Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SF Books physical scientists ought to read

The folks on Cosmic Variance are having a Greatest Physics Paper contest - go add to it.

However, that got me thinking laterally: what are the science fiction works that physicists ought to read?

  • Timescape - Benford

  • Practise Effect - Brin (well, maybe only if you're a Techer)

  • Baroque Trilogy + Cryptonomicon - Stephenson

  • Stories of Your Life - Chiang

  • Fire Upon the Deep - Vinge (actually also several others)

  • Screwfly Solution - Tiptree

  • Road not Taken - Turtledove

  • Antibodies - Stross

and then there's the classics of course, Wells, Verne, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Smith, Huxley, Orwell.

But there's plenty more "must reads" out there. Will update as I get comments.

And not the "literary SF" - a lot of that is good stuff, but I'm after SF that makes you think about physical sciences.


Anonymous someone in davey said...

what about "flatland", by abbot^2? and all works derived from it in one way or another ("sphereland" by burger, asimov and rheinboldt, "flatterland" by stewart, "spaceland" by rucker, etc)

5:37 PM  
Anonymous jfaber said...

Cat's Cradle by Vonnegut, although I'd suggest reading anything by Vonnegut.

Are the Strugatsky brothers "literary sci-fi"? If not, you can't go wrong with Monday Begins on Saturday, although it's easiest to find as an online textfile, rather than in print.

None of the following are sci-fi, technically, but all have their place:

T-zero and Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino: Stories with physical laws as characters, which is pretty unique as best I can tell. The opening chapter of each, both of which are about the distance to the moon changing, are among the prettiest pieces of literature ever written about science.

Radiance, by Carter Scholz: I just read it for a book club, it's a train-of-thought whirlwind about the politics and personalities at a fictionalized Livermore National Lab. The snippets of physicist's conversations are scarily accurate.

And of course, Einstein's Dreams, but that's kind of an inside job as sci-fi type books go.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Sean Carroll said...

My strong recommendation would be for _Dragon's Egg_ by Robert Forward. If you've ever wondered what life on a neutron star would be like.

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