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Bad science in fiction Hall of Shame


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On ‎10‎/‎14‎/‎2018 at 6:31 AM, ARS said:

See this:

And compare it with what the world looks today

Close to being spot on about the horse.  Although in my area there are some folks that still use horses and even oxen on small farms or logging in ecologically sensitive areas.  Also there are plenty of people who aren't rich or live in the country/suburbs but still own horses:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGgdxN532zE

  I think that it's a bit sad that horses have been shod for over 2000 years but the invention of machine made horseshoe nails happened just 20 years before the invention of the automobile!

 

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10 hours ago, KG3 said:

Ok, this is a pet peeve of mine.  A parsec = the apparent parallax movement of one arc second of an astronomical object compared to more distant objects due to earths motion around the sun.  So a parsec probably is not a standard unit in an interstellar society.  Unless it's like a foot, which was a particular persons foot at one point but most people have switched to metric...

Glad I could trigger somebody.   This bit of bad science should be included in the OP, as it may be the king of all bad science in sci fi. 

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12 hours ago, KG3 said:

Ok, this is a pet peeve of mine.  A parsec = the apparent parallax movement of one arc second of an astronomical object compared to more distant objects due to earths motion around the sun.  So a parsec probably is not a standard unit in an interstellar society.

Actually I could see a parsec being kind of generalized. You could say it's the parallax of on arc second from a world orbiting a "generic star" at a "generic distance".

In my fiction, I don't use parsec but I do use AU all the frickin' time (it's just so convenient) and I define it in the stories (they don't even remember Earth it's so far in the future) as "about how far most habitable planets are from typical stars" with the implication that there is an actual measurement but common people don't really care that much.

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6 hours ago, cubinator said:

I would very much enjoy bringing an interested person here from the past to show them all around, what we can do today, , what is coming next, and what has happened in between. Would make a great book...

Didn't Irving write that in the 19th century?

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39 minutes ago, SuperFastJellyfish said:

I'm sure you're right.  I haven't seen it yet.  I meant Post-Disney canon is a mess in general.  Don't mind me, I'm terrible with words.  :) 

I see. Yes, you're right about that in some ways, but seeing as how the nickname "Creepio" has made it into the canon everything is forgiven.

2 minutes ago, roboslacker said:

Didn't Irving write that in the 19th century?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rip_Van_Winkle

It seems there was a Washington Irving who wrote about a man who fell asleep for twenty years and missed the American Revolution, but the technological and societal changes would be much more drastic today. I think it's worth revisiting.

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  • 2 weeks later...

From the sci-fi movie Red Planet (2000):

-As the spaceship is inserting itself into Mars orbit, a ``gamma burst'' from the Sun fries almost all the main electronic equipment. Sparks and shorts erupt as Commander Bowman tries to correct the problem. Gamma rays are high energy photons emitted by the Sun. Sometimes, during in an intense flare, there can be a large amount of gamma rays produced. These photons can indeed damage equipment, but the size of the burst would have to be unprecedented to do as much damage as shown in the movie. Remember, the ship was designed to go to Mars, and the design engineers would know that the Sun can be unpredictable. They would use radiation resistant equipment. The situation in real life is complicated. Usually, a large flare from the Sun is accompanied by a burst of high energy particles like protons. These impact spacecraft, building up a static charge, like when you shuffle your feet along a carpet on a dry day. Enough charge builds up, and zap! It discharges, shocking you. That discharge on a spacecraft can damage its computers. The particles from the Sun can travel as fast as 1/3 the speed of light, so you might have a few minutes warning after seeing the flash of light from the flare before the particles hit. This doesn't matter, really, since in the movie they said it was the gamma rays that did the damage. Anyway, the usual amount of damage from such flares is minor, amounting to local, not global, damage on a spacecraft. Also, for a burst to do that much damage to the ship means it would have more than enough energy to provide a lethal dose of radiation to the astronauts. Crashing on the planet would be the least of their worries!

