Imagine Into the Future with Science Fiction

Aerial Rotating House by Albert Robida c 1883

Aerial Rotating House

Magnificent Imaginations

When you look back in time a wonderful fact emerges.  Many thinkers along the path of history have envisioned, some roughly and some quite refined, things that are happening today.  Now we can see the result on how each’s ‘imagine into the future’ is existing in some form or another.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of these ideas.  The term Science Fiction had not originated prior to or in fact much later than the emergence of these ideas.  But they are in fact within the realm of this idiom.

Archimedes Inventions used Today 

A many times great grandfather (c 287 BC – c 212 BC) of the ‘science fiction’ invention, Archimedes, pursued his ideas through mathematics.  And many modern students wonder why maths is so important.  He contributed to many mathematical ideas but two he derived are commonly used today, but not in ways he envisioned.

Archimedes screwArchimedes Screw’s original purpose was to bail out leaky ships. It has evolved for use as modern propellers including the modern concrete truck!  The screw turns one way to allow materials to be mixed.  Reverse this and the concrete flows out to where it is needed.  (I have also seen a truck roaring down a highway, spattering concrete on adjacent cars as it seemed the screw was not turned off or someone was having a bad day!)

And Archimedes’ Principal determining buoyancy forces.  This is found by the displacement of water in a tub caused by a partially floating or fully submerged object.  The Principal has proved very useful in hydraulic applications.  Just think of ship design so the ship floats.  Another successful application is the determination of the design weight required of a swimming pool or other in-ground tank so it doesn’t float!

Leonardo da Vinci Grandfather of ‘Science Fiction’ Inventions.

Da Vinci (1452 –1519) was a fascinating man with an amazingly convoluted mind.  He must have had a very convoluted mind to be so talented in so many fields.  The field noted here is the science where his ideas would have been included in Science Fiction if the term had been around then.

Perhaps it’s fortunate that da Vinci studied art first as it sure allowed him to draw out his inventions in a very detailed manner.  His drawings show numerous ideas from human flight to war machines (fortunately not having as widely spread an impact area as today’s machines).

Design for a Flying Machine L d VLeonardo da Vinci’s inventions were not based on flights of fancy but on observational studies of nature and his inherent technical ability.  His best known forecasts are that of the helicopter and aeroplane.

Over time many of his notes have been found and teams have recreated his work following these notes.  Some haven’t worked but many have including a self-propelling cart and da Vinci’s robot.

If you are interested in this man there are many sites on the net you can refer to including Wikipedia with its many links to other sites.

And if you are fortunate enough to be near any place where the Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition is being held I suggest you visit it.  It is absolutely fascinating.

From Olden Days to the Future

During the very early history of science just about any speculation and study of scientific works could be included in an ancient term meaning science fiction. As time continued the speculative side of science fiction was able to become more refined as new discoveries broadened the basis for new ideas.

Instances of ‘prophecy’ can be touched on during this period range from levitation and the moons of Mars via Jonathan Swift, bounce along to Mary Shelley (purportedly suggesting organ transplants) and land on such writers as Jules Verne and HG Wells.

As per most of these ‘prophecies’ Verne noted that any apparent forecast on his part were just that, apparent.

HG Wells had formal training in zoology therefore had a scientific basis for his writing.  Although some now consider some of his ideas as prophecy he most likely just thought of them as results of every advancing knowledge.  One of his works “The World Set Free” influenced the instigation of the nuclear age.

And along came Arthur C Clarke.  Clarke is noted for tales that have been presented as well-known films such as the Space Odyssey series.  Generally he seemed to have a feel for the progress of communications.

Robert Heinlein took the water bed design from the nineteenth century version, which was quite cool (literally) and felt like the breakers on a beach when you moved.  Heinlein went no further than put his concept on paper but boy did water beds take off with ‘modern advances’ such as heating.

The Opera by Albert Robida

Science Fiction Categories

As per my pages on fantasy, science fiction has an ever growing number of categories.  And quite a lot of them overlap with each other and the fantasy genres.  Full descriptions of both science fiction and fantasy can be read by looking them up in Wikipedia.

