Science Fiction writers have good reason to try to keep up with all of the new scientific knowledge being discovered. We don’t want to be caught with egg on our faces. Once, it might have been fairly easy to stay current. Now, the amount of new information is mind-boggling.
Sure, it’s easier than ever to check the latest facts online, but many times we don’t feel the need to do that because we’re writing about something we “know”. That’s the trap: often the things we think we know are actually only theories. And theories have a way of being proven wrong.
What brought this to mind this week was an episode of “Quirks and Quarks” on CBC radio. For many years, it’s been thought that the Clovis people—North America’s first human inhabitants—originated in Asia and came here from Siberia over a land bridge at what is now the Bering Strait. But a new book, Across Atlantic Ice - The Origin of America's Clovis Culture by Dennis J. Stanford and Bruce A. Bradley argues that the evidence of that human migration route has too many serious weaknesses. The most notable problems are that no distinctively Clovis artifacts have been found in Alaska or Siberia, and relics found along the west coast are newer than those that have been discovered in New England. Stanford and Bradley claim that Clovis flint blades and other tools bear a very close resemblance to a European people archaeologists call Solutrean (after a site near Solutre, France), so the scientists theorize that the Clovis people actually came from Europe across the Atlantic in boats (because of the ice age, the ocean level was much lower and continental shelves were exposed to west of Ireland and east of the Grand Banks, making the trip much shorter than it would be today.)
Is this important for an SF writer to know? Well, it happens that I make a brief mention of the Clovis people in the next novel I’m now outlining. It’s only a small detail, barely relevant to the plot, but the book could have been out of date before it’s even written!
On an unrelated note, my last post was confirmed this past Tuesday as the startup company Planetary Resources (with Peter Diamandis, Eric Anderson, James Cameron et al) will indeed be focused on mining asteroids. In fact they already have contracts involving interim steps in the process, which have given them a “positive cash flow” right out of the gate. I guess that’s how they became billionaires.
On another unrelated note, here’s a link just for fun to a new short video of Saturn, its moons, its storms, and its rings, pieced together from stills taken by the Cassini and Voyager missions. Enjoy the journey.