Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Remembering the greatest nerd of all time

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, hero and icon to nerds and geeks alike, passed away today at the age of 90. I have been a fan since I first saw 2001 at the age of 7 or 8, and an admirer since I read Childhood's End and Rendezvous with Rama at the age of 13.

In addition to being a screenwriter and prolific author, he also first thought up quite a few things we find commonplace nowadays:

Clarke also was credited with the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality. Geosynchronous orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground, are called Clarke orbits.

His non-fiction volumes on space travel and his explorations of the Great Barrier Reef and Indian Ocean earned him respect in the world of science, and in 1976 he became an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

I'm also a big fan of Clarke's Three Laws:
  1. 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.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I'm not sure there can be as fertile an imagination as his anytime soon. I hope the first people to venture beyond the moon do so at least partly in his honor. I'll bid him farewell with a little Also Sprach Zarathustra:

See you out there in the universe, Sir Clarke.

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