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Scientifically Accurate Sci-Fi for High-Schoolers?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the diamond-hard-suggestions dept.

Sci-Fi 268

Raul654 asks: "A member of my immediate family is a biology teacher at an all-girls high school. For some years, she's been giving her students the option to earn extra credit by reading a science-related book. What scientifically accurate science fiction books would you recommend for high school readers?"

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You already have them ... (1)

MrCoke (445461) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344205)

Get your schoolbooks and party like it's 1899 !!!

Or, you can read "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Pournelle.

Re:You already have them ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345115)

I'm reading "Footfall" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle right now, and it seems pretty scientifically-accurate so far...

Re:You already have them ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345559)

Yeah, because douible-trunked space elephants totallu exist like for real.

That's easy... (4, Funny)

GFree (853379) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344227)

Make them Star Wars comics. Extra credit in an exam for explaining the internal mechanics of a lightsaber.

A full scholarship for anyone who builds a working lightsaber.

Science.... fiction (4, Insightful)

IceCreamGuy (904648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344233)

Doesn't the fact that it's science fiction mean that it's not going to be scientifically accurate? Maybe you should look in another category like biological thriller; The Hot Zone is widely regarded to be very accurate.

Re:Science.... fiction (5, Informative)

bluephone (200451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344287)

No, Hard-SF takes very few liberties with respect to science, then examines the ramifications of it. It's as close to real science as possible while still allowing a couple semi-scientific ideas for the fiction element. But even then the SF elements aren't magical constructs, like neutronium armor or antimatter fountains or a human-AI sprouting up on a 486. IT can be very realistic and scientifically grounded.

Re:Science.... fiction (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345413)

Hard-SF is some bullshit scientists came up with so they could label something science fiction, when in reality it is more like...a thriller or drama that involves some tiny modicum of science. Science fiction is supposed to be fantasy worlds, with FTL travel and lots of alien races. Besides, it is not like everything sci-fi has done is completely beyond the realm of possibility.

Re:Science.... fiction (0)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344643)

Maybe you should look in another category like biological thriller; The Hot Zone is widely regarded to be very accurate.


While the hot zone is reasonably accurate (its wikipedia page says it's regarded as dramatised non fiction [wikipedia.org] ), the particular category "bio thriller" is not.

I offer you Jurassic Park as a counter example of the bio thriller genre (and frankly, bio thriller is a subgenre of scifi).

Re:Science.... fiction (2, Interesting)

Cicero382 (913621) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345099)

Oh, I don't know. For me the best ones are those that assume some fictional aspect of science, but don't mess with the rest.

A good example is "Neutron Star" by Larry Niven. It assumes hyperdrive technology and a (supposedly, that's the point of the story) invulnerable spaceship hull. After that the physics is spot on - and quite educational.

I would also suggest "The Mote in God's Eye" as a good example. I would go as far as to say that this is the best of the genre - ever.

BTW. Some have referred to the sequel as being "Gripping Hand"; when I bought it in hardback in England it was titled "The Moat Around Murchenson's Eye". Just so you know...

Re:Science.... fiction (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345369)

Doesn't the fact that it's science fiction mean that it's not going to be scientifically accurate?

No. Is historical fiction historically inaccurate?

Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward (2, Interesting)

PrinceOfStorms (568367) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344235)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon's_Egg [wikipedia.org] is pretty good in terms of science, and also interesting from a social/evolutionary perspective.

Re:Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344717)

Yes, or anything else by Robert Forward. I learned something from every book I've read by him. Also good are Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. A lot of work went into those to make much of the science accurate.

Re:Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344875)

I second your recommendations of KSR and Forward's books, in particular Rocheworld [amazon.com] about the first interstellar mission with today's (or almost) technologies.

none really (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344239)

I would say none really because authors take an artistic license to science when writing books. Sure some have a really good grasp of the theory they write about but sci-if is indeed science fiction. Now, I'm not saying you have to read text books only, but maybe a book that explains a certain topic easily and correctly would be good. After all I'm sure if it's for extra credit it should be good that you learn something in the process.

Re:none really (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344719)

I disagree -- some SF was written as science first and fiction later. Robert Forward has described one of his novels [sorry, not sure which] as a textbook on neutron star physics written with a story to make things more interesting -- and it manages to be a damned good yarn.

Biology relevant Hard-SF... (2, Interesting)

bluephone (200451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344249)

Niven and Pournelle's "Mote in God's Eye" and it's sequel "The Gripping Hand" are very very good hard SF books, and the Moties are created by extrapolating what their biology would dictate their society be like, not just making talking plants or goldfish in spacesuits. Quite well done.

"Andromeda Strain". Classic. The original "Jurassic Park". Also very very good. Both quite good biology based books. Sure JP is a little loose with cloning and DNA recombination, but that's the SF part.

Off the top of my ehad, those are some great bio-related hard-SF books.

Re:Biology relevant Hard-SF... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344687)

I was just about to recommend "Mote in God's Eye" myself.

Great story, and very very detailed in its science.

Not Jurassic Park! (1)

Gregory Cox (997625) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344831)

I seem to remember there was one part in the book with this graph of the normal distribution.

"Oh no, the dinosaurs must be breeding, because their population graph is a normal distribution curve!"

