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Thread: The Mis-education Of Science Fiction

  1. #1 The Mis-education Of Science Fiction 
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    From an early age, generations of children have seen Star Trek and Star Wars on TV and movies.

    That taught them that spaceships move like airplanes. That does not happen in real life because of fuel conservation. It is only possible to do with rocket thrust if your doing it constantly along different vectors of your ship. Which means rocket blasts coming out at different angles of your ship constantly, whenever you did banking or loop maneuvers.

    I think it's sad that whole generations of people really think that spaceships move that way, and they won't know otherwise unless they watch the movie Gravity. Or do research.

    I grant that reality can and should be ignored on some level for science fiction, but I think things so basic as maneuvers should be adhered to on some level. Even if you still have airplane ships, at least have some that use REAL newtonian maneuvers.

    The more I learn about science, the less I enjoy science fiction that ignore it on basic levels. Unless they give tech limitations for being able to fly like an airplane in space, I really have a hard time swallowing that in science fiction. I can accept handwavium with limitations, since that makes it seem less miraculous and more real, even if it's not.

    Basically, I can allow my suspension of disbelief on phasers and photon torpedoes, but flying like an airplane without any explanation in outer space stretches it to the limit.


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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    That taught them that spaceships move like airplanes. That does not happen in real life because of fuel conservation. It is only possible to do with rocket thrust if your doing it constantly along different vectors of your ship. Which means rocket blasts coming out at different angles of your ship constantly, whenever you did banking or loop maneuvers.
    You make the assumption here that in the future people will move via reaction engines (rockets.) Do you think that assumption will always be valid?

    I think it's sad that whole generations of people really think that spaceships move that way, and they won't know otherwise unless they watch the movie Gravity. Or do research.
    There are lots of tropes out there (even outside sci fi) that don't line up well with reality. Look at any cop show, hospital drama or adventure movie. From the movies we know that getting shot in the leg just makes you limp, and that most airplanes crash because the pilot is just not strong enough to pull back the yoke in time. I think most people understand that liberties are taken for dramatic purposes.

    I think, however, it's incumbent on any such show to make the show SELF consistent. If in one episode a pilot crashes because he can't pull back hard enough, and in the next episode a pilot easily avoids the crash with minimal backpressure, then the foundation of the story itself stops making sense. If a material in one episode magically repels bullets, but in the next a villain dies while wearing the same material, that detracts from the flow of the story.

    Basically, I can allow my suspension of disbelief on phasers and photon torpedoes, but flying like an airplane without any explanation in outer space stretches it to the limit.
    Let's take Star Trek as an example. They don't travel via reaction engines; their trope ("warp drive") actually warps space and creates a bubble around the ship, allowing non-Newtonian motion. It takes energy to form and sustain that bubble, but does not require thrust. Thus it moves more like an ocean going ship - power brings it up to a constant speed, and when the power is removed, it slows and stops. When the ship turns, it does so again by changing that bubble, not by reaction - thus a "U turn" is possible.


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  4. #3  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    That taught them that spaceships move like airplanes. That does not happen in real life because of fuel conservation.
    I'm not sure what fuel conservation has to do with it. Space ships don't perform like airplanes when they are in space because there is no atmosphere. Star Trek makes an interesting point in that a cube or sphere would actually make more sense as a star ship than anything with a specific front or back.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    That taught them that spaceships move like airplanes. That does not happen in real life because of fuel conservation.
    I'm not sure what fuel conservation has to do with it. Space ships don't perform like airplanes when they are in space because there is no atmosphere. Star Trek makes an interesting point in that a cube or sphere would actually make more sense as a star ship than anything with a specific front or back.
    I think you missed where I mentioned (albeit with different words) that a sufficiently powered newtonian ship could make airplane maneuvers in space, it would just be using constant thrust the whole time, at different vectors. Without constant thrust, you will drift in space inevitably. The only way to avoid drift is thrust in the opposite direction, which you could do with a Newtonian ship. But you would be expending a lot of fuel if you were using anything rocket-based.

    For a newtonian that flew like a plane, the most logical shape would probably be a sphere. Sphere shaped ships aren't as easy to build as say, tubes or squares though. At any rate, I could see a lot of small spheres flying around as opposed to huge ones.

    Right now, all of our space age propulsion is mostly rocket based. I should say reaction based, because even the Ion drive requires fuel that it burns out the back end.

    Regarding star trek, I suppose you're suggesting that the ships actually use their warp bubble to make sub-light maneuvers. And I could and would totally buy that, if star trek writers never made the mistake of mentioning impulse drive.

    Trek and Star Wars I fault for dumbing down science for the masses. Also, even if their ships did make sub-light maneuvers with the bubble, those nacelles look an awful lot like rockets to me. The average lay person will ALWAYS think the rockets are the reason for the ship moving around, not an invisible warp bubble they never see. It's just perception, that's all. Gives people the wrong idea.

    Science fiction should make you smarter about science, not dumber. That's just how I feel. Otherwise they shouldn't even call it science fiction. Just call it what it truly is. Space fantasy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    Science fiction should make you smarter about science, not dumber. That's just how I feel. Otherwise they shouldn't even call it science fiction. Just call it what it truly is. Space fantasy.
    I somewhat disagree on this point. Although I certainly appreciate science fiction based on good science, I feel as the goal of science fiction is to get people passionated and dreamy about science and THEN to learn about the real stuff (besides the 'making money' part).

    Of course if it goes too far off of real science it can become a problem.

    From what little I've seen of star trek, it's not THAT bonker in terms of science, is it? It's just taking amazing unproven but not disproved concept and pushing them, just like stargate. By the way, this stuff makes most people who watch it smarter about science I believe, you probably don't realize how terrible most people are at grasping science. Just learning of a concept is better than not knowing about it, it's the first step toward understanding. I consider myself barely litterate in science, yet I have rarely met a person more litterate than I am, in my real life (it feels lonely btw to be the only science geek around).
    I remember a writer saying he didn't care what people were reading, they could read Justin bieber bio if they wanted, as long as they read. I agree for a whole population, you have to be happy with small steps. Can't expect everybody to be a hardcore scientist.
    Star wars on the other hand is obviously a bit more cartoonish, but I think it's pretty honest about it, kinda like a harry potter story with the 'force'.
    If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
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    Star Trek and Star Wars are equally cartoonish. Propulsion systems, etc that defy the properties of matter and energy are no less fantasy than the wave of a magician's wand...regardless how much mumbo jumbo they are packaged in.

    I like cartoons. Woody Woodpecker is my favorite.

    The 'Three Stooges go to Mars' contains more science than both Star Trek and Star Wars combined.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ximlab View Post
    From what little I've seen of star trek, it's not THAT bonker in terms of science, is it?
    Interesting case since it's been around so long. The original series played very fast and loose with the science since it was written so fast. Since then writers have tried to clean up the science and "retcon" (retroactively fix continuity problems) via the later series. They've actually done a fair amount of work to define the technology and make it consistent at least within the series.

    And as time has gone on, science has advanced and made some of the technology presented in the show more likely. Quantum teleportation, although far from what is depicted in the series, now has a theoretical basis. The Alcubierre drive was proposed in 1994 and looks very much like a Star Trek-style warp drive. Contemporary studies of nuclear pulse engines were likely the genesis for the "impulse engines" and has been refined in fiction as the technology has evolved in reality.

    In addition, a lot of the nuts and bolts of the technology has been fleshed out. Optical networks, computer storage, wireless technology, touchscreens and tablets are now fleshed out, and mainstream science concepts like Dyson spheres and wormholes make regular appearances. They still just create new particles whenever they need a new plot device though ("oh no! The planet is emitting deadlion particles and we can't escape!")
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    I dont think I quite agree with the premise, in the sense that theres no indication imo that people would be more knowledgeable if they watch fairies and elves or American Idol rather than sci-fi that is not accurate, and many people that love non-accurate sci-fi are/become sufficiently interested in science and space to learn more about science without holding on to the sci-fi liberties(inaccuracies).

