December 16 – Happy Birthday, Arthur C. Clarke

Posted on December 16, 2013

He was a true prophet.

A prophet sees what will happen in the future. Most people who are said to be prophets are either fakes who tell people what they want to hear, for money—you know, you will be rich, you will be famous, you will travel far and live long and yadda yadda yadda—or they are religious folks who say great truths such as we should all be kind to one another. But some prophets are just terribly good at thinking about what technologies might be invented someday, and how such technologies will change the world. And when they write those things down, and 50 years later those things actually happen, everyone says, “He's a prophet!” or “She's a prophet!”

Arthur C. Clarke wrote science fiction and science fact books and stories and articles. He predicted personal computers and the internet.  He thought up an iconic computer (AI) character, HAL, who malfunctions and then takes drastic steps to continue to carry out its programmed directive.  He thought up geo-synchronous communication satellites, which orbit the earth at exactly the right height and speed to remain stationary relative to the earth. (That's how we have cell phones and satellite TV and so forth!)

Clarke wrote about space travel and space mining and a space elevator and a global library and a few things that have happened and a lot of things that haven't happened, yet, but still might.

Here is a video of Clarke making some predictions way back in 1964. Which parts of his predictions are correct, and which might happen someday but haven't yet? 
  • Check out some of Clarke's science fiction. Childhood's End is recommended for teens. 
  • Check out Clarke's three laws:
    1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. 
    2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka and did a great deal of undersea diving. He loved the ocean! He even did some underwater archeology, uncovering a sunken Koneswaram temple!
  • Check out the alien spacecraft that Clarke visualized in his book Rendezvous with Rama

Also on this date:

Kazakhstan's Independence Day

Margaret Mead's Birthday (scroll down)

Plan ahead:

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