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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Goodbye, Arthur C. Clarke....last of the sci-fi trio

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) and Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) made a bet on who would lived longest. Clarke won by a big margin. Together with Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), they were the greatest science fiction writers of all time. At least that was what my varsity roommate told me. From him, I began to read some of Asimov's works - fiction and non-fiction.

As I recall, Asimov has written about 500 books in his lifetime, starting at early twenties. That's an average of ten books per year! One of his books was turned into a blockbuster movie (starring Will Smith) using the same book title - 'I, Robot'. Well, apart from the 3 Law of Robots and the positronic brain, the rest of the movie has little resemblance with the book, but it was still an exciting thriller. An older movie titled 'Bicentennial Man' starring Robin Williams follows more closely with the book.

Clarke's books were also turned into movies, most famously, '2001: A Space Odyssey'. The movie theme song has been played in many places. We also see his ideas being used in other movies, such as the black monolith and chilling HAL supercomputer. I tried to grab some of his Rama books to read but never quite finished them due to distractions. Such a shame but I know I have a lot to catch up on his books. I know a few things about him, like he lived in Sri Lanka. And he shared his vision of the cluster of geostationary satellites orbiting earth, which inspired the construction of Motorola's Iridium satellite system (I think).

One of his famous quote must be "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." He left some instructions before his passing - "Absolutely no religious rites of any kind, relating to any religious faith, should be associated with my funeral". Like Asimov, Clarke has a low opinion of religion and chose the atheist view of the world. In fact, I think most science fiction writers (and scientists) adopt this stance.

You can read about him in today's headlines:

and some youtube videos:

His legacy will continue.....