Saturday, September 26, 2009

Muzak on the Space Elevator

I was listening to a program the other day... not sure which one (program, that is - day, too, for that matter) and they were talking about the concept of a space elevator. For those unfamiliar with the idea, it was first conceived by Arthur C Clarke, of 2001 fame. At least I think the idea is his. Might be some other sci-fi guru's, but I'm pretty sure. And lest anyone dismiss the concept as a flight of fancy, it should be pointed out that Clarke came up with the idea of a communications satellite. Designed one, too.

The space elevator hasn't been built yet, but it's an elegant and simple concept. You stretch a thin yet high-tensile cable up to a geosynchronous position in orbit, and then use that to haul an elevator up to orbit, carrying all manner of things that can then be put up there. It would ultimately be cheaper and easier than a rocket, and probably comes with other advantages I'm not grasping at the moment. (Because I'm not bothering to look it up, per usual, and going with what I can remember at 11:30 at night.)

I've heard about the idea before, and I should mention that it's being discussed as a way to haul cargo, not people, for obvious reasons, starting with the ending destination. I suppose if someone does build it, there would be ways to make it carry people, though, again, I'm a writer, not an engineer. However, it occurred to me ask if it does carry people, would it have elevator music?

It was initially a silly question, but it raised an interesting issue nonetheless: as much as I enjoy sci-fi and technology, for all the fantastic things it does there are still the mundane aspects of life that just never go away. It's like the story of Alan Shepherd having to pee his suit because no one had thought to deal with that particular problem (in part because he was only supposed to be in it for a short while and ended up stuck on the launch pad). People have to go the bathroom in space, just like they do here.

Then there is the tech that becomes commonplace. Think about it. As much as I adore modern communications, I was among the last group of students to come of age without email. I remember using the fledgling version of it on campus. If you'd told me then about all the stuff I can do now, a mere 15 years later, I wouldn't have believed you. Not that we have everything. I want my flying Delorean, dang it. Though I fully expect that if we ever have flying cars, there will be bumper stickers on them.

It's those little touches, when they go into a work of sci-fi, that help ground it for me. I can accept the fantastical if the noodle shop guy is still getting the order wrong because of the language barrier. (Noodle shops, like yellow taxis, apparently being a cultural artifact that survives long into the future. Both Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis have told me so, and they wouldn't lie to me.) It's those little touches that, if a writer can integrate them skillfully enough, manage to work wonders with the believability of the story. Even if the rest of it is just so out there as to be ridiculous - deliberately so or otherwise.

So there is a part of me that hopes that, should the space elevator be built, and should it carry people, it will have muzak.

I just don't want to have to ride it if it does.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

It will probably play Barry Manilow hits just for you. :)