Maybe some expert biologist can explain that one? It doesn't make any sense to me...

Re:Not Jurassic Park! (3, Informative)

Sterling Christensen (694675) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344903)

I'm not a biologist, but I can explain it.

Imagine you've released 3 groups of people into a room. Babies, 10 year olds, and professional basketball players. If you graph height vs how many people are that height, you'll see 3 humps. One about 2 feet, the second about 4 feet, and the third other 6 feet. But very few at 3 and 5 feet.

That's what the graph in Jurassic Park was supposed to look like, because the dinos were released in batches. Instead they saw one big hump. So to continue the analogy, where did so many 3 foot and 5 foot high people come from? That's how Ian knew they must be breeding.

Speaking of Biology (1)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344255)

The movie Outbreak was a good movie and it's based on a book too. So a book like that may be good, after all that's science. And the way they found the cure and everything is pretty accurate...

The Hot Zone or The Cobra Event (1)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345265)

I don't think it was based on a book. There's a Robin Cook novel called 'Outbreak' that I believe deals with the Ebola virus, but the plot is completely different, and it was adapted into a made for tv movie called 'Robin Cook's Outbreak' or something like that. Though in the same vein, I'd second 'The Hot Zone,' or the author's second book 'The Cobra Event,' which is a fictional depiction of a bioterrorism attack in NYC.

It finally happened (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344257)

I can't find the post, but slashdot is finally being asked to do a high schoolers homework. It's official now, slashdot has jumped the shark.

Re:It finally happened (2, Informative)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344843)

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Raul654 might just be this Raul654 [wikipedia.org] . I don't think he's a student at an all-girls high school.

Re:It finally happened (1)

bluemonq (812827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344927)

And yet, he's asking for suggestions on "scientifically accurate science fiction books would you recommend for high school readers". So we *are* doing homework for high schoolers, not *him*.

Just point out the flaws... (3, Funny)

gunny01 (1022579) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344293)

Any decent sci-fi should have at least a basing in science (the sci-): and then 'jazz it up' a bit to appeal to the non-PhD holding reader. For example, I recall using a sci-fi film as an introduction to Genetics and the issue of ethics in science. Our teacher made it clear that it was a work of fiction, but the point was to get us thinking about the topic. I think the tactic worked pretty well. Of course, there is also heaps of 'Popular Science' out there, which is as easy to read as sci-fi and more informative. Personally, I recommend Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, but if you want something more Biology, anything by Jarred Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel, The Third Chimpanzee, etc) is excellent.

SF is about people more than about science (2, Interesting)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344305)

You don't learn Science from an SF book, because you never know (if you're not already educated) what laws the author bent for the sake of the story. If you get hold of a good SF book, it is always about people and their interactions in what-if scenarios, even if the science may be bunk or too far off to be of any value today. The most an SF book can do for science and technology is to spark interest in it. That's not a bad thing at all, however, SF books should be considered an addendum to Ethics or sociology, not science. Considering that, I'd recommend "Never let me go" by Kazuo Isiguro, ISBN 0-571-22414-8

Re:SF is about people more than about science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344573)

> If you get hold of a good SF book, it is always about people and their interactions in what-if scenarios, even if the science may be bunk or too far off to be of any value today

Talk for yourself. I don't care about the social interactions - I'm interested in the scientific context. (I'm also interested in psychology & sociology etc as a science so at that level I'm interested in human interactions.)

I really liked the {Red, Blue,Green} Mars books for their high scientific content, although my dad hated them.

Re:SF is about people more than about science (1)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345003)

I'm interested in the scientific context

So we basically agree that the science is context, or background. Context (Wiki: "The context of an event, word, paradigm, change or other reality includes the circumstances and conditions which surround it") cannot stand on its own; it always relates to something or it just doesn't make sense to speak of it. Science and technology in SF stories are the backdrop to human action and interaction; stories that focus exclusively on the science/tech side are techno-fetish. That can be fun too (see the stereotypical Hollywood action blockbuster as a related example), but it gets old pretty quickly.
As the real-world S&T matures, it obsoletes the SF science. That which remains after the novelty of the S&T has been stripped decides whether or not the story was a good one.

Re:SF is about people more than about science (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345073)

Well said, great sci-fi tells a story and hints at a pausible explaination. I was watching "I robot" the other day, they don't bother explaining the science it "just is". Many people in the audience won't understand the words when the robot asks "When does a difference engine become a search for truth?", but they don't have to because the context makes it's meaning apparent.

Asimov, Dune (1, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344309)

Asimov gets bonus points for having actually written nothing but nonfiction science books for a number of years.

Fantastic Voyage (2 especially) might be cool, too. Keep in mind, the movie sucked -- Asimov was hired to do the novelization and to be a scientific adviser, and he did advise them to change the deminaturization sequence, as miniturized humans should not be able to breathe unminaturized air.

Dune. Not particularly accurate with respect to our own universe, but wow, what a thoroughly done and rigorously consistent universe he created.

But there's lots of fun scifi stuff out there. Stay away from Star Wars, even most Star Trek (technobabble). Also, if you can't find anything perfect, take something close enough and play a game of spot-the-inconsistency. Also consider videogames, movies, TV. Play with comic book physics (think "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" [rawbw.com] ), and certainly everyday scenarios.

