Space: the vast, infinite, black mass void filled with various stars, planetoids, asteroids, comets, quasars, gases, constellations, nebulas… It is the common backdrop for those stories that most make my heart swell and overflow with joy (not to mention plaster that goofy smile on my face).
As a young child, two of my biggest heroes were Captain James T. Kirk and Commander William T. Riker, both for pretty much the same reasons. They were respected, hard working citizens of a fantastical future and were always striving towards the goal of bettering themselves and their community. (And they were both quite accomplished and successful with the ladies, something that I more or less need help with.) So yes, I am a Trekkie (and for the record it’s “Trekkie” not “Trekker”). But don’t worry; I’m not going to go into fanboy mode, I promise.
Science is the key in Science Fiction, and if you open your eyes, you’ll see some huge scientific leaps in technology inspired directly by Sci-Fi. For example, take cell phones, which are a direct analogy to the long-range communicators of the original Star Trek series, or the P.A.D.D.’s from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which directly inspired the iPad, including the name! And science is at it again, coming to Sci-Fi with a research study from the University of Valencia in Spain, which proves that Science Fiction has a positive effect on learning!
That’s right, ladies and gents, Sci-Fi has a positive effect on learning, and I’m so psyched by this I had to say it twice! The study (for better or worse) is filled with the kind of techno-babble that you would expect from a Sci-Fi flick, but essentially the study shows a clear link between a love of Sci-Fi and both a higher interest and higher test scores in science and engineering. The researchers interviewed 173 students across a broad spectrum of socio-economic strata to discover this link’s existence, as well as, strangely enough, discover that Star Wars is the most well known science fiction universe among the next generation (my Trekkie heart hurts).
When it comes to Science Fiction inspiring an interest in science itself, I personally don’t think any old Sci-Fi would apply. The study didn’t make the distinction, but in the genre of Science Fiction, there are 2 overarching subgenres (which have a host of subgenres unto themselves). These two core subgenres of Sci-Fi are “Hard” and “Soft.” (By the way, stop giggling; I can hear you through the Internet.) Hard Sci-Fi is more scientific and grounded in established scientific theories, while Soft Sci-Fi is less about the actual science aspect. In short, if you’re looking to actually improve yourself or your kids through Sci-Fi, you may want to go “Hard” over “Soft.”
In short, if the Force has your back, or you have a legion of redshirts at your command, you are surely improving your own (or your child’s) learning capabilities. So the next time your kid is sitting down, watching someone blast thru that final frontier, don’t shut it off. Watch it with them!
Peace and may the Force be with you!