Writer Arthur C Clarke dies at 90

By | March 20, 2008

_44502012_clarke_ap203b.jpgBritish science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died in his adopted home of Sri Lanka at the age of 90. The Somerset-born author achieved his greatest fame in 1968 when his short story The Sentinel was turned into the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

His visions of space travel and computing sparked the imagination of readers and scientists alike.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse paid tribute, hailing the writer as a “great visionary”.

Since 1995, the author had been largely confined to a wheelchair by post-polio syndrome. …

“Sir Arthur has left written instructions that his funeral be strictly secular,” his secretary, Nalaka Gunawardene, was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.

She said the author had requested “absolutely no religious rites of any kind”.

A farmer’s son, Sir Arthur was educated at Huish’s Grammar School in Taunton before joining the civil service.

He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, and foresaw the concept of communication satellites.

Sir Arthur’s detailed descriptions of space shuttles, super-computers and rapid communications systems inspired millions of readers.

When asked why he never patented his idea for communication satellites, he said: “I did not get a patent because I never thought it will happen in my lifetime.”

In the 1940s, he maintained man would reach the moon by the year 2000, an idea dismissed at the time.

He was the author of more than 100 fiction and non-fiction books, and his writings are credited by many observers with giving science fiction a human and practical face. He collaborated on the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey with the film’s director Stanley Kubrick. – bbc

One thought on “Writer Arthur C Clarke dies at 90

  1. Ann

    It was sad to hear that he died. He had a great imagination and was a wonderful writer. And, much like you, Zeno, he had much interest in the unusual and strange. I put him in the same category of greats as Isaac Asimov.

    But, I was delighted to read the below. It happened on the day he died.

    Blast called furthest object visible to naked eye

    March 20, 2008
    Courtesy NASA
    and World Science staff
    A gigantic stellar explosion detected March 19 by has shattered the record for the furthest object visible with the naked eye, scientists say—halfway across the known universe.

    Sadly, the show lasted only hours. But “if someone just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time, they saw the most distant object ever seen by human eyes without optical aid” on record, said Stephen Holland of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
    Detected by the agency’s Swift satellite, the explosion was a gamma ray burst, a type of blast that usually occurs when massive stars run out of their nuclear fuel. Their cores collapse to form extremely dense objects known as black holes or neutron stars. In the process they release a great burst of high-energy gamma rays and particle jets that rip through space at nearly light speed.

    As the jets plow into surrounding interstellar clouds, they heat the gas, often generating bright afterglows. Gamma ray bursts are believed to be the most luminous explosions in the universe, and this one “was a whopper,” said Swift principal investigator Neil Gehrels of the Goddard center. “It blows away every gamma ray burst we’ve seen so far.”

    Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope picked up the burst at 2:12 a.m. Eastern U.S. time and pinpointed the coordinates in the constellation Boötes, researchers said. Telescopes in space and on the ground quickly moved to catch the afterglow. The burst is named GRB 080319B, because it was the second gamma ray burst found that day.

    Two other Swift instruments also observed afterglows. Several ground-based telescopes saw the afterglow brighten to visual magnitudes between 5 and 6, in the scale used by astronomers. The brighter an object is, the lower its magnitude number. From a dark location in the countryside, people with normal vision can see stars slightly fainter than magnitude 6.

    Thus the afterglow would have been dim, but visible to the naked eye, said Holland, a member of the Swift science team.

    Later, the Very Large Telescope in Chile and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope in Texas measured the burst’s redshift at 0.94. A redshift is a measure of the distance to an object. A redshift of 0.94 translates into a distance of 7.5 billion light years, meaning the explosion took place 7.5 billion years ago, a time when the universe was less than half its current age and Earth had yet to form. The burst was seen occurring in the distant past because its light takes so long to reach us.

    “No other known object or type of explosion could be seen by the naked eye at such an immense distance,” said Holland.

    GRB 080319B’s optical afterglow was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova, or stellar explosion, ever recorded, scientists said. That would make it the most intrinsically bright object ever observed by humans. The most distant previous object that could have been seen by the naked eye is the nearby galaxy M33, a relatively short 2.9 million light-years from Earth.

    Analysis of GRB 080319B is just getting underway, so astronomers don’t know why this burst and its afterglow were so bright. One possibility is the burst was more energetic than others, perhaps because of the mass, spin, or magnetic field of the progenitor star or its jet, scientists said. Or perhaps it concentrated its energy in a narrow jet aimed directly at Earth.

    GRB 080319B was one of four bursts that Swift detected, a Swift record for one day—as it happened, the same day acclaimed science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke died. “Coincidentally, [his death] seems to have set the universe ablaze with gamma ray bursts,” said Swift science team member Judith Racusin of Penn State University.


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