How centuries of sci-fi sparked spaceflight | Alex MacDonald

  • Published on Apr 18, 2019
  • Long before we had rocket scientists, the idea of spaceflight traveled from mind to mind across generations. With great visuals, TED Fellow and NASA economist Alexander MacDonald shows how 300 years of sci-fi tales -- from Edgar Allan Poe to Jules Verne to H.G. Wells and beyond -- sparked a culture of space exploration. A fascinating look at how stories become reality, featuring a goose machine sent to the Moon.
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  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 160

  • Muuip
    Muuip 2 months ago

    So which stories are we writing now? ... Or which one shall we write?

  • Muuip
    Muuip 2 months ago

    We can visualize everyone's new ideals with computer animated films to help communicate, create and build synergy between all ideals.

  • martin02031958
    martin02031958 4 months ago

    Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was inspired by a Russian Orthodox Christian philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov and a Russian philosophical and cultural movement called Cosmism. It is a long story that I can’t present in a short comment. To simplify it: Cosmism combined Orthodox religion and both Western and Eastern philosophy and speculated about future existence of cosmos and humankind. Foydorov supposed that science can extend life of people or even make them immortal, what implicated that surface of the Earth would be insufficient for them all to live here, so they have to move on other planets. This inspired Tsiolkovskij and less known Nikolai Kibalchich to study and examine and develop the rocket science add the astronautic theory. Kibalchich was a main explosives expert of Narodnaya Volya a Russian revolutionary organization conducting targeted killing of government officials. After they succeeded to assassinate Tsar Alexander II, Kibalchich was hanged being 27, so he could not continue work in sciences... Some Cosmism adherents were more religious than scientific and they supposed it would be possible to travel through the Cosmos by force of prayers. Years ago some people in Moscow told me that they considered as suitable device for travelling by the force of prayer the church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye, because of its rocket-like shape

  • Great-heart Charity
    Great-heart Charity 4 months ago

    AstroNots never went to space or the moon. Here's why!
    #flatearth NASA!
    EV' DAY
    ,.Nope, you need air to transmit the sound. (& Heat)
    ..Well, this proves the Astro'NOTS would die in min' from the heat.
    & NO, we don't radiate heat

  • Great-heart Charity
    Great-heart Charity 4 months ago

    Deep State manages TED now.
    See comments.

  • Ben B
    Ben B 4 months ago

    I agree.

    Science fiction was ruined by the "new wave" which like any path to H--- started with good intentions.
    Yes, they wanted to make more human stories than adventure stories. Yes, women, minorities needed more than token or stereotype representation. Yes, editors were near suicidal with a pile of 1000 "I wanna be the next Edgar Rice Burrough - this is uh James Champion of ... Planet 20...!" scripts.

    But it turned into nihilism and hard to read tokenism and now just slurps up the stuff and regurgitates. Mocks and de-constructs the past but still holds on for dear life on publishing and patents to make money. Bashed and blacklisted authors who didn't turn PC but then hid the actions of one of their major "Woke" authors - Marion Zimmer Bradley and her Husband...

    We do need new stories that show a good future and space travel no matter how far the distances or how difficult to pierce the speed of light or get the first 'warp engine' going. This should be looked back on as the "Nihlist" era.

  • Mr. Derek Gets it!
    Mr. Derek Gets it! 4 months ago

    THE COLUMBINE SHOOTERS MOM GETS A CLIP. That loser should be jailed! No comments allowed so I'll leave a comment on every video! DO NOT CELEBRATE LOSER PARENTS THAT STOOD IN THE WAY OF HELP, when parents are responsible for their kids actions then we will see less death! SICKENING TO APPLAUD COLUMBINES SHOOTERS MOM SHAME,

  • Invox
    Invox 4 months ago +1

    Watch x1.5 speed.
    Much better.

  • B Welkinator
    B Welkinator 4 months ago

    After all the dreck ... finally a talk that renews my hope for TED.

  • Itsnot mine
    Itsnot mine 4 months ago

    A ted talk about stories and science I am down

  • 8KAIJU8
    8KAIJU8 4 months ago

    Imagine the things that SpaceX or sci-fi movies of now will inspire 300 years from now but Earth would probably be screwed by then anyway

  • Jayson Smihth
    Jayson Smihth 4 months ago +1

    Barracks white guy suit ain't fooling no one

  • Cooper Bradford
    Cooper Bradford 4 months ago

    Need to get me one them goose

  • Native Things
    Native Things 4 months ago

    It's a cool story, subscribed!)

