Yesterday’s Science Fiction, tomorrow’s Science Fact

The digest from the latest issue of New Scientist has an interesting article from Ian Stewart (not sure if this is the same Ian Stewart who has done much to make science accessible and fun with books such as The Science of the Discworld or not) where NASA engineers discussing the easiest ways to travel through space are drawing on science fiction, arguing it is easier to travel by tube. The article draws on the old – EE Doc Smith – and the contemporary writers – the quite excellent Peter F Hamilton – to discuss creating wormhole networks not for transporter beams or starships but for a form of trains.

Peter had a wormhole-train network in his recent two-part tale Pandora’s Star and the sequel Judas Unchained (both huge tomes as Peter’s books often are and both excellent as Peter’s books usually are), marrying 19th century technology with the far future as people moved from one side of a planet or across entire star systems by going to the station and boarding a large train which would then pass through a wormhole gate and pull into a station at the destination world. No rockets, no warp drive, no deflector screens to protect from radiation and micro-meteorites. Mind you, neither the SF or the NASA engineers mention the trains running late and the staff walking out on strike, so you can tell we are still in the realms of fiction for the moment.