Larry Niven's body of work, even that written back in the late 60s and early 70s often touches topics
which are headline and scientific news today.
Concept: Flash Crowds
In one of Niven's Universes Flash Crowds occur when large number of people teleport into areas where news is being made at
the moment, i.e. riots.
A "Flash Crowd" happens like this: Riot begins, more rioters transport in after seeing riot begin on the news, more news
reporters transport in, every johnny-come-lately wanting a view of the riot transports in, every mad religious cultist wanting exposure transports
in as well as looters who are coming in to take advantage of the overwhelming crowds. By this point, no one can transport
out of the area as the transport booths are blocked by even more hawkers wanting to view the riot.
Reality: Flash Mobs
"In modern usage, flash mob describes a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place,
do something unusual for a brief period of time, and then quickly disperse.
They are usually organized with the help of the Internet or other digital
"Flash Crowds" also build up on Internet
sites where the unexpected popularity and demand on the server is
beyond its capabilities.
For example, slashdot.org featured an opportunity
for Fans to submit questions to Larry - in so doing linked back
to this website - we had a large excess bandwidth bill for the web
hosting the next month. Slashdot has been known to bury some websites
is the removal of human organs by a means of theft for resale for
profit. Larry coined the phrase in his Gil the ARM Stories.
The main character and detective of the future police force or ARM
tracks down many of the "Organleggers" and their crime
syndicates and brings them to justice. Gil Hamilton's most
astonishing special ability is his telepathic psychic arm - but
read the stories!
The original Long ARM of Gil Hamilton collection was published in
Today the practice
of selling organs for profit is becoming commonplace in the third
world and increasingly these organs are being removed without the
Brain Implants and Tasps
In the novel "Oath of Fealty" by Larry
and Jerry Pournelle, humans make use of computer circuits in their
brains to help in the recall and access of information. This
news article, reports on the very first breakthrough where brain
cells and chips are combined successfully.
In "Ringworld" Nessus controls Louis and
Speaker by using a Tasp on them, a device which stimulates the pleasure
center of the brain.
National Public Radio ran a story on transcranial magnetic stimulation, a
way to combat depression by using electromagnets on the brain to
generate current in the synapses.
NPR Tasp Story
Later in the store they describe something that reminds me of Louis Wu
and his wire addiction--an electrode attached to a nerve in brain stem
that when activated makes a person happy.
-- Allyn Gibson
OB Niven Reference - Ringworld - Autodocs feature in many
Known Space stories, they are 99% reliable and this reliability
has made the inhabitants of the future very nonchalant about injury
In this article, NASA is developing its own "Robo Doc"
for use on the ISS and Shuttles.
OB Niven Reference - A Mote in God's Eye - The Mote's traveled to
the Solar System using a Solar Sail. Other of Niven's stories
also feature this means of propulsion i.e. the Fourth Profession.
OB Niven: A World Out of Time - In AWOOT the Earth had to be moved
further away from the Sun after it turned into a red giant following
an interstellar war, millions of years into the future.
Many of Larry's most popular characters, Louis Wu,
Beowulf Shaeffer are born space tourists. Larry was very pleased
to see that commercial tourists are finally being allowed to pay
their way into space. When the news of Dennis Tito's journey
was posted to the Larry Niven list to which Larry subscribes, Larry's
first response was : "Yesss!!!"
With Mark Shuttleworth being the 2nd successful space tourist,
Space.com have now started their own collection of Space Tourist
headlines, far many more than is practical to display here, try
for further reading.
OB Niven: New
Scientist article on a flexible solar panel cloth that is, for all
intents and purposes, identical to what Larry Niven describes as "Begley
Cloth" in Destiny's Road.
OB Niven: The Integral Trees - Humans living in low gravity environments
have had their physiology changed by the gravitational conditions.
During the birthing process, infants and mothers were sent to higher
gravity regions of the trees.
Black Holes in the Center of Galaxies
OB Niven: A World Out of Time
- In AWOOT Niven wrote about a black hole in the centre of the
Milky Way. AWOOT was published '71 - way before the theory was widely
Chandra Photograph of Galactic Centre:
Asteroidal and Cometary Impacts
Niven: Lucifer's Hammer. In the story a comet approaches
the earth, right up to the last moment the authorities declare that
the chances of a strike are remote. They were wrong.
The Gas Torus of Voy in The Integral Trees. In The Integral Trees
and the Smoke Ring, a gas torus surrounds a neutron star, all that
remains of a mighty supernova. The gas torus supports a habitable
atmosphere which is home to the descendants of man.
The Missing Mass - Draco Tavern Short Story
- Evolution in Action - was a phrase
used by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven in the novel Oath of Feality
(1983). The phrase, applied to human beings means that basically someone
has done something really stupid and in hindsight, they should really
have seen it coming, the upshot of which has subsequently caused themselves
injury or death and has basically edited themselves out of the genepool.
This theme has been popularized in recent years by the Darwin
The entry in the Jargon file for
"computron" makes mention of the marked similarity between
the hypothetical "computron" and the "mana" from
the Warlock world:
Most of the above quotes
came from Matthew Dockrey and Benjamen Scott of the Larry Niven Mailing
List, in a post to the list made August 2000.
Please check the
news pages or the Update
Mailing List for further information.