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Today I'd like to pose a question for anyone who watches or reads popular SF (speculative fiction), particularly films, books, and fanfic from big sci-fi franchises such as Star Wars, The Matrix, and Star Trek:
What do you think is the biggest inconsistency or blunder in the canon? Leaving aside plot inconsistencies for another day: what premises of the setting, and technical inconsistencies, bother you the most about the story universe? Do they make the show unwatchable or do you manage to ignore them, or at least suspend disbelief?

Here are my answers. Be warned: some are "extra crispy geeky", as lonsolo might call them. ;-)
Feel free to apply this to Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, or anything you like.

Biggest inconsistency of premise

  • 1. Star Wars: You can quibble about the Sith and Jedi philosophies, or the stereotyping of species, but for me, the biggest one is related to a technical point. In a galaxy with 100,000 years of history, where faster-than-light travel has been around for 25,000 years, and where energy sources as powerful as fusion are not only commonplace but handheld, the favored forms of government are local constitutional monarchies and feudal states under a constitutional democracy. I claim that plentiful energy, a galaxy spanned by a few weeks of FTL travel, and the implied proliferation of humankind throughout the galaxy's locales, makes this fundamentally implausible. Any of you cultural anthropologists or political historians (professional or armchair) care to share your opinions?

    I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I realize that SW is camp, that this is necessary for the nostalgia and romance of the Lucasverse, but you'd think that the backstory would be a little more imaginative in its explanation of how the Old Republic was formed. Even Asimov had a bit more to how we got from Spacers and Settlers to Empire.

  • 2. The Matrix: This one is actually entirely cultural. Here we have humans with a technology that lets them simulate worlds: any period in history, replete with food and drink, books, music, weapons, and disciplines of art and science from the martial to the creative. The only limitation is the designer's imagination (note that I don't say "programmer", because it isn't really clear that that's what the Matrix architect is doing) and the relative disbelief and experiential judgement of the person living in the artificial world. Jolly good.

    And all they can come up with is a dojo? Even as a metaphor for "learning to resist the Machines", it's rather limited. Yes, it looks cool, but I've always approached the Matrix looking for deeper implications (again, NB: I didn't say "meaning") than what looks cool. On the visual score, it disappoints. Most of my well-educated friends remind me that it's really just about the trenchcoats, shades, and bullets, and that I should suspend my disbelief regarding the rest; but like the more interesting denizens and escapees of the Matrix, I've tried to wake up.

    The premise of the Matrixverse is that humans, having lived in captivity for centuries before the One, have never experienced the pre-holocaust Earth, and so have no memory of the outdoors, of a cloudless sky, save what the Machines have supposedly shown. But have the machines shown them how to fly? To stop time and halt bullets in their path? The fragmentary awareness that the people of Zion have of history, of concepts such as a "sunny blue sky", shows that they know how to express it in words. Such experientia could have been shared by beings such as the Oracle, too. If you are familiar with Dan Simmons' hyperion_cantos, consider the Stables among the Stables/Volatiles/Ultimates triumvirate of the Technocore AI. I can accept the premise that Matrix-born humans such as Neo have a world metaphor constrained by what the Machines have let them see; but what about long-liberated humans such as Morpheus, or the Zion-born? Even a hollow Earth microcosm like the Genesis chamber in Star Trek II would give people a taste of what it was like to live on the surface.

    I suppose this is all answered in the new Agents of Everquest plug-in for The Matrix Online. I'm just disappointed that a promising franchise was rehashed and warmed over in the latter movies, with so few of the intriguing and fascinating aspects even being explored. I'd like to see some of the questions at least posed, if not answered.