Table of Sci Fi Categories

What would it be like to go back in time and do things differently.  Are you prepared to take the chance that the result would be better or could be very much worse? Time travel
Humans, androids or humandroids, what’s it to be? Who’s in control, the good guys or the giant evil impersonal conglomerates?  Are you a fugitive running from the opposition?  And “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”! Cyberpunk
A Terrestrial Narrative regarding it’s just you and me baby on this little old earth. Keep the blinkers on as any idea of things happening off earth are too implausible. Mundane
Military is us.  Save us from the bugs cries the civilian to the soldier. Enhanced soldiers meeting any war need.  In their powered armour they are almost unbeatable (unless they get cooked)! Military
Moving right along from the industrial revolution.  Steam, anchored in the Victorian era, is the main way energy is produced.  Then evolution stops with the exception of ever more sophisticated types of steam usage. Steampunk
A science fiction theme becoming reality. Over time technology has over balanced nature. “The force be not with you.”  Terraformed planets and asteroids being hollowed out for refugees from an unbalance earth. Climate Scales unbalanced
The end of the world is in sight as a violent and sudden ‘storm’ hits.  What comes after? Radically altered humans and planets. The damaged planet fights the ‘new’ humanity via various means eg. radiation and extreme weather. These are the stories of the survivors and their new societies. Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic
Off world colonies and why do we need these.  Generally due to various scenarios such as overpopulation, rapidly diminishing resources and management by economics not reality.  Generally money pits requiring heaps of funds and substantial trimming down of likely talented or well-paying colonists. Space colonisation
Universal law fails and at the end the earth dies albeit slowly.  Life as we know it ends.  The mood is now fatalistic, food is scarce and no-one has any more hope.  Are we there yet? Dying Earth

What Comes After?

Generally what comes after depends on what you are reading and/or what the author wants you to.  And do you question the ending?  I know I often do.  My personal ‘imagine into the future’ often is somewhat askew to everyone else’s and that is the way I feel things should be.  After all different points of view lead towards holistic solutions.

And although I am somewhat artistic and very imaginative, I also like a flow of logic through the books I read.  Sometimes things need to make sense.

I would be extremely interested in expanding my knowledge of science fiction and how people react to it.  My knowledge of fantasy leaves science fiction for dead even though I am pretty grounded with science fiction.

Any constructive suggestions on books, to read and write about, and the content of this page and suggestions for posts would be very welcome.  So come and visit and start a comment discussion with me and any others who visit.

 Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man



  1. Hello Helen. This is an interesting read. I have always loved science fiction. I love time travel scenarios. A persons imagination should never be stifled. I think when a person reads science fiction it opens a persons mind to what could be possible. It bothers me a lot when people try to put you in a box and force me to be practical. A person has to step and think outside the box.

    • Trevor, I have generally been an outside the box person.

      In fact, being a civil engineer about 98% of my colleagues were men. Often seminars and training would be based on the male perspective.

      What was funny was being outside the box resulted in my comfort zone being quite large. One seminar had a guest speaker talking about men’s issues. All the fellows showed great discomfort in having this discussion with me around. It didn’t bother me in the slightest and the seminar arranger told me he knew I wouldn’t be because of my ‘outer’ sphere and large comfort zone.

      I think many people have good imaginations but these are often suppressed and not allowed to develop. As far as I can see that is their loss.

      Thanks my sci fi visitor.


  2. Excellent article!
    I have always been fascinated by science fiction and the way you have categorized them in a table discussing about time travel, space colonisation and dying earth is simply wonderful to read.

    Specially about time travel, I often wonder if we could ever be able to create a time machine that would allow us travel ahead of time, Phew!!! Always an exciting topic to talk about 🙂

    • I suppose if we ever find out how to fold space for rapid travel we could work on folding time for time travel. Not in my life time probably but one never knows. All I know is that I was born too soon. Space intrigues me.


  3. Great post. I was drawn in well from the beginning and I enjoyed the lessons you taught about the forecasts. Very cool.

    thank you for sharing.

    • Brent, even now people can think in ways to bring about new forecasts. I can’t imagine what life will be like next century.

      However I do believe I was born too early. Space – I would like to have been there!


  4. Great Read!
    Some people do not take the influence of science fiction seriously on our daily lives. Most of the technology we are currently using were created/inspired by science fiction stories. The inventors of some products we are using today were called crazy and have their work called something of science fiction or just not real. Science Fiction is so much more than entertainment, it has great influence on the way we live and how we see our future.

    • Dira, as the past people said, ‘if people were meant to fly we would be born with wings’. And guess what. We now have wings!
      What is science itself? It has to start somewhere and that is with people’s imaginations. In reality what is imagined is science fiction but it gives a basis on what is invented and developed.

      The more I read the more I remember what these writers have dreamt up and is now in use.

      Thanks for your comment.


  5. I love the way we discover that our inventions are actually invented ages ago in some form or matter, and re-invented now as the technology is better. I have been a fan of Arthur C. Clarke for a long time, and the future will show what more of his predictions come true.
    I will come back here and read more cool and interesting stuff.

    • Jorn, I tend to like all the early inventors. The things they invented basically started from scratch. New inventions tend to be variations or extensions of already invented stuff.

      Thanks for your comment and will see you next time you visit me.

  6. Very interesting website. I too am a lover of science fiction and fantasy. Many ideas have been born, through fiction and art. I already knew about da Vinci, but had no idea about Heinlein and water beds. My favorite fantasy of the last ten years has been “Outlander”. History and time travel in one.
    I will have to visit for more.

    • Thanks Linda. And thanks for reminding me of Outlander. I have meant to read this but with so many interesting books out there it slipped my mind. And there are heaps of past people who imagined things we use and take for granted these days. So much interesting history and so little time to read it all.

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