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[GUEST POST] Promoting Science Through Science Fiction by Irene Helenowski

Irene Helenowski, the author of Order of the Dimensions, is a statistical analyst at an academic medical center in Chicago and recently received her doctorate in biostatistics. She also enjoys going to movies and concerts in her spare time.

Order of Dimensions is available at Lulu and Amazon.

More information can be found on the book’s Facebook page.

According to Wikipedia, science fiction is defined as “is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible (or at least non-supernatural) content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, parallel universes, aliens, and paranormal abilities”. The fact that some facets of science fiction are considered plausible is what led individuals to pursue the sciences and see just how much can be achieved through technological advances. We have already touched the sky and have been able to reach incredible depths of the sea, as Jules Verne predicted. We have been to the moon, found cures for diseases, once thought hopeless to overcome, and are able to communicate with people on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds via the internet and other telecommunications all because we never stopped dreaming about how much of our fantasies can actually be possible. Several physicists are now focusing on research concerning quantum teleportation. Will this work ever make inter-dimensional travel, as presented in the popular television series, Fringe, Nick Payne’s play Constellations, and my book, Order of The Dimensions, possible? Who knows, but I believe that the yearning to try is embedded into our nature.

Living in a society where sports figures and reality stars are saturating our media, while biologists, chemists, mathematicians, and physicists may unfortunately not be as popular as they once were might make this feat to be extremely challenging, but yet it is not impossible. At one time, scientists as Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, and Johannes Kepler, were considered rock stars and there is potential for the popularity of the sciences to once again become prominent. Already the concepts of multiple universes and dimensions is gaining notoriety through science fiction and as a result, people are starting to look into the real scientific works of Drs. Michio Kaku, Brian Greene, and Clifford Johnson. These notable figures could influence the re-insurgence of interest in scientific research among future generations, contributing to bringing new scientists into the community involved in developing the breakthroughs for the benefit of tomorrow’s society. Therefore, introducing the sciences through science fiction in such an enticing manner can thus pique the interest of an audience with even the strongest aversion to science could make this challenge very possible. The opportunity to reach our potential is the reason why I believe science fiction still captures a considerable audience. Promoting the sciences, even through means of science fiction, to our youth, both boys and girls, could foster in them an interest that could lead them to a career in science in the future. Fostering this interest is imminent if we wish to continue developing new scientific advances for the benefit of humanity.

By the same token, science fiction has provided us with a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of using technology for less than honorable means. These tales have unfortunately come true at times in security breaches, environmental disasters, and, most tragically, war. By discerning the morals presented in science fiction works warning about such catastrophes, one can hope that real tragedies in the future implied by such stories can be prevented. And even if such mishaps cannot be prevented with 100% certainty, having foresight into what could happen allows us to develop technologies and strategies to greatly reduce the probabilities of such occurrences. Contributing to the prevention of potential tragedies will also require the talents of many individuals in the sciences, leading to further necessary growth of the scientific community. Additionally, these future members should be educated in ethics related to research so that their work is conveyed by and used for honorable intentions. One can hope that instilling ethical responsibility in future scientific work may likewise cause them to think about the consequences of their discoveries and allow them to propose ways to prevent the misuse of new breakthroughs and discoveries.

I believe that the sciences still need to be greatly endorsed among the public at large and science fiction may be a possible avenue to expose science to a greater audience. Even if all the ideas presented in science fiction literature may not be possible today, there could be a great chance for them becoming a reality tomorrow. Conversely, stories presented in such fiction could serve as a warning of what could happen if we do not consider how our advances may be used for malevolent means. Taking all these measures into account should serve as a strong argument for the reason why science fiction should be considered as important literary genre presently and for years to come in the mainstream.

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