Examples of terrible science in fiction

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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby idobox » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:00 pm UTC

TimelordSimone wrote:This is why I get annoyed with people who dislike Fantasy because it's 'unrealistic' but then love Star Trek. Because apparently Star Trek is so grounded in reality.

People like that exist? I'm lucky enough not to have ever met one.

And we seem to have forgotten every single action movie that is not supposed to be science fiction. Cars don't explode, people taking gunfire are not projected backwards...

Also many manga and comics have trouble with the concept of momentum. No matter how powerful or strong you are, if you weight 80kg and receive a ten ton projectile flying at 500km/h, you will fly with it.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Adam H » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:23 pm UTC

idobox wrote:And we seem to have forgotten every single action movie that is not supposed to be science fiction. Cars don't explode, people taking gunfire are not projected backwards...
A car caught on fire in the parking lot of my workplace recently, and everyone (everyone!) seemed to think that at any minute it was going to explode. I work with smart engineers, too.

Curse you, Hollywood!
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:09 pm UTC

In Hollywood, cars will explode if you so much as tickle one with a feather.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Kang » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:29 pm UTC

The tyres explode, though.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:39 am UTC

Well, a fire is a concern. Not much chance of an explosion, perhaps a flash fire type instead?
But at least a "fire" is a reasonable assumption. The only person able to roll a car without it exploding is the hero. Any other driver, as soon as the car passes 90 degrees, it explodes! Who would have thought it. :lol:
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby AvatarIII » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:39 am UTC

lol, i am reminded of the amount of movies i have seen where a car falls down a cliff only to explode before hitting the ground, :lol:
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:09 pm UTC

Oh I forgot to mention. The same applies if the tires leave the ground. Any hight, any amount of time, it doesn't matter. As soon as a cars tires leave the ground (and it is not driven by the "hero/heroine") it will explode a second or two later. I guess those batteries are wired into the fuel tanks and need a permanent ground or something.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Ibid » Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:47 am UTC

Actually the problem is I go around slapping packs of nitro to the tops of cars, so when they roll...

Can't blame me for the "leaving the ground" ones though, that shits just unrealistic.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby MotorToad » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:31 pm UTC

It's pretty hard to do science fiction without bad science. Otherwise we'd be sitting around watching Actual Science. To list all the bad science in film would make this The Longest Thread on the Internet Not Concerning Porn.

What pisses me off, though, is when the director makes some obvious attempt to make actual science fit in the movie and then steps on it like poo. What comes to mind is "Mission to Mars" where the start off with Space Hero in a space station with gravity, then make a show of revealing they're spinning the space station to simulate gravity. But then...

But then they dock a shuttle to the space station.... On the periphery. On the outside bit that's spinning around.

Also, everyone involved with Sunshine should be stabbed to death with everything.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby idobox » Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:50 pm UTC

MotorToad wrote:It's pretty hard to do science fiction without bad science.

It's possible, you just need to make fictionnal "science" that does not contradict actual science, or just imagine technology that is possible. Asimov and Clarke did it pretty well.
A good way, is also to not explain, the way the old star wars movies never tried to explain how things work.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Kang » Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:41 pm UTC

I think the point is: there is wrong in movies and then there is ridiculously over the top 'what were they thinking?' wrong.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:13 am UTC

MotorToad wrote:I
Spoiler:
t's pretty hard to do science fiction without bad science. Otherwise we'd be sitting around watching Actual Science. To list all the bad science in film would make this The Longest Thread on the Internet Not Concerning Porn.

What pisses me off, though, is when the director makes some obvious attempt to make actual science fit in the movie and then steps on it like poo. What comes to mind is "Mission to Mars" where the start off with Space Hero in a space station with gravity, then make a show of revealing they're spinning the space station to simulate gravity. But then...

But then they dock a shuttle to the space station.... On the periphery. On the outside bit that's spinning around.


Also, everyone involved with Sunshine should be stabbed to death with everything.


Just hearing the name of that movie creates physical pain. I could not get around to the end of it the first time. It was on TV again, so I thought "I'll look at just the ending, perhaps it gets better". Nope, it get worse, much worse.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby AvatarIII » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:58 am UTC

i was just reminded of Eleventh Hour, (the UK Patrick Stewart one, since i never saw the US Rufus Sewell version but i assume it's the same) it advertised itself as a Science Fiction series that tried to stay within the realms of realism and believability, but the series consisted of an episode with black market human cloning, and one episode where people were drinking heavy water, and it was curing their cancer, because it was acting like chemotherapy, which isn't completely out of the realms of possibility,an episode with a hybrid smallpox virus outbreak etc, all the scenarios were pretty far fetched, but i guess kind of in the realms of science.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Radium » Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:07 pm UTC

Most disaster movies will have some bad science in them. One which sticks out to me is Dante's Peak (1997). Notable breaks in science include:
driving an SUV over a river of lava (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r421zjv-hoE)
and
lava having the viscosity of light honey and a boat+woman melting in waters of pH 1 (lemon juice) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7P4FYWHVYQ&feature=relmfu).
Yeah, it's not exactly top-notch in terms of scientific plausibility.

