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  #1  
Old 02-21-2009, 10:33 AM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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  #2  
Old 02-21-2009, 10:41 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

It is important to say: Phil Plait! About time.
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  #3  
Old 02-21-2009, 12:07 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
It is important to say: Phil Plait! About time.
Indeed! What a great surprise when I clicked over to here. And with Carl, no less. Let's have Round 2 as soon as possible.

BTW, Carl: You got a shoutout right on this site from BH.tv community member Nate for your own recent stellar debunking work. (Well, more terran than stellar, to be picky.)

And Phil: Congrats on the Time Top 25 Award. (Is PZ jealous?)
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Last edited by bjkeefe; 02-21-2009 at 12:55 PM.. Reason: dot removal
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  #4  
Old 02-21-2009, 05:56 PM
trond trond is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Some new blood for the science section! Let's see if they can keep up with the two old turtles.
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  #5  
Old 02-21-2009, 12:35 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Some links mentioned

-- Phil's many times updated, data-aggregating post on the Texas fireball

-- Phil's "what we know so far" post, summarizing the above

-- Phil's update, with video of the fireball. (The runners are hilarious -- looks like a panicked mob quelled with a massive infusion of Xanax.)

-- video of the Edmonton meteorite, as captured by a police dashboard camera
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  #6  
Old 02-21-2009, 12:53 PM
Flaw Flaw is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Zimmer is awesome; very informative. Please have him on more often.
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  #7  
Old 02-21-2009, 01:07 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Talking Buzz Aldrin

In case you have not seen it, the video of 78 year old Buzz Aldrin clocking 34 year old Bart Sibrel. I don't think it is a good idea to call someone like Aldrin "a coward and a liar and a thief."
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Last edited by thprop; 02-21-2009 at 01:29 PM..
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  #8  
Old 02-21-2009, 01:25 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

Quote:
Originally Posted by thprop View Post
the video of 78 year old Buzz Aldrin
Thank you, thprop. That was very refreshing.
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  #9  
Old 02-21-2009, 01:50 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

Quote:
Originally Posted by thprop View Post
In case you have not seen it, the video of 78 year old Buzz Aldrin clocking 34 year old Bart Sibrel. I don't think it is a good idea to call someone like Aldrin "a coward and a liar and a thief."
I know it's wrong for me to enjoy this as much as I do, but what a beautiful moment!
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  #10  
Old 02-21-2009, 03:58 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
I know it's wrong for me to enjoy this as much as I do, but what a beautiful moment!
I don't think violence accomplishes much but sometimes it has a very cathartic effect. Sibrel attempted to have Buzz charged with a crime, but the Beverly Hills authorities declined. The BBC had a very thorough account of the incident.

Slight correction - this happened on September 9, 2002, when Buzz was much younger - 72. From Phil's post on the incident:
Quote:
Sometimes making that kind of claim can get you in trouble. It certainly did with Buzz Aldrin. Mr. Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, was ambushed by Mr. Sibrel with the Bible trick. On September 9, 2002, Mr. Sibrel jumped out at Mr. Aldrin with the Bible, daring him to swear on it. Buzz told Mr. Sibrel to go away repeatedly, and even asked for the police. When Mr. Sibrel physically blocked his path, Mr. Aldrin (who is 72, 5'10" and 160 pounds) punched Mr. Sibrel (37, 6"2" and 250 pounds) in the face.
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  #11  
Old 02-21-2009, 05:02 PM
pampl pampl is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

Fun diavlogue, but I think Plait's enthusiasm carried him away at times. He gets the causality of fear of terrorism backwards- people didn't just shrug after 9/11 until color coded warnings appeared and started scaring them, color coded warnings appeared because people were scared and the government needed to look like it was doing something to address that.
The LHC thing was also a facile dismissal of people's fears. I don't doubt that the current calculations show it to be impossible, but these are the calculations that have already been done wrong at least once. To pretend like there's no chance they were messed up again just costs you credibility with anyone who's thinking critically about what you're saying.
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  #12  
Old 02-21-2009, 05:53 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

