Physicist Brian Keating is the co-director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination at UC San Diego. The center was established in partnership with the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2012 to carry on Clarke’s legacy.
“They wanted to see if they could encourage, develop, and study the capacity of the human imagination,” Keating says in episode 445 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “So they organized a competition to find an institution to host him that would have his interests aligned with Arthur C. Clarke’s interest in science fiction and scientific fact.”
Keating notes that many of sci-fi’s biggest stars have visited UC San Diego, whether as guests of the Clarke Center, as students, or as instructors at the Clarion Writers Workshop, or as university students. “David Brin is an alumnus, Greg and Jim Benford are alumni, Kim Stanley Robinson is an alumnus, Andy Weir was a student here,” Keating says. “They are some of the most prominent science fiction writers of our time.”
With live events currently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Keating recently launched a new podcast, which allows him to continue the Clarke Center’s mission of bringing together some of the world’s best thinkers. “The name of the podcast is In the impossible, which derives from Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s three lawsKeating says. “The third [law] is: ‘The only way to find the limits of the possible is to venture beyond them, into the impossible.’ ‘
Guests on the show included science fiction writers such as Annalee Newitz and David Brin, scientists such as Sean Carroll and Janna Levin, and cultural commentators such as Noam Chomsky and Ben Shapiro. Keating takes the opportunity to discuss sci-fi concepts with guests who aren’t sci-fi writers, such as asking Chomsky if we can communicate with aliens. “It was really fun for me to do, to talk to him about something that I don’t think he ever talked about,” Keating says.
Listen to Brian Keating’s full interview in Episode 445 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Brian Keating on the Fermi Paradox:
“[Paul Davies] claims we haven’t heard of aliens due to a variety of different forces that either fundamentally make their existence impossible or make our interaction and perception impossible. If they are hiding, we have identified several places in the solar system where they might want to hide. But a fancy science fiction idea is that they’re there, but they’re in the form of a microbiome that has the opposite chirality to our DNA structure, and so we can’t digest them, we can’t. not interact. with them, one cannot do experiments, the reagents do not react with them. This is perhaps one of the most whimsical concepts in Paul Davies’ book The strange silence. … It would be as if it were some form of “biological dark matter”, so to speak.
Brian Keating on his encounter with aliens:
“There is a famous parable of Richard feynman, that is, if you develop a communication strategy with aliens, and communicate across the galaxy, and describe to them, “ When human beings meet, they reach out their right hand to tighten it, ” he said. be careful if they stick out their left hand. Not because they violated social conventions, but because they are probably made of antimatter. … If they are made of anti-protons, anti-neutrons and positrons, they would wipe you out when you were left hand instead of right. They would think it’s their right hand, because when you reverse charge and parity, most physical processes – other than antimatter – also reverse their properties.
Brian Keating on James altucher:
“He said, ‘I never post or do a podcast unless there’s something that makes me hesitate to hit the publish button.’ And that recently manifested itself with a post he wrote on LinkedIn titled “NYC is dead forever. Here’s why.’ Over 20 million people shared it around the world, then Jerry Seinfeld wrote a anti-op-ed in the New York Times who has been published. He called James a LinkedIn schmuck and putz and a loser, and said, ‘New York is going to come back, New York doesn’t need you, so good riddance, have fun in Florida. “It really devastated James on one hand, but on the other hand, I told him,” Be careful what you wish for. ” You said you were afraid to post, and that’s one of the reasons you should have been afraid. ”
Brian Keating on Jim simons:
“We started collaborating on ideas to test different ramifications of Jim’s purely mathematical theories, but applied in physical situations using the lab across the cosmos. … And that’s what we do with the Simons Observatory and the Simons Array – and it’s funded both as a major funder, with the National Science Foundation. And the latter, the Simons Observatory, is under construction now at 17,000 feet in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Every week or so I update Jim on what we’re doing with the team, and we’re making great strides, but of course Covid has really challenged us, and Jim keeps reminding me of how old he is every time. that we are talking about, and that he ‘d really like to win a Nobel Prize before he dies.