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четверг, 20 марта 2008 г.

Arthur C. Clarke was not only a friend of Buckminster Fuller's

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1. Pioneering thinker, science fiction writer, and longtime friend of
Buckminster Fuller, Arthur C. Clarke dies at 90 years old
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http://bfi.org/our_programs/events/pioneering_thinker_science_fiction_writer_and_longtime_friend_of_buckminster_fuller_arthur_c_clarke_dies_at_
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Arthur C. Clarke was not only a friend of Buckminster Fuller's, but a
longtime Advisory Board member, Founding Contributor and generous
supporter of BFI. His contributions to the fields of science and
science
fiction have become an indispensable part of 20th century history and
will be remembered and enjoyed for many years to come.Clarke and Bucky
shared a common fascination with the concept of a "space elevator" (the
subject of Clarke's book The Fountains of Paradise) and Clarke wrote in
his introduction to Buckminster Fuller: Anthology for a New Millennium,
"when the space elevator is built, sometime in the twenty-first
century,
it will be his greatest memorial."From the New York Times [47]:Arthur
C.
Clarke, a writer whose seamless blend of scientific expertise and
poetic
imagination helped usher in the space age, died early Wednesday in
Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956. He was 90.Rohan de
Silva, an aide, confirmed the death and said Mr. Clarke had been
experiencing breathing problems, The Associated Press reported. He had
suffered from post-polio syndrome for the last two decades.The author
of
almost 100 books, Mr. Clarke was an ardent promoter of the idea that
humanity’s destiny lay beyond the confines of Earth. It was a vision
served most vividly by “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the classic 1968
science-fiction film he created with the director Stanley Kubrick and
the novel of the same title that he wrote as part of the project.His
work was also prophetic: his detailed forecast of telecommunications
satellites in 1945 came more than a decade before the first orbital
rocket flight.Other early advocates of a space program argued that it
would pay for itself by jump-starting new technology. Mr. Clarke set
his
sights higher. Borrowing a phrase from William James, he suggested that
exploring the solar system could serve as the “moral equivalent of
war,” giving an outlet to energies that might otherwise lead to
nuclear holocaust.Mr. Clarke’s influence on public attitudes toward
space was acknowledged by American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts,
by
scientists like the astronomer Carl Sagan and by movie and television
producers. Gene Roddenberry credited Mr. Clarke’s writings with
giving
him courage to pursue his “Star Trek” project in the face of
indifference, even ridicule, from television executives.In his later
years, after settling in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Mr. Clarke continued
to
bask in worldwide acclaim as both a scientific sage and the pre-eminent
science fiction writer of the 20th century. In 1998, he was knighted by
Queen Elizabeth II.Mr. Clarke played down his success in foretelling a
globe-spanning network of communications satellites. “No one can
predict the future,” he always maintained. But as a science fiction
writer he couldn’t resist drawing up timelines for what he called
“possible futures.” Far from displaying uncanny prescience, these
conjectures mainly demonstrated his lifelong, and often disappointed,
optimism about the peaceful uses of technology — from his calculation
in 1945 that atomic-fueled rockets could be no more than 20 years away
to his conviction in 1999 that “clean, safe power” from “cold
fusion” would be commercially available in the first years of the new
millennium.Popularizer of ScienceMr. Clarke was well aware of the
importance of his role as science spokesman to the general population:
“Most technological achievements were preceded by people writing and
imagining them,” he noted. “I’m sure we would not have had men on
the Moon,” he added, if it had not been for H. G. Wells and Jules
Verne. “I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts
who became astronauts through reading my books.”Arthur Charles Clarke
was born on Dec. 16, 1917, in the seaside town of Minehead, Somerset,
England. His father was a farmer; his mother a post office telegrapher.
The eldest of four children, he was educated as a scholarship student
at
a secondary school in the nearby town of Taunton. He remembered a
number
of incidents in early childhood that awakened his scientific
imagination: exploratory rambles along the Somerset shoreline, with its
“wonderland of rock pools”; a card from a pack of cigarettes that
his father showed him, with a picture of a dinosaur; the gift of a
Meccano set, a British construction toy similar to American Erector
Sets.He also spent time, he said, “mapping the moon” through a
telescope he constructed himself out of “a cardboard tube and a
couple
of lenses.” But the formative event of his childhood was his
discovery, at age 13 - the year his father died - of a copy of
Astounding Stories of Super-Science, then the leading American science
fiction magazine. He found its mix of boyish adventure and far-out
(sometimes bogus) science intoxicating.While still in school, he joined
the newly formed British Interplanetary Society, a small band of sci-fi
enthusiasts who held the controversial view that space travel was not
only possible but could be achieved in the not-so-distant future. In
1937, a year after he moved to London to take a civil service job, he
began writing his first science fiction novel, a story of the far, far
future that was later published as “Against the Fall of Night”
(1953).Mr. Clarke spent World War II as an officer in the Royal Air
Force. In 1943 he was assigned to work with a team of American
scientist-engineers who had developed the first radar-controlled system
for landing airplanes in bad weather. That experience led to Mr.
Clarke’s only non-science fiction novel, “Glide Path” (1963).
More
important, it led in 1945 to a technical paper, published in the
British
journal Wireless World, establishing the feasibility of artificial
satellites as relay stations for Earth-based communications.The meat of
