Amazing, Perhaps (Interesting, perhaps not)
by Richard Wallace
Things that amaze me. I am easily amused and amazed, so this is going to be another one of those instances where you might want to bang your head into a wall or take a hit of your drug of choice before you read it. Or skip it and go play online poker.
This thing (pictured) was once the best idea anyone could come up with for a two-wheeled, man-powered vehicle. It reminds me of a not famous person's famous quote that everything that could be invented already had been invented. This was before television, and long before pacemakers, microchips, and oral contraception. Chump. That kind of thinking is what is wrong with 99% of all science fiction books, tv shows, and movies. Granted, a lot of those simply use other worlds or the future as settings for traditional storytelling, so for whatever reason they don't use present day Earth; they aren't intended to predict technological advances so it doesn't matter much that they don't.
Then you have the so-called 'Hard Science Fiction', where they intend to confine themselves to the fictional physical laws they create, and then they don't if it conflicts with a plot point or they simply forget. Some things are must-give-aways; everyone in the Universe either speaks English, has a device to interpret one another instantaneously, or some sort of seventh or eighth sense that allows them to understand each other. I'm okay with that, I'm not likely to learn a new language some hack made up so that I can read his book, no matter how great anyone tells me it is. Time travel = worm holes, food = synthetic recreations with super-science nutrients, standing around upright = "artificial gravity"; a quick dismissal or quasi-scientific gobbledy-gook - they usually get over the big ones quickly or don't address them at all.
One thing I've never understood about science fiction is the numbering of planets. The supposition that other inhabitants of the Universe could be advanced to the point of travelling great distances through space, but would lack the imagination and the respect for their own homelands to name them instead of numbering them. You're telling me there is nothing special about this 50,000 mile wide planet you colonized to inspire any other name than "Glagnar 4"? What about 2 and 3? Are these planets even worth visiting, much less moving into (onto?) if they don't significantly affect the imagination to get a name of their own? I suppose it is to imply a massively crowded interstellar community, so thickly populated that all the good names are taken. Right. People say that about their Yahoo-id names too, so I guess I am beginning to understand after all.
Back to that friggin' bicycle, how could it possibly take so much thought to make the wheels similar in size, and especially, closer to the ground? Sure, you give up some speed, but that 'not falling to the ground from great heights' part had to be a motivator. Don't forget the 'being able to get on without a stepladder' part. Eventually, as we know, they trimmed that first wheel down and switched to rear-wheel chain-drive, but it certainly took long enough. Interestingly (I think), it was a pair of bicycle makers that first attained flight, so there were some progressive minds in the bike biz.
I guess my point is, I'm nothing like the patent office jerk that thought everything had already been invented. I tend to look backward and wonder what took so long for things that have been invented to get invented. I see limitless potential for creation, it just takes more imagination now than ever when there are the Chinese to compete with, and the dwindling number of items one can infuse with chipotle.