  • 3. Star Trek: I've always hated the universal translator. Here again is a technical inconsistency writ large. ST's writers have retconned it into canon, starting with Star Trek: The Next Generation (it is mentioned in "Darmok") and continuing Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. Listen: the idea that an electronic implant can learn a language model, or even the basic lexicon, of an alien language after sampling just a few phrases is ludicrous in the extreme. "Keep talking," says one of the bridge officers in DS9 ("Sanctuary"), when members of a new species comes through the wormhole, and the UT starts working before the opening credits roll! That was perhaps the biggest groaner I've ever seen on any show of the franchise.

    Enterprise is much more interesting: Hoshi Sato is the ship's interpreter, and does an impressive job establishing communications with new species, especially before and during first contact missions. And by the way, I don't just say that because she's kind of cute! Deanna Troi was kind of cute, but "Captain! I feel pain!" as a large alien creature is being disintegrated is just GalaxyQuest silly.

    To add insult to injury, though, they made Hoshi one of the inventors of the device that would apparently make linguistics "obsolete" as more than a hobby science, until the bridge crew had to rediscover it in TNG ("Darmok"). "What the hell is going on here?" shouts Riker. Indeed, WTH?

Biggest technical inconsistency

  • 1. Star Wars: Most people go on about the implausibility of lightsabres, blaster bolts traveling slower than sound, turbolasers capable of exploding a planet, and giant nematodes living on asteroids. Some wax pensive about the Ewok Holocaust that the Second Death Star's explosion would have caused that close to the forest moon of Endor, and others boggle at the materiel and effort required to build the Executor (a 17.5 kilometer ship!) or the Death Stars.

    I will take up the biologists' quibble and say that too many hominids are the biggest implausibility. More to the point, the nice, even adaptation and "similarity within diversity" that you need even to have a galaxy of mostly oxygen-breathing beings at compatible levels of technology is farfetched. This is discussed in an MSNBC article on the science of SW in May, 1999 (revised in 2002). Seth Shostak, a SETI Institute astronomer and author of Sharing the Universe, observes: "They’re all obviously pretty much on the same level, and they at least get along well enough that they could share a cantina... but that’s nonsense, you see, because the universe is about 15 billion years old, and the chances that two civilizations could have ever arisen within a million years of each other is not very high".

  • 2. The Matrix: "Humans as batteries" is a ridiculous concept. 120 volts? A tank of electric eels is much more efficient: higher charge, better current, and no need for a complex simulated world. Take it further: yeast, or cyanobacteria as dashamus suggested on Friday, are much more plausible. Anything with mitochondria: the smaller the eukaryote, the better. Or, as gondhir pointed out, putting up more of the orbital solar panels that the Machines were already using would do quite nicely.

    As I've always said, we'd have gotten, and will get, much more interesting movies out of the premise that the Machines are using humans as a large compute cluster, or if you prefer, a cognitive cluster or "imaginarium".

  • 3. Star Trek: Well, of course there are too many to count, but I'll be boring and show my admiration for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Straczynski's Babylon 5, and Whedon's Firefly by noting that sound doesn't travel in a vacuum. It's much more challenging to fill silent minutes with meaningful music or striking visuals than with cheap CGA and whooshing and puttering noises!

    Even the Battlestar Galactica has some foley artists that make it sound like a large ocean-faring battleship, and it gets worse where there are exploding asteroids and starships. The opening sequence of the first season, with the Vipers and Cylon raiders engaging to that eerie Armenian duduk overture, and nothing else, is much more evocative to me. The second season's vocal theme is good, too.

    Don't even get me started on the wraith darts from Stargate: Atlantis. "Nyyyyyoooom," even in atmosphere, belongs in a three-year old's playroom!

In other news:

  • So many people are putting bayesnets on resumes that an IT commentator actually felt it necessary to argue that they aren't a core CS topic (they aren't, of course; my comments here). As one of our senior professors, Dave Schmidt, said, though: a day is coming when computer science (CS) and software engineering (SE) will fission into the theoretical, scientific and technical fields that they are already becoming in practice. That's the idea behind the CS tracks we are looking at partitioning our curriculum into. Here's a roadmap to past discussions on CS/IT education in this weblog.

  • Windows Vista is to come in seven editions, according to this Slashdot article: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate. "Ultimate" must be the one that bluescreens only once a month. Or is the edition that bluescreens the most frequently? As I've often said, Windows users are becoming increasingly tolerant of insability and fragile or quirky functionality, and this should not be the price of an applications-rich, transparent OS. My comments appear here. One kernel, seven distros, one brand - all the monopolization of SCO and none of the POSIX compliance. ;-)

  • masteralida pointed me to this site about a hobbit-style bar in Manila. Does life imitate art or the other way around, I ask you?



--
Banazir

Comments

( 137 comments — Leave a comment )
lordmathem
Sep. 11th, 2005 05:43 pm (UTC)
The thing I find hardest to accept in Star Trek is the idea that beings that evolved in unrelated biosheres would be of any sexual interest to each other and having children. Humans can't inter breed with chimpanzees. Yet Star Trek features Human/Vulcan, Human/Klingon and Romulan/Klingon hybrids. We are much more closely related to E. coli bacteria than we are to Vulcans.

I do see two factors favoring the high level of cultural and political variation between and autonomy for planets in Star Wars. First there is need to accommodate several hundred separate races (the Ultimate Alien Anthology from the Star Wars RPG lists 180 sentient species). Second is the sheer administrative impossibility of trying to micromanage that many planets. Even within the United States today Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Los Vegas and Dallas are nine very different cultures, none at all similar to DC's. Every planet will be its own culture.
banazir
Sep. 11th, 2005 06:58 pm (UTC)
Inconsistencies: Trek sex and Star Wars politics, part 1 of 2
We are much more closely related to E. coli bacteria than we are to Vulcans.
A priori, that would be true, but if you remember the TNG episode "The Chase", Picard confirms his former archaeology professor's discovery that Alpha quadrant hominids are all branches of a single species, the progenitors, who "seeded their DNA" across dozens of planets two billion years ago. The evolutionary biological implausibility of this premise aside, it is the canonical explanation for Human, Vulcan/Romulan, and Klingon intercompatibility.

This is a major retcon from the early 1990s. I remember Spock's World, a novel where Sarek and Spock's mother Amanda Grayson had to use a lot of in vitro technology in order to conceive. Later, B'Elanna Torres and Worf's 3/4 Klingon, 1/4 Human son Alexander Rozhenko seem to have been conceived with no technology at all.

First there is need to accommodate several hundred separate races (the Ultimate Alien Anthology from the Star Wars RPG lists 180 sentient species).
True, but the distribution of types of government seems to cut across species: at least there are human monarchies, corporate oligarchies and plutocracies, and conglomerations (such as the Trade Federation and Confederacy of Independent Systems) that seem to intermesh many species well.

As a precursor to the Galactic Empire, the core systems of the Old Republic (sans the few hundred or thousand such as Corellia and Alderaan) seemed to be ineffectual by design, founded on an autonomy that caused the Senate to degenerate into petty bickering. Palpatine certainly exploited this to the greatest possible extent.

By contrast, it's interesting to see how the Rebel Alliance had trouble going back to the egalitarian ideal. The CIS, which lent at least a lot of its war machine to the Alliance, seems to have had a pretty efficient administration, though we only really see its underground strategic command. It isn't as clear-cut a precursor to the Alliance as the OR is to the Empire, especially as there seems to be little left demographically (Bothans, Mon Calamari, and breakaway worlds probably represented by the Two Thousand replacing the Trade Federation, IG Banking Clan and the Techno Union). But aside from the involvement of notables from Alderaan and Corellia, you really don't see as much assertion of hereditary privilege in the New Republic. Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy describes a power struggle between Ackbar and Borsk Fey'lya that underscores this. I think it's at least clear from Leia's decades of work as a diplomat that the post-Endor Alliