Jupitor and Callisto
Jupiter, with its moon, Callisto, in the foreground.

From SRP Author, Cameron Cooper:

If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

Robert A. Heinlein – The Notebook of Lazarus Long

Say what you will about Robert Heinlein, he does make you pause to think at least once in every book. His The Notebook of Lazarus Long is stuffed full of thinkers.

I’ve been thinking about hard science a lot lately – the generalized field of science, rather than a specific discipline like chemistry or physics or biology, and the really specialized areas that branch off from there. A lot of that thought is a result of reading Hail Mary by Andy Weir, which has a lot of nerdy science in it. It’s a great book, by the way, and I’ll do a review of it soon.

Science as a discipline and profession trains you into looking at the world in a very different way.

It’s like the fashion model, the engineer and the doctor looking at a box: the model says the green color of the box is too dark and doesn’t match the lid, the engineer points out the box is not squared true and therefore doesn’t have the same strength a properly constructed box would, the doctor points out that the walls of the box are full of unhealthy mold. All of them, however, would be happy to guess at what’s inside the box and all three would have different opinions because of their very subjective mindset.

A scientist looking at the same box, no matter whether he’s a physicist, chemist or biologist, would automatically think: “I need to look inside before I can give an opinion about the contents.”

Scientists work from hard evidence and proof. They eschew subjective opinion. Or at least, that is the ideal that science professions aim for. Their theories are offered to the scientific community at large, where their experiments are reconstructed by others to ensure the same results arise. All testing is done with a neutral base line sample (a “control”).

Theories and opinions are aired in peer-reviewed publications, where others in the field can weigh in with their opinion.

The science community is a collegial one, where information and people rub shoulders together. Interestingly, the Internet, where information and people also intermingle in a global soup, was invented by scientists at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, who wanted a convenient way to talk to peers across the campus and around the world, to exchange information quickly and easily.

The earliest novels I read were hard science fiction – based on physics and chemistry advances, dealing with rivets and gravity, planets and relativity. Most of the more successful writers from that classic era were trained and (often) working scientists. I think it is for that reason that I’ve never attempted to write straight science fiction myself; my lack of an advanced science degree gives me a major “not worthy” complex.

We recently began watching the Apple TV series, For All Mankind, and (while trying to avoid spoilers) women play major roles in the exploration and settlement of space, in that show, including some major firsts. Sadly, it’s an alternative history; which demonstrates how small a role in space exploration women have played to date.

But I do find it refreshing and very exciting that more and more women are entering the hard science fields and finding success. That is one of the more positive trends of the last few decades – one that I hope not just continues, but escalates.

Cameron Cooper

SRP Author

Cameron writes best-selling science fiction, including the very popular Hammer and Crucible space opera series.
Check Cam’s books here on Stories Rule Press.