  • Constantine B
    Constantine B 4 months ago

    The story that I have been thinking is about colonisation which has occurred through human history. Most colony's resolved in becoming independent. I believe that if colonisation occurs on Mars eventually within a 200 hundred year period of colonisation. Residents of Mars will debate there independence from Earth 🌍. This may be the first War of the World's for human beings in there history depending if Earth is dependant on resources of Mars. Anyone agree with my statement?

  • taha pipino
    taha pipino 4 months ago

    9 Things in the US That puzzle Most foreigners

  • Aura Sheet Metal
    Aura Sheet Metal 4 months ago +1

    The moon, we've never been . Keep imagining we did. Hahahha

  • chellya2004
    chellya2004 4 months ago

    Should start with the bible. The concept of the heaven where gods live and is a place that's too forbidden for us to enter. In there, there's a lot of stories! And how the 'heaven' slowly transformed into an 'empty space' worth exploring. That's a huge shift!

    • Ivone de Figueiredo
      Ivone de Figueiredo 4 months ago

      chellya2004 Well before that their was the mythology of the ancients, Greeks, Romans, Nordic lands etc. No, the Bible has little to offer in terms of science, or science fiction for that matter, or progress. Lots to offer in terms of fiction though, so there is that to hold onto.

  • Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery 4 months ago +2

    He talks like Obama

  • John Collado
    John Collado 4 months ago

    Alex MacDonald's mannerisms and his voice remind me so much of Carl Sagan when he spoke.

  • Lindenlc10
    Lindenlc10 5 months ago +1

    " The stories we tell ourselves can transform the future."

  • John Arnold
    John Arnold 5 months ago

    Yes ..we may have accomplished space flight but the middle East has surpassed us, they have developed time travel....they can in a matter of minutes transport you back to the middle's called Islam.....🤔🤔🤔

    • Mo Azim
      Mo Azim 2 months ago

      John Arnold Nice hot take, your generalization of an entire religion is so modern and enlightened.

  • yexela
    yexela 5 months ago

    This talk overrates the sci-fi as a driving force of technological progress and undermines the actual effort of millions of scientists and engeneers involved into the R&D. It's not some "passion" and "dreams" that drives the progress, but rather hard work of millions of people funded mainly by the government. Space technology was developped for well known reasons: political and military competition between the US and the USSR which had nothing to do with early sci-fi dreams of spaceflight. "Passion" sci-fi motivation is just a wishful thinking.

  • Jaime Castro
    Jaime Castro 5 months ago +1

    Buenas tardes sería posible poner subtítulos en español gracias

  • Brendan K
    Brendan K 5 months ago +1

    His mannerisms remind me so much of Obama

  • Tiberiu Vicol
    Tiberiu Vicol 5 months ago

    Conrad Haas (1509-1576) a pioneer of rocket propulsion. His designs include a three-stage rocket and a manned rocket.

  • dunoze
    dunoze 5 months ago +1

    Space travel is still science fiction . We never went to to the moon and still can't .

  • JustWasted3HoursHere
    JustWasted3HoursHere 5 months ago +5

    Storywriters don't get bogged down with the details of how things would or could be accomplished, which is why they work so well as inspirations to the scientists that would come later.

  • graphicism
    graphicism 5 months ago

    Maybe spaceflight is sci-fi to this day.

  • Ruby Moon
    Ruby Moon 5 months ago

    *in the grim dark future there is only war.* *There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods* *WarHammer 40k*

    • Ruby Moon
      Ruby Moon 4 months ago

      ​@Николай Каретников Steven Pinker is a heretic according to the Inquisition Acolytes rule book XD

      am joking of course

    • Николай Каретников
      Николай Каретников 5 months ago +1

      Steven Pinker certainly does not think so

  • Roland Felice
    Roland Felice 5 months ago

    A truely worthwhile video.

  • DubQWST
    DubQWST 5 months ago +5

    Even Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge.

  • David Furr
    David Furr 5 months ago +1

    This guy has the same rhythm and sound when he speaks as Barack Obama

    • Seeyay
      Seeyay 5 months ago

      Also similar to Carl Sagan.

  • Make Brooklyn
    Make Brooklyn 5 months ago +16

    Has NASA even tried geese? I think not!!

  • raphsere
    raphsere 5 months ago +23

    "You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"
    - Terry Pratchett

    • Constantine B
      Constantine B 4 months ago

      Correct. This is evident through the amount of technology that never came from scientists. Scientist formally trained in science subconsciously become bound to the parameters of there education. Thinking outside the square is more likely to come from those who are not formally trained or educated

  • Bjørnar Iversen
    Bjørnar Iversen 5 months ago

    Finally a sane speaker.. so tired of the twisted feminist sjw activists.

  • Tyler Welch
    Tyler Welch 5 months ago

    TED talks aren't what they use to be, they should do a talk about organizations giving talks and sticking to bias.

  • Jaime Castro
    Jaime Castro 5 months ago +1

    Buenas tardes sería posible poner subtítulos en español gracias

  • Poptree
    Poptree 5 months ago

    We need to start to write storys with positive technological futures? Has this person lived under a rock for the last 50 years? We have houndreds if not thousands of sci-fi stories like this today, in books, TV-series and movies. Star Trek, hello!?!

    • Aaron Rosenberg
      Aaron Rosenberg 5 months ago

      Maybe because of this talk, more people will read those stories now.

  • Alexis Gervais
    Alexis Gervais 5 months ago

    From where is this video's still image from?

  • John Bray
    John Bray 5 months ago

    "sci-fi" is a derogatory term in the Science Fiction community, as it refers to poor media, not the written featured work in this talk. It makes many SF fans cringe.

  • koning tim
    koning tim 5 months ago +1


  • Lumian
    Lumian 5 months ago +1

    What about Von Braun?

  • mick coomer
    mick coomer 5 months ago +1

    Geostationary orbit was something first thought of by Arthur C Clark. So I suppose he’s the father of sat nav.

  • Jarrod Brecht
    Jarrod Brecht 5 months ago +1

    I think I remember this talk from 30 years ago.

  • Stosh James Peterson
    Stosh James Peterson 5 months ago +1

    Minds eye?

  • Scott B
    Scott B 5 months ago +1

    *ahem* Jack Parsons Blood and Rockets *ahem*

  • Roenie
    Roenie 5 months ago +1

    How to make a very interesting subject very hard to listen to.

  • Lunareon
    Lunareon 5 months ago +10

    Yes! Let's tell more stories that inspire and encourage, instead of all these recent cautionary tales of horror that are originally meant to frighten children into obedience.

  • here4 tea
    here4 tea 5 months ago


  • Rennis Tora
    Rennis Tora 5 months ago +7

    Jules Verne was legit a great science fiction writer, including his works that basically predicted how submarines would works.

  • Prophet Pepi Islamovic-Muselmaier Allahut Nacktbar

    Spaceflight is Sci-Fi. They never did it and they never will do it, because it's just a Sci-Fi story.

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity 5 months ago

      Prophet Pepi Islamovic-Muselmaier Allahut Nacktbar yes, unfortunately, you are correct!!
      My note

  • Your Favorite Lifecoach
    Your Favorite Lifecoach 5 months ago +24

    It’s always been like this.
    Storytellers inspire scientists.

    • Constantine B
      Constantine B 4 months ago

      Well through history technology came from those who weren't Scientists. Most Scientists stay within the boundaries of there University teachings where as many inventors through time had no formal teachings so they were not bound by parameters.

  • Stefan Nikola
    Stefan Nikola 5 months ago

    You have really cute little ears, by the way.

  • Stefan Nikola
    Stefan Nikola 5 months ago

    *ascending into the heavens

  • RemusKingOfRome5
    RemusKingOfRome5 5 months ago

    YES, new stories of Globalisation ,where everyone holds hands around the world, chanting love CRAP ... while in reality, muslim extremists rape and murder whites at will, in their own countries. Reality is alot different to socialist fantasy.

  • DaveK
    DaveK 5 months ago +1

    It's the dreamers, that eventually discover & Prove Reality....

  • H N70
    H N70 5 months ago +2

    Isaac Arthur 🙂👍

  • Mike Hagarty
    Mike Hagarty 5 months ago +5

    Stories Help develop dreams, & people love to follow their dreams!

  • phaniraj sharma G
    phaniraj sharma G 5 months ago

    Where we can find lost Marvel Avengers

    • Great-heart Charity
      Great-heart Charity 5 months ago

      phaniraj sharma G you can find them! Ask the Astro'NOTS!! In a HOLLYWOOD studio