-When the escape pod hits the ground, it bounces around, and eventually rolls off a cliff. The airbags deployed by the escape pod were of course patterned after the same ones used by the Mars Pathfinder mission which touched down in July 1997, and which worked perfectly. The effects here were great, but I question the speed. Mars has a surface gravity of about 0.38 times Earth's, so the pod would bounce higher and fall slower. Knowing the pod is about 4 or so meters across and using that to judge their speed on the movie screen, it looked like the pod fell too quickly. Also, the lower gravity may not have helped them much when the pod rolled off the cliff. Let's say the cliff was 100 meters high. By the time they hit the bottom, they would be falling at a speed of about 30 meters per second, or as fast as a car drives on a highway. Even with the airbags, it's hard to believe they could survive that sort of beating, in EVA suit, strapped on escape pod's seat no less. People do survive car crashes at that speed, of course, but they usually don't walk away from them!

-Why they need to bring combat robot in science mission to Mars? It's not like there's gonna be martian aliens that's gonna attack them right? (Well, unless you count the bugs, but still, the robot turns out hostile for the crew)

-When Commander Bowman gets the main power back online, the wheels start spinning up again. Everything immediately falls to the floor, including her. In a spinning wheel, the gravity wouldn't just turn back on like a switch. The wheels would start spinning up gradually, reaching full speed after some time. Even if they could start spinning at full speed instantly, the simulated gravity wouldn't just turn on like it did in the movie.

-In an attempt to communicate with the orbiting mothership, they pull the modem from the Sojourner rover from Pathfinder and use it to radio for help. I don't think you can just pull the modem off the rover, point it up and hope to get a good signal. After all, the rover's batteries were dead! Also, they disconnected it from the antenna. It looked like there were solar cells and an antenna on the radio, but later he tries to use it at night, so if those really were solar cells, they wouldn't have worked anyway. And it's actually worse than that. The rover radio had a very limited range, about 10-20 meters. It was only designed to communicate with the lander, which was why the rover never strayed far from the landing site. The original Pathfinder mission ended because the lander's battery finally failed; so even if the rover's radio worked, the landerwouldn't be able to relay the signal to Bowman in the orbiting Mars ship. Also, the rover radio wasn't designed to transmit voice; it had a limited capacity to send information.

-As Gallagher is dying of hypoxia, he decides to quicken things up and opens his helmet. To his shock, he can breathe. The main plot of the movie was that the pressure should be low, but the oxygen had mysteriously disappeared from the atmosphere. However, the bugs that ate the algae produced prodigious amounts of oxygen, so there was O2 to spare. However, we would have known that! Even from Earth, telescopes on the ground and in orbit would be able to detect the signature of oxygen in the air. After all, they somehow knew the oxygen had disappeared; why didn't they know it was back?

-After Gallagher reaches the Kosmos craft, Bowman tells him to connect the Sojourner modem to the Kosmos. This isn't astronomy, but have you ever have an easy way in installing a modem? He gets Soujourner's modem hooked up to a decades old Russian probe in seconds. I know he's a good engineer, but come on. Also, he is able to reprogram the Kosmos probe using its display console. Why would an unmanned probe have a display console? Who's going to use it? Probes are programmed via radio, and no human contact is needed. Note that the display has an audio speaker too. Even more stupid was the fact Gallagher used the Kosmos probe as a return vehicle (!) to go rendezvous with orbiting ship (!). Do I need to point out the hillariously bad fact that he used a decades old Russian probe (Which has a console to be operated by human, no less), as a return vehicle (Why an unmanned probe has room for crew?) to execute a rendezvous in orbit, Apollo-style (Why a decades-old lander has enough fuel to get into orbit in the first place?)

Edited by ARS
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Not to mention there was no explanation how those bugs could consume things and produce oxygen (that doesn't make sense, its the opposite of combustion!), or how doing that was going to save Earth from environmental problems (seems more like bringing those back would risk a collapse of the ecosystem)

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10 hours ago, ARS said:

Why they need to bring combat robot in science mission to Mars?