the paper was a series of diagrams and equations showing that “space
stations” parked in a circular orbit roughly 22,240 miles above the
equator would exactly match the Earth’s rotation period of 24 hours.
In such an orbit, a satellite would remain above the same spot on the
ground, providing a “stationary” target for transmitted signals,
which could then be retransmitted to wide swaths of territory below.
This so-called geostationary orbit has been officially designated the
Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.Decades later, Mr.
Clarke called his Wireless World paper “the most important thing I
ever wrote.” In a wry piece entitled, “A Short Pre-History of
Comsats, Or: How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time,” he
claimed that a lawyer had dissuaded him from applying for a patent. The
lawyer, he said, thought the notion of relaying signals from space was
too far-fetched to be taken seriously.But Mr. Clarke also acknowledged
that nothing in his paper - from the notion of artificial satellites to
the mathematics of the geostationary orbit - was new. His chief
contribution was to clarify and publicize an idea whose time had almost
come: it was a feat of consciousness-raising of the kind he would
continue to excel at throughout his career.A Fiction Career Is BornThe
year 1945 also saw the start of Mr. Clarke’s career as a fiction
writer. He sold a short story called “Rescue Party” to the same
magazine - now re-titled Astounding Science Fiction - that had captured
his imagination 15 years earlier.For the next two years Mr. Clarke
attended King’s College, London, on the British equivalent of a G.I.
Bill scholarship, graduating in 1948 with first-class honors in physics
and mathematics. But he continued to write and sell stories, and after
a
stint as assistant editor at the scientific journal Physics Abstracts,
he decided he could support himself as a free-lance writer. Success
came
quickly. His primer on space flight, “The Exploration of Space,”
became an American Book-of-the-Month Club selection.Over the next two
decades he wrote a series of nonfiction bestsellers as well as his
best-known novels, including “Childhood’s End” (1953) and
“2001:
A Space Odyssey” (1968). For a scientifically trained writer whose
optimism about technology seemed boundless, Mr. Clarke delighted in
confronting his characters with obstacles they could not overcome
without help from forces beyond their comprehension.In “Childhood’s
End,” a race of aliens who happen to look like devils imposes peace
on
an Earth torn by Cold War tensions. But the aliens’ real mission is
to
prepare humanity for the next stage of evolution. In an ending that is
both heartbreakingly poignant and literally earth-shattering, Mr.
Clarke
suggests that mankind can escape its suicidal tendencies only by
ceasing
to be human.“There was nothing left of Earth,” he wrote. “It had
nourished them, through the fierce moments of their inconceivable
metamorphosis, as the food stored in a grain of wheat feeds the infant
plant while it climbs towards the Sun.”The Cold War also forms the
backdrop for “2001.” Its genesis was a short story called “The
Sentinel,” first published in a science fiction magazine in 1951. It
tells of an alien artifact found on the Moon, a little crystalline
pyramid that explorers from Earth destroy while trying to open. One
explorer realizes that the artifact was a kind of fail-safe beacon; in
silencing it, human beings have signaled their existence to its far-off
creators.Enter Stanley KubrickIn the spring of 1964, Stanley Kubrick,
fresh from his triumph with “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to
Stop
Worrying and Love the Bomb,” met Mr. Clarke in New York, and the two
agreed to make the “proverbial really good science fiction movie”
based on “The Sentinel.” This led to a four-year collaboration; Mr.
Clarke wrote the novel and Mr. Kubrick produced and directed the film;
they are jointly credited with the screenplay.Many reviewers were
puzzled by the film, especially the final scene in which an astronaut
who has been transformed by aliens returns to orbit the Earth as a
“Star-Child.” In the book he demonstrates his new-found powers by
detonating from space the entire arsenal of Soviet and United States
nuclear weapons. Like much of the plot, this denouement is not clear in
the film, from which Mr. Kubrick cut most of the expository material.As
a fiction writer, Mr. Clarke was often criticized for failing to create
fully realized characters. HAL, the mutinous computer in “2001,” is
probably his most “human” creation: a self-satisfied know-it-all
with a touching but misguided faith in his own infallibility.If Mr.
Clarke’s heroes are less than memorable, it’s also true that there
are no out-and-out villains in his work; his characters are generally
too busy struggling to make sense of an implacable universe to engage
in
petty schemes of dominance or revenge.Mr. Clarke’s own relationship
with machines was somewhat ambivalent. Although he held a driver’s
license as a young man, he never drove a car. Yet he stayed in touch
with the rest of the world from his home in Sri Lanka through an
ever-expanding collection of up-to-date computers and communications
accessories. And until his health declined, he was an expert scuba
diver
in the waters around Sri Lanka.He first became interested in diving in
the early 1950s, when he realized that he could find underwater, he
said, something very close to the weightlessness of outer space. He
settled permanently in Colombo, the capital of what was then Ceylon, in
1956. With a partner, he established a guided diving service for
tourists and wrote vividly about his diving experiences in a number of
books, beginning with “The Coast of Coral” (1956).Of his scores of
books, some like “Childhood’s End,” have been in print
continuously. His works have been translated into some 40 languages,
and
worldwide sales have been estimated at more than $25 million.In 1962 he
suffered a severe attack of polio. His apparently complete recovery was
marked by a return to top form at his favorite sport, table tennis. But
in 1984 he developed post-polio syndrome, a progressive condition
characterized by muscle weakness and extreme fatigue. He spent the last
years of his life in a wheelchair.Clarke’s Three LawsAmong his
legacies are Clarke’s Three Laws, provocative observations on
science,
science fiction and society that were published in his “Profiles of
the Future” (1962):

