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Elon Musk: The Books That Most Influenced His Life

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Elon reading

Elon Musk has done more in his life so far than most can do in a hundred lifetimes. He was an early investor (and, as he’s famously and problematically asserted, a co-founder) in Paypal and Tesla Motor Company, of which he is most definitely CEO. He designed a high-speed rail system called the Hyperloop, which I’m still pulling for, and best of all, he’s CEO of SpaceX, the hottest cargo- and soon people-moving spacecraft company around. How did Musk get to be the rich and famous inventor and tycoon we know today? Well, for one thing, the guy read — a lot.

Musk reportedly had a rough childhood in South Africa — he was runty and too smart for his own good, and kids called him “Muskrat.” So he’d do what a lot of people with rough childhoods (and adulthoods) do — he escaped into fantasy and science fiction. He recently shared a list of the books that have most influenced his life.

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This Promising Sci-Fi Film Ambition Has Purposely Flown Under The Rader

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ambition_poster_teaserAs much as I love trailers, I do sometimes get frustrated with all the hype that precedes the release of a movie, especially when it tells viewers all they need or want to know about what happens in the film. It’s like what happens with presidential campaigns—they start stumping so early that you’re sick to death of all the candidates before you even stepped in the voters’ box. Godzilla and Guardians of the Galaxy are two recent films that, while totally enjoyable, lost elements of surprise and wonder for me before I had the chance to see them. Interstellar —another film I look forward to seeing—is approaching that status for me. I’ve seen the trailer so many times that I honestly don’t want to read or see anything else about the movie until I sit down with my popcorn. But it’s a big and wonderful surprise to hear about a movie that sounds pretty awesome, but that has somehow managed to remain almost totally unknown. The somewhat ambiguously titled Ambition is such a movie.

The first footage of the movie was just released, and suddenly folks are paying attention. But the movie has flown so far under the radar that there’s not even anything about it on the IMDB. Ambition has an Instagram (with a mere 12 followers) and a Twitter account (with 577 followers), both counting down to the movie’s premiere this Friday at the British Film Institute during its science fiction week, but that’s about all.

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Project Hieroglyph Aims To Combat Sci-Fi’s Obsession With Dystopian Bummers

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hieroglyphThere’s no doubt about it: dystopias are in. From modern works such as The Giver and The Hunger Games to older works such as 1984 and Brave New World, science fiction and the audiences that read and watch these products have been consumed by futuristic dystopian scenarios, especially as real life points to some of those scenarios as prophetic. Even though it’s undeniable that some of the genre’s warnings about the future have been on point, some writers think that sci-fi has become too focused on this area. Science fiction paves the way for the future, both in terms of the development and use of technologies and the way society views those technologies and their implications, so it makes sense that a dark vision of the future would ultimately have some kind of impact on humanity’s subconscious. Hence, Project Hieroglyph was born, and it aims to present “stories and visions for a better future.”

Writers Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear, and others worked with actual scientists to brainstorm ideas that have a sense of “techno-optimism.” Since scientists and sci-fi writers have a symbiotic relationship, the idea behind Project Hieroglyph involves more than just happily ever after endings (which, let’s face it, would be pretty boring to read). The collection, which will be released on September 9 and is now available for pre-order, contains sci-fi stories grounded in science and featuring technologies that are or will be within humanity’s reach in the next 50 years. “A good science fiction story can be very powerful. It can inspire hundreds, thousands, millions of people to rally around something that they want to do,” says project director Ed Finn.

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Help Fund The Hollywood Science Fiction Museum

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hollywood sci-fi museumHere in the United States, we have plenty of art museums, science museums, and historical museums. We also have a bunch of downright bizarre museums, including the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, the National Museum of Funeral History, and one that’s in my neighborhood: the Museum of Bad Art. We even have a UFO museum and a Creation Museum, brought to us by Ken Ham. With funding, one can build a museum featuring just about anything, and if someone builds it, people will come — especially to the Hollywood Science Fiction Museum.

The project has been initiated by the non-profit group New Starship, which aims to reconstruct sets from Star Trek and is currently working on restoring the Star Trek: Enterprise bridge.

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Science Fiction-Inspired Lipbalms Will Increase Your Geek Cred

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sci fi chapstickI’m addicted to Chapstick. There, I said it. It feels good. Acceptance is the first step, right? I don’t even know how it started — I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a tube of chapstick in my pocket, and my purse, and my desk, and a couple back-up tubes just in case. If I realize I’ve left the house without one, I can’t stop thinking about it until I go buy one. If I see someone apply chapstick, I have to do it too. For Christmas one year, my mom gave me an economy-sized box of ChapStick from Sam’s Club — 40 tubes of the regular flavor and 40 of cherry. At the time, I thought they’d last me forever, especially because ChapStick brand isn’t my favorite, but I actually used them all. At least I’ve matured to better quality chapsticks — you know, the kind that are ridiculously expensive but smell, taste, and feel so good that you just don’t care? I’m always on the lookout for new flavors and brands (have I mentioned I’m an addict?), so imagine my delight when I found sci-fi inspired lip balm on Etsy.

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Wear Your Favorite Science Fiction, Because Reading Is So 20th Century

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sensory fictionI’m one of those people who feels what I’m reading if I’m really into it. I wince, I avert my gaze, my breathing speeds up, I laugh, I cry. But for people who want more of a visceral experience when they read, students in an MIT Media Lab class have produced a final project called “Sensory Fiction,” a wearable vest that allows readers to experience what the protagonist of a story is feeling.

I’ve never been more impressed by or jealous of another professor’s syllabus. How awesome would it be to take MIT’s Science Fiction to Science Fabrication class? The class focuses on some sci-fi classics such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, works by Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and more, and combines them with nonfiction reading about cyborgs, transhumanism, nanotechnology, and more. It’s not hard to imagine such a class inspiring such an incredible final project.