>> Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Given that I had my trash-Armageddon earlier, it seemed reasonable to replay this one from the same theme.
I can be irritating to watch movies with. I admit it. Unless I’m blown away by characters and/or dialog, little errors will bother me. And I’m vocal about it. I’m a history buff so trashing history will irk me, ditto with characters that make no damn sense. But many people are irritated by that. One thing that really gets me are “science fiction” movies where science was clearly not well thought out. Yesterday’s Armageddon blog demonstrated that a single movie can pretty much throw science in the toilet. But even the better movies can do things that defy science.
Here are some pet peeves.
Momentum - Few things take a pounding in science films like Newtonian physics. Star Trek (movies and television shows) - we’re zipping along at Warp 8 and the engines go down. And we stop. Now, when it comes to warp speed, we really don’t know much about how it would work (if it even would), so I don’t have a problem with popping out of warp into normal space. However, in normal space, shutting off the propulsion will just mean you’ll keep going. In fact, you’re likely to be in more trouble than standing still. Standing still, you know, means you aren’t going to run into something.
Side note - There’s a very good short story called “Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin which is touted, and rightly, as an excellent example how physics (and science) doesn’t care about whether someone lives or dies. Unfortunately, the science is off. In the story, the transports are fueled with no contingency fuel, just enough for the planned cargo and crew. They’re on their way, when the pilot discovers a stowaway going to see her brother. Because there’s no contingency (which is, in my opinion, a dumb way to do business), she has to be spaced, despite her tears and her brother’s anguish. Tragic. (He gives her an extra hour by changing the trajectory, but that’s silly, too - her weight only matters while speeding up or slowing down or changing direction) Except, since they’d launched with her weight on board, they were already short on fuel. Physics, whew, a tough taskmaster.
Angular momentum - Star Wars - Hey remember those cool shots of the Millenium Falcon zipping through the cloud of Empiric ships, flipping U-turns and dodging like mad? Uh, I kept waiting for people’s bodies to punch right through the hull. Anyone with experience in a fighter plane will tell you angular acceleration will eat your lunch, and your plane, if you pull too many g’s. As fast as they were going, the poor folks inside (not wearing seat belts, of course) would be pounded to mush against any hard surface. Don’t go talkin’ about gravity generators or dampers, ’cause I’m not going to buy it. If they really had those, why are they always being jarred out of seats and stuff? Speaking of the latter, why do shows like Star Trek and Star Wars forgo seat belts? The old (and much loved by me) original Star Trek had people tumbling around engineering and the bridge like dice. Why would any ship that moved at sublight and light speeds have standing engineering positions? Or seats without restraints? You can get tickets for that in cars that never bust 70 mph (113 kph).
Ignoring vacuum - Star Wars - Ah, shooting laser canons through open portholes, shuttles landing in bays open to space, Death Star under construction - just like you could do that open to space, with folks walking about without masks. In vacuum. Red Planet - Our refugee has made a habitat on the surface of Mars out of cloth with open bottoms that allowed air in and out. Mars, at its atmospheres densest point, is 0.011 atm (that’s 0.165 psia). I don’t think so. Not even if you breath really shallow.
Orbital Mechanics - Red Planet - There’s an impressive leap from the disabled rescue ship to an unmanned satellite ~1 km away in spacesuits. Ignoring, for the moment, the likelihood that the satellite would have life support or could facilitate their arrival on the surface, going across a km of open space between two vessels in almost undoubtedly different orbits going several km/second? Not bloody likely. This also applies to any movie where an orbiting but suddenly disabled ship will decay “within hours”. Space junk, even released in low orbit, usually takes weeks or months; any ship that decays within hours was flying stupidly low.
Holodecks - Star Trek (and others) - Building whole sets, with tactile interaction, using holograms? I can buy visual, smell and audio, but we don’t have light we can see or “eat” or “drink” or “sleep on” or “sit on”. It’s not a matter of speculation; photons don’t make solids. Nice try, though. (Note, that in a sophisticated VR suit with tactile sensor and or something that could interact with brains to simulate the experiences as “dreams” or “visions”, I would not have the same problem).
Are there are others? Sure. And, before I get blasted for being too hard on speculative fiction, let me tell you some things that don’t bother me: transporters (Star Trek), faster than speed of light travel, point to point travel/tesseract/wormholes (Stargate/Star Trek/others), replicators (Star Trek), simulated gravity, almost any biological anomaly or weirdness, hovercraft, cyborgs, artificial intelligence, complex robotics . . . the list goes on.
I also am pretty damn forgiving with such things as superheroes and other fantastic stories, including shapeshifting, amazing strength and imperviousness (yes, I like Wolverine), vampires, magic etc. There are plenty of things out there I can’t begin to explain. Except flying and that dumb thing where someone like Wonder Woman hold back a jet by digging in her heels.
But, hey, sometimes you gotta let go.