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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
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Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Argumentum ad Baculum | Legacy’s end

I have found that life’s great pleasures are enhanced when you come across them in a state of profound ignorance. That is how I happened across “A Fall of Moondust” in a public library when I was 11 or 12. The name of the author, Arthur C. Clarke, meant nothing to me back then, but that was the first book I finished in one sitting.
On March 19, Clarke, grand master of science fiction, Hugo and Nebula award-winning author and one of the most gifted intellects of our time passed away.
Clarke, born in England in 1917, was a fan of science fiction early on and was destined to be the one of the great writers of the genre. After serving in the Royal Air Force in World War II, he received a degree in physics and mathematics and went to work for the British Interplanetary Society while writing science fiction on the side.
It was while working there that he proposed that geosynchronous satellites could be used for telecommunication, perhaps the most famous of his insights into future technological achievements. His paper on the concept was so detailed and accurate that it would be used later by courts as prior art to deny patents to companies who put the first such satellites in space.
As most Physics 201 students can calculate, on a good day, geostationary satellites, orbiting the planet above the equator once every 24 hours and therefore remaining fixed with reference to the Earth, orbit at 22,000 miles above the earth’s surface and are ideally suited for bouncing signals off of. As recognition of this idea and of his life-long contribution to space exploration, the International Astronomical Union declared this configuration to be the “Clarke Orbit.”
His unique mixture of scientific and technological genius coupled with his ability to completely capture the minds of his readers that made Clarke such a towering figure in science fiction, if not all of literature.
His short story “The Sentinel” led to the making of “2001: A Space Odyssey” in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick, which is considered an all-time classic. Certainly the background music is haunting enough if the idea of a self-aware, homicidal Artificial Intelligence named HAL proves insufficient to curdle your blood. In my humble opinion, Clarke’s words cannot be matched by any attempt at visualization.
His association with space exploration, both through fiction and his considerable work with the British and United States space agencies (he was a consultant with NASA for the Apollo Program) inspired CBS to ask him to commentate for the Apollo 11 lunar landing, when man first placed foot on an alien landscape.
My personal favorite of Clarke’s works is “Fountains of Paradise,” a book that can be truly appreciated only by an engineer. The main character, Morgan, is inspiring both in his vision and his single-minded pursuit of greatness. The book revolves around the idea of a space elevator, an economical means of transporting people and goods to earth orbit for subsequent transportation to deep space. Clarke predicted that the space elevator would be the idea that he will be most remembered for. Continuing work in nanotechnology, particularly carbon-based hyper-filaments, has brought this idea to the verge of realization.
Clarke’s work, breathtaking in its scope, is marked by its optimism. Unlike recent trends in science fiction that tend to be apocalyptic in nature, Clarke always envisioned humanity as succeeding by overcoming adversity through sheer force of will. Nowhere is this more evident than in one of his short stories in which an alien race arrives on Earth, just before the sun goes nova, in an attempt to save some of humanity only to find a desolate planet. They later discover that humankind left a few years before onboard excruciatingly slow rocket ships into the vast unknown, undaunted by a home lost.
Clarke also used his work as a means of social commentary on man’s plight, whether it be aliens realizing our religion to be a natural outcome of mammalian sociology or a vision of a future where homosexuality is accepted and common and all marriages are open. Most poignant, however, is his prediction that humanity’s first contact with aliens will result in a drastic decrease in our animosity for each other, something that he looked forward to with great anticipation.
To list all of Clarke’s writings, or even the ones I like best, would be inefficient, but I cannot end this tribute without mentioning two of his works. “Rendezvous with Rama,” in which humans struggle to come to terms with an uninterested alien presence in our solar system, and “Songs of Distant Earth,” in which Clarke asks deep questions of our morality in a tragic futuristic setting.
Perhaps that is his ultimate contribution to his readers – his ability to both inspire us and force us to question ourselves. Arthur C. Clarke will be sorely missed.
Abid Mujtaba is a graduate physics student.

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