniel H. Wilson's 'The Andromeda Evolution' - so in this episode Marty discusses Planetary Protection with Thomas Zega, a planetary scientis...

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This is our favorite kind of episode, hosting a conversation between e a science fiction author and a scientist, where each shares their work and expertise with the other to the benefit of both.  Stephen Gay is a science fiction author whose debut novel 'Night Owls - A Moon Colony Adventure' follows a quirky band of party kids in a near-future society on the moon.  Ben Feist is a computer scientist who works at NASA and c...

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This is part two of our conversation with Damien Walter, the science fiction guru.  He is the host of the Science Fiction Podcast and Science Fiction Facebook group.  He is also a critical thinker about culture, and a prophet of the emerging mythos of science fiction.  In our last episode we presented the part of our conversation about individual psychology as it relates to the structure and function of story-telling, and in this e...

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Damien Walter is one of the world’s foremost voices in critical thinking about science fiction as the emerging cultural mythos of our modern global civilization.  In this episode we discuss some of Damien’s ideas about the psychological function of story-telling, and what he calls the operating system of human consciousness.  We talk about how archetypal, meaningful stories have elements that resonate with the shape of the human ps...

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Cory Doctorow has given us permission to play the first chapter of Red Team Blues directly on our podcast!  And as an added treat, the audio-book is read by none other than Will Wheaton, the actor who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek The Next Generation - a voice that you will instantly recognize.  It's pretty rare to hear excerpts from an author’s work directly on a podcast that discusses their work.  Authors usually do not...

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Marty and Holly sit down with Cory Doctorow, an author known not only for his near-future social and political science fiction, but also for his real-world journalism and activism.  We talk about society, politics and economics, discussing 3 of Doctorow’s most recent books.  'Red Team Blues' is his most recently published book, an anti-finance cryptocurrency and cybersecurity thriller; we discuss the difference between de...

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Following up on our discussion of intelligent plants with Sue Burke in our last episode, we have invited Paco Calvo, a cognitive scientist and philosopher of biology, who speaks to us about his book 'Planta Sapiens'.  Paco is a cognitive scientist and philosopher of biology, who is known for his research in the field of plant cognition and intelligence. His interdisciplinary work combines insights from biology, philosophy...

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In this episode we embark on a discussion of sci-fi botany, by way of Sue Burke’s novel 'Semiosis' and its sequel 'Interference'.  We talk about a lot of interesting and surprising properties of plant behaviour that you may not be aware of, and how Sue worked these ideas into her main character Steveland and his interaction with human colonists on a planet named Pax.  We talk about the symbiosis of domestication...

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Marty and Holly finish up their discussion of 'Neverness' by David Zindell from the last two episodes, and then have a conversation about the books we'll be talking about over the course of the next few episodes.  Our next topic will be 'intelligent plants', so we discuss Sue Burke's 'Semiosis' and 'Interference' duology, ahead of our upcoming interviews with her and Paco Calvo.  Th...

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Marty has a conversation about David Zindell's 'Neverness' with Mark Mac Lean, professor of Mathematics at the University of British Columbia.  We talk about the poetic and philosophical use of mathematics as the engine of faster-than-light travel in the Neverness universe, and contemplate the relationship of mathematics to truth, beauty, perfection, and physical reality.  Along the way we discuss the foundations of ...

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Marty and Holly sit down with David Zindell, author of Neverness, a book full of big ideas in a far future civilization where Master Pilots manipulate mathematical reality to fenester their ships through the spacetime manifold. We talk to David about his literary influences and his vision of a deep sci-fi future with philosophical and spiritual depth.  We discuss philosophy, non-duality, consciousness and environmentalism in both N...

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This is the second half of the conversation begun in our last episode, between science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer and zoologist Arik Kershenbaum.  We start with a quick re-cap on Boltzmann Brains and then spend quite a bit of time considering the problem of having a sample size of one, when it comes to the existence of life in the universe, as well as the existence of intelligent, technological alien life we hope to find on an...

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