Sunday, 19 February 2012

Science in the Movies (and television).

So far we have covered two very important parts of why it is very unlikely we have ever been visited by extraterrestrials, namely: first was the distance, and second why would they bother to come here. There have been literally thousands of television programs and feature films that fit the very broad description of "Science-Fiction" (over 5000 in fact according to IMDB) however, how many of them are scientifically accurate? Most are nowhere even close, and a great number do science such a disservice that they should really be classified as something like pseudo-science fiction. There is no way of classifying all the errors that some of these shows make, but the majority are things that any junior-high school student (and likely some elementary ones as well) know are not correct.

One of the biggest blunders that is continuously made is the sounds in space. Very elementary problem here - in order to have sound propagate you need air, and there is none in space so therefore there can't be any sound. The only movie I can think of off hand that got this right is 2001: A Space Odyssey. This same thing goes for explosions. "Bang" is a sound and therefore if there's no air there's no bang. This is taken to absurd lengths in virtually all films, and now-a-days when every space film seemingly has to have a battle sequence. Okay, I assume you get the point so I won't harp on it any longer.

Another problem that is very common in these films is that every alien is a bilaterally symmetrical biped, with stereoscopic vision (two eyes, both facing forward), two arms, etc. With the exception of the Star Wars series - which admittedly still lots of those good ol' bipeds there was at least a number of other aliens present (Jabba the Hut comes to mind). Now you'd think that with the huge budgets that Hollywood has for their films that they could do something a little original. Probably the biggest violator of this is the Star Trek franchise in which not only are they virtually all bipedal, but in some cases the difference between alien races is simply a few bumps on the forehead. In fact I can only recall one alien in the original series that looked alien and that was the Horta (an acidic rock dissolver, that looked like a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese). Now admittedly I am not a Trekkie, and I haven't seen any of the newer episodes but with seventy some episodes in the original series and only one alien-looking alien the odds aren't too good that they've had any original thoughts since.

I don't want to harp on the silliness of Star Trek too much more, but they take things to absurd limits by not only making virtually all the aliens look the same, but also allowing them to interbreed. Come on people this is really basic biology. The prime example of this silliness is Mr. Spock. Why is it silly? For starters he is supposedly an alien, whose bodily chemistry is based on copper (not iron like ours), his parent's Amanda & Sarek - yes I had to look this up - mated (with a little genetic help it is stated), and successfully conceived a child. Now the chances of this happening (even with significant genetic assistance) is about as likely as a human successfully mating with a rose and producing a either living person that would never have to use deodorant, or a flower that can do calculus. Why, after all they did say there was some genetic help? Simple the two races have a different body chemistry (copper vs. iron remember), different chromosome numbers (humans have 23 vs. Vulcans' have some other number), different gestational periods (nine months vs. who knows what), etc. etc. ad nauseum. It was stated at one point that all races in Star Trek evolved from an ancient one, but this is absurd as well as basic evolutionary law says that species that are isolated will eventually be incompatible mates with other species. So enough about Star Trek.

So come on Hollywood lets see some science in your science fiction! Mind you when it comes down to it there hasn't been much original work come out of Hollywood for many many years so I guess the chances of anything like this happening is pretty slim.


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