Science Fiction — From Sturgeon to “Rick and Morty”
In my favorite episode of Rick and Morty (Episode 206, “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), Rick creates an entire universe for the sole purpose of powering his car. The same premise appears in The Twilight Zone, The Simpsons, and South Park. The origin can be traced back to a short story called “Microcosmic God,” which Theodore Sturgeon published in 1941. In it, a brilliant scientist named Kidder creates an advanced race of microscopic organisms who treat him as a god; they produce a massive power source by his request, and this power source is quickly exploited by a malevolent business leader.
Everyone adds their own twist to the story. In The Twilight Zone, an astronaut finds a town of tiny people but meets an alien astronaut who is the size of a mountain. In The Simpsons, Lisa acts as the “god” of her microscopic population and Bart acts as The Devil. This, in my opinion, is the most interesting twist. Sturgeon leads the reader to believe that Kidder is a kind and nurturing scientist; The Simpsons polarizes his nurturing and sadistic qualities into two separate people who effectively switch roles. In the ending scene, Lisa pretends to be a god and orders the microscopic population to do her bidding. I believe that this is to show the flaw in “playing god.”
As always, Rick and Morty takes the concept and twists the whole thing on its head. Rick is an atheist who poses as an alien, rather than a god, but he honestly doesn’t care that much about the ethical implications or what this population thinks of him. The fact that he uses a universe as part of a car battery makes a parody of the whole thing.
Before I took Milburn for ENL173 and ENL164, I tended to think of fiction and reality as two completely separate things; now I do not. I no longer believe that fiction and reality are two things that should be split at all times — rather, fiction and reality constantly cross together and merge…like two lines in a double-helix.
War Games had a huge influence on computer hacking. The Shockwave Rider is credited for coining the term “computer worm,” and the first scientific paper on computer worms continually made reference to the novel. In a book called Science in Action, Bruno Latour breaks down numerous scientific papers and explains how rhetorical techniques are used to make things sound more accurate. Among these are the “scientific metaphor” and “positive modalities.” As innocuous as they may sound, they can be misleading — I found a controversial, peer-reviewed article claiming that diet soda is a better weight loss tool than water.
- Metaphor: Water was frequently called the gold standard for a weight loss beverage. Having established this metaphor, the article made its own claim sound more bold
- Positive Modality: The article states that while diet drinks are preferable to non-diet drinks, there is still a question as to whether diet drinks are beneficial for weight management. By using the first claim to lead to the second, the first claim is treated as undeniable truth
I admit that I have some strong opinions about the American Beverage Association, so I’ll just leave it at that.
If you ever have the chance, and if you have any interest at all, please take Colin Milburn’s class. In addition to having high ratings and classes in both the English and SAS departments, Milburn teaches unconventional classes such as one that focuses on video games.
He’s an English teacher who also specializes in nanotechnology, he has a lot of things to say about computer science, and he’s just an all-around nice guy. If I were at Davis again, I’d look into another one of his classes. Seriously. He is the best.