ప్రముఖ సైన్స్ కాల్పనిక రచయిత ఆర్థర్ క్లార్క్ బుధవారం కొలంబోలో కన్నుమూశారు. ఆయన అంతరిక్షం, సైన్స్, భవిష్యత్లో కమ్యూనికేషన్లు వంటి అంశాలపై పుస్తకాలు రాశారు.
కలల లోకంలోకి పయనమైన సైన్స్ భీష్ముడు
అద్భుతమైన శాస్త్ర పరిజ్ఞానంతో, కల్పనా చాతుర్యంతో ప్రపంచ ప్రజానీకాన్ని ఉర్రూతలూగించిన సైన్స్ ఫిక్షన్ రచయిత ఆర్థర్ సి. క్లార్క్ బుధవారం తెల్లవారుఝామున గుండెపోటుతో మరణించారు. ఆయన వయసు 90 ఏళ్లు. బ్రిటన్కు చెందిన క్లార్క్ శ్రీలంకలో స్థిరపడ్డారు. సమకాలీన శాస్త్రప్రపంచంలో అపర భీష్మునిగా పేరొందిన ఆర్థర్ క్లార్క్ అనేక అద్భుత ఆవిష్కరణలకు ఆలోచనలను అందించారు. కొన్ని దశాబ్దాల ముందే ఆయన ఊహించి చెప్పిన విషయాలు నేడు మన కళ్ల ముందున్నాయి. సైన్స్నే ప్రేమించి, శ్వాసించిన క్లార్క్ తన యావత్ జీవితాన్ని శాస్త్ర సంబంధ సమస్యలను చేధించటానికే అంకితం చేశారు.
నేడు మన దైనందిన జీవితంలో భాగమైన టెలివిజన్, టెలిఫోన్ తదితర కమ్యూనికేషన్లకు ఆద్యుడు ఆర్థర్ క్లార్క్. భూమికి 22 వేల మైళ్ల ఎత్తులో భూస్థిర కక్ష్యలో ఉపగ్రహాలను ఏర్పాటు చేసి కమ్యూనికేషన్లలో గొప్ప ప్రగతిని సాధించవచ్చని ఆయన ప్రపంచానికి తొలిసారిగా తెలియజేశారు. 1945లో వైర్లెస్ వరల్డ్ అనే అమెరికా పత్రికలో ఆయన రాసిన వ్యాసం శాస్త్రవేత్తలను, ఇంజినీర్లను ఆలోచింపచేసింది. ఫలితంగా తర్వాత దశాబ్దాల్లో టెలివిజన్, టెలిఫోన్ విప్లవాలు సాధ్యమైనాయి. అంతరిక్ష రంగంలోనూ క్లార్క్ చేసిన ఊహలు వాస్తవమై నిలిచాయి. చంద్రునిపై మనిషి కాలుపెట్టటం ఖాయమని 1940లలో ఆయన వెల్లడించినప్పుడు చాలామంది సాధ్యంకాని ప్రతిపాదన అంటూ కొట్టిపారేశారు. కానీ, 1969లో అమెరికా వ్యోమగామి నీల్ఆర్మ్స్ట్రాంగ్ చంద్రునిపై తొలి అడుగు వేశారు. అప్పుడు, అమెరికా ప్రభుత్వం క్లార్క్ ఇచ్చిన స్ఫూర్తే ఆ విజయానికి కీలకమని ప్రకటించింది. ఇంతటి ప్రతిభాశాలి అయిన క్లార్క్ ఏ విశ్వవిద్యాలయాల్లోనూ చదువుకోలేదంటే ఆశ్చర్యం వేస్తుంది.
క్లార్క్ 1917 డిసెంబర్ 16న ఇంగ్లండ్లో ఒక సాధారణ రైతు కుటుంబంలో జన్మించారు. పాఠశాల విద్య తర్వాత యూనివర్సిటీల్లో చేరేందుకు అవసరమైన డబ్బులు లేకపోవటంతో చదువు ఆపేశారు. రెండో ప్రపంచయుద్ధ సమయంలో బ్రిటీష్ నౌకాదళంలో చేరి సేవలందించారు. యుద్ధం అనంతరం, మళ్లీ చదువు ప్రారంభించి కింగ్స్ కాలేజీ నుంచి డిగ్రీ తీసుకున్నారు. ఆ తర్వాత సైన్స్ రచయితగా జీవితాన్ని ఆరంభించారు. శాస్త్రరంగంలో జరుగుతున్న ప్రయోగాలను ఎప్పటికప్పుడు అధ్యయనం చేస్తూ తన పరిజ్ఞానాన్ని పెంచుకుంటూ వచ్చారు. 1937 నుంచీ మొదలైన రచనలు ఆయన జీవితపర్యంతమూ కొనసాగాయి. మొత్తమ్మీద 80కిపైగా పుస్తకాలు, 500 చిన్నకథలు, వ్యాసాలు రాశారు. '2001 : ఎ స్పేస్ ఒడిస్సీ' అనే నవలతో క్లార్క్ పేరు ప్రపంచమంతటా మార్మోగింది. ఈ నవల ఆధారంగా సినిమాలు కూడా వచ్చాయి. భవిష్యత్తులో మానవులు వివిద గ్రహాలపైకి వెళ్లిరావటం సాధారణ విషయమైతుందని, లిఫ్టు ద్వారా రోదసిలోకి మనుషులు వెళ్లగలుగుతారని క్లార్క్ ఊహించారు. అంతేకాదు, గ్రహాంతరజీవులపైన కూడా ఆయనకు విపరీతమైన నమ్మకం. సైన్స్ను ప్రేమించే క్లార్క్ సహజంగానే మిథ్యాసైన్స్పై, మూఢనమ్మకాలపై ధ్వజమెత్తేవారు. ''నైతికవిలువలను మతం హైజాక్ చేయటం కన్నా మించిన విషాదం మానవజాతి చరిత్రలో లేదు.'' అని ఆయన చేసిన వ్యాఖ్య మతంపై ఆయన దృక్పథాన్ని తెలియజేస్తుంది.
స్కూబా డైవింగ్పై ఆసక్తితో 1950లలో శ్రీలంకను పలుమార్లు సందర్శించిన క్లార్క్ అక్కడే స్థిరపడ్డారు. ఆ దేశంలో చెలరేగిన అంతర్యుద్ధం ఆయనను తీవ్రంగా కలచివేసేది. గత డిసెంబర్ 16న జరుపుకున్న తన చివరి పుట్టిన రోజున కూడా ఆ విషయాన్నే ప్రస్తావిస్తూ, శ్రీలంకలో శాంతి నెలకొనాలన్నదే తన ఆకాంక్ష అని పేర్కొన్నారు. వ్యక్తిగత జీవితం విషయానికొస్తే, 1953లో మేరీలిన్ మేఫీల్డ్ అనే మహిళను క్లార్క్ వివాహం చేసుకున్నారు. అయితే, ఆరునెలల్లోపే వారు విడిపోయారు. ఆ తర్వాత ఆయన తిరిగి వివాహం చేసుకోలేదు.
The man who saw tomorrow
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, the science fiction writer who passed away in his adopted country of Sri Lanka, was a man who saw tomorrow. And the tomorrow he foresaw in the early 1940s is ours today. He was remarkably prescient, as we can understand now. He imagined geostationary communication satellites and space travel in much detail when scientists were still fiddling with rockets. And he also predicted clean power from “cold fusion” in the new millennium, which should give us hope. Curiously enough, Clarke often said he hated the term, “prediction”, and loved to use the word, “extrapolation”. In the long run, and often in the short one, the most daring prophecies seemed laughably conservative, he would say. This did not prevent him from making more of them. The vision-intoxicated Nostradamus in him sometimes overwhelmed the sceptical scientist and he even spoke about humankind discovering the secret of immortality by the end of the 21st century. But then he was not just a scientist but also a fiction writer and one among the best.
So he could very well fire slingshots from his imagination, which was probably overheated by his physical disability. Along with H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov, Clarke formed the trilogy of visionary science fiction writers who captured the imagination of the common man with their novels and stories. Clarke’s Space Odyssey novels starting from “2001” are the staple of science fiction fans. He had a quirky way of looking at humans — (“Hello, Carbon-based bipeds”) was how he titled his autobiography — and critics complained that his characters were wooden. His machines, they said, were more alive than human beings. But the sci-fi veteran loved machines and did not carp at such critics. Clarke, who had been living in Sri Lanka for more than 50 years and had been wheelchair bound for 30 of them, recently said in a touchingly humble way that he would like to be remembered as a writer, “who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.” His final novel, which he cleared for publication recently, is aptly titled (The Last Theorem). Probably the man who saw tomorrow also got a hint that it was time to bid goodbye to his favourite carbon-based bipeds.
