UCSD establishes a center for human imagination

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By David Brin

ENCINITAS, California — In some cool, exciting news, I can now formally announce the fruition of a project that I’ve been helping put together for some time, led by my colleague, UCSD professor Sheldon Brown.

The University of California, San Diego and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation have agreed to establish the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination (ACCCHI or A3CHI) at the University of California, San Diego. The agreement was signed in conjunction with the Clarke Foundation’s annual international Clarke Awards held on April 12 in Washington, D.C.

The Clarke Center will foster collaborations among institutions and individuals across a wide range of communities and continents in fields such as technology, education, engineering, health, science, industry, environment, entertainment and the arts.

Its mission will be to develop, catalyze and be a global resource for innovative research, education and leading edge initiatives, drawing upon the under-utilized resources of human imagination…”to explore its sources; to weigh its consequences in human development, including in the advancement of science, literature, and the arts; to examine and predict how creativity intersects with historical moments; and to discover and encourage individuals of all nations and ages, gifted with exceptional insight,” according to the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

In addition to being celebrated for his multidisciplinary legacy in science and engineering, Arthur C. Clarke is considered one of the most inspiring and engaging science fiction writers of all time for such classics as Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama and 2001: A Space Odyssey. His visionary books and papers have fueled the imagination and avocations of young and old for more than six decades.

“The Clarke Center will be a focal point for active collaboration on current and future research and an intersection of disciplines for the purpose of identifying and advancing creative and innovative solutions for the challenges of contemporary and future societies,” said UCSD Vice Chancellor Sandra Brown.

UCSD is also known as the university campus that has engendered more scientifically-oriented science fiction authors, among its graduates, than any other in the world. Former Chancellor Dynes once ventured “it must be something in the water…”

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 NASA’s NIAC explores new concepts

And while we’re on the subject of scientifically grounded imagination and innovation…

…I thought you’d all like this article about the NASA Innovative and Advance Concepts Program Spring Symposium I attended recently in Pasadena — featuring some of the stunning ideas receiving small stimulation grants from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NAIC) program. Oh there are still great ideas.  Now to restore the confidence and ambition of a scientific civilization: Is NASA Boring? Not A Chance! 

As a member of the NIAC advisory board, I help appraise these cutting edge new ideas.  Here are just a few that I can share with you.

JPL Explores Sending CubeSats to Phobos

Printing entire buildings, even in space: The Case for Contour Crafting

Electrostatic Active Space Radiation Shielding For Deep Space Missions

Radiation Shielding Materials Containing Hydrogen Boron and Nitrogen

Using Lasers as Tractor Beams 

Heat Shields Made From Dirt? Ice Powered Machines? 

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More Science Fiction

With the recent public release of the 1940 census data online, popular interest surged. But what questions will be asked on the year 2080 census forms?  Like what is your current sex? Fun article.

For even more far-out ideas? See the brand new Publisher’s Weekly preview recommendation (pick-of-the-week for the entire U.S. publishing industry) for Existence.

And… riffing off of that theme… searching of other places to live and work in the cosmos… we just watched the film Another Earth on DVD.  I knew it was 95% a tear-jerker or “chick-flick” and only 5% about the sudden appearance of a duplicate to our planet, visible from here and rapidly approaching.  The science-fictional elements were there – and somewhat contorted – in service to the inter-personal, angst-driven drama of a girl whose great prospects are dashed by a moment’s foolishness — and she must deal with guilt and redemption as the giant blue framing device gets ever closer to her world.

Having said all that, we found it intelligent, moving, tense, rewarding… and not at all offensive as sci fi.  Oh, do crank down your sf’nal dials!  Some things are preposterous… while others are cleverly explained or played out.  Worthwhile, including the cool ending.

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Brin is a scientist, acclaimed science fiction writer and son of the late poet and publisher of the Jewish Heritage newspapers Herb Brin. This column initially appeared on his personal blog, Contrary Brin, at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com

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