Skip navigation

Science fiction versus science
One of the differences between magic and technology in fiction is that magic is practiced on an individual basis, needs to be learned individually, but technology is able to be used and experienced by the masses. Technology and scientific knowledge is the cumulation of human intelligence and ingenuity over the years, each innovation building off what others have researched and made.
Science fiction projects into the future to guess what humans might achieve with more time and resources. In some ways, we are living in the science fiction of the past. Flight and space exploration was denied humanity for thousands of years, and only within the last hundred years or so has flight been made available to us, first with things like hot air balloons and later with the motorized plane. Space exploration is even younger, about 50-60 years old, as far as actually getting something out there. People dreamed of flying before, but thought that only magic would allow them to. Now it is done everyday.
The problem with a lot of science fiction, both from before and currently, is that it is often based in erroneous ideas. Few works are based on hard science that use the laws of physics as we know them. Before, for example, some people believed that humans lived underground, that there were societies in the depths of the earth, or that there was life on the moon. The following goes over some ideas that are common in science fiction that, according to our current understanding, would never work, at least not in the way it works in fiction.

Faster than light travel
Science fiction now almost universally has some way to get past the speed of light, which according to our understanding is impossible (and quite inconvenient for space travel). Hyperspace of Star Wars, warp speed in Star Trek. Neither really works. There are people working on finding a way around this, but for now I don’t put much stock in it. The only plausible theory so far is that a space ship would generate a bubble of space around it and in front of the ship it would eliminate or compress space itself, while behind it would expand it. Hard to imagine that being possible without a huge amount of energy.

Teleportation
Other ideas like teleportation are also flawed, as the current theories would involve clones of humans being assembled at the destination, with the original dying off. And only at the speed of light. The only accomplishment so far has been transporting a photon about a meter. Doing the same to a human, if ever possible, would be a long way off, and by then, if there were faster than light travel, it would be more efficient and less deadly.

Time travel
Everyone would like to go back in time to change their decisions because of a pesky human emotion called regret or guilt. But even in fiction, no one can figure out how to treat it. There are just too many paradoxes. Does it create an alternate universe, and the person sent back in time can never get back to the original? Or is the original changed beyond recognition just because a butterfly was killed in the past? If you go back in time and kill your father before you’re born, would you cease to exist? If you go back, would you have your memories changed? How would you go back in time? Through a black hole? Going faster than light? These are just the questions that a science fiction writer needs to think about. Imagine a scientist trying to make it reality.

Destroying the world
Actual destruction of the world is pretty hard to pull off. If meteors and planets crashing into the earth haven’t knocked it off its course nor vaporized it yet, then anything humans can throw at it, using materials made from the earth itself, are unlikely to do anything to it. So no Death Star (which, according to the White House, would cost $850,000,000,000,000,000 anyway). Getting rid of life on earth would be easier than destroying the globe itself, but even that would be hard. The idea that if the earth were moved one inch from its current orbit would result in it being inhabitable is false and ridiculous. There are a lot things that have lined up perfectly for life to exist on earth, but this isn’t one of them. Plagues might possibly kill a majority of humanity, but there would be people immune to them. Nuclear winters would clear up. And so far, in all the history of man, there has never been anything or anyone that threatened all of humanity.

There are a lot more misconceptions that science fiction perpetuates. The universe as a whole is still being understood and old theories are replaced with new ones, which will undoubtedly be replaced in the future. Our present is a lot different than what people in the past imagined. They didn’t think we would become zombies to Facebook, but we sure proved them wrong.
In essence, science fiction is not much different than fantasy, in that both are equally improbable or impossible. So arguing that science fiction is based more in fact than fantasy is pointless for most books (a very select few deal with real science, but are often boring). Not that this is a bad thing by any means. Physics might limit us, but our imaginations aren’t limited, and creating good stories, whether with real or pseudo science, is enjoyable enough to justify its existence. Just be aware of reality. It needs to be understood.
Only by understanding the rules can they be broken.

Much of this information came from watching Sci Fi Science. If you can find it, I suggest watching the show, it is entertaining and goes over things like making lightsabers and force fields.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: