On the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

The Secret Symbiosis

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Its Impact on Real Computer Science
By Bruce Bethke

There is a secret symbiotic relationship between real science and science fiction. The symbiotic part of this expression is not hard to understand: both real scientists and science fiction writers tend to have similar personalities, comparable senses of humor and remarkably congruent areas of interest. When the two herds1 mix, they generally play well together. The bifurcation between the two populations appears to stem from the fact that the members of the former group (real scientists and serious engineers) tend to score somewhat higher on their math SATs, while the members of the latter group (science fiction writers) tend to score somewhat better on the verbal.

As for why this relationship remains largely secret, that’s not hard to fathom, either. No respectable scientist, no matter how accomplished, wants to admit that his brilliant idea, no matter how clever, has its ultimate roots, no matter how remote or subliminal, in a Gyro Gearloose2 comic book that he read when he was eight years old. Likewise, aside from the late Douglas Adams, very few science fiction writers, no matter how commercially successful or critically acclaimed, are willing to admit that they went to college fully intending to become real scientists or serious engineers, but owing to their slightly enhanced verbal skills wound up spending far more time than their roommates at good off-campus parties, chatting up pretty girls, being casually charming and brilliant, pouring large quantities of toxic liquids down their throats and, in short, flunking Calculus.

Thus are destinies shaped and career paths  …

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