03 February 2011

“any sufficiently advanced technology”

The 2009 movie, The Box, features a painting by Edwin Austin Abbey, The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail, panel 3.  Director Richard Kelly also includes the quote from Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” 

There are, of course, many aspects of our lives—many abilities and tools which we consider commonplace—that our distant ancestors would have consigned to the realm of sorcery.

Another way of looking at it might be the line between science fiction and science fact.  A good example of this is the search for exoplanets, planets which orbit other stars.  We have powerful telescopes which have been used to detect the presence of hundreds of such worlds.

Yesterday, the BBC News reported the discovery of a solar system 2000 light-years away.  Discovering entire solar systems increases the likelihood of finding Earth-type planets.  Planets are detected by the minute change in starlight as they pass in front of the star.  In the video, the reporter said it’s the equivalent of being several miles away from a car headlight and noticing when the light dips a little bit because a flea walks across it.

These discoveries help us to better understand our own solar system, but I like the way the article ends.  “The ‘holy grail’ is to find something enough like the Earth that you could live there.” 

Now, how do we get there?  Some more of that magic/science fiction?