Arthur C. Clarke (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008)

Some fun facts about Sir Arthur Charles Clarke…. He is probably most well known as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey. (He is credited on the screenplay with Kubrick as well as on the novel. Both were written concurrently.) This was based loosely on a short story by Clarke, entitled “The Sentinel.” And a few other of his short stories.

His most notable contribution to the real world is his 1945 description of geostationary communications satellites which he described in the September 1945 edition of Wireless World. (A British publication.) At the time the article was published (“Peacetime Uses for V2”) it was considered to be “not feasible” based on cost. It was in fact less than 20 years before it became a reality when the first geostationary communication satellite, Intelsat I, was launched on April 6th, 1965. The orbit – at 35,786 kilometers above the equator – is known as the Clarke Orbit.

The 2nd interesting idea for the real world that he floated is the space elevator. Pretty much what it sounds like. If we ever develop the technology to build the cables, it will drastically reduce the cost of putting something in orbit.

As an author and observer of human nature, he developed three laws, which he is famous for.

  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.

The third law has been done to death in science fiction.

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2 thoughts on “Arthur C. Clarke (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008)

  1. The SyFy channel is apparently trying to reintroduce SciFi. (They changed the name years back when they took all the SciFi out of SyFy!)

    Anyway, they recently did a 3-part treatment of Clarke’s “Childhoods End.” It is quite good, though they couldn’t go into all of the explanations that you get in a novel, they were remarkably faithful to the text. Not an easy thing I’m sure given that novel was written in 1953.

    (What was the status of the Space Program in ’53? Color television hadn’t been invented. TV, though invented wasn’t commonplace. Not much air conditioning. etc.)

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