Did you know "Robotics" was first used in science-fiction?

Published on February 19, 2024

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We truly live in an era of technological marvels. Think back on those futuristic gadgets and gizmos showcased on TV shows and films from your childhood. Perhaps you pretended to communicate through a portable screen like the ones seen on "Star Trek", which are eerily similar to the smartphone you are probably reading this article on. Or maybe you were amazed by that amazing virtual shark that leaps at Marty McFly in Back to the Future 2 , which would now be made completely obsolete by our current 3-D films.

The world of science-fiction has always provided humankind with new horizons and discoveries to shoot for, in our search for a better and more exciting tomorrow. That’s why today we have gathered a list of terms that have leaped from the incredible minds of science-fiction authors onto our everyday lives.



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We’ll start this list with what’s probably science fiction’s bread and butter. Robots are undeniably an essential component of modern culture: Think of any decade from the past two centuries and you’ll find more than a few iconic robots shining through . The 50s had Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still , the 60s were comforted by the Jetson’s loyal maid, Rosie, and the 80s were shaken by Schwarzenegger’s relentless Terminator.

While the word robot was coined by Czech writer Karel Čapek in 1920, legendary science-fiction author Isaac Asimov first used the term "robotics" in his 1942 short story "Runabout", which introduced his now quintessential Three Laws of Robotics . While the term is still a sci-fi staple, the interdisciplinary study of robotics has become one of the most groundbreaking and exciting career paths today.



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While the feeling of truly weightlessly floating in space is reserved for only a few selected astronauts, the freedom and wonder associated with the term "zero gravity" is one we can all enjoy . Through good old-fashioned Hollywood magic, movies have shown us both the unbelievable delight and the daring challenges that zero gravity has to offer.

While the origins of this term are still debated, it is believed that comic book artist Jack Binder was the first to use the phrase "zero gravity" in a 1938 article titled "If Science Reached the Earth's Core". In 1952, English science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke used the shortened term "zero-g" in his 1952 novel Islands in the Sky .

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Deep Space

Defining the term "deep space" can be surprisingly tricky. After all, isn’t anything away from the Earth’s atmosphere considered outer space? While that is technically true, referring to the infinite vastness on which this majestic blue marble of ours is suspended simply as "space" seems a bit limited. However uncanny a feat the moon landing might seem when compared with the millions of kilometers that separate us from the sun, a trip to our closest satellite might seem like a quick run through the park. Luckily, we have "deep space" when we want to refer to any of those unreachable (at least for now) corners of our cosmos.

The term "deep space" was coined by American science fiction author E.E. "Doc" Smith in his 1934 novel Triplanetary . Smith, considered by many to be the father of the space opera genre, used the term to illustrate a futuristic age in which humankind explored the Solar system and formed alliances with other planetary governments.


Computer Virus

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This one is a bit controversial, and not only because of the nature of malware. While nowadays computer viruses are an all too real danger to anyone connected to the internet (which is to say, basically everyone), the first popular use of this term was in a 1970 short story titled "The Scarred Man", written by astrophysicist and author Gregory Benford. In the story, a computer program called VIRUS causes havoc on computers with early dialing capability. However, what’s interesting is that Benford based this story on a real-life computer virus he helped create in the 1960s , as a proof of concept for a lab computer.


Ion Drive

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Think about a futuristic engine or thruster, filled with flashing lights and bursts of astonishing blue energy, and you might be thinking about an ion drive. This term is one of the many technologies that you might find on your favorite piece of science fiction, right next to hyperdrive, jump drive, or ultradrive. Ion drives were made famous by the iconic Imperial TIE Fighters from Star Wars since their name comes from the "Twin Ion Engines" that fuel the ship.

While the Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction lists Jack Williamson's 1947 short story "The Equalizer" as the first usage of the term ion drive, other sources state that the first idea of an ion engine comes from the 1910s book By Aeroplane to the Sun: Being the Adventures of a Daring Aviator and his Friends , written by Donald W. Horner.


