Sunday, September 02, 2007

Because images from science fiction really do help...

Italian physics & engineering professor Nicola Pugno generates a lot of discussion (at least in blogosphere) for his scientific work and predictions on carbon nanotubes. Last year, he predicted that carbon nanotubes, even in all of their theorized glory, wouldn't be strong enough for a space elevator cable.

This year, he's more optimistic. No, the space elevator is still a no-go. But he does have high hopes for scaling walls Spiderman-style.

Why does Dr. Pugno catch my eye? His use of science fiction images is not likely to be an accident. When he writes about taking elevators into space or climbing up walls with special adhesive clothing, he invokes strong, myth-like, associations for a range of people- including many who probably don't spend lots of time trolling around peer-reviewed scientific journals.



  1. When I spoke this summer with people active in the space elevator design biz, they were dismissive of Pugno's claims and suggested that his calculations were incorrect.

  2. I have begun to wonder if it would be helpful to systematically introduce scientists to great science fiction. I almost think that writing, social implications, and science fiction, should be mandatory parts of a graduate program in science. I know that undergraduate education is where we usually see breadth, and grad school is for depth, but there seems to have been a slight trend towards preparing grad students to be more well-rounded. This can be seen in the now mandatory literature seminar classes in which we refine our speaking skills.