Science fiction thrives on new discoveries, even if they are presaged by maths modelling. Well, without the maths the experimental scientists, technologists and engineers would not know what to look for. And there have been quite few lately.
The first are the highways within our Solar System – yes they have found routes through the Solar System where comets and asteroids can travel between planets more quickly due to the gravitational configurations. What it means is that kind of highways exist. I say kind of because as the planets move, so will the highways. And this will be give Solar System traffic controllers a headache for the congested sections (mostly around the planets). See here.
Now whilst the work was done for gravity within the Solar System, I can see this kind of thing could equally apply to interstellar travel. Travel between stars may be decades if not centuries into the future, but now is the time to start looking at this kind of travel so we can workout when the best time slots are to head for the stars and plan accordingly.
As to what this will do for science fiction… all I’m going to say this gives the science fiction writer a cornucopia of options for stories.
The second is the discovery that anyons exist, which has important implications for quantum computers, among other things.
First a little background for those unfamiliar quantum physics. Up to now the universe could be described as a mix of bosons and fermions. Bosons are the carriers of the forces of gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces. Fermions are the fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks.
Anyons form a third group. Yes, we really are talking this fundamental a shift in our understanding of the universe. It is early days to fully understand what they can do in our universe, but they have been theoretically predicted since the 1980s.
However, what we can say is that they can be used in quantum computing. And like the quantum computers we already have using other mechanisms, they will spur certain types of calculation that are currently difficult to do by conventional logic computers that we all know and love. We already know of one type of calculation that anyon quantum computers will excel in. There are likely to be more types just waiting to be discovered.
I have already discovered in my writing that more conventional quantum computers have serious implications for our society. I should’ve written SERIOUS in capitals. They will change the way we live, no ifs or buts. And these anyon quantum computers will add another massive change to that layer of change. The way society will act will change MASSIVELY.
I have yet to see other science fiction writers taking the effects of these quantum computers on society into their stories. It is a massive gap in the science fiction canon.
Finally I come to pandemic. It has affected almost everyone. We have all seen sadness, struggle and sheer stupidity. But there is a silver lining, though it is difficult to see.
A lot of work has been done on identifying genetic factors that have led to some people suffering more from Covid-19 than others. Most of the ones I’ve seen have pointed to genes implicated in how the human immune system operates.
As we all know, gene repair already helps with certain rare diseases. Repairing ineffective genes that deal with the immune system will remove diseases like multiple sclerosis. We are not there yet. But the work done through Covid-19 analysis has shortened the time to finding a cure for these horrible debilitating diseases.
This is the third area in science fiction where again I find there is very little detailed about the consequences of gene repairs. Yes we have had designer genes written about in various stories, but not the consequences of gene therapies fighting diseases and what could go wrong with it – and believe me, there are some serious failure modes.
Three main areas of science not being written about in science fiction. What does that tell you about the state of science fiction?
(I’m leaving you to decide what the answer is to that question.)