Cities in Flight by James Blish:
Science Fiction Inventions, Technology and Ideas

Cities in Flight is really four separate novels; They Shall Have Stars (1957), A Life for the Stars (1962), Earthman Come Home (1955) and The Triumph of Time (1958). The period of time spanned by these four novels adds up to many hundreds of years. The books all derive their plot from a single great idea - the spindizzy, a gravity polarizer that allows entire cities to break free of the Earth and leave for the stars. This is a great science-fiction novel; it has wonderful inventions, well-written characters, and remarkable political sophistication. Select an invention:

Accelerated Schooling
Knowledge force-fed directly into the brain.

Accelerated Schooling Helmet
A device that stimulates the brain and imparts knowledge directly.

Anti-agathic drugs
Drugs that indefinitely postpone death from old age.

Battle Tank Display
Three-dimensional display showing tactical information for space battles.

Bethé blasters
Powerful enough to destroy a flying city.

Brood Assembly - first self reproducing automata
Artificially intelligent computers that can replicate themselves.

City Fathers - AI with centuries of experience
A set of computer systems which run every mechanical system in a city.

Crop Algae
Growing algae in tanks as a source of basic food stock.

Dirac Transmitter (also Tranceiver or Communicator) - instant communication
A device that provides instantaneous communication anywhere in the galaxy.

Eavesdropper - check if it's safe
Device to detect the presence of recording devices.

Gravity-Polarized Explosive (TDX)
A chemical explosive that acts at an angle to the local gravitational field.

Inter-Universal Messenger
A device intended to travel to another dimension.

Machine Psychologist - computer psychiatrist
A computer that understands and uses its knowledge of human psychology to benefit human users.

Machine Surveillance - first mention of idea
The use of artificially intelligent computer systems to learn by monitoring all human interaction within a city.

Proselytizing Robot
A robotic preacher; designed for use where believers are unwelcome.

Space Armor
Armored space suits for use in vacuum.

Spindizzy - pick up your town and go
A device that made use of a relationship between electron spin, electromagnetism and gravity allowed any object to leave the Earth's surface.

Teleoperated Beetle Car
A remotely-operated robotic vehicle that permitted telepresence.

Teleoperated Lab Robot
A robot is used to conduct experiments in an environment too extreme for humans.

Tin Cabby (Flying Robotic Taxi) - mechacab
An autonomously controlled flying taxi cab.

Toposcope
A special helmet used in a form of sleep teaching.

 

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