Quote:
Originally Posted by pampl View Post
Fun diavlogue, but I think Plait's enthusiasm carried him away at times. He gets the causality of fear of terrorism backwards- people didn't just shrug after 9/11 until color coded warnings appeared and started scaring them, color coded warnings appeared because people were scared and the government needed to look like it was doing something to address that.
The LHC thing was also a facile dismissal of people's fears. I don't doubt that the current calculations show it to be impossible, but these are the calculations that have already been done wrong at least once. To pretend like there's no chance they were messed up again just costs you credibility with anyone who's thinking critically about what you're saying.
I disagree with your assertion about the LHC. People's fears were whipped up by knaves and charlatans. In the absence of attention grabbing stunts like the lawsuit filed in Hawaii(!) seeking a restraining order against CERN (in Switzerland) nobody would have felt any reason to feel afraid. The LHC was far from the first big accelerator, and wasn't even the largest for which ground was broken.

The guys responsible for creating all of the noise were clowns with no legitimate point.
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Last edited by AemJeff; 02-21-2009 at 06:05 PM.. Reason: clarity
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  #13  
Old 02-21-2009, 11:20 PM
pampl pampl is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

Quote:
Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
I disagree with your assertion about the LHC. People's fears were whipped up by knaves and charlatans. In the absence of attention grabbing stunts like the lawsuit filed in Hawaii(!) seeking a restraining order against CERN (in Switzerland) nobody would have felt any reason to feel afraid. The LHC was far from the first big accelerator, and wasn't even the largest for which ground was broken.

The guys responsible for creating all of the noise were clowns with no legitimate point.
The point isn't so much how things would happen in the absence of this kind of protest, but the plausibility of scientists being able to self-regulate, which I think is hurt by blithely professing complete certainty in figures which contradict the previous figures he was completely certain of. I know being a PR guy for the scientific establishment isn't exactly Plait's job description, but I don't think it's asking much for him to take a step back and talk realistically about the chance for human error in the calculations or the theory or the construction and operation.

Last edited by pampl; 02-21-2009 at 11:23 PM..
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  #14  
Old 02-21-2009, 11:36 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

Quote:
Originally Posted by pampl View Post
The point isn't so much how things would happen in the absence of this kind of protest, but the plausibility of scientists being able to self-regulate, which I think is hurt by blithely professing complete certainty in figures which contradict the previous figures you were completely certain. I know being a PR guy for the scientific establishment isn't exactly Plait's job description, but I don't think it's asking much for him to take a step back and talk realistically about the chance for human error in the calculations or the theory or the construction and operation.
pampl, I honestly don't understand how this applies to Plait's points about the LHC. The chance for human error was exactly the same for the LHC as it was for every other human endeavor since the beginning of time. The chance that those errors would lead to the end the world were also exactly the same as it was for those other projects - pretty much zero.

There are regularly higher energy collisions (by orders of magnitude) in the upper atmosphere than will ever be achieved by the LHC. The cumulative magnitude of those collisions so dwarfs the LHC's potential that the net increase caused by the LHC is essentially zero. There's nothing unique or extraordinary enough about it to have warranted the concerns.
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  #15  
Old 02-22-2009, 03:00 AM
pampl pampl is offline
 
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Default Re: Buzz Aldrin

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
pampl, I honestly don't understand how this applies to Plait's points about the LHC. The chance for human error was exactly the same for the LHC as it was for every other human endeavor since the beginning of time. The chance that those errors would lead to the end the world were also exactly the same as it was for those other projects - pretty much zero.

There are regularly higher energy collisions (by orders of magnitude) in the upper atmosphere than will ever be achieved by the LHC. The cumulative magnitude of those collisions so dwarfs the LHC's potential that the net increase caused by the LHC is essentially zero. There's nothing unique or extraordinary enough about it to have warranted the concerns.
I wasn't talking about whether the concerns were warranted. It'd look just as bad any time someone said he's doing something with an infinitesimal chance of widespread destruction and, after meeting with resistance from a handful of people, said he was wrong and actually there's no chance at all. It's more important now, I guess, as experiments get scarier sounding, information becomes more wide spread, and people demand more democratic control over the fate of their lives. That's not really relevant to the criticism itself, just a reason why it's a IMO it's a more serious blunder nowadays.
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  #16  
Old 02-22-2009, 12:07 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default The Last Word on the LHC

Via Joanne Hewitt: from Abstruse Goose.
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  #17  
Old 02-21-2009, 08:45 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Awesome diavlog. Although I would have expected John or George to host something on "skepticism." But Carl was great and Phil was a great new face. I look forward to part 2, and 3...

