Reflections on “Orphans of the sky”
September 22, 2013Posted by on
While the book is still fresh in my mind (it’s about 1 hour, or 60 minutes, that is, 3600 seconds, behind me). You know a science fiction book is good (to you) when it constructs curious ideas and situations you haven’t ever imagined before (which are of course made possible by some kind of, well, technology; otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a SF work; or would it?). Another way you know a science fiction book was good to you is when you read it, and then (of course) go to wikipedia, see when the thing was written, and be like “What? I thought it was written in the 70s or something…”.
“Orphans of the sky” by Heinlein was good to me in both respects. If I had to summarize the insight I gained from it in a sentence, it would roughly say this. The concepts of ‘humanity’, ‘human nature’ and ‘common sense’ are highly dependent on, and extremely, short-time-scale flexible with respect to, the knowledge passed from parents to children.
And here’s a quote that is both representative of this idea and a sort of motivation for the study of general topological spaces as opposed to metric spaces (What? What did I just say?…):
Metrical time caused him as much mental confusion as astronomical distances, but no emotional upset The trouble was again the lack of the concept in the Ship. The Crew had the notion of topological time; they understood “now,” “before,” “after,” “has been,” “will be,” even such notions as long time and short time, but the notion of measured time had dropped out of the culture. The lowest of earthbound cultures has some idea of measured time, even if limited to days and seasons, but every earthly concept of measured time originates in astronomical phenomena; the Crew had been insulated from all astronomical phenomena for uncounted generations.