Global Physics Department

Yesterday I was invited to give a presentation to the Global Physics Department, and online group of college and high school physics educators moderated by Prof. Andy Rundquist from Hamline University. The group gathers to hear virtual speakers on math, physics, science, and education on a weekly basis. Andy found my blog (hi!) and asked me to work up a presentation on science and its presence (or absence) in science fiction. You can see the recording here. (There are lots of other interesting presentations on the site, too.)

I spent a while thinking about the approach I wanted to take with this presentation. Of course, the easiest thing to do would have been to pick some choice examples from science fiction and pick them apart, criticizing the presence of sound in space or starships that move like boats and airplanes. I did a little of that, but I also wanted to bring up some other approaches that might encourage students to explore the intersections of science and science fiction, including looking at some of the things that science fiction gets mostly “right,” examining what it would take to give us science-fiction gadgetry using current knowledge, and trying to extrapolate realistic scenarios using scratch paper and our imaginations.

All in all, I think it was a fun evening – but I barely scratched the surface! My only “disappointment” was that it would have been fantastic to really open things up for discussion at the end. But with a topic so rich, it’s hard not to run into the time limit!

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