The ties between scientific speculation, technological imagination and sci-fi are close, and complex, even if genuinely new ideas most often come up in the tech arena first. Arthur C Clarke is often cited as a techno-visionary for his ideas about geostationary communication satellites, but these were first outlined in 1945 in a technical essay, not in fiction. And yet the causal chain can run in the other direction: Clarke’s road map to the planets fundamentally shaped NASA’s space policy in the 1960s and, earlier, the pioneers of rocketry drew heavily on the fictions of Jules Verne and H G Wells.

March 19, 2015