Note to our bloggingheads overlords: this is the second or third diavlog in as many days where several links or items mentioned were not shown in the sidebar.
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  #18  
Old 02-21-2009, 08:52 PM
graz graz is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
...Note to our bloggingheads overlords: this is the second or third diavlog in as many days where several links or items mentioned were not shown in the sidebar.
And did you notice that you still sit atop the viewer generated dingalinks? This also hasn't been updated for nearly 2 weeks. Maybe it's a wildcat strike?
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  #19  
Old 02-21-2009, 08:58 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Yeah, I noticed that too. Though I prize my position at the zenith of bloggingheads dingalink-dom, I'm also itching for new DL's.
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  #20  
Old 02-22-2009, 09:39 PM
nikkibong nikkibong is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Whither ' taken out of context' ? I've also have noticed this . . . very perturbing. (Will I actually have to start posting substantive comments now?!) And, even worse: the 'highlights' that have been published the last couple of weeks on the main page have been stolen from user generated content! 'Bankers aren't pirates' was from one of our fellow posters (can't remember who right now) and 'Costly Inquiry' was stolen from, well . . . ME.
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  #21  
Old 02-21-2009, 10:23 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle ebeneezer View Post
Note to our bloggingheads overlords: this is the second or third diavlog in as many days where several links or items mentioned were not shown in the sidebar.
Some here, if you missed them.
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  #22  
Old 02-22-2009, 05:07 AM
Lemon Sorbet Lemon Sorbet is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

So, not being very scientifically inclined but interested nonetheless, I try to keep up with Science Saturdays and clicked on Phil’s Bad Astronomy link. And what do I see on the front page immediately? A music video tribute set to my favorite-est TV show of all time – FireFly! Here I am trying to learn something tangible about astronomy and right away I get sucked into what seems to be an homage to Inara Serra, the space courtesan. I tried! I can only grasp one scientific item at a time so the video was all I came away with from the site, but I’ll make another attempt maybe next week.

I also recently bought Carl’s Parasite Rex based on everyone’s raves a while back. I’m still not sure if I got it because I want to read it or I want to be the kind of person who reads it, but I know that I’ll read it.
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  #23  
Old 02-22-2009, 08:48 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemon Sorbet View Post
... my favorite-est TV show of all time – FireFly! ... I also recently bought Carl’s Parasite Rex ...
Two more additions to the long list of reasons to like you.

I highly recommend, either before reading or after, listening to Carl's appearance on This American Life, conducted right after P. Rex was released. Listening to Ira Glass get progressively more horrified is hilarious. That interview was what spurred me to buy the book.

If you're pressed for time, Carl's part is Act II, starting at 24:30, but the whole show is good.
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  #24  
Old 02-22-2009, 12:39 PM
thprop thprop is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
I highly recommend, either before reading or after, listening to Carl's appearance on This American Life, conducted right after P. Rex was released. Listening to Ira Glass get progressively more horrified is hilarious. That interview was what spurred me to buy the book.
It is a great interview - and ends spectacularly.
Ira Glass asks - "Mr. Zimmer, whose side are you on?"

Ira goes on to call Parasite Rex "the perfect reading material if you ever want to have a long talk with an eight year old boy."
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  #25  
Old 02-22-2009, 12:48 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Jeez, thprop. Ever heard of putting SPOILER ALERT at the top of a post like that?

;^)
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  #26  
Old 02-24-2009, 08:28 PM
Lemon Sorbet Lemon Sorbet is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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I highly recommend, either before reading or after, listening to Carl's appearance on This American Life, conducted right after P. Rex was released.
I've bookmarked it. Thanks Brendan.
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  #27  
Old 02-22-2009, 12:40 PM
Nate Nate is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemon Sorbet View Post
my favorite-est TV show of all time – FireFly!
Such a great show. I still find myself singing (in inadvertently humming) music from the show even though it has been awhile since I have seen an episode. (the theme song, "Hero of Canton", etc.) Probably has something to do with watching every episode so many times, haha.

