Floating white mice just might be our spiritual soul mates. On bicycles.
Brace yourself for a parade of weird. On November 23, we can dream together about the future being realized before our eyes—and on the market almost, sort of. Time Magazine has announced the 50 Best Inventions of 2009, hallmarking NASA’s Ares rocket in a salute to the space age. That means thirty-five pages of fascination for SF enthusiasts of all stripes, from ‘fedora and scarf’ to ‘genuine 80s glasses’.
On a happy note for literary types one of the 5 worst inventions was The Jane Austen Monster Mashup Novel. ‘It started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ Time said. ‘Please let it end soon.’ Yes, please! That’s second only in awfulness to the Smile Police. Yes, they are real.
Among the positive inventions the Time lords chose, a few deserve special attention. Number 26, for instance, the Robo-Penguin. It can do all the underwater things a real penguin can do, and a few things real penguins can’t—like swimming backwards and handling delicate artifacts. It must be the next stage of the penguin revolution. Our slippery bird friends can now send droids to do their dirty mind-control work for them.
The quintessentially random rank, 47, has gone to a quintessentially random invention—another robot. But this one’s a fashion model, complete with doe eyes brought to you from manga. And to assuage any fears that commercialism and quirky marketing won’t endure in a SF world, #15 is the YikeBike—a fold-able trike with no other immediately obvious function, other than being called a YikeBike. (Sadly, it’s not made by Nike.)
Most powerful of all, however, is a glimpse into the future—weirdly SF in design. According to Time, ‘A few very disoriented mice could hold the keys to safer space travel.’ How safe, exactly? Apparently, these mice also defy gravity. They are also white.
It’s worth a lot of money. I want to jump on a table and scream…
The Vatican may want to talk to those mice. Last Week, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences held a conference on astrobiology. (The following quotes are from the official programme.) While the organizers claim that this conference ‘is not a unique event’, they admitted that ‘it is a relatively rare one.’ For one thing, it’s apparently unusual to get astrobiologists together and talking shop. For another, it’s even more unusual to get them together at the Vatican.
While some sessions and papers dealt primarily with hard data about life and space, a few ventured onto the precincts of SF and dreaming—trying to find theories of life that aren’t ‘Earth-centric’. The final session, ‘Intelligence Elsewhere and Shadow Life’ seems to have at least two sci-fi classics lurking in the title.
SETI scholar Jill Tarter, for instance, lamented that SETI ‘is confounded by the persistent public misperception that it has something to do with UFOs.’ Yes, of course.
Prof. Chris Impey predicted that ‘History may not a good guide to the future, just as life on Earth may not be a good guide to the characteristics of biology elsewhere.’
Paul Davies suggested that ‘our own planet might also host microbial communities of weird life – that is, life as we do not know it.’ He discussed ‘possible signatures of weird life’ and ‘simple strategies for seeking evidence of a shadow biosphere.’ Presumably something simpler than doing a scan for alien tech?
Columnist Carrie Quinlan thinks that the conference ‘brings us a step closer to welcoming aliens and hanging out with them a bit and finding out their stories, rather than panicking and calling in the air force and then getting smashed to bits by their superior technology.’ She hopes the Vatican’s acknowledgement that ‘an alien’s just a friend you haven’t met, possibly with a different number of eyes’, might help ‘teach us at long last that we’re not that flippin’ special, while at the same time being pretty special.’
And, as Impey said in the official press release, ‘there is a palpable expectation that the universe harbors life and there is hope that the first discovery is only a few years away.’
Follow those floating mice…