To be perfectly honest, basically every fictional work has scientific inaccuracies FOR FICTION
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby idobox » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:09 pm UTC

For me there's a lot of difference between "we have a hyperdrive that use some phenomenon first predicted in 2340 by loop-string quantum gravity" and "we inject inverse polarity frequencies in an antimatter crystal to locally change the value of c"
One uses fictionnal science, the other is insulting science.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Angua » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:03 pm UTC

I'm watching a tv show where the premise of this episode is that a pregnant woman who is murdered isn't the mother of the baby (delivered from her uterus) because she was A and the baby is O+. Considering my grandmother and grandfather where both A and had two O children (unlikely but not impossible - and my grandfather and grandmother were definitely the parents as the family resemblance is way too strong) I find this very facepalm worthy. Have they not heard of recessive alleles???

If only they'd made the mother AB. Such an easy fix.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Kang » Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:18 pm UTC

Angua wrote:I'm watching a tv show where the premise of this episode is that a pregnant woman who is murdered isn't the mother of the baby (delivered from her uterus) because she was A and the baby is O+. Considering my grandmother and grandfather where both A and had two O children (unlikely but not impossible - and my grandfather and grandmother were definitely the parents as the family resemblance is way too strong) I find this very facepalm worthy. Have they not heard of recessive alleles???

If only they'd made the mother AB. Such an easy fix.

Hold on... a woman is pregnant and gives birth, then people question whether or not she is the mother? Am I missing something or is that fairly strange long before they start to explain their reasons?
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Angua » Fri Sep 09, 2011 6:41 pm UTC

Kang wrote:
Angua wrote:I'm watching a tv show where the premise of this episode is that a pregnant woman who is murdered isn't the mother of the baby (delivered from her uterus) because she was A and the baby is O+. Considering my grandmother and grandfather where both A and had two O children (unlikely but not impossible - and my grandfather and grandmother were definitely the parents as the family resemblance is way too strong) I find this very facepalm worthy. Have they not heard of recessive alleles???

If only they'd made the mother AB. Such an easy fix.

Hold on... a woman is pregnant and gives birth, then people question whether or not she is the mother? Am I missing something or is that fairly strange long before they start to explain their reasons?
It was a surrogate child. The only reason they were looking at the child's blood type was because a) it was in the hospital as it had been delived by c-section as our heroine ME just happened to be there when a guy found the mother stabbed and the mother basically died right in front of them, and b) the husband spent most of his time at sea and hadn't had sex with his wife in 10 months.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby tomandlu » Sat Nov 12, 2011 12:41 pm UTC

Not exactly sci-fi, but I remember reading a war comic when I was young. There was a man who wanted to be a pilot, but they wouldn't let him because he some weird colour blindness that meant he saw red as green and visa-versa. They were worried he would mistake which coloured flare was being fired... but he'd had this condition all his life...
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby SlyReaper » Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:08 pm UTC

I'm reading a manga called 2001 Nights. For the first few stories, it was pretty hard sci-fi and pretty scientifically plausible. I mean, it was almost up there with Planetes. Then they discovered a giant planet on the edge of the solar system made entirely out of antimatter. Wut. And then they started using the new found energy source to create micro black holes to power their FTL engines which are described more or less as Alcubierre drives.

Okay I realise it was written in the 80s, but that's no excuse for having an antimatter planet.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby tomandlu » Sat Nov 12, 2011 4:52 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:Okay I realise it was written in the 80s, but that's no excuse for having an antimatter planet.


Because it was in our solar system or in general?