Get the kids interested enough that they bring you ideas, so you don't have to go to Slashdot for them.

David Brin - MSc Physics, PhD Phil., Hugo, Nebula (4, Interesting)

Cordath (581672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344315)

David Brin is one of the very rare sci-fi authors out there who actually has the background to deal with hard science and the ability to write compelling characters and plots. He has several award winning books (Hugos, Nebulas, etc.) under his belt, but even his lesser works are good reads. While "Startide Rising" is a classic and an absolute no-brainer, a lesser work like "Glory Season" might hold special interest for an all-girl class. (The book is set on a isolated colony where humans tinkered with biology a little and created a female dominated society, but it's done a bit differently than most other attempts at the same sort of story.)

And Greg Egan (4, Interesting)

Malfourmed (633699) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344377)

As well as Brin, and I guess Bear, Benford and Forward (some of the better-known "hard SF" authors around), I recommend Australian writer Greg Egan. Heck he even supplies technical notes [netspace.net.au] to his books on his home page.

Though my favourite Egan works tend to be more philosophical than scientific (eg the short story "Learning To Be Me").

Re:And Greg Egan x 2 (3, Informative)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344921)

I second Egan. Quarantine was the first hard SF I had read (and have read many times since). Permutation City is also great, Diaspora, hell they are all great. He weaves the hard science into straightforward(ish), easy to understand prose (the tech notes are there for the 'ish' stuff). And as you mention, he throws philosophy into the bargain. Highly recommended, 5 out of 5 stars from me.

Re:And Greg Egan (1)

Johnno74 (252399) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345163)

I second Greg Bear... Although Greg Egan is also good.

I ate up books like Eon, forge of god, eternity, moving mars while I was at high school.

Re:And Greg Egan (2, Informative)

david.given (6740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345477)

I recommend Australian writer Greg Egan.

Don't forget Hal Clement, who to a certain extent defined the 'hard science' SF genre. Mission of Gravity, Close to Critical, Still River... he's particularly well suited for assigned reading because his books tend to be structured as puzzles: here is a strange situation, what are the consequences of this?

Mission of Gravity [wikipedia.org] is probably his most famous book; an exploration of the planet Mesklin [martiniere.com] , a superheavy Earth-like world that spins so fast that although the surface gravity at the poles is 665g, at the equator it's only 3g. It's a little dated by today's standards, such as being a bit light on characterisation and having no female characters whatsoever, but is still a good read. And the science is as accurate as he could make it.

I love David Brin (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344429)

but Glory Season made me want to slap the people in it around.

I guess it's a sign of good writing that he managed to make me care about the characters so much.

Re:I love David Brin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344623)

i do too, or i would if he'd finish Kil'n Time

Brin, Robinson (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345121)

I second Startide Rising and add his Earth to some extent; flaky science in that one but with some interesting stuff about black holes and the environment. SR and the other Uplift novels (skip Sundiver) were what made me major in Biology for a while. A short story that's arguably completely hard SF, The Aficionado (aka. Life In the Extreme) is available free on Brin's Web site; it's a look at the origins of Uplift.

See also Kim Robinson's Red Mars and to a lesser extent the sequels. These involve Mars colonization without any nonsense about alien artifacts for once.

I'm tempted to suggest Stephenson's The Diamond Age because of the ideas about future societies and the "magic" book, but the last third or so of the book is unsuitable; I found it needlessly lurid and barely comprehensible. Maybe look at Stephenson's Baroque Cycle series? It's very long, but from what I've read of the first book it's got all sorts of apparently well-researched history-of-science material.

Ah! And if you're willing to include nonfiction that's a good read, look up Devil In the White City, re: one of the world's great feats of engineering and the individuals who made it work.

Have Space Suit, Will Travel by RA Heinlein (1)

26199 (577806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344365)

I loved that book as a kid.

And it more or less has worked examples of one or two useful calculations you might want to do if you get captured by aliens. Heh.

Re:Have Space Suit, Will Travel by RA Heinlein (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344509)

...and its set about now I think. Well... we could have had the moon base by now, if we had wanted to.

Re:Have Space Suit, Will Travel by RA Heinlein (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345383)

An almost sure fire way of getting the parents more involved would be choosing some of Heinlein's last books in the Lazurus Long series. Of course the teacher might ought to keep their spacesuit handy and rocket warmed up.

Isn't science fiction more about (1)

bunbuntheminilop (935594) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344379)

the reflection of science back onto ourselves? Solaris is a good discussion on the short comings of science when it reaches problems that cannot be solved. A main theme of Dune was the how science can become the undercurrent of a society, even with a large faith based layer on the top.

Science fiction is better suited for a 'philosophy of science' course. That's just my opinion.

Re:Isn't science fiction more about (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344793)

Valid for most sci-fi maybe, but depends on the subgenre; Dragon's Egg, for instance, is nothing like Dune -- and is focused around the science, rather than the society.

Hard Sci-Fi (3, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344381)

You're after a genre called Hard Sci-Fi. Perhaps check out Stephen Baxter's stuff for starters?