It has recon features (all-terrain travel capability, perfect vision and the flying companion) and it was designed for unpleasant places.

Spoiler

Also it should guard their baggage.
Did you see another lander a little bit later? (With Fallout-style GUI.)
How do you think, who had expropriated all goods from the obviously nobody's Martian dome which they have visited?

 

10 hours ago, ARS said:

they pull the modem from the Sojourner rover from Pathfinder and use it to radio for help. I don't think you can just pull the modem off the rover, point it up and hope to get a good signal.

 

10 hours ago, ARS said:

He gets Soujourner's modem hooked up to a decades old Russian probe in seconds.

Spoiler

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120591/quotes

Lev Andropov: It's stuck, yes?

Watts: Back off! You don't know the components!

Lev Andropov: [annoyed] Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!

 

10 hours ago, ARS said:

After all, they somehow knew the oxygen had disappeared; why didn't they know it was back?

Just a conspiracy theory. Somebody didn't want to let NASA know about the presence of oxygen and has lied that it had disappeared...

Spoiler

... or the another lander's crew had also stolen and the oxygen sensor.

 

10 hours ago, ARS said:

(Which has a console to be operated by human, no less), as a return vehicle (Why an unmanned probe has room for crew?) ...  (Why a decades-old lander has enough fuel to get into orbit in the first place?)

Pretty good questions.
What makes us to think that the probe was unmanned...

Spoiler

... especially when somebody had stolen all goods from the dome including the plastic envelope and the oxygen sensor.

 

5 hours ago, KerikBalm said:

how those bugs could consume things and produce oxygen (that doesn't make sense, its the opposite of combustion!)

Spoiler

While the Americans were testing the Martian farming, the Russians were trying the Martian herding.

Bugs were mutated weevils which had eaten the plants. 
They didn't produce the oxygen. See above about the oxygen sensor.

They were living in the weevil-resistant Martian potato and got hungry.

 

Edited by kerbiloid
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On 10/24/2018 at 2:50 PM, kerbiloid said:

They didn't produce the oxygen. See above about the oxygen sensor.

Ummm... no:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Planet_(film)

Quote

The Martian insects are what caused the algae to disappear, but in the process they actually gave Mars breathable oxygen levels, because they produce oxygen as a waste product (explaining why they are so flammable).

No... just no... you don't consume hydrocarbons and nitrates, and water, and produce oxygen.

Quote

Burchenal explains to Gallagher that the biochemistry of alien insects' respiratory metabolism is capable of producing oxygen far more efficiently than human science is currently able to. Studying the insects' biochemistry is the key to terraforming Mars, and may even lead to discoveries which will allow Earth's polluted atmosphere to be repaired

Sounds more like its the key to a free energy device.

Respiration consumes oyxen, it would require an energy input to produce oyxgen (like sunlight and photosynthesis. Food is consumed to provide energy, otherwise its just negative calorie nutrients)

Also, again, how does producing oxygen fix pollution???

 

 

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Spoiler
15 minutes ago, KerikBalm said:
On 10/24/2018 at 3:50 PM, kerbiloid said:

They didn't produce the oxygen. See above about the oxygen sensor.

Ummm... no:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Planet_(film)

Quote

The Martian insects are what caused the algae to disappear, but in the process they actually gave Mars breathable oxygen levels, because they produce oxygen as a waste product (explaining why they are so flammable). 

That's just the character's explanation which obviously proves that he is not high in biology, because how could the insects produce oxygen? So, his opinion is doubtful, that's a nonsense.
Also he calls the insects nematodes, who are worms.

The only viable explanation of the oxygen without algae is that somewhere there is another farm, unknown to the characters (i.e. to NASA).
We can see a manned lander aside of the beetle field.
The beetles are just hungry weevils who escaped from a hidden plantation of weevil-resistant legali potato (which actually produced the oxygen) and found a lot of edible algae.