If 'solar system', then you could argue that it might have been captured... if there's something wrong with anti-matter planets in general, I'd be interested to hear the sciencing...
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby SlyReaper » Sat Nov 12, 2011 5:11 pm UTC

Because the interplanetary and interstellar medium would annihilate with the antimatter that makes up the planet, preventing it from ever forming in a normal matter solar system. And even ignoring that, the whole planet would be burning incredibly brightly as normal matter particles and Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud objects fall into it. And we know the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud are normal matter because comets and asteroids sometimes fall into the inner solar system, some of which impact the Earth. Basically, if there's a region of space containing matter, and another region of space containing antimatter, the boundary between those two regions would be incredibly easy to detect because of that. I could maybe believe in the existence of antimatter galaxies, because the intergalactic medium would be sparse enough that the energy released from the occasional collision of a cosmic proton and antiproton might not be detectable with current technology. But an antimatter planet in a matter solar system strains credulity.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby KrO2 » Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:16 pm UTC

I had the same thought when reading a short story in Before the Golden Age, a collection of old science fiction that Asimov edited and republished. One story (Wikipedia tells me it was "Minus Planet" by John D. Clark) had what was left of the antimatter planet coming (of course) straight for earth. They did detect it far in advance because of the annihilation with the interstellar medium, and by the time it arrived in the solar system it was down to about the size of the moon. I was willing to grant that because it was written in 1937, so whatever. But then they stopped the minus planet by throwing the moon at it so that the moon and the that's-no-moon annihilated. I thought that even for the 1930s, if they know what antimatter is and does, it should be way to obvious that this is not a happy ending for anyone who likes the earth to stay habitable.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby SlyReaper » Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:34 pm UTC

Well it wouldn't annihilate the whole moon and antimoon. On contact, a huge amount of energy would be released which would push the remaining fragments away from each other. I'm not about to do the maths, but there will be a certain amount of mass cancellation required before the annihilation reaction has enough energy to overcome the combined gravity of the two bodies. That amount of energy may or may not be lethal to any living thing in the solar system, but I'm guessing the huge chunks of matter and antimatter now whizzing around the solar system at high velocity would create... interesting times.

And even if it wasn't instantly lethal, not having a moon is going to be pretty deleterious to conditions here on Earth.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Kang » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:30 pm UTC

tomandlu wrote:Not exactly sci-fi, but I remember reading a war comic when I was young. There was a man who wanted to be a pilot, but they wouldn't let him because he some weird colour blindness that meant he saw red as green and visa-versa. They were worried he would mistake which coloured flare was being fired... but he'd had this condition all his life...

Isn't there actually a condition that makes it impossible to tell red and green apart? In real life that's usually only an issue with objects which are both red and green, it getting impossible to tell the shapes of the individually coloured parts. So while the reasons are fairly bogus, it does in fact get you washed out of flight school.
SlyReaper wrote:And even if it wasn't instantly lethal, not having a moon is going to be pretty deleterious to conditions here on Earth.

If I'm not mistaken, though, the role the moon plays for habitability is a fairly recent thing.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby SlyReaper » Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:44 pm UTC

It's not recent at all, it's been making the Earth habitable for billions of years. It keeps the earth's axis of rotation stable, although that would only become an issue over millions of years. A bigger problem is how many species rely on the motion of the tides. Without that, entire ecosystems would collapse and you can bet your arse that would make things very uncomfortable for humans. It would also do screwy things with the weather, since the atmosphere is affected by tidal forces too.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby KrO2 » Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:00 am UTC

I think he means it was only figured out recently. How long has that been known? I thought the second most obvious problem (after tides of course) was that if a system with a moon suddenly loses it, the planet is going to start spiraling outward. Since its velocity tangent to its orbit didn't change, but the gravitational pull did. I don't know what time scale that would be on, though, so I'll avoid saying how apocalyptic that particular problem is. But it should definitely have been known long before 1937.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby tomandlu » Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:01 am UTC

Kang wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Not exactly sci-fi, but I remember reading a war comic when I was young. There was a man who wanted to be a pilot, but they wouldn't let him because he some weird colour blindness that meant he saw red as green and visa-versa. They were worried he would mistake which coloured flare was being fired... but he'd had this condition all his life...

Isn't there actually a condition that makes it impossible to tell red and green apart? In real life that's usually only an issue with objects which are both red and green, it getting impossible to tell the shapes of the individually coloured parts. So while the reasons are fairly bogus, it does in fact get you washed out of flight school.


Oh, if he'd not been able to tell them apart, I'd have been fine with it, but it was very specifically swapped in the story. I remember the big reveal when they showed him the two colours and he declared that red was green and visa versa...
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Kang » Sun Nov 13, 2011 6:19 pm UTC

The principles behind the fact that losing the moon would be... lets say unfortunate certainly were known at the time, but as far as I know the whole question of what made a planet habitable just hadn't been discussed as it is now.

Oh, if he'd not been able to tell them apart, I'd have been fine with it, but it was very specifically swapped in the story. I remember the big reveal when they showed him the two colours and he declared that red was green and visa versa...