Re:Hard Sci-Fi (1)

Kosi (589267) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344789)

Finally someone mentions Baxter! I'm surprised that I had to scroll down half of the page, I expected to see him mentioned much earlier and often.

Re:Hard Sci-Fi (1)

Dan Hayes (212400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344965)

Ah good, someone's saved me the bother :)

Evolution is a fascinating read, and broken down nicely into chunks that can be read quickly and almost independently.

Re:Hard Sci-Fi (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345287)

> I expected to see him mentioned much earlier and often.

That only happens if a book is popularized in some awful American film, or if the books are bad enough to become "cult classics".

Red Mars (5, Insightful)

Logic and Reason (952833) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344393)

Red Mars is the first book of a trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson about the settlement and terraforming of Mars. There's some biology there, though I can't vouch for it (not having studied any biology beyond high school); but overall it's just gripping and completely plausible hard sci-fi. There's some stuff in the other two books that might not be appropriate for high-schoolers, depending on your attitude, but I don't recall anything too objectionable in the first one at least.

Check it out. Even if the class doesn't end up using it, if you're a sci-fi fan then it will be time well spent.

Re:Red Mars (1)

the_g_cat (821331) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344495)

+1, though the writing style might be a little disorienting (the chapters are not only first-person views from different characters, but they also don't follow each other in time...).

Re:Red Mars (1)

Phydeaux314 (866996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344503)

Wonderful books, those. The first one is best if you're looking for books that pay attention to the science, as the second two tend to degenerate into politics more.

Re:Red Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344571)

Red Mars was a very satisfying, plausible book. I'd recommend Cosmos by Carl Sagan for more in-depth scientific knowledge. Contact was also really good.

Re:Red Mars (2, Insightful)

cornjones (33009) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345151)

This is exactly the set of books I was going to suggest. It is a 3 part series about terraforming mars. The first book is gaining a foot hold, second is large scale terraforming and the third is setting up a political system. These are some of the best 'hard sci fi' i have read. I was very impressed in his grasp of so many varying scientific areas of study that allowed him to 'logically' extend the field.

The parent makes some allusion to one of the groups in (i think) the third book that have a commune/free love kind of thing going on but that is by no means teh point of the book. Nor do I remember it being particularly graphic but I am not as easily offended as parents so I would recommend you read ahead. The first book is all sci fi and the best of the series.

Isaac Asimov (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344407)

Not accurate but unarguably one of the greatest Science Fiction writers of all time.

Hard SF, or Pop Sci books (3, Informative)

SKorvus (685199) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344457)

Some hard SF:

Greg Egan - Diaspora, Permutation City, Schild's Ladder, or his short story collections such as Axiomatic or Luminous. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Egan [wikipedia.org]
Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series
Here's a good source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_science_fiction [wikipedia.org]
Stephen Baxter & David Brin are also popular authors.

While Egan tends to cover a lot of speculative technology or concepts, novels generally will be more about plot & character rather than science. If this is for a science class, I'd recommend picking up a good pop-sci book. A few that come to mind:

Richard Dawkins: Climbing Mount Improbable, River Out of Eden, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Blind Watchmaker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins [wikipedia.org]
Jared Diamond: Guns Germs & Steel - great book combining history, anthropology, biology to explain how humanity diverged into such technologically disparate cultures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns%2C_Germs%2C_and_ Steel [wikipedia.org]

"Connections" from James Burke - available online! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345331)

If this is for a science class, I'd recommend picking up a good pop-sci book. A few that come to mind: [...]

In that vein, I highly recommend James Burke [wikipedia.org]

He did the amazing TV series Connections (and 'Connections 2' + 'Connections 3') as well as 'The Day the Universe Changed'. These are about the history of science and its relation to human society. It's not just informative, but extremely insightful.

You can watch Connections in streaming video or download them from here. [clickcaster.com]

You can find a few clips from TDtUC on youtube. Here's a short introductory clip. [youtube.com] Here's a longer clip from an episode. (The clip concerns philosophy of science more than history.) [youtube.com]

You can apparently get Connections 2 and Connections 3 on DVD from amazon, though the price seems a bit to me. With a little luck you may be able to get them from a nearby library. Burke also wrote some companion books for these series which may be available at your local library, or at least at amazon.com.

Greg Egan (1)

Stochastism (1040102) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344459)

You can't go past Greg Egan for sci-fi with science. More physics and info-science than otherwise. In fact, I sometimes feel I need a PhD to read his stuff.

Re:Greg Egan (1)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345289)

You can't go past Greg Egan for sci-fi with science. More physics and info-science than otherwise.

...and lots of philosophy about the nature of consciosness, plus a certain amount of fairly subtle allegory/satire about how the scientific community works - plus the occasional joke (e.g. posthuman AIs scared of a coke can - which they see as a replecating viral meme).

The opening of "Diaspora" - an in-depth description of an artificial intelligence being "born" within a virtual digital space - is superficially info science but its very symbolic of the way an embryo develops, and what self-awareness actually means. There's also a theme about scientific dogma - a fact that proves to be critical was unexplored because N-dimensional models were unfashionable (probably a referenc to string theory) - and the schism between theoretical and applied science (the faction that goes out and explores the universe is a minority - the mainstream prefers to stay at home, play with virtual universes while trying to prove Goedel by exhaustion). The latter is rather important, because one of the other themes is that, if you are truly immortal, you might start worrying about what that means when the system that you inhabit only has a finite number of states, so anything that offers a promise of inexhaustible variations will be rather attractive.

