Arthur C. Clarke is one a a very select few whom I would call a "hero" of mine. He celebrated his 90'th birthday today (really yesterday to me since he lives on the other side of the planet in Sri Lanka).
Clarke is primarily known as a science fiction writer, but he has been much more than that. He is one of the few sci-fi writers who really knew his subject matter really well. His stories are loaded with authenticity. There is really nothing he ever speculated about in his writings that could ever be considered impossible or even improbable. While many or really most writers conveniently ignore gravity, the speed of light, and other inconveniences of the universe so they can put their Earthbound stories in space, Clarke respects the laws of the universe and his novels and short stories reflect this respect.
Clarke will always be remembered for other things.
- One-Time Head of the British Interplanetary Society: In the 1930's, Clarke and others, would gather in pubs and talk about real spaceflight. No Buck Rogers, but real rockets and what it would take to get to outer space from scientific and engineering viewpoints. Many of their ideas became reality 30 years later.
- Clarke's Belt - Geo synchronized satellites that allow global communications including the Internet. Clarke drew this up in 1945 - 12 years before Sputnik. Clarke is considered the "Father of Global Communications"
- Clarke's Three Laws - Gems that are the basis for all good science fiction.
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.
- Oscar Nomination for 2001: A Space Odyssey (With Stanley Kubrick)
- Predicting the Internet in the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Calling the Space Shuttle Program "A Disaster waiting to happen" in mid-1985, half a year before the Challenger disaster. Clarke never was a fan of a space shuttle designed beautifully by NASA and destroyed by Congress.
There are Clarke speculations that have yet to come to pass, but I hope they will. These include the Space Elevator from his novel The Fountains of Paradise and energy derived from ordinary air.
Happy Birthday Dr. Clarke. I share in your hope for s space-faring human race.