Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thank You, Sir Arthur

Photo Credit: Arthur C Clarke Foundation

The irony was inescapable. When I heard that Arthur C Clarke was no more on the radio, I had in my hand "Time's Eye" his 2004 novel.
There have been some brilliant science fiction writers but Arthur was one of those elite few who not only came up with ingenious ideas and plots, foretold the future through his stories, wrote really, really well but most importantly, got people interested in this unique genre of fiction.
I read "Rendezvous with Rama" when I was in my 11th class. Life was never the same. That one book got me hooked to science fiction, an interest that still lasts. That was when I discovered all the other masters - Douglas Adams, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, Ray Bradbury...
But I never forgot Arthur. His name would keep popping up in the news every few days for something that he had predicted 20 years ago would actually have been happening right then. Like his novel "The Hammer of God" about knocking off asteroids that stray too close to Earth (also the 'inspiration' behind the hit movie 'Aramageddon'). More well known is how Arthur wrote an article “Extra-Terrestrial Relays” for Wireless World in 1945. The article envisioned a communications satellite system that would relay radio and television signals throughout the world; this system finally came into operation two decades later. In his preface to the book 'Venus Prime' he refers to his story "Breaking Strain" which almost eerily predicted the near fatal experience of the Apollo 13 space shuttle in 1970. He writes "I still have
hanging up on my wall the first page of the mission summary, on which NASA Administrator Tom Paine has written: ‘‘Just as you always said it would be, Arthur.’’

One of his most famous collaborations, and probably the only time people who didn't read science fiction heard of him was the film adaptation of his 1951 story 'The Sentinel' into '2001: A Space Odyssey' with Stanley Kubrick. That film is still ranked among the list of 'top ten films ever made' by any reviewer.
He spent most of his later life in Colombo, Sri Lanka where he developed a great interest in the sea and later even campaigned for saving the mountain gorillas in Africa. On his 90th birthday, he expressed three wishes - for Extraterrestrials to contact us, for mankind to stop relying on oil and for peace in Sri Lanka. He also predicted that commercial space travel would become commonplace. Going by Arthur's track record, you can be sure thats exactly whats going to happen!

Thank you, Sir Arthur Charles Clark.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Connecting Earth

So you want to save the earth? But you just cant seem to get off Facebook and Orkut, huh? Well, in this age, there is a solution for everything. Welcome to the latest way to save the planet -
“Connect2earth is a truly global space for young people to connect, share, express their concerns and hopes about the environment online — and win some prizes in the process” .. so says James Leape, Director General of WWF International. WWF and IUCN tie up with Nokia to create this website which allows users to share pictures, videos and articles about the state of the planet.
Thats great. Whats also understandable is that having a corporate sponsor like Nokia, you cant escape the puns on the website "connect2 earth" in true sms style. The content and the material is visually appealing and the text is simple.
I am trying very hard not to be cynical, but when you are hit with these two huge ad banners on the homepage that proclaim "Save the planet. Win a phone" and "Upload now to start changing the world".. well then you start wondering.. if you really need to give a phone every month to get this generation of people interested in saving the planet... phew.. Good Luck!!

A regular guy?

I don't know how I missed this one. Recently came across the name of Martin Strel. He has been described as a 'marathon swimmer'. He's 52 and has swam .... now hold your breath... the Danube, the Mississippi, the Yangtze and last year the Amazon!! The mighty Amazon, of the piranhas and the bull sharks and 5,268 km., he swam in 66 days!!
He claims he's doing it to raise awareness of the need for conserving these magnificent sources of freshwater, most important to man. Well, he certainly did raise awareness. He's already come out with a book "The man who swam the Amazon" and apparently, a movie deal is in the offing with Hollywood. But of course!
Well here's what Martin himself had to say "I am a regular man, a regular common guy who just has higher goals than usual".
Yeah. Right!!

Martin Strel's diary when he was swimming the Amazon
Review of his book on