So, while I rather rate "Disapora" and Egan's other books as the best hard SF I've ever read, they might be a bit deep (but certainly not irrelevant) for high school biology students.

Even people with some scientific higher ed. need to look beyond whether his theories are correct. (He actually stresses in the end-notes that they are fictitious - before citing enough references to suggest that he is very comfortably ahead of the game!)

Plus - please, SF is entertainment - by all means include it in scientific discussions where relevant, but

please don't make it HOMEWORK (unless the alternative is Jane Austin [shudder]).

Let's see now. (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344493)

Do you want scientifically accurate or biology heavy/accurate? Sci-fi even when accuracy was a large point for the author simply does not age well, we learn so many new things and a lot of realistic sci-fi uses 'cutting edge science' (or parts of it) that it simply isn't accurate anymore (or in some cases stopped being accurate between getting sent to the publisher and getting published).

Mainly a lot of biology in sci-fi has not aged well at all as bio is a quickly expanding field. A few that deal more with the more general chemistry part of things/life (Hal Clement for example) I think have aged better as that doesn't change as much. This holds for physics as well in some cases but a lot of the problems aren't usually as massive (ie: mercury having parts that never get sunlight, etc.) or bad as with biology.

More physics based would be Tau Zero but it does fuck physics a bit and very much so at the end (might be an interesting book to ask students 'what is wrong with it'). Clarke has a few, Rendezvous with Rama for example. A World Out of Time and Integral Trees by Nevin is likewise decent but the bio in them hasn't aged well.

Most things by Hal Clement are heavy on science (biology and chemistry quite often actually) but as a result everything else in his stories/books suffers.

There was also a short story about a murder which had a black hole get dropped into Mars (now with invalid science by Hawking's radiation btw), anyone remember the name of it?

Grave situation (1)

renuk007 (638802) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344889)

Hal Clement is definitely the most faithful to "real" science that I've ever read, even considering Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke. "Mission of Gravity" was superb ... I think I read it about a hundred times, and I first read it at 16. Many, many years ago, but it started me on a quest on science that has not yet ended.

For an all girls school... (2, Insightful)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344501)

I would certainly recommend Heinlein, especially some of his later work.

I will fear no evil and stranger in a strange land are definitely worth a read

But thats more about adjusting the moral compass of todays youth to a more enlightened philosophy than it is about the science.

Most science fiction tends to ignore science - insofar as changing it goes - they may extrapolate something into the future, or even define their own entire universe - but once thats done they tend to ignore it and concentrate on the people. If you took out the futuristic settings most sci fi would simply be classed as drama, occssionally romance, or for the likes of Heinlein, porn.

Re:For an all girls school... (2, Interesting)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344569)

Incest, strange political systems, and so on? (OK, the moralistic issues raised are good, but see below)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinlein [wikipedia.org]

While I enjoy reading some of his work, it is hardly that good. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, are both better writers in my opinion. Their work is more consistently good and they do not go all over the place (see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cat_Who_Walks_Thr ough_Walls [wikipedia.org] for a story that ends up plain weird).

Some of his non-fiction is worth a read, but Clarke's is better (see the famous prediction of the satellite or the first essay in 1984, Spring: a Choice of Futures where he talks of something like the OLPC).

Talking about the genre of SF, it is one of the great things about it. Being able to have any other genre of fiction, but place it in a different universe is one of the great attractions. It also shows how good many SF authors are. Anyone can write a story where they don't have to explain the background or history of the location where the story is set. SF writers have to explain this, in text! Without disrupting the flow of the story.
Basically, I would say, unless you like weird writing that goes all over the place (drifting into fantasy for a lot of the later work), you wouldn't go with Heinlein.

Re:For an all girls school... (1)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344761)

Actually the morals I was advocating was the anarchisticand self responsibility view of politics and the rather open and polygamous view of sexuality

As I said good reading for a girls school, given them a sound basis for when they hit their 20's

Funny, I liked Heinlein's earlier works better... (2, Insightful)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344647)

That means, everything up to and including "Stranger In A Strange Land". The few later Heinlein books I tried to read invariable bored me, because the suspense was gone. Somehow things were too easy for the heroes...

Re:Funny, I liked Heinlein's earlier works better. (1)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345027)

I prefered his earlier works myself - I just found his later works to have a high smut content in general

As for his later works "The cat who walked through walls" is just a little too sureal for me!! I think I got a headache when I read it!

Re:For an all girls school... (2, Insightful)

alphamugwump (918799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344829)

As I recall, stranger in a strange land had absolutely nothing to do with science. Actually, most of the science fiction I've read has had nothing to science, and more to do with humanist philosophy, and the singularity, and all that crap. I think you'd have to read a hell of a lot of science fiction before you learned anything at all about biology, and so it would be a lot easier just to read a biology text. Of course, maybe I've been reading all the wrong stuff...