(The Deccan Chronicle, Editorial, 20:03:2008)
PAGE 1 ANCHOR
He foresaw space, now joins the stars
The Washington Post
Posted online: Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 0013 hrs
Legendary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, who gave the world 2001: A Space Odyssey, dies at 90
Arthur C Clarke at his home in Colombo.
WASHINGTON, MARCH 19 : Arthur C. Clarke, 90, the world-famous science-fiction writer, futurist and unofficial poet laureate of the space age, died of a respiratory ailment Tuesday at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Clarke co-wrote, with director Stanley Kubrick, the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is regarded by many as one of the most important science fiction films made. A prolific writer, with more than 100 published books, he was praised for his ability to foresee the possibilities of human innovation and explain them to non-scientific readers.
The most famous example is from 1945, when he first proposed the idea of communications satellites that could be based in geostationary orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground.
Some scoffed, but the idea was proved almost a generation later with the launch of Early Bird, the first of the commercial satellites that provide global communications networks for telephone, television and high-speed digital communication. The orbit is now named Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.
“He had influenced the world in the best way possible,” writer Ray Bradbury said in Neil McAleer’s 1992 book “Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography.” “Arthur’s ideas have sent silent engines into space to speak in tongues. His fabulous communications satellite ricocheted about in his head long before it leaped over the mountains and flatlands of the Earth.”
In addition to his books, he wrote more than 1,000 short stories and essays. One of his short stories, “Dial F for Frankenstein” (1964), inspired British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web in 1989.
Clarke also popularized the idea of a space elevator as an energy-efficient alternative to rockets. Conceived by a Russian engineer in 1960 and re-invented at least four times in the next decades, Clarke’s inclusion of the idea in a 1979 novel brought it to popular attention and helped launch a new field of study. He told New Scientist magazine last year that it would be built “50 years after everyone stops laughing.”
But it was his collaboration with Kubrick in the 1968 film that made him internationally famous. The screenplay for “2001: A Space Odyssey” was based on Clarke’s 1951 short story “The Sentinel,” and Clarke simultaneously wrote the companion novel, which was released three months after the film and was believed by many to be a more detailed explanation of the ideas in the film.
Clarke’s work inspired the names of spacecraft, an asteroid and a species of dinosaur. He joined American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as a commentator on the Apollo moonshots in the late 1960s. Two television series in the 1980s spread his ideas around the world.
He was knighted in 1998, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and received the Franklin Institute gold medal, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-Kalinga Prize and other honors.
Clarke, a resident of Sri Lanka since 1956, worked with Jacques Cousteau and others to help perfect scuba equipment. He moved to the country, then known as Ceylon, to open a dive shop and explore the undersea world. Disabled by post-polio syndrome, the lingering effects of a disease that had paralyzed him for two months in 1959, Clarke said diving was as close as he could get to the weightless feeling of space.
“I’m perfectly operational underwater,” he once said.
His dive shop was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami.
Clarke’s marriage to Marilyn Mayfield ended in divorce. Survivors include a brother and sister, both of whom live in England.
According to a news release from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, Clarke reviewed the final manuscript of his latest science fiction novel, “The Last Theorem,” a few days ago. It is scheduled to be published later this year.
Although he rarely left Sri Lanka, he kept in touch with the rest of the world by using the satellite communication he predicted so long ago.
He told the Associated Press that he didn’t regret never going into space because he had arranged to have the DNA from his hair sent into orbit.
“Some day, some super civilization may encounter this relic from the vanished species and I may exist in another time,” he said.
In a 90th birthday video recorded in December, Clarke said he had only three last wishes: That someone find evidence of extraterrestrial life; that the world adopt clean energy sources; and that an end be found to the long civil war in Sri Lanka. “I’m sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I’ve had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser,” he said. “Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer — one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.”
(The Indian express, 20:03:2008)
The knight of science fiction Anthony Tucker
Sir Arthur C. Clarke was a colossus in the worlds of science fact and fiction during the second half of the 20th century.
