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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Review: How Science Shapes Science Fiction

 How Science Shapes Science Fiction is a great courses program about how science is used and abused in science fiction. Professor Charles Adler clearly loves science fiction and is widely read and up to date on the science, which I thought was great. I found myself placing holds on books he recommended, as well as following along each topic, even the ones where I thought I knew something about with enjoyment.

There's one section where he talks about flight dynamics. There's a graph in this section that I'd never seen before, plotting the logarithmic weight, wingspan, and power required to achieve flight. There's a clear straight line, though with exceptions, such as human powered flight. He uses this to explain the trade-offs required in designing a dragon, which I thought was an awesome exposition on what thought processes has to go through when a writer designs a world if he or she really wants the world to follow known laws of physics.

What I loved about the great courses series (as opposed to say, Masterclass) is that the lectures are never shallow, and the professors never talk down to you. For instance, his discussion of Dune doesn't just go into the ecology of the planet (and the ecology of the Oregon Dunes where Frank Herbert was inspired by) but also what happened in Herbert's life that caused him to write the novel. Similarly, his discussion of on designed languages explores the origin of Quenya in Tolkein, and brought many details to life.

I found myself listening to this series in preference to my usual diet of podcasts, etc. That makes this series recommended and well worth your audible credit.

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