Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Why Scientists Need Novelists, and Vice Versa

There's a symbiotic relationship between the two, notes the New Scientist.

From the piece...

McKenzie’s first book, Blood Ties, is about two teenagers who discover they are clones of other people. Her interest was in the emotional consequences for the characters, rather than the process itself. She turned to discussion forums where scientists were debating the ethics of creating clones of human beings and discovered this an excellent source of material: “One guy said, ‘What’s it going to be like for kids growing up knowing that they’ve been created as a copy of another person?’” She asked herself: "Why would people do that? To replace a dead child? Your son or daughter dies, say as a teenager, and maybe you’re too old to have more children naturally. Why wouldn’t you clone that dead child and create a new child that will look very similar to the one that you lost?"

Fiction has another effect too, says Elfick: it can inspire scientists about the future. As McKenzie reminded us, no one took much notice of the mobile telephony that was all the rage in Star Trek in the 1960s, but how ahead of its time was that?

So how do fiction writers and film-makers find out about science and scientists? McKenzie made sure she did her homework for her books. When she was writing The Medusa Project series, which follows a group of teenagers who were implanted at birth with a gene for psychic abilities, she asked a scientist; “How do I get a gene into an unborn child?” And she was told, “Wrap it in a virus.” So she did.

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