Space business and science as usual?
Recent discoveries in human genetics raise new questions about our current physiology and, more importantly, hint at the challenges of long-term, sustained space travel and settlements.
At the onset of the 1929 Great Depression, the first editions of the Astounding Tales of Super-Science emerged in the United States. Without much fanfare, this tiny literary magazine offered short modern science fiction stories and carefully crafted illustrations about space travel, intelligent machines, and alien worlds. Its popularity defied the twentieth century’s acute economic decline and continued to gain a following after many decades. It was later rebranded as the Astounding Science Fiction magazine and finally as Analog in the sixties. Analog remains in circulation today, paying homage to its history and inspiring various generations of scientists, engineers, renowned sci-fi writers, and artists.
John W. Campbell served as the iconic Astounding and Analog magazines editor from 1937 through 1971. A writer himself with a background in physics, Campbell documented many of his beliefs in his lifetime about the intricate relationship between science fiction, science, and empiricism (evidence). In the book Prologue to Analog (1953), Campbell wrote,
“The real life of science — not the sacred cow science — is like any other adventurous life, made up of hard work, pure fun and pure hell, cliff-hanging waiting to see if all that effort and thought is going to prove a colossal bust—an sheer triumph every once in a long while. It’s the frustration of working five years to achieve something… and reading the final report of some other man who got there just two weeks sooner.
The scientists have a definition of hell. ‘Hell is the place where all the instruments are perfect…but none of them work.’