Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Amateur Innovators - This Is Your Century!

In the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, the amateur was king in many fields. Early breakthroughs in chemistry, medicine and particularly astronomy form the foundations of modern science. These talented amateur scientists often made their own instruments, or had them fabricated by local craftsmen. But in the twentieth century, the talented amateur was slowly replaced by university-trained PhDs who were hired to build and maintain extremely expensive instruments.

However, according to a new report by Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller, the 21st century could mark the return of the talented (and obsessed!) amateur to the first ranks of science. This is a fantastically useful and interesting observation; this observation could be as important as the ideas in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, published in the 1960's by Thomas Kuhn.


(William Herschel and Heinrich Schwabe)

For example, in the late 18th century, William Herschel became interested in astronomy, and pursued the construction of larger and larger instruments while maintaining his career as a singer. In 1781, he discovered the planet Uranus, the first new planet discovered since ancient times. He became a celebrity, and (further demonstrating his acumen) he named the planet Georgium Sidum, after King George III. He was made "King's Astronomer" and recieved a pension for life. He and his sister continued their observations, working on double stars (proving that gravitation worked outside the solar system), an evolutionary system of the universe, developed evidence that the sun put out energy outside the visible spectrum, and started the study of the effect of the sun on the earth's weather.

Amateur astronomer Heinrich Schwabe ran his family pharmaceutical business in the early 19th century. In his spare time, he tried to discover planets within the orbit of Mercury. In doing so, he accumulated many drawings of sunspots, trying to find a planet making a transit of the sun. He never discovered a planet, but his seventeen years of nearly continuous sunspot observations demonstrated a ten-year periodicity in sunspot activity - the sunspot cycle. He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1857.

Look all around you for examples of the important contributions of amateurs to science and world culture - linux, amateur music remixes, The Sims, and specialized blogs and websites. Yes, even amateur astronomers are making a comeback - the charged couple device (CCD), a light-sensitive chip that can capture starlight and is inexpensive enough for ordinary individuals, is revolutionizing amateur astronomy. And people who know nothing about it can use the SETI@home screensaver, which allows the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program use idle machine cycles around the world to analyze data.

As for the tie-in to science fiction, take a look around on this site to see some of the remarkable inventions of talented amateurs - science fiction writers. For a start, take a look at waldoes, geosynchronous telecommunication satellites and computer tapeworms. The original story was taken from Amateur Revolution; get your own copy of the report (when it comes out in November) here.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/7/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Miscellaneous ")

Bush Robots - Fingers On Your Fingers On Your Fingers...
From Heinlein to Moravec to MacLeod - bush robots are cool.

Amateur Innovators - This Is Your Century!
the 21st century could mark the return of the talented (and obsessed!) amateur to the first ranks of science. This is a fantastically useful and interesting observation; this observation could be as important as the ideas in The Structure of Scientif

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

SpaceX Wants A Moonbase Alpha
'And he had been sent with troops, supplies and bombs to command Russia's most trusted post, the Moonbase.'

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.