That's why they attack people. Try yourself to get from Earth to Mars without food and find that there is nothing to eat except somebody's algae at the neighbor farm.
Of course, they were hungry and angry.

 

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Literally this entire trailer:

How much inaccuracy can you fit into a 90 sec trailer?!

1. Why is the expanding sun making it colder?

2. The sun won't expand for billions of years.

3. I don't want to know how these "Earth Engines" work.

4. Isn't it going to be very cold as the Earth drifts through interstellar space?

5. How are they watching rockets take off from so close?

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21 hours ago, DAL59 said:

Literally this entire trailer:

[...]

How much inaccuracy can you fit into a 90 sec trailer?!

1. Why is the expanding sun making it colder?

2. The sun won't expand for billions of years.

3. I don't want to know how these "Earth Engines" work.

4. Isn't it going to be very cold as the Earth drifts through interstellar space?

5. How are they watching rockets take off from so close?

-84 C? Call me when it actually gets cold. Like colder than it normally gets in the antarctic.

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On 11/2/2018 at 4:30 AM, Mad Rocket Scientist said:

-84 C? Call me when it actually gets cold. 

Imagining the @Mad Rocket Scientist's lair:

On top of the table there are:
- a glass with a piece of solid mercury
- a bottle of rum
- a small flask of strong thick glass filled with liquid ammonia
- a mirror

A reference table on the wall:

  Normal  
Cool Just normal (-78..-39°)
mercury is solid
ammonia is liquid
rum is layered (liquid spirit above the water ice)
mirror is covered with rime ice from breathing
Hot
Just cool (-78°)
ammonia is solid
mirror is covered with dry ice from breathing
  Just hot (-39..-33°)
mercury is liquid
ammonia is totally vaporized
Very cool (-115°)
rum is totally solid
  Very hot (0°)
rum is totally liquid
mirror is clear
Edited by kerbiloid
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On 11/1/2018 at 12:19 AM, DAL59 said:

How much inaccuracy can you fit into a 90 sec trailer?!

It looks friggin amazing!   Just beautiful photography.   But..... no..... oh god no......

 

22 hours ago, kerbiloid said:

(liquid spirit above the water ice)

Ice floats in Alcohol.    At least my ice floats in my Jameson....

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9 hours ago, Gargamel said:

It looks friggin amazing!   Just beautiful photography.   But..... no..... oh god no......

Ice floats in Alcohol.    At least my ice floats in my Jameson....

Not pure alcohol. 
Know because I once added moonshine instead of soda to an drink and the ice sunk :)
It floats in Whisky who is 40% alcohol. 

 

Edited by magnemoe
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12 minutes ago, Green Baron said:

Moon sugar ?

:-)

Sweet moonsugar, this one is an sweet tooth. 
And yes catgirl avatar who has mentioned Elder scroll multiple times it might be an connection. 
Still event was real and pretty funny has an image of it somewhere. 

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14 hours ago, Gargamel said:

Ice floats in Alcohol.    At least my ice floats in my Jameson....

Up to about 180ish proof. Then again, if you're drinking something 180 proof, I doubt you're going to care enough to put ice in it.

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Peter Hamilton was so close yet so far. He mentions delta v a few times regarding various spaceships in his book The Reality Dysfunction, but he describes it in terms of time. As in a spaceship has so many minutes worth of delta v. Granted, that makes sense if you're talking about how long it would take to use up all your delta v, but then that's technically not delta v.

Ok, you could also argue he's talking in terms of specific impulse, but that would still be wrong: it would be delta impluse then.

I mean, on one hand, it's clear he is aware it's somewhat like fuel (but also not). But, on the other, it's a bit like he's using it to sound more scientific when he doesn't have a full understanding of it.

Don't get me wrong, he's a great writer. But this really irked me when I read his book a few months ago.

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