Fox could have had a gold mine on their hands with that one, but really screwed the pooch in how they handled it. (meddling with production, not airing the pilot to set up the characters and airing the others out of order, etc.) I keep hoping they will make a sequel to Serenity (or better yet a trilogy), but I am expecting disappointment.

Last edited by Nate; 02-22-2009 at 12:42 PM..
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  #28  
Old 02-24-2009, 08:37 PM
Lemon Sorbet Lemon Sorbet is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Such a great show. ...Fox could have had a gold mine on their hands with that one, but really screwed the pooch in how they handled it....I keep hoping they will make a sequel to Serenity (or better yet a trilogy), but I am expecting disappointment.
I suspect we can overrun the BH server with this topic Nate. Like many, I didn't even know about the show when it was on T.V. and only found out about it through word of mouth later when a friend gave me the videos. I've never mourned a T.V. program as much as I mourn FireFly, and I don't think Serenity the film quite captured for newbies all that was good about the it, as you can only gain full appreciation of FireFly from the serial narrative arc of the characters.

Yet another reason why Fox sucks.
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  #29  
Old 02-24-2009, 10:50 PM
Nate Nate is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Originally Posted by Lemon Sorbet View Post
Like many, I didn't even know about the show when it was on T.V. and only found out about it through word of mouth later when a friend gave me the videos.
I was the same way. I ended up buying the DVDs of the show (and documentary about it) though when I figured out how good the show was.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lemon Sorbet View Post
I've never mourned a T.V. program as much as I mourn FireFly, and I don't think Serenity the film quite captured for newbies all that was good about the it, as you can only gain full appreciation of FireFly from the serial narrative arc of the characters.
Oh, I totally agree. Serenity was like season 2 of the show. (admittedly crammed into one movie) It is very enjoyable if you have seen the first (only) season of the show, but there are a lot of references people would not understand if they had not seen the show first.
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  #30  
Old 02-25-2009, 03:42 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Oh, I totally agree. Serenity was like season 2 of the show. (admittedly crammed into one movie) It is very enjoyable if you have seen the first (only) season of the show, but there are a lot of references people would not understand if they had not seen the show first.
For anyone who doesn't already know: the full run of Firefly is available on Hulu. That's where I watched it (after learning about it from the good people at Poli-Sci-Fi-Radio). If you've never watched something on Hulu before, I'd say give it a shot -- they do Web TV about as well as anyone does.
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  #31  
Old 02-22-2009, 12:34 PM
Nate Nate is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Wow, really enjoyed this. I keep looking forward to Science Saturday bhtv more and more; We need an occasional Science Wednesday or something to help me make it through the week.

Definitely get Phil back here sometime; He was excellent!
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  #32  
Old 02-22-2009, 02:46 PM
harkin harkin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Wondering if Bad Astronomy was the same website that I saw years ago which did things like explain why the hilariously bad opening of Contact (the film) was bad science. I may have it confused with another.
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  #33  
Old 02-22-2009, 03:12 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Wondering if Bad Astronomy was the same website that I saw years ago which did things like explain why the hilariously bad opening of Contact (the film) was bad science. I may have it confused with another.
Minor nitpicks, but not too harsh, it appears.

Maybe you were thinking of the right site, but another movie?

Why did you think the opening of Contact was "hilariously bad?"
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Old 02-23-2009, 12:03 AM
harkin harkin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Minor nitpicks, but not too harsh, it appears.
Thanks! That's the site. It says it was last updated last year but I'm pretty sure I read it in the early part of this decade.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Maybe you were thinking of the right site, but another movie?
No, that's the one. I just thought it was pretty funny to say (among other things) that you could go to Saturn and dial up Jack Benny, Walter Winchell or Fibber Mcgee.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
Why did you think the opening of Contact was "hilariously bad?"
Explained above. As to the film itself, even after cataloguing about ten significant science gaffes, the reviewer says something rather extraordinary:

"Those of you familiar with my reviews know that I take a dim view of science errors in movies. However, I loved ``Contact'' and so I am willing to give it more leeway. Does that sound unfair? Too bad! It's my website!"

As a lifelong film fan this has always been one of my pet peeves, reviewers willing to overlook bad filmmaking because they approve of the message. The message in Contact struck me as rather hollow and silly, but I think Jonathan Rosenbaum says it much better than I.