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is
possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something
is
impossible, he is very probably wrong.”
“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture
a little way past them into the impossible.”
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
magic.”

Along with Verne and Wells, Mr. Clarke said his greatest influences as
a writer were Lord Dunsany, a British fantasist noted for his lyrical,
if sometimes overblown, prose; Olaf Stapledon, a British philosopher
who
wrote vast speculative narratives that projected human evolution to the
farthest reaches of space and time; and Herman Melville’s
“Moby-Dick.”While sharing his passions for space and the sea with a
worldwide readership, Mr. Clarke kept his emotional life private. He
was
briefly married in 1953 to an American diving enthusiast named Marilyn
Mayfield; they separated after a few months and were divorced in 1964,
having had no children.One of his closest relationships was with Leslie
Ekanayake, a fellow diver in Sri Lanka, who died in a motorcycle
accident in 1977. Mr. Clarke shared his home in Colombo with his
friend’s brother, Hector, his partner in the diving business;
Hector’s wife, Valerie; and their three daughters.Mr. Clarke reveled
in his fame. One whole room in his house - which he referred to as the
Ego Chamber - was filled with photos and other memorabilia of his
career, including pictures of him with Yuri Gagarin, the first man in
space, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.Mr.
Clarke’s reputation as a prophet of the space age rests on more than
a
few accurate predictions. His visions helped bring about the future he
longed to see. His contributions to the space program were lauded by
Charles Kohlhase, who planned NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and
who
said of Mr. Clarke, “When you dream what is possible, and add a
knowledge of physics, you make it happen.”At the time of his death he
was working on another novel, “The Last Theorem,” Agence
France-Presse reported. “ The Last Theorem’ has taken a lot longer
than I expected,” the agency quoted him as saying. “That could well
be my last novel, but then I’ve said that before.”

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