John C. Smith has a master’s in celestial mechanics (the motion of heavenly bodies) and has spent more than twenty years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., designing missions to explore the planets. He has worked on successful missions to Venus, Earth and Mars and has been part of the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan for 16 years. He is the designer of the four-year “tour” of the Saturn system that began in 2004 and recently contributed to the design of a two-year extended mission through 2010.
Navigators and the Spacing Guild
from The Science of Dune
This is one essay from the anthology The Science of Dune
In this analysis of the bestselling science fiction adventure of all time, authors explore all aspects of Dune, including the fascinating scientific speculations ranging from physics and chemistry to ecology and evolution, from human psychology and mental potential to technology and genetics. Authors and experts examine what Herbert gets right and what he gets wrong, how lasguns might work and if Bene Gesserit and mentat capabilities are possible. The book also takes a look at whether the ecology of Dune is realistic or if it’s theoretically possible to get information from the future. Could humans really evolve as Herbert suggests? How can one build a windtrap or a stillsuit?
About the Author
Kevin R. Grazier, Ph.D., is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., where he holds the dual titles of Investigation Scientist and Science Planning Engineer for the Cassini/Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan. There he has won numerous JPL- and NASA-wide awards for technical accomplishment. Dr. Grazier holds undergraduate degrees in computer science and geology from Purdue University, and another in physics from Oakland University. He holds an M.S. degree in physics from, again, Purdue, and he did his doctoral work at UCLA. His Ph.D. research involved long-term, large-scale computer simulations of Solar System evolution, dynamics and chaos—research which he continues to this day. Kevin is also currently the science adviser for the PBS animated series “The Zula Patrol” and for the Sci-Fi Channel series “Eureka,” as well as the Peabody Award–winning “Battlestar Galactica.” Commited to astronomical education, Dr. Grazier teaches classes in stellar astronomy, planetary science, cosmology and the search for extraterrestrial life at UCLA, Cal State LA and Santa Monica College. He has served on several NASA educational product review panels, and is also a planetarium lecturer at LA’s landmark Griffith Observatory. He lives in Sylmar, Calif.—and occasionally Mesa, Az.—with a flock of cockatiels and a precocious parrot.