Warp Speed

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You might be familiar with this pop-culture staple from watching Star Trek’s Captain Kirk ordering "Maximum warp, Mr. Sulu" right before the Starship Enterprise disappeared in a burst of speed. Or maybe you prefer _Star Wars_’ lightspeed, where Han Solo would slowly push a lever on the Millennium Falcon that made every light source in front of the ship’s cabin stretch into beautiful white lines. Whichever franchise you prefer, warp speed refers to a spaceship’s capability of jumping into impossible speeds that allows it to travel millions of miles in mere seconds.

Alongside robotics, warp speed is perhaps the most famous term that entered popular use through science fiction. When the original 1960s Star Trek show aired, audiences were soon enraptured by its many groundbreaking concepts, and warp speed was one of the most enthusiastically debated by fans.



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It’s curious how nanotechnology can be so thrilling and scary at the same time. The concept of complex machines smaller than what the human eye can see might be instrumental in helping us cure diseases. At the same time, the thought of tiny, invisible machines invading our everyday lives is, at the very least, discomforting. In any case, nanotechnology is a particularly popular trope in science fiction . Perhaps its most famous example comes from the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage , in which a submarine crew shrinks down to microscopic size to save an injured scientist.

While the first detailed concepts of nanotechnology were outlined in a 1959 talk given by physicist Richard Feynman, many primitive forms of microscopic mechanisms can be found in previous works of literature. A few years before Feynman’s talk, Arthur C. Clarke described tiny machines that operated at the micrometer scale in his short story "The Next Tenants".



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Before Dolly the Sheep made international headlines in 1996, the concept of cloning a living creature was relegated to the world of science fiction. Artificial cloning has been the subject of many masterpieces of the genre , but it is believed that Aldous Huxley's 1931 classic Brave New World might have been the first to bring this topic to light. In the novel, a futuristic human society chooses to strictly reproduce by an in-vitro method known as the Bokanovsky's Process, which is regarded as a rudimentary method of cloning that produces identical copies in artificial wombs.



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Cyberpunk might be both the most recent and obscure item on this list. It was first mentioned in the science-fiction magazine "New Worlds" in the 60s and 70s when a group of New Wave authors introduced dystopian, futuristic worlds filled with distorted technology and disrupted cultures. Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is considered by many to be one of the founding stones of the cyberpunk genre.

However niche these origins might be, cyberpunk has evolved to influence many aspects of popular culture . Berlin’s Center Potsdamer Platz (formerly known as the Sony Center), an iconic eight-building complex located in the heart of the German capital, was heavily influenced by cyberpunk culture and aesthetics.

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Pressure Suit

Long before NASA started thinking about how to put the first astronauts into orbit, science-fiction authors had devised ways on which to send their characters onto the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space. The very first mention of a spacesuit comes from an 1898 science-fiction novel titled Edison's Conquest of Mars , written by American astronomer Garrett P. Serviss. In this story, the Wizard of Menlo Park himself leads a group of scientists to the moon, after a devastating war with Mars leaves the Earth in shambles. For this mission, Edison designs a series of "air-tight suits" for his group, which are now considered to be a rudimentary prototype of the spacesuit.


11 Words And Their Interesting Origins

Published on February 19, 2024

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Etymology is the study of a word’s origin and meaning. Some words are quite straightforward, like "football," a sport that involves a ball and a foot.

But other words have more obscure origins, like "nightmare," which combines the term "night" with the German word "mare," which is an evil spirit that sits on top of a sleeper’s chest. Pretty grim, right?

Take a look at these words with interesting origins and find out if you already knew any of them!



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The centerpiece of seemingly every modern brunch, "avocado" is a word that exudes exotic flavor. The term itself comes from the ancient Aztec language Nahuatl, where it is referred to as āhuacatl .

As the fruit made its way through history, the name transformed into aguacate . Eventually, as avocados gained popularity in English-speaking regions, the term settled into its current form.



