I just learned about a book of sci-fi shorts based on the real science underway at CERN, the experimental physics lab in Switzerland.
What an incredibly brilliant idea!
The collection, entitled Collision, features 13 stories written by sci-fi writers who were matched with CERN scientists to explore the speculative implications of their work.
Those who know about CERN probably know about its Large Hadron Collider, or “LHC,” which smashes subatomic particles together to literally unlock the underlying makeup of the universe. When it was about to start up in 2012, much of the media coverage focused on fears that it would blow up the universe instead.
Otherwise, CERN isn’t a conversation topic for most people. It’s advanced science reserved for experts.
The book could change that, at least among sci-fi fans. Stories are quirky and catchy and are followed by entries from CERN researchers who comment on the viability of ideas and technologies therein presented. The descriptions I read in a recent story in The New Scientist sound like plots for a Netflix series.
I hope they’re part of a broader campaign to popularize the lab’s science.
If not a Netflix series, why not recruit video makers to create shorts for a series on YouTube or even Instagram? Get alternate reality gamers and immersive theatre types to create participatory versions of the stories. I could pretty much guarantee that there are indie musicians ready to create stand-alone content based on the book.
Collision the show. Game. Album.
Popularizing science is always tough. Explaining it comes across as educational or, worse, remote and preachy. Very few people sign up to be taught things in their otherwise busy, distracted lives.
But they couldn’t help but learn things, or at least become more aware, if the science was presented in entertaining and accessible formats. I think that’s what the editors of Collision are helping CERN accomplish, and it’s a simply brilliant idea.
It also might make a dent in the continuum between science and science fiction. I recall that a number of the earliest NASA engineers said they’d been inspired by watching Star Trek and reading various sci-fi writers.
Imagine if NASA did the same thing with its existing science to inspire the next generation of explorers (instead of simply presenting it as facts to be learned). Going to the Moon and then to Mars could generate a wide variety of artistic interpretations.
From science to science fiction, then back to science. CERN understands the equation. No particle crashing required.