A little shiver went up our Spark spines when we heard this piece of news out of Australian National University: "Tractor beam one step closer to reality". Really? You mean like those giant beams of light in Star Trek that tow ships and sometimes even people? Well, something of that scale is not going to happen any time soon. But the scientists at ANU did succeed at creating a hollow laser that moved small glass particles 1.5 metres across a lab desk without touching them.
The development got us thinking about science fiction and how many of its predictions have become reality. We got in touch with Eric Rabkin, a professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His specialty is science fiction, but Eric's definition of a prediction is pretty strict. He says a fictitious passage should lay out how a technology would work in order to qualify. According to that criteria, there is only one prediction that has manifested. But Eric says we want to believe that science fiction has foreseen many things, because we derive comfort from the idea that in a rapidly changing world, there is some order and predictability.
A shorter version of this interview will air on the one hundred and thirty-fourth episode of Spark, but you can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 18:30]
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