Clarke's Laws (UNCLASSIFIED)

Wed Sep 2 13:53:15 UTC 2009

        Clarke's letter was in response to a letter that had
misattributed Clarke's First Law (that when a respected scientist said
something was probable, he was probably right, and if he said that
something was impossible, he was probably wrong) to Isaac Asimov.
Clarke wrote:

        <<I'm sure my good friend Ike Asimov
will gladly waive the credit (?) attributed
to him (Letters, 8 Dec.).  Meanwhile,
Clarke's _Third_ Law is even
more appropriate to the UFO discussion:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic."
I deal with the subject at some length
in widely available references (1-3)
so merely remark here that any really
competent extrapolation shows interstellar
travel to be a rather simple
engineering accomplishment, to be expected
within a mere two or three centuries
of the control of thermonuclear
fusion. The real mystery is the apparent
absence of genuine UFO's.

1. _Playboy_ (January 1968).
2. _2001: A Space Odyssey_ (Stanley Kubrick and
Arthur C. Clarke, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,
April 1968).
3. A. C. Clarke, _The Promise of Space_ (Harper
& Row, New York, 1968).>>

        It isn't clear to me whether Clarke meant this to be the
introduction of his Third Law.  I've seen 2001 (which I believe does not
contain these words), but not The Promise of Space or the January 1968
issue of Playboy.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Jesse Sheidlower
Sent: Wednesday, September 02, 2009 9:14 AM
Subject: Re: Clarke's Laws (UNCLASSIFIED)

On Wed, Sep 02, 2009 at 06:54:34AM -0400, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> The Yale Book of Quotations has the third law from a letter to the
editor by Clarke published in Science, Jan. 19, 1968.

This quotation is also found in the Hugo-winning _Brave New Words_, the
book based on the OED SF Citations site.

I've made a note of it on the site.

Jesse Sheidlower

The American Dialect Society -

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