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A word so Italian that pronouncing it out loud almost makes it seem like you are talking in the language of Dante, "cappuccino" was named after the Capuchin friars and their distinctive brown robes. The drink's moniker was inspired by the color resemblance between their attire and the frothy, tan espresso concoction.

The cappuccino, as we know it today, emerged in the espresso bars of post-World War II Italy, where it gained popularity for its blend of espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of foam. Evolving from a simple coffee tradition tied to a religious order to a globally cherished beverage, the cappuccino has become a symbol of Italian coffee culture.



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Keeping in line with the Italian words, "disaster" finds its linguistic roots in disastro , which emerged during the 16th century to describe an unfavorable aspect of a star or celestial event.

Composed of dis- , meaning away or without, and astro, referring to celestial bodies, the term reflected a belief in the influence of cosmic forces on earthly events. Eventually, its meaning shifted to describe any catastrophic event, natural or human-made, leading to significant damage or distress.



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Another word with an Italian birth certificate, "malaria," originated in mala aria , which translates to "bad air". This term was coined during the Renaissance, reflecting the earlier belief that the disease, which was characterized by fever and chills, was caused by inhaling poisonous fumes from swamp areas.

Later, scientists discovered the actual culprit: parasites transmitted through infected mosquitoes. Despite its historical roots, the word "malaria" persists in capturing the essence of the disease's connection to unhealthy air.



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Let us close the suite of Italian words with this term. It came into existence in Venice during the bubonic plague. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, arriving ships were required to anchor in isolation for 40 days, a period called quarantena in Italian. Derived from quaranta meaning forty, this practice aimed to safeguard public health. Over time, the term was used to describe the isolation of individuals, animals, or goods to prevent disease transmission.



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The word "trivial" comes from the Latin term trivium , which represented the three subjects taught in medieval education: grammar, rhetoric, and logic. These subjects were considered elementary and suitable for beginners.

Over time, the meaning of "trivial" was used to describe things of little significance or importance, reflecting the perception that the trivium subjects were commonplace and known by everybody.



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The term "hazard" comes from the Arabic word al zahr which means dice. In medieval Europe, games involving dice were associated with risk and chance. Eventually, the term evolved to signify any source of danger or peril. Today, "hazard" is used to illustrate a broad spectrum of risks, including dangerous phenomena, situations, and places that might pose a threat.



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One of those words whose origin is not given away easily, "clue" comes from the Middle English word clew , which means a ball of thread or yarn, of all things. In Greek mythology, Ariadne provided Theseus with a ball of thread to find his way through the labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.

Over time, "clew" evolved to reference any kind of hint or key to solving a mystery. Today, when we seek a "clue," we are acknowledging the connection between solving a mystery and following the thread that leads us to the end of the quest.



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A word so strange to describe something so familiar, "ketchup" has a flavorful history rooted in Southeast Asia. Supposedly, the term came from the Malay word kecap or kicap , referring to a fermented soy sauce.

By the 18th century, "ketchup" in England referred to a sauce made from mushrooms, anchovies, and walnuts. But when tomatoes gained popularity in the 19th century, tomato ketchup emerged.



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Much like cappuccino, "whiskey" is a drink with strong links to its land of origin. The term has deep Celtic roots, coming from the Gaelic language. Derived from uisce beatha , which means "water of life," this spirit emerged in Ireland and Scotland as a distilled beverage, celebrated for both its intoxicating qualities and medicinal virtues.

Over time, uisce beatha evolved into usquebaugh in Scotland and Ireland, and eventually into "whiskey" in English. The term traveled across the Atlantic with Irish and Scottish immigrants, becoming synonymous with the distilled grain spirit enjoyed globally today.



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Imagine being paid in salt, rather than money. Well, turns out, that was a real thing in ancient Rome, where soldiers were paid in salt, known as salarium argentum.

Salt held great value, vital for preserving food and symbolizing wealth. Over time, the word evolved into salarium, meaning the payment given for services. Today, "salary" is, quite simply, the payment received for work.

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