Whether it's space nannies prompting early man to bash each other over the heads with bones, or extraterrestrials sucking an earthling across the galaxy to plant them in the middle of Club Med, ham-handed space philosophy has always lowered the value of space travel fiction.
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  #35  
Old 02-23-2009, 04:54 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Quote:
Originally Posted by harkin View Post
Thanks! That's the site. It says it was last updated last year but I'm pretty sure I read it in the early part of this decade.
Your memory is almost certainly correct in spirit, if a little exaggerated. I expect Phil would have reviewed it soon after it was released. It looks like he added more thoughts later; e.g., there is an explicit note at the beginning of one paragraph saying "[NOTE (May 11, 2000) ..."

However, to be precise, the movie came out in 1997. (Hard to think that "twelve years ago" only gets you back to the late '90s, isn't it?)

Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by bjkeefe
Why did you think the opening of Contact was "hilariously bad?"
Explained above. As to the film itself, even after cataloguing about ten significant science gaffes, the reviewer says something rather extraordinary:

"Those of you familiar with my reviews know that I take a dim view of science errors in movies. However, I loved ``Contact'' and so I am willing to give it more leeway. Does that sound unfair? Too bad! It's my website!"

As a lifelong film fan this has always been one of my pet peeves, reviewers willing to overlook bad filmmaking because they approve of the message. The message in Contact struck me as rather hollow and silly, but I think Jonathan Rosenbaum says it much better than I.

Whether it's space nannies prompting early man to bash each other over the heads with bones, or extraterrestrials sucking an earthling across the galaxy to plant them in the middle of Club Med, ham-handed space philosophy has always lowered the value of space travel fiction.
I can't really disagree with any of that. I would point out that just as it's easy to catch (and be bothered by) scientific shortcomings, it's also legitimate to downplay the significance of points where scientific accuracy is traded off for poetic license and better-paced story-telling.

To my mind, the opening sequence of Contact is excusable because it gets across a point key to a later part of the story -- that Earth's radio transmission leakage has been going on for decades -- succinctly, and as importantly, in a visually appealing way. To the latter point, I find this sequence to be in the same spirit as the opening title sequence of the original Star Trek series -- obviously, a spaceship does not make a whooshing sound, but adding it in makes the scene more dramatic.

To the former, I'll recall that the most frequent complaint I heard about Jurassic Park was the expository scene where the hows and whys of the genetic engineering were presented. I didn't mind it, but the consensus seemed to have recoiled in horror, being reminded perhaps of past science classes. So, directors are always looking for didactic shortcuts, and I give them a pass when it's only a supporting point serving some larger one, and I think Phil did, too.

Rosenbaum's review was good (thanks for the link) and I agree with his starting thesis, that MiB is arguably better, in part because of the way it deals with adhering (or not) to plausible scientific extrapolation. However, I'd say that if you go into a movie already predisposed to dislike it, as Rosenbaum did due to his distaste for Zemeckis and Forrest Gump, it's no great feat to pick it apart. (And by the end of the review, he seems to have taken the opportunity to vent his dislike for a whole lot of other things, which got tedious.)

I went into Contact not having seen Gump, and more importantly, having read and loved the book, so I wasn't looking to nitpick the scientific failings. (I was more bothered by the obeisance to the First Law of Hollywood -- that every movie must have a plain vanilla love story. It would have been more to my taste to portray Joss the way he was in the book, where he and Arroway did have a relationship that grew in complexity, and was all the more interesting because it wasn't driven by hormones.)

There was one gaffe that did strike me when I first saw the movie. I went to see the movie the day it was released, with a bunch of friends from work, all of us playing hooky. We were all in the business of using computers to do signal processing. In the scene where the alien message is first noticed, and the people pounding keyboards in the room are able to respond to Arroway's commands and -- clickety, clickety, clickety -- instantly filter and otherwise process the data, and produce gee-whiz graphics to boot, our entire group erupted in laughter, much to the mystification of those around us.

It's always hard to say when one is being righteously critical and when one is guilty of nerdgassing. And, as I said above, the dividing line is further blurred by how one goes into a given movie. So, I can accept your beefs as beefs, and not unjustified quibbles, but I, like Phil, was not bothered by them.

Did you read the book? The book is way better.