Among the giants of the imaginative promotion of the ideas of interplanetary travel, the colonising by man of nearby planets and the urgent need for peaceful exploration of outer space, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who has died aged 90, was pre-eminent, because of his hard and accurate predictions of the detailed technologies of space flight and the use of near-Earth space for global communications. Yet, in spite of his deep seriousness, J.B. Priestley described him in the 1950s as the happiest writer he had ever known.
Tallish, bespectacled, rather big-eared and thinning on top, Clarke tended to be described by friends as a beaming and highly articulate shambles of a chap, a man to whom convention meant very little. Yet his mind was like a razor. Unlike earlier writers on space travel, his imagination and creativity sprang, not from fantasy, but from sharp scientific and technical insight, unfettered by the arbitrary limitations of the perceptions of his time. His amazing career was possible largely because he was never, in any ordinary sense, quite a part of this world. Indeed, he chose to live in Sri Lanka, partly because it helped him neutralise the influence of western culture.
As he approached 80, it seemed that he had done almost everything that was possible in a lifetime, for he had written dozens of books, plumbed the depths of the Indian Ocean, carried the imagination of mankind to the remotest parts of the galaxy, and gained honours in every corner of the globe. But he then declared that one of his many remaining ambitions was to observe the meeting of alien intelligence with intelligence on Earth, a declaration he qualified by adding with his usual smile — “if there is true intelligence on Earth.” Life-changing book
The great American astronomer Carl Sagan, no less interested in alien intelligence, replied rapidly, if informally, that the existence of Clarke was proof enough. Sagan was one of the many post-war teenagers whose lives were changed profoundly by Clarke’s non-fiction book, Interplanetary Flight. This did more than spell out the technical case for space flight as a close and exciting reality; it embraced aspects of a new philosophy — in many ways Clarke’s lifelong philosophy — that sprang from the perceived and enormous spiritual need for exploratory adventures of a new kind which, by their magnitude and imagination, might pull and hold mankind together.
Written in 1949 and quickly published on both sides of the Atlantic, it was unique. The text, uncluttered by equations, is aimed at the general reader, yet all the relevant mathematics are gathered in an appendix. The arguments are clear and accessible.
Sagan says he found it modest, beautifully written, and stirring. “Most striking for me was the discussion of gravitational potential wells and the use in the appendices of differential and integral calculus to calculate propulsion requirements, staging and interplanetary trajectories. The calculus, it dawned on me, could be used for important things, not just to intimidate high-school students. Interplanetary Flight was a turning point in my scientific development.”
The turning point in Clarke’s career came slightly later with the publication in 1952 of The Exploration of Space, a non-fiction work that nevertheless became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic. As a writer, he was made.
Clarke’s stature and impact was probably greater than that accorded by popular acclaim, for he was highly critical, sometimes effectively, of the limitations and military basis of major space programmes. He was bitterly critical of the 1980s concept of Star Wars and, well before this emerged as U.S. policy, sent a personal appeal from his Physics and Space Institute in Sri Lanka to the U.S. Congress. His video statement, A Martian Odyssey, which was read into the congressional record, argued that money spent on intercontinental ballistic missiles could, to everyone’s benefit, be channelled into an international voyage to Mars to mark the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus in search of the Americas in 1492. He did not predict an end to the cold war, but he always sought and fought for new bridges between cultures.
This underlying seriousness led him to view his creative participation in commercial, if poetic, other-worldly enterprises, such as the film in 1968 of his book 2001: A Space Odyssey as a kind of scenario writing, not to be taken as an example of his central work. In this, however, many would disagree, for 2001 (“a glorified screenplay,” according to Clarke) was in many ways so accurate and convincing that Alexei Leonov, the first spacewalking human, said he felt that it had carried him into space again.
Strangely, out of his huge corpus of non-fiction books, novels, short stories, plays, films, TV series and anthologies — the 1992 authorised biography by Neil McAleer lists 137 titles — Clarke had a special affection for his interstellar novel The Songs of Distant Earth. With its context and action entirely removed from and remote from Earth, it is the first of a new genre. Although not completed until 1985 — he had worked on it for more than 30 years — it was the novel in which he finally shook the last vestiges of earthly soil from his imagination, freeing his curiosity to probe the deepest recesses of the universe and allowing him to isolate and examine human relationships and emotions. Some might say that it was here, in the vastness and extraordinary beauty of space, that Clarke finally rediscovered his own humanity. “Global village”
This was evident by his increasing belief in the use of communications to bring mankind together in what he called the “global village.” His lifetime thoughts on this were gathered in 1992 into a collection of ideas and idealistic possible futures published under the title How the World Was One: Beyond the Global Village, a dream that satellite communications would promote understanding and worldwide peace.
