07 August 2015

Are we alone? Science Fiction is as sure a guide as any

From: Books | The Guardian

Any truth humans can find ‘out there’ remains speculative, and science and fiction are both still telling stories.

 Artist’s impression of a red Super-Earth in the planetary system around Gliese 581. More than 20 light years away from Earth, it is believed to be the most intriguing world found so far in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Are we alone? There are so many possible ways to begin to answer this question. The backstory on the Fermi Paradox – why we haven’t encountered aliens yet – reads like science fiction. Certainly, the scenarios it sets out are all consigned to the realm of storytelling for now, and even the most logical theories may turn out to be wildly inaccurate. For this reason, the science and fiction of alien contact have much in common, with speculation on the subject sometimes more useful than empirical approaches.

The idea of an intertwining between science and fiction on this subject has historical underpinnings. Early scientific papers in the west by the likes of Francis Bacon and Johannes Kepler took the form of “contes philosophiques” or “philosophical tales”, in which the fictional framework of an imaginary or dream journey surrounded some sort of scientific speculation. In the late 1800s, some scientists even presented their findings in the form of poetry.
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