One last thing:

Quote:
Whether it's space nannies prompting early man to bash each other over the heads with bones ...
An interesting choice of word: nannies. The conceit of an outside agency directing humankind's evolution seems just as acceptable to me as any of a number of other scifi plot devices. As with, say, FTL travel, I'm willing to take a dubious starting point as axiomatic for the sake of the rest of the story. I wonder why this comes off as politically objectionable to you. If it does, I mean -- maybe you didn't mean to bring to mind nanny state -- but from your earlier mention of the "message" of Contact, I'm thinking your choice was conscious.

It seems that you're more sensitive to political undertones than I am when it comes to movies. Unless I'm being beaten over the head with a message, I usually miss what other people see. I guess I mostly go to the movies with the same mindset I adopt when I read thrillers: just entertain me by telling a good story. I suppose I'm not really a film fan in the sense that you are.

Anyway, again I'll ask, did you read the book? (I presume we're talking 2001 here.) I thought Clarke presented the aliens not so much as nannies but as gardeners (and I think he used that exact word) -- where they found the seeds of intelligence in their travels around the galaxy, they'd add a little fertilizer to help it grow. Their motivations are not so much directing those they help along any particular path as seeing what they'll turn into once they get smarter. In the book, the immediate consequences of the brain boost from the monolith are a lot more detailed, and have almost nothing to do with clubbing each other over the head.

In general, I think we're on the same page as far as impatience with how most major scifi movies are made. Unfortunately, I don't think we'd get to see very many of this genre if the directors were allowed to appeal only to our sensibilities. I try, therefore, when I go to see a major Hollywood scifi flick to put the nerd-critic part of my brain in neutral, but I have to admit, if I start not liking the movie for other reasons, I'll fully indulge putting it into overdrive.
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:43 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

That was nicely presented, Brendan. (Hobby horse alert!) I'd add a few small observations. The opening radio sequence was metaphorical, not literal - just a device to help make obvious the point of the sequence. In that sense it's really not unscientific, just poetic license. It's forgivable for exactly the same reason that an audible space explosion is not. That is, it exists to get across a valid (and necessary to the plot) scientific idea to the audience.

Think about General Grievous, the wheezing alien in Revenge of the Sith, cackling as he's ejected into vacuum and competently maneuvers himself into an escape vehicle, or the insta-blooming "Genesis Planet" in The Search For Spock. Annoying physics blunders exist as failures of the imagination.

Occasionally exaggerating an effect, or inventing a speculative physical law that fundamentally interacts with the plot really aren't sins if they're carefully crafted and serve a purpose.
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Old 02-23-2009, 10:47 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
[...]
Thanks.

I agree with the rest of your comments. In case I didn't make it clear enough before, let me restate that bad science in scifi that serves no purpose other than catering to the laziness of the screenwriter bugs me as much as it does anybody.

I don't enjoy most scifi that drifts toward the fantasy end of the spectrum for the same reason. It drives me bananas when, on page 193, the hero is in a corner and from out of nowhere, some new magic power is introduced.
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:05 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Thanks.

I agree with the rest of your comments. In case I didn't make it clear enough before, let me restate that bad science in scifi that serves no purpose other than catering to the laziness of the screenwriter bugs me as much as it does anybody.

I don't enjoy most scifi that drifts toward the fantasy end of the spectrum for the same reason. It drives me bananas when, on page 193, the hero is in a corner and from out of nowhere, some new magic power is introduced.
And yet, I have completely forgiven the "Sonic Screwdriver." Go figure.
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:17 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

Ever read Peter F Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" series? It's a rollicking space opera that just keeps getting more and more dire - a great read for over a thousand pages and then Wham! the biggest, dumbest, most literal deus ex machina solution ever published. I haven't read a single book by him again.
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:26 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Astronomical Edition

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
Ever read Peter F Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" series? It's a rollicking space opera that just keeps getting more and more dire - a great read for over a thousand pages and then Wham! the biggest, dumbest, most literal deus ex machina solution ever published. I haven't read a single book by him again.
No. Never heard of it. What a horrifying thing, though.

Makes me think of a Misery-like scenario, in which you would kidnap Hamilton and force him to rewrite the ending.

But after you got over the shock of the immediate annoyance, did you feel the first 95% was, in the end, worth it?
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