By this time, however, it was clear that, as with any other technology, the effect of communication satellites depends entirely on their use. Coverage of the wars of the late 20th century showed clearly that global TV, rather than bringing mankind together in peace, can transform the horror of war into exciting and technically interesting family entertainment.
However, this reality never appeared to sour the dreams that had driven Clarke for eight decades, for he never lost his smile or his enthusiasm.
Born in Minehead, Somerset, in the west of England, during the final battles of the first world war — in which his father suffered injuries that brought him to an early death 13 years later — Clarke went to Huish’s grammar school, Taunton, and at 19 into the civil service in London. His father was a telephone engineer who, disastrously, turned to farming after the war, and his mother Nora (Willis) was formerly a telegraphist. His was a communications family.
Like many boys at that time, Clarke became fascinated by American science-fiction magazines. But as he later wrote, the turning point of his life was the discovery, shortly before his father died, of Olaf Stapleton’s book Last and First Men. Its imagination, timescale of billions of years and grand perception of the scale of the universe provided a cosmic framework large enough to set Clarke’s imagination free. He began writing science fiction.
At 17 he joined the British Inter-planetary Society, an organisation then widely regarded as crackpot, but of which he was later to be treasurer, and eventually, chairman.
In the civil service his mathematical ability took him into auditing. But in 1941 he joined the RAF where, via electronics training, he became an instructor at radio school. Finally he went to work on the development of American ground control approach radar at Davidstow Moor in north Cornwall, in the south west of England. The head of the U.S. team was Nobel-prizewinning physicist Luis W. Alvarez — the first high-level scientist with whom Clarke had worked. As he described obliquely in his book Glide Path (1963), his only non-science fiction novel, this period shaped his decision to turn to science.
In 1945 he published his famous pioneering paper on the possibility and technical potential of geosynchronous satellite orbits in global and inter-planetary communications. On leaving the RAF in 1946, he went to King’s College London, gaining a first in physics and mathematics, and then sought a postgraduate degree in astronomy. The course was so boring that he became assistant editor of Science Abstracts (1949-50) so that he would have time to think and to write. A legend
The rest is almost a legend of our time. In 1953, on a U.S. tour and with success already evident, he had a whirlwind romance with Marilyn Mayfield, a young and beautiful divorcee who described the then bearded and buccaneering Clarke as her own Errol Flynn. Eleven years later, after Clarke had chosen Sri Lanka as his working environment, the marriage was dissolved. His energy and momentum was at its height, taking him to the depths of the Indian Ocean and to the Great Barrier Reef as a scuba diver, and to every forum in the world where missiles and space flight were an issue. He spoke unwaveringly for collaboration and peace.
His last years were increasingly limited. Post-polio syndrome — he had an attack in 1962 — left him confined to his wheelchair, and much of his contact with the wider world was by telephone and videolink. He was often one of the celebrities exploited by NASA and other agencies to mark great moments in the exploration of space.
But he remained unsentimental, with a cheerful capacity for sending himself up. His confinement and age seemed not to trouble him, but in 1998 a British newspaper alleged that Sir Arthur — his knighthood had just been announced — had been involved in sexual predation upon the young. He refused to accept his honour until the authorities had investigated and cleared his name. His knighthood was awarded by the Prince of Wales on a visit to Sri Lanka in 2000.
Certainly, Clarke’s imagination was magical; from his near-Olympian heights, he could see more than ordinary men will ever see. Moreover, he possessed the power to carry anyone who wished to join him to these great heights of mystery and clarity. If the world believes the clarity to be deceptive, it is not the fault of Arthur C. Clarke.
(This obituary has been revised since Anthony Tucker’s death in 1998.) * * * * *
Three laws of prediction
Apart from his huge output of books, Clarke left us his Three Laws, touched by the kind of eternal practicality that made his science fiction so effective, while revealing his inner convictions:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist says 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. Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008
(The Hindu, 21:03:2008)