“Hard” Sci Fi and the Future of the Human Race

I’m a big fan of the “hard” science fiction genre – sci fi that attempts to visualize what life will be like in the distant future, by extrapolating from current scientific knowledge. Authors like Greg Egan, Richard Morgan, Alastair Reynolds, and Neal Stephenson.

I love the following quote by Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal and professor of cosmology, and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge:

“I’d like to widen people’s awareness of the tremendous timespan lying ahead — for our planet, and for life itself. Most educated people are aware that we’re the outcome of nearly 4bn years of Darwinian selection, but many tend to think that humans are somehow the culmination. Our sun, however, is less than halfway through its lifespan. It will not be humans who watch the sun’s demise, 6bn years from now. Any creatures that exist then will be as different from us as we are from bacteria or amoebae.”

Wow! Think how complex we are now, and consider that homo sapiens probably evolved about 2 million years ago, and I think that we are evolving at a faster rate now than we ever have in the past. Also we are evolving ourselves, with body modifications, brain modifications, and tools. I find it hard to imagine what we are going to be like in 1000 years, let alone 6 billion years!

First post for the new year!

OK, better late than never, I guess. I actually promised myself that I would be posting more often in 2007, but that resolution is lying still-born on the birthing room floor. Probably buried in amongst the champagne and party poppers.

I have stopped working this January in order to concentrate on studying mathematical methods. This has felt very, very weird. I feel far more stressed about taking time off than I would have in the past, I think for a few main reasons:

  1. Things here are very expensive. Rent is expensive. Taking a month off feels like being in a big black tunnel and seeing a light at the other end, and half suspecting that it’s an oncoming train.
  2. Maths is hard. You think you know something, then you encounter it in another form and all of a sudden it’s like a gremlin that just got coated in water – it’s got teeth, a mo-hawk and it wants to differentiate you to the bottom of the food chain. Having a maths exam as a deadline is just no fun at all!

As a consequence, I need to have a holiday from the whole non-working thing. Luckily Helen and I have booked a skiing/yoga retreat in Switzerland for the beginning of February. Maybe that actually IS daylight at the end of the tunnel!