06 July 2010

Putting the "Fi" Back in "Sci-Fi"

There are times when I get rather tired of hearing people rant about how unscientific sci-fi shows are. But what they seem to be forgetting is that the "fi" stands for "fiction". Before my accident, I was a mechanical engineering student in large part because of my great interest in science. Even thirteen years later I continue to study multiple fields of science purely for the love of learning.

But that's not what I want out of my sci-fi entertainments. From them I'd rather explore the possible improbabilities of pseudo-science regardless of how well those possibilities are grounded in real science. That's part of why I'm such a huge fan of Eureka.

That's not to say that I can't appreciate when a show or film's creators actually research a topic so that a fictional show is scientifically accurate (in fact I watch a lot of PBS Kids shows for that very reason) but by and large I watch sci-fi more for the escapist silliness than for any semblance of real science. In fact, if I wanted accurate physics then I wouldn't watch any show or movie set in space because I have yet to find one that doesn't follow the “constant thrust equals constant velocity” theory of spaceflight (except for one particular episode of Stargate SG-1 in which Jack and Teal'c are drifting away from Earth at a million miles an hour after their drive shuts down).

There is however one case where a complete lack of scientific understanding gets in the way of my enjoyment of a movie: Wing Commander. In the movie, gravity is always down relative to the vessel. Not to the nearby planet. And not to nothing in deep space. Always to the stupid ship no matter how small.

But other than extreme cases like that, I am perfectly willing to ignore the facts of science in order to enjoy a good “what if?”.

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