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Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Jules Verne and H.G. Wells Influenced Future Science

Literary visionaries don't predict the future. Their role may be thought of more as influencing the future rather than actually foreseeing it. However, many have tried unsuccessfully in the past to do just that, but did not succeed as history has proven. Significant examples will be briefly presented from each visionary. Regardless of what past or present thinkers have thought of Verne and Wells, they will only be presented here, not as Science Fiction writers, but as serious visionaries. I intend to show, both writers have not only influenced the future, but the future's science. There are those who might go further and propose that they not only influenced the future, but actually played a small part in creating the future, simply by detailing the future with such realism. This school of thought will not be considered here although its roots can probably be traced to the New Thought school that  was just coming into existence during their lifetimes.

Jules Verne's writings regarding the first lunar landing have astounding similarities with what actually came to pass decades after his life. Both Verne and history present the moon landing to have taken  place in the late 1960s (historical) or in the early 1970s (Verne.) Both depictions or accounts include the location of the origin of the flight to the moon in either northern Florida, USA (historical) or southern Florida (Verne.) Both accounts have a similar number of astronauts or navigators making the trip. Those familiar with the Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1865) will find other similarities with both the work and the actual historical event.

We now will present an equally uncanny vision of future events although in this case it is more along the lines of a scientific theory that is posited based on both recent and older scientific theories and discoveries that Wells had no way of knowing about. Respected cosmologists or scientists such as Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku and Brian Greene, in addition to others of a similar caliber, have written books or have convincingly expressed their views in articles in a variety of news media, regarding the real possibility of time travel.

Both require technological resources that do not as of yet exist, but given time scientists may be able to create wormholes in the laboratory and enlarge them sufficiently so that they may create the basic point in time of the time corridor when traveling back in time from the future. As has been explained eloquently by other scientists and scientific writers, no one will be able to travel to a time earlier than the creation of the wormhole.

Traveling forward in time has already taken place albeit in a very minimal degree. Such micro-time travel has been attested to by the experiments performed on astronauts and cosmonauts who were found not to have aged by a barely detectable degree after their travel to the moon.

Based on the historical event just mentioned, that of traveling to the moon and back to Earth, it is theorized that if two twins on Earth are separated by one of the twins traveling toward the nearest star at a speed as close to the speed of light as possible, time will slow down significantly for the interstellar traveler. So much so that when he or she returns to Earth the twin left behind will have aged significantly, years or perhaps even decades, than the space traveling twin. Events on Earth will have transpired that the "time traveling" twin would ordinarily have experienced as a much older person. Given enough interstellar travel on the trip just outlined, the interstellar twin could naturally experience a decade or decades that his older Earth-based twin will miss due to his natural chronological old age on Earth.

The younger, space traveller could very well  benefit from scientific discoveries related to life extension that will in themselves extend his life longer than it would have been extended had he lived and died along with his identical twin. The space travelling twin will also experience significant historical events that his Earth-based twin would not be alive to see, e.g., undreamed of scientific or sociological changes whether they be of a beneficial or deleterious nature.

H.G. Wells in his classic novel The Time Machine (1895) outlined the consequences and experiences of travelling millennia into Earth's future. The ease of traveling forward and backwards in time that Wells' time traveler experienced will, no doubt, never become a reality, Wells' work, nevertheless, contained the kernel of the idea that a human being could travel forward and backward in time.

This concept has remained in the realm of science fiction for decades. Based on the attention that it is receiving from serious and important scientists and cosmologists like the ones mentioned earlier Weills' time machine already exists in its prototypical form, i.e., the rockets and space shuttles that have left and returned from space for decades. Of course, these space-faring vehicles do not possess the capacity to travel at speeds close to the speed of  light. They, nevertheless, currently are capable of facilitating travel at the fastest speeds known to humanity. Some day their successors, or more accurately stated, the scientists that invent their futuristic counterparts, will in fact, travel at incredible speeds and make travel to the future possible.

The twins used in the time travelling experiment mentioned above will be separated by years or decades during both of their lives. Given equally futuristic technological advances that will also facilitate harnessing the power of a laboratory-created worm hole, the interstellar astronaut twin could possibly return to the earlier historical juncture when he or she and their respective twin were the same age, if that is their wish. However, once having ventured into space, the interstellar and therefore time traveling twin will still be younger than the twin that he or she is returning to. However, both siblings will be able to share as many uninterrupted experiences as the older earth-based twin will be able to experience, if that is any consolidation. The younger interstellar "time traveler" will, however, experience a future that his chronologically-older twin will not be around to see.

In summation, neither the moon landing in 1969 and the serious attention given to time travelling theories of the last few years would have ever happened if both visionaries had not written their two accounts of space exploration or of time travel. Both men's ideas were ridiculed by serious scientists and educated people for decades before they actually were borne out by the historical event or the development of the science-based theory.

In a way, one could almost suggest that Verne and Wells not only influenced these future events, but actually helped to create them by envisioning them a century before they actually occurred.

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