While you're at it, though, you might as well give them credit for watching science fiction too. You know, stuff like: "watch all of star trek for an extra letter grade" or "watch all of Gundam for an extra letter grade". But it shouldn't count if it takes longer than a month. Make 'em WORK for that A.

Orson Scott Card's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344505)

Ender's Game.

The Swarm (Der Schwarm) (1)

TransEurope (889206) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344511)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/0060813261 /sr=8-2/qid=ARRAY(0x66d11a30)/ref=dp_image_0/002-8 166626-0307252?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books&qid=117386 0727&qid=1173860727&sr=8-2 [amazon.com]

Nice Book, a eco-bio-sci-fi-thiller. Some characters are a lil bit stereotype, but all the katastrophes and scientific speculations are accurate. And it's pretty cheap.

The first time ever that the german version of the cover looks better than the UK/US one in my opinion.
http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/images/3596164532/ sr=8-1/qid=1173860930/ref=dp_image_0/302-6225487-6 896802?ie=UTF8&n=299956&s=books&qid=1173860930&sr= 8-1 [amazon.de]

Imagination! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344543)

I have read a *lot* of sci-fi. More than your average fan, I'd dare say (but no, I'm sure not as much as you, indignant person).

The fact of the matter is that it's fiction! SF is an art form, not a science.

So much can be grounded in solid science, but so much of a good story borders on the fantastic or the exceptional rather than solid science. Good SF depends as much on good storytelling and good imagination as facts. Usually SF is more about society with a technology rather than the technology itself. If you don't want anything that is beyond factually proven things, I think you're not going to have something that actually is an entertaining or an imagination triggering read. I think imagination (but not entertainment) is the most important thing for the budding science interest. Entertainment is very important to keep people interested.

These things have to remain in the realm of somewhat plausible to be useful scientifically. Mainly dealing with current theories or limits of thinking.

Hyperspace is necessary for the Foundation series. Is it even possible? We have very little evidence that points to Yes - though it's not been disproved by any means. Room temperature fusion or some extremely advanced materials are necessary for (some of) Asimov's robots' power sources. Not to mention positronic brains. These things aren't impossible, but we sure don't know how to do them yet. This doesn't invalidate the influence these books have had on me that moved me towards science. Also, easy enough to argue that Foundation is more of a social book than hard science.

Some of the things that influenced me that way are even more ridiculous. Edgar Rice Burroughs mars series is one that really comes to mind. I really think imagination is key over spending time in a story on largely hard facts.

I think the Mote in God's Eye is a pretty good read. I'm not really convinced that it's a good treatment of xenobiology or xenosociology - but I would say it's the best I have seen yet. I don't think one could go actually go there before we realize how alien aliens could be.

Fantastic Voyage II is pretty excellent, biologically speaking. But it's also 20 years old biologically so hopefully it's much more out of date than the textbooks.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy is fairly nicely grounded in science. The first book (Red Mars) is nice biologically, sociologically, and planetologically.

Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is a good place if you're interested in computer history or cryptography. But the Republic of the Philippines owns any Japanese war gold you find there. The Diamond Age is a nice treatment on pervasive nanotechnology, but we're still decades away from the possibility of that society.

Honestly, SF is an art, it's not a science. You (and your immediate family member) won't get 100% scientifically accurate stories, but these stories aren't scientifically invalid. Far better to excite minds about the possibilities of science. Also better that your immediate family member reads these books and offers a mutatable list of what they'd consider worth credit SF wise, than giving credit for something they've never read.

Re:Imagination! (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344715)

So much can be grounded in solid science, but so much of a good story borders on the fantastic or the exceptional rather than solid science. Good SF depends as much on good storytelling and good imagination as facts. Usually SF is more about society with a technology rather than the technology itself. If you don't want anything that is beyond factually proven things, I think you're not going to have something that actually is an entertaining or an imagination triggering read.

I think it puts you into another genre ;-)
Authors like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown write warfare/adventure stories that use today's technology or modest extrapolations. Those are typically called "techno-thrillers" and can be quite entertaining, but I would not call them Science Fiction.
BTW, there are huge differences in quality. If you want to check out the techno-thriller genre, try the earlier stuff of Tom Clancy. Up to "Debt Of Honor", after that he drifted off into political ramblings rather than telling gripping adventure stories.

Re:Imagination! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344845)

This is the same AC. Yeah, no way to verify that, apologies.

I've read very little along those lines. I did read Patriot Games and found it rather engaging. This is definitely my opinion, but I didn't find it imagination inspiring, did you? I mean outside of a "yeah this could be real or happening at this very moment".

I think I see your argument, maybe my post would be better if it had said usually SF is more about an extrapolated society with a certain technology rather than the technology itself. And by extrapolated I fully intend to imply a technology that we don't yet have access to or haven't been able to try yet, but we can surmise it exists based on current theories. Intelligent Robots, Hyperspace, Terraforming, Aliens, Nanotech, Space Exploration, Time Traveling, you know?

Imagination or lack of it (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345037)

You are right if you say the typical "techno-thriller" is not inspiring in the sense that it creates an imagination of different worlds. As I said, another genre ;-)

Re:Imagination! (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344821)

I think the Mote in God's Eye is a pretty good read. I'm not really convinced that it's a good treatment of xenobiology or xenosociology - but I would say it's the best I have seen yet.
While Vinge breaks from hard sci-fi here and there, both A Deepness In The Sky and A Fire Upon The Deep have a fair bit to be said for them along those lines. (If you haven't read them, start with the former).