    Babylon 5 is sci-fi and its depiction of ship maneuvers is sci-fi but a bit different than typical star trek star wars. Fighters do fly by maneuvers where they rotate/pivot the ship and it continues in the same trajectory.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lorbo View Post
    That taught them that spaceships move like airplanes. That does not happen in real life because of fuel conservation.
    Rubbish.
    It doesn't happen because there's no air (or other medium to interact with).
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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    I'm not sure why the writer confuses cinema displays with science fiction instead of the juxtaposed westerns and ww2 dogfights that they truly are. Real science fiction as sent by such authors as Niven, Heinlein or Clarke will satisfy your thirst for actual science and the stimulating ideas they offer. By the way if you want a realistic description of space battles read the Man/Kzinti wars where relativistic constraints rule and you'll probably get only one shot anyway. Not as dramatic I know but generally accurate.
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    A vessel that generates its own gravitic field would be able to move anywise it was steered. This has been demonstrated numerous times to our military by unidentified craft from unknown origins. Aero-dynamically engineered craft are rapidly becoming obsolete as we humans slowly succeed in retro-engineering recovered alien craft.
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    Quote Originally Posted by polyastra View Post
    A vessel that generates its own gravitic field would be able to move anywise it was steered.
    And, not incidentally, cause havoc while doing so.

    This has been demonstrated numerous times to our military by unidentified craft from unknown origins
    Unsupported supposition.

    Aero-dynamically engineered craft are rapidly becoming obsolete as we humans slowly succeed in retro-engineering recovered alien craft.
    Outright nonsense (on two points).

    ETA: good first post, absolute trash for your second.
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    Do be careful my dear Fossilborealis. As professor Clarke was so often quoted, "any sufficiently advanced technology would appear to us as magic." The Niven story "The Flying Sorcerer" illustrates this adage quite well I think.
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    Excellent, an opposing view. "I find your lack of faith disturbing". My "outright nonsense" is a sound extrapolation of engineering principles patented by T. Thompson Brown as early as the mid 1930's. Further, the idea that humans have been studying recovered alien vehicles has been testified to by over 100 individuals from the military and related industries. that number of affidavits would be compelling in any court of law. Surly good enough for this discussion. Finally, if as you imply, our little planet is not being visited by outsiders then the level of mass hysteria demonstrated by the population would constitute an epidemic greater than anything we have ever seen before.
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  16. #15  
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    Loony nonsense stop trolling.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by polyastra View Post
    My "outright nonsense" is a sound extrapolation of engineering principles patented by T. Thompson Brown as early as the mid 1930's.
    None of which have been shown to have real-world applications.

    Further, the idea that humans have been studying recovered alien vehicles has been testified to by over 100 individuals from the military and related industries. that number of affidavits would be compelling in any court of law. Surly good enough for this discussion.
    You're joking right?
    Those individuals have not been shown to be correct, and a good number have been outright debunked and shown to be liars and/ or fantasists.

    Finally, if as you imply, our little planet is not being visited by outsiders then the level of mass hysteria demonstrated by the population would constitute an epidemic greater than anything we have ever seen before.
    Yeah. None of whom manage to take a decent photo.
    As for "anything we've seen before" I'd refer you to reports of "angels" and the like.
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    Surly you don't expect the classified sciences to show us their best stuff do you. Or are you opposed to the idea that some military-industrial partnerships exist outside of the mainstream shops that bring us those wonderful drones and high energy lasers.
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    By the by, Mr D how do you manage that trick of extracting excerpts from my reply to more clearly respond the way you do. I am just an egg when it comes to driving this device.
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  20. #19  
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    Another data point towards the hypothesis that crackpots cannot master the [quote] tags...
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by polyastra View Post
    Surly you don't expect the classified sciences to show us their best stuff do you.
    Yet you appear to be claiming that you're aware of what the "classified sciences" are up to.
    Or will you now admit that you're speculating without support?

    Or are you opposed to the idea that some military-industrial partnerships exist outside of the mainstream shops that bring us those wonderful drones and high energy lasers.
    I know for a fact that such things occur.
    I've also been privy to certain of those at various stages. And do my best to keep up - especially on (military) aerospace matters.
    I've forgotten more than most people know on the subject. It was, for a long time, essentially my entire life.

    By the by, Mr D how do you manage that trick of extracting excerpts from my reply to more clearly respond the way you do. I am just an egg when it comes to driving this device.
    It's called editing.
    Use of the [quote] and [ /quote] tags. (Without the space in the second one).
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