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Possible Questions A Window on the Universe

Possible Questions A Window on the Universe Themes

Possible Questions 

  • Does this collection of stories offer a positive view of the future?
  • How does this collection of stories “remind us that human beings are only very small pebbles on a very big beach”?
  • What does this collection of stories show us about humans? Does it show humans in a positive way?
    • Zero Hour and Star Ducks contain silly people who don’t realise the threat/excitement of what is happening
  • According to the stories in this collection, what role does technology have in the future?
  • What does this collection of stories show us about the difference between machines and humans?
  • How are women portrayed in this collection of stories?

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The Hammer of God A Window on the Universe

The Hammer of God A Window on the Universe

The Hammer of God A Window on the Universe Themes

The Hammer of God

  • Captain Singh takes refuge in his past, which includes natural scenery
  • Complexity of humans: the very advanced computer, David, can’t do certain human things, like deep emotion; but then his lack of emotion (fear, love) allows him to think logically enough to think of an action to save the Earth
  • Tendency of humans to make nature ‘supernatural’: discussion of a new religion, and calling the asteroid something from God
  • Lots of natural disasters in future (constant thread of asteroids, California has been destroyed by an earthquake)
  • The irony that the people who were sent on a dangerous mission to save Earth were the only ones who could be safe (but then died saving Earth: true heroes)
  • A story of cooperation between man and machine to save the Earth: in the end, the crew bravely save the world after making a nonchalant speech, clearly sparing those on Earth their evident feelings about their imminent demise

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The Sound Machine A Window on the Universe

The Sound Machine A Window on the Universe

The Sound Machine A Window on the Universe Themes

The Sound Machine

  • Seems like a sinister box from the start: black, and shaped like a coffin; ambiguity about what he’s doing makes him seem like a mad professor
  • Klausner wants to tune into the natural world: envisages beauty in nature that he can’t access, and wants to find/hear it
  • Again there is the recurring theme of people who don’t believe: Mrs Saunders doesn’t believe Klausner about the roses, because she thinks he is mad; then a blurred line, because he becomes a mad axeman
  • The cruel justice of the tree breaking the machine that caused its pain, or is it just a coincidence?

Klausner becomes obsessed with the idea that the plants have human feelings and emotions (e.g. makes the doctor clean the tree’s ‘wound’ with iodine)

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Stitch in Time A Window on the Universe

Stitch in Time A Window on the Universe

Stitch in Time A Window on the Universe Themes

Stitch in Time

  • The woman has a simplistic, refreshing approach to life: time to her is linear, and the past cannot be changed – there are only hints at the technology going on in the modern world around her; emphasis on nature rather than technology
  • Ironic then that her so-natural life, seemingly based on chance and decisions, is so terribly disrupted by Harold’s technological experiment
  • Very complicated and circular: if it hadn’t have happened, Thelma would have married Arthur, and Harold would never have existed to conduct the experiment and cause the accident
  • Conflict between Thelma’s intuition that life is haphazard and based on chance, and the strange sets of events (including the coincidence at the end) that seem to suggest that there is some kind of plan or order to life

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Who Can Replace a Man? A Window on the Universe

Who Can Replace a Man? A Window on the Universe

Who can replace a man? A Window on the Universe Themes

Who can replace a man?

  • Something simple becomes unnecessarily complicated because the unintelligent machines do not have the ability to act for themselves
  • Note the willingness of the simple machines to take orders from anyone more intelligent; and the willingness of intelligent machines to destroy the simple ones (sounds like a comment on humanity)
  • They also become human-like in their self-preservation and group identity: they destroy two machines on their journey, just because they approached and tried to question them
  • Their lack of empathy is frightening, for example when they leave behind the servicer (who cried as they left it to ‘die’) and the penner (who was an important part of the team at first and is intelligent)
  • The machines’ lack of flexibility is the cause of their destruction (they cannot mend the servicer, so they leave it behind, and so other ‘injured’ machines cannot be mended); they are also unable to disobey the man’s orders at the end
  • This story highlights the human capacities that machines lack: empathy, flexibility, etc.

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The Machine That Won the War A Window on the Universe

The Machine That Won the War A Window on the Universe

The Machine That Won the War A Window on the Universe Themes

The Machine That Won the War

  • Men reflecting on the unsettling peace after such a long war: ironic that there are conflicts between them
  • Reflects on the corrupting influence of men on machines (individual pride, competition etc. getting in the way of unbiased information): ironic because Jablonsky then changed all the data to suit his needs – all fake; becomes meaningless
  • Both men (on either side of the machine: feeding data, acting on the instructions) were acting to make the other’s job meaningless – and the computer completely pointless and meaningless
  • The computer didn’t win the war – it was all down to chance (the flip of a coin – a very technologically limited decision-maker)

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