A tour through the borderlands where today's science turns into tomorrow's science fiction, from the physicist and Nebula- and Hugo Awardwinning novelist (Aftermath, 1998, etc.). Scientific facts, Sheffield contends, can generate ideas in the reader's imagination and function as a wellspring for potential writers, because ``new science and new applications mean an endless supply of new story ideas.'' And he demonstrates how much more enjoyable science fiction is when the author's facts are in order. Consequently, his primaryand potentially largeaudience is science-fiction readers and those who write, or might consider writing, SF. Out of the 14 well-organized chapters here, physics predictably looms large. One beefy chapter examines atoms and smaller entities, quantum theory, relativity, and low and high temperatures. Another scrutinizes such large phenomena as stars and black holes. On a still larger scale come galaxies, cosmology, and the ``eschaton,'' the final state of all things, and the subject of a recent Sheffield novel. Chemistry, however, places firm limits on the range of possible alien metabolisms: A helium-breathing life form, for instance, simply isn't possible. But how did life originate on the earth, and is there life on other planets? There are such possibilities, even within our own solar system. To explore fully, Sheffield points out, we need space flight, and for that we require propulsion systems, space elevators, and the like. Meanwhile, we can search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence and develop computers, robots, nanotechnology, and artificial life forms. In recent years, chaos theorySheffield's most technical sectionhas spawned some intriguing notions. Finally, he ponders the future of war, looks at such scientific heresies as cold fusion, free energy, and telepathy, and wonders if science itself may be coming to an end (reassuringly, no). Bang on target, in terms of appeal for both constituents and beneficiaries. As Mr. Spock would say: fascinating. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Charles Sheffield is one of the hardest "hard SF" writers, and seems to know the material inside and out. Read morePublished on March 22 2001 by "emeraldavatar"
God, I hate most of what passes for science fiction these days! As a fan of hard science fiction, I find most of the "stuff" published to be unscientific eyewash. Read morePublished on July 11 2000 by Randall Barnhart