Well, my guess for things like that usually is that the authors half-heartedly learned about the real phenomenon somewhere and just decided to go with however wrong they understood it.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby nitePhyyre » Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:50 am UTC

tomandlu wrote:Oh, if he'd not been able to tell them apart, I'd have been fine with it, but it was very specifically swapped in the story. I remember the big reveal when they showed him the two colours and he declared that red was green and visa versa...
It would actually be impossible for him to tell the difference. Sure, if we went in his mind, roses would look green with red stems, but as far as he would be concerned roses are red with green stems.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby jaap » Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:46 am UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:
tomandlu wrote:Oh, if he'd not been able to tell them apart, I'd have been fine with it, but it was very specifically swapped in the story. I remember the big reveal when they showed him the two colours and he declared that red was green and visa versa...
It would actually be impossible for him to tell the difference. Sure, if we went in his mind, roses would look green with red stems, but as far as he would be concerned roses are red with green stems.

I've sometimes wondered whether you could test if people experience colours the same way by examining what colours combinations people find clashing or pleasing. If one person's colour perceptor signals were merely swapped compared to most people, then you might be able to see a specific predictable difference in their colour aesthetics. I doubt this will actually work though.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Xanthir » Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:36 pm UTC

I don't know about *swaps*, but changes in color perception certainly do alter what you perceive as clashing or pleasing. I'm blue-green colorblind, which mostly manifests itself as an inability to see pastel green (it looks white) and olive green (it looks brown). The differences are usually subtle, but there are definitely times when my wife and I disagree on whether something clashes or coordinates because of this. (I just trust that she knows what she's talking about.)
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Plasma Man » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:26 pm UTC

Not in fiction, but one of my friends used to think that being, say, blue-green colourblind meant that you couldn't see things that were green or blue - that they were invisible to you.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby tomandlu » Thu Nov 17, 2011 6:44 pm UTC

Some forgiveable bad science (mainly because the film is so much fun) is FTL and distance in Starship Troopers. AFAICR no mention is made of the ships even needing to travel FTL, let alone how they accomplish it.

Just as well, since the bugs are apparently chucking rocks across interstellar space. Given these rocks can be watched by observers on ships travelling in the opposite direction, they seem to be travelling at about 750MPH.

It's like the whole universe is rescaled down to earth-size...
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby MotorToad » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:06 pm UTC

I'm sure it's been mentioned, but the one thing that always bugged me about Firefly was when they'd have those fly-by scenes of ships in space. I can't say that I can imagine everything about the interaction of ships passing from one star to the next, but I'm certain that whatever concerns you have aren't going to be the kitchen lights.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Nov 17, 2011 10:40 pm UTC

The Firefly universe is a single solar system with all the terrestrial planets terraformed, and presumably all the gas giants collapsed into mini stars.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Xanthir » Thu Nov 17, 2011 11:37 pm UTC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Firefly_planets_and_moons

The Firefly system has 1 main star , 4 smaller stars that orbit it, several brown dwarfs, and a fuckton of planets and moons that are almost all terraformable.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Yakk » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:16 am UTC

Yep. Firefly is somewhere between tier 1 and tier 2 tech-wise, with relatively weak AI/information technology/materials science.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Xanthir » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:12 am UTC

Also, they somehow invented gravity terraforming, which is why everything has approximately 1G, even the moons.
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Re: Examples of terrible science in fiction

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:28 pm UTC

Plasma Man wrote:Not in fiction, but one of my friends used to think that being, say, blue-green colourblind meant that you couldn't see things that were green or blue - that they were invisible to you.

So if I hid a red object in a blue box, would your friends think a blue-green colorblind person could see the hidden object?

In Bleach when people flashstep downward (much faster than free fall).

Superman's inhalation implies pressure in his lungs well below vacuum.

Tolkien would frequently describe something as "flying faster than the wind". Anything actively flying downwind moves faster than the wind even if it's incredibly weak/ slow.

Anytime numbers above 7 appear in Dragon ball Z.

Self aware AIs that can't process a parametrized request. (Taking a attributes explicitly specified and making reasonable guesses for the rest instead of asking 20 inane questions) This is also bad drama.

In Lost, sodium penthanol exists in the 70's but not in the present.

Time travelers who can't kept their tenses straight. If you can pick a timeline, standard English (and other languages I know the grammar for) has all the tenses you need.

Racist sharks.

In Dune, the prescience in described as causal in nature. FTL is described as requiring a-causal piloting. Prescience let's one safely pilot FTL.

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Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:28 pm UTC
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