Re:Imagination! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345021)

It's quality fiction, and the aliens are interesting. A Deepness in the Sky is a prequel of sorts, and should thus be read after A Fire Upon the Deep. Not that it matters much, since the only connection is one of the characters, and the same universe at two very different times and places.

LEM (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344549)

There are many to be credited for scientific accuracy, but science is something you can learn in school as well.
Stanislaw Lem doesn't necessarily indulge in precise science of the future, but outlines all kinds of social and what not problems that could arise from them. You can build a new device, or use it, but what unforseen consequences could it have? Lem teaches us to look past "technological progress" and see how each solution can open new problems.

Anything by Arthur C. Clarke (3, Informative)

Kjellander (163404) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344625)

Arthur C. Clarke books are often very true to science. One of my favourites is Rendevouz with Rama [wikipedia.org] . The first in a trilogy about the encounter of enormous spaceships all of a sudden found racing through our solar system.

Also Isaac Asimovs books are nice. Try starting with I, Robot [amazon.com] , which has a much better story than the movie they made.

Re:Anything by Arthur C. Clarke (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344929)

Yeah, Isaac Asimov wrote a lot of really good science fiction stories, along with a lot of more cerebral (thought-provoking) stories that just happen to be set in a science-fiction setting, eg "The Last Question".

And don't even get me started on that movie, all it pinched from the book(s) were the laws of robotics, which they didn't follow, the names of some of the characters and the name of the book. The story of the film is an insult to the books, it really is.

Re:Anything by Arthur C. Clarke (1)

thue (121682) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345181)

Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke.

Even includes a section on the plausibility of the technologies used in the book.

There are none! (2, Informative)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344645)

If you want a scientifically accurate book, you know where to find it. If you want a work of fiction, you also know where to find it.

Science fiction is first and foremost fiction. The point of science fiction is to speculate about the future, and that nearly always involves technology that is not invented yet, and might never be invented, such as interstellar travel, fusion energy, real artificial intelligence, lightsabres, human cloning, rampant genetic engineering, force-fields, wormholes, nanotechnology, etc. The only exception to this is if the story is about a society after the fall of civilization (i.e. post-cataclysmic, due to nuclear war, overpopulation, pollution, etc...), and it's mostly about vikings riding Harley-Davidson motorbikes raiding nearby villages for women and booze, or something like that (see also Kevin Costners Waterworld).

Even fiction that is not set in the future, tends to include speculative technologies and methods. Just look at CSI, James Bond, etc... If a book does not contain speculative science, chances are that it will not contain any science at all. It will be about other things, such as people, love, crime, war, or something like that.

If what you are after is something that is scientifically accurate and entertaining, but not necessarily fiction, I would introduce them to Richard Feynman. (I'm sure there are other good authors, e.g. Stephen Hawking has a good reputation, but he talks about stuff so far above our heads that it's hard to gain any understanding from it). (I realize none of these authors excel in biology. So maybe you should ask somebody else for suggestions there...)

In short: just forget about it. You won't find a fiction book that teaches you science, any more than you will find a science book with a good plot. The best you can hope for is a fiction book that inspires you about the possibilities of science, and a science book that is both entertaining and correct.

Bull! (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344847)

Much soft science fiction might as well be fantasy -- but you're sorely misrepresenting the genre to claim that all of it is such. The short stories (interspersed between the non-fiction essays whose concepts they illustrate) in Robert Forward's Indistinguishable from Magic comprise solid examples, but they're exceedingly far from alone.

Pessimistic ? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345019)

The point of science fiction is to speculate about the future, and that nearly always involves technology that is not invented yet,

Pick Science Fiction that involves technology that already exists, but right now isn't being used because of, um, budget constraints or other reasons (ethical, practical, whatever).

Getting humans to Mars and back would be one of the many examples. Sure, if you threw enough money at it, it could be done with todays technology.

Or surveillance societies. Ok, what goes on today is bad enough, but the technology for making things ten times worse exists already.

Or genetics. What would happen if messing around with the human genome wouldn't raise any huge ethical red flags ?

Re:Pessimistic ? (1)

joto (134244) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345147)

Pick Science Fiction that involves technology that already exists, but right now isn't being used because of, um, budget constraints or other reasons (ethical, practical, whatever).

My point is that it is still speculative. Since the technology doesn't exist yet, we do not exactly know what will happen. That's why it's called fiction. Getting humans to mars is one example. There are dozens of ways it could be done. It could be millions of unforeseen incidents. Plenty of room for interesting stories to develop, you could focus on the astronauts experiences, the political consequences, the team developing the hardware, etc.. But it's still speculation and conjecture, i.e. fiction! And if we ever go to mars, it's probably not going to happen the same way as in the story.

The most famous book about surveillance societies is 1984. In some ways, it was a clear miss. In other ways it was scarily accurate. It was still speculation, even more so at the time it was written. A similar story today, would still be speculation. We do not know how future surveillance technologies will develop. Sure, we believe we know about CCTV face-recognition, rfid chips implanted under the skin, voice recognition, voice->text translation, pattern matching, etc... but anything we take for granted today, can be wrong. In science fiction movies from the 1950s, the space pirates would calculate their coordinates using slide rules before entering them into the mainframe (and flying off in their flying car to fight emperor Ming).

And we do not know the consequences of genetic tampering we do. That's why there are people against it. You can speculate about the wonderful things you'd be able to create, the terrible diseases you can create, the ecosystems you destroy, and so on, but it's still speculation. Jurassic Park is somewhat believable, but it's still speculation. The long-term effects of such a creation, even more so.

Get my point?

Re:Pessimistic ? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345219)

My point is that it is still speculative.

But not about the technology, but about its consequences.

Getting humans to mars is one example. There are dozens of ways it could be done.

Yes. But a story that involves chemical rockets, spacesuits and a sometimes boring and long flight is more "science" than one involving warp drives and holodecks.

And we do not know the consequences of genetic tampering we do.

But the technology to do such tampering exists today. The story might be fiction, but the tools and principles used are not.

Hitch Hikers (3, Funny)

PrimordialSoup (1065284) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344681)

Hitch Hikers guide to the galaxy it will put things in perspective for them "In the beginning the universe was created, This has made a lot of people angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move"

Freefall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18344695)

The Freefall comic strip (http://freefall.purrsia.com [purrsia.com] ) is well known for its high attention to accuracy with scientific details.

It's also a great read, btw. :-)

Alastair Reynolds (1)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 7 years ago | (#18344949)

I kinda liked the "Shrouders universe", consisting of Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution gap (and also separate story Chasm city). Take a look at the writer's own site [tripod.com] . He's a former ESA astrophysicist so most of the basics are correct (granted, at Absolution gap you get to some pretty weirdish ideas about superstring theory, but...)

Non-fiction can be more inspiring (1)

valkoinen (81260) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345041)

I myself have been greatly inspired by these great fiction and non-fiction books by scientists:

Carl Sagan:
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Cosmos, Pale Blue Dot and Contact (fiction, but the book and the movie are entertaining and based on good science)

From the curious character Richard Feynman: Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

A good science fiction book that takes place in the near future is Accelerando by Charles Stross. I believe it is also available free online.

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, from 1957 (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345091)

It may be hard to get a copy but its a very good read. Nothing out of this world, well unless you count the "Black Cloud". Very good science fiction with a good dose of politics; though tied to the times the politics would fit well today.

wiki link

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Cloud [wikipedia.org]

quite a few copies are available in various used forms from Amazon

How about... (1)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345133)

Red Thunder and Red Lightning by John Varley. Since she's a bio teacher, Titan, Demon and Wizard...also Varley. Almost anything by Heinlein, bearing in mind that some of the science may be a bit dated.

An all girls high school in USA??? (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345145)

I sincerely do not understand why, in this day and age, there are still schools that separate children based on their sex.

I suspect organized religion has done its deeds here as well...I was going to suggest Star Trek, the original series, but there is a grave danger in that: the girls might fall in love with captain Kirk (which appears half naked in many episodes), so perhaps a few episodes from Deep Space 9, season 6 or 7, will do. And the girls might learn their lesson that Pa-Wraith/devil worshipers will certainly burn in great mountain of fire/hell.


Why scientifically accurate (1)

nuggz (69912) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345183)

I find the better Sci-Fi is about people and the science/technology is just a tool to create the environment to help the author tell the story.

Just be careful about recommending one of the more sex obsessed authors.

Michael Crichton and Orson Scott Card (1, Informative)

ArchAlchemist (642182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345249)

Try Michael Crichton... he exhaustively researches his books, and the science in them stretches a bit beyond what we can do now, but not to the point where it is unbelieveable. Also, this stretches from physics (Timeline) to Biology (Jurassic Park, Next). Highly recommended

Orson Scott Card - The Ender Saga... consider the fact that he wrote this ages ago... then read about everything he came up with based off of quantum entanglement and AI and the stretches he makes with technology... its a really fun read.

Wil McCarthy (1)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345261)

I'd particularly recommend Bloom, but I also like The Collapsium. As with all SF, however, this is fiction. But reading SF can certainly lead to an interest in hard science - to which end, he's written a non-fiction book called "Hacking Matter" which is pretty good.

Other non-fiction I'd recommend would be the excellent Bill Bryson "A short history of nearly evreything." - I really wish that had been available when I was in high school.

Einstein's Bridge by physicist John Cramer (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18345295)

Physicist John Cramer [wikipedia.org] has written two hard-SF books: Twistor and Einstein's Bridge. Both are good. Einstein's Bridge has the added benefit of describing Cramer's Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics [wikipedia.org] in lay-man's terms that nearly any bright high school kid should understand.

Greg Bear (1)

Stile 65 (722451) | more than 7 years ago | (#18345487)

I liked Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio and Darwin's Children for (what appeared to me to be) fairly sensible and well-researched biology. It's a refreshing treatment of human evolution when compared to X-Men and Heroes, and takes into account recent evidence that human evolution has been taking place fairly recently (that is, only tens of thousands to thousands of years ago).
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