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Cosmic Stories Blog

This blog exists to explore conceptions and representations of science or science communication through the medium of fiction. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction in literature, film and television, as well as other adventure fiction and their various paratexts. I decided to create this space as a forum in which to present my own views and activities in this area, which are - inevitably - presented from the point of view of an active research astrophysicist, rather than a literary theorist or specialist in communications or media. Nonetheless, I choose to make these thoughts public in case they provide entertainment or interest to others, and in the hope of stimulating conversations in the interface between the realities of our Universe and the ways in which we choose to represent and explore it in fiction. For updates follow me on Twitter @Tiylaya, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CosmicStoriesSF.

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07 Aug

The Perils of Predestination

Time travel is a wide-reaching topic in science fiction, but one recurring area of fascination is the predestination paradox - the idea that an event may only occur because of efforts to prevent it, or as a result of its own consequences.

24 Jul

High Frontiers

Human settlement of space has been a given since the earliest science fiction stories were written. The High Frontier was an influential popular science book published in 1976 by an American physicist Gerard K O’Neill. The High Frontier had an enormous impact, and cylindrical space habitats have since acquired the name O’Neill Cylinders, both in fact and in fiction.

10 Jul

Going Out with a Bang

Supernovae, the explosions that end the lives of certain stars, are amongst the brightest and most dramatic events in the Universe. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’ve attracted their fair degree of attention from the writers of science fiction.

 

26 Jun

The Stench of Humanity

One of the most evocative of human senses is our sense of smell. It is closely connected with memory recall, with the taste of food, and with the more “primitive” and instinctual regions of our hindbrains. Science fiction has explored odour - and in particular an oversensitivity to odours - in a number of ways.

12 Jun

Dan Dare's Saturnia

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future, in his journeys through the Solar System, has given us a fascinating snapshot of how our understanding of solar system habitability has changed. Here I take a look at Saturn's moon system and its very different representations in 1953 and 2017.

29 May

Take me to your Lizard

A running theme in science fiction is the idea that alien races are willing and eager to talk to us, but this is not an assumption that has gone unchallenged in science fiction, or indeed in our wider culture.

Tags: SETI, Humanity
15 May

A FAB New Vision For Space

The vision of space portrayed in near-future science fiction often speaks to the hopes and fears of contemporary society. Children’s SF in particular can influence the scientific and technical innovators who might bring such visions to fruition. This week we take a look at the coherent vision of human space utilisation presented in the recent animated television series Thunderbirds are Go.

01 May

Where is everybody?

Fermi’s Paradox - the lack of alien contact despite the a Universe that should be teeming with life - has excited the interest of scientists as well as philosophers, and some of the many possible solutions have been explored both by popular science writers and the writers of science fiction.

17 Apr

Cosmic Histories

Most science fiction tells fundamentally human stories, on human timescales. However sometimes science fiction authors venture into the longer timescales on which cosmic evolution itself unfolds.

03 Apr

Interstellar Visitations

Interstellar comets are rare and unusual visitors - but while they're alien, are they result of intelligences beyond our Solar System? It is a premise that has formed part of the science fiction repertoire for many years.

20 Mar

Rogue Planets

Given the essential role of the Sun in life on our world, perhaps its natural that a large body of solar system explores the concept of how life might survive on worlds without their own sun - rogue planets.

06 Mar

Aquatic Humanity

Tales of people under the sea are likely as old as humanity. In more recent times, fantasy has been succeeded by science fiction which explores what it would mean for humanity to live as natives in water, and how that might be achieved.

27 Feb

Sent from Coventry

A bonus blog to celebrate a year of Cosmic Stories, detouring from science exploration to a brief survey of our host town in science fiction.

20 Feb

Scan for Life Signs, Mr Spock

The concept of a scanner - a remote sensing device that can identify evidence of life at a distance - is a common staple of science fiction. While some science fiction takes this to an extreme, it’s neither a new idea nor one that is entirely divorced from science fact.

06 Feb

Sledgehammers to Crack Nuts

A lot of science fiction assumes we will adapt and use alien technologies, despite dramatic differences in their development and background physics. But how realistic is this?

23 Jan

Pilots of the Future

In the mid twentieth century, young children were wowed by tales of heroism by a succession of space pilots with unlikely or alliterative names. But what was their attraction and impact?

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Comments are very welcome, including those disagreeing with my views or conclusions, but should be phrased respectfully and will be moderated before posting.

The views and ideas expressed in this blog are my own and do not in any way represent the views of the University of Warwick.