This year is supposed to be a massive year for technology and it has proven to be so, with 3D television for sports.
First published in Super Science Stories magazine in Mayit described the Douglas-Martin sunpower screens that would provide almost free and inexhaustible energy to fuel the future in subsequent instalments of his alternative timeline.
It was simple, robust and reliable technology. The sunpower screens were clay-coated panels that absorbed sunlight and turned it into electricity with almost per cent efficiency, or worked the other way to turn electricity into light.
Installation of the first successful solar panel and solar battery a solar arrayfor the Georgia telephone carrier Americus, 4 October Photo by Getty Images Heinlein needed the sunscreens to make his future work; that is, to answer the problem of how technological culture might flourish in a world of diminishing resources.
This was not a new problem, even inand it is an increasingly pressing one now. The question of what is going to fuel the future has never been more urgent. Is it going to be wind or wave power?
Will fuel cells, solar panels or even the holy grail of fusion be the answer to our problems? Or are we going to frack ourselves into oblivion? The way exposure to light changed the electrical properties of selenium was noted by the telegraph engineer Willoughby Smith inand a few years later William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day managed to generate electricity by shining light on selenium arrays.
But as early asthe inventor Charles Fritts installed an array of solar cells made of selenium coated with a thin layer of gold on a New York rooftop. Did Heinlein see his fictional technology as the precursor of that real one?
That neither taken abstractedly can be said to be the essential or proximate cause of the others, but that either may, as a force, produce or be convertible into the other, this heat may mediately or immediately produce electricity, electricity may produce heat; and so of the rest.
That was exactly what the sunscreens did. Explaining correlation, Grove offered an experimental demonstration of his own that involved using light to generate electricity, building on the experiments of the physicist Edmond Becquerel a few years earlier.
Uniquely, the gas battery generated electricity from a combination of oxygen and hydrogen rather than more conventional liquid electrolytes. Although Grove never considered his battery a viable source of power on a large scale, he was convinced that electricity would be the fuel of the future.
The Vril-ya lived in a world in which electricity or vril, as they called it powered everything. Electricity ran their machinery, controlled the weather, and helped to grow crops. It was the source of their telepathic power, too. The prediction that electricity would soon supersede steam as the universal source of economic power was ubiquitous.
Grove shared that optimism, even as he poured economic cold water over its imminent prospect. While our concerns about future energy are now primarily dictated by encroaching climate change, Victorians worried more about the need to ensure that future energy would belong to Empire: In his novel The Outlaws of the AirGeorge Griffith imagined rival anarchist groups utopian and nihilist respectively slugging it out upon the sea and in the air with electrical gunboats and airships wielding electrical weapons.
In The Angel of the RevolutionGriffith pictured revolutionary anarchists with access to a new source of energy in control of the air and terrorising the great European states into submission. In both stories, the social organisation of the future was going to depend on who owned the right kind of power.
The realisation that controlling future energy was essential to maintaining or subverting the social order was what made stories about that energy falling under alien control simultaneously so terrifying and so alluring. These fictional speculations were mirrored by inventors and entrepreneurs.
Indeed, projection was part of the process of invention. In the s, while working with George Westinghouse to win the contract to provide electricity for the Chicago Columbian Exposition we might almost think of that as providing energy for the future and develop hydroelectricity from Niagara Falls, Tesla was fantasising about turning the planet into a machine for transmitting electrical power.
Fictionalising the future can be an effective way of realising it and making it familiar Such speculation moved back and forth between fact and fiction. He pictured a world where electrical energy grew crops and controlled the weather had he read Bulwer Lytton?
Inventors everywhere claimed inspiration from scientific romances whose authors mined the latest science for their imagined futures. It is an interaction that is still going on.
X-rays and radioactivity promised future energy, too. Working out just how the future will work still depends on this interplay between fact and fiction. Not just because, today, clear lines of connection link contemporary debates with their Victorian and Edwardian antecedents — though these are often forgotten in contemporary discussions of figuring out the future.
But it turns out that fictionalising the future can be an effective way of realising it and making it familiar. When commentators and entrepreneurs debate future worlds in which power is generated by solar panels, fuel cells, wind farms or fusion, their imagined futures make sense to us largely because they seem familiar.
And they seem familiar because we already know about other fictional futures that work like that — and, though this might seem less clear to us, because ours is a culture with a history of thinking like that about the future.We will write a custom essay sample on How will science and technology change your lives in the future specifically for you for only $ $ /page Order now.
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New tools enable new structures of knowledge and new ways of discovery. Paragraph on Science and Future. Category: Blog On January 13, By Various Contributors.
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