Friday, 24 November 2017

Arthur Clarke in the Sky at Night magazine.


This month's BBC Sky at Night Magazine has an article on Arthur C. Clarke. I can hardly believe that next march he'll have been dead for a decade. 

It's hard to understate how influential Arthur's work was on my life. For a while, in the 1980s, science fiction for me was Arthur Clarke (plus some minor authors like Heinlein and Asimov....) Arthur's future worlds generally speaking seemed civilised and pleasant places to live. They were places where high technology was used to better people's lives, where we'd achieved a decent ecological balance and where our politics had evolved to a more mature state. (Currently, I'd say we're barely managing one out of three).

Clarke's writings also impressed upon me the larger view of humanity and the Cosmos. He helped me to see that what unites humanity is really more fundamental than any perceived divisions.

His last message public message, recorded shortly before his death, concerns the ecological strain that we're putting on the Earth and the need for better priorities.  Carl Sagan put it well in the below quote, which Arthur cited: 

“Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.”

This, its seems to me, is an appropriate value for the 21st century.  Although the current cultural mood flows in the opposite direction, I suspect that humanity's survival will depend upon recovering such values.


Arthur Clarke's last message

Arthur's primary gift was to help me understand that the 'world' does not just include the Earth: that the Earth is just one planet in a vast cosmological scheme.

I think that one of the best ways to appreciate this is via the extensive library of images that NASA, ESA and other space agencies have obtained of the moons, planets and other bodies of the solar system. Check out NASA's solar system exploration pages for myriad spectacular examples.

The other way, of course, is to look up on a starry night. Right now, in the northern hemisphere's autumn, there are some fabulous sights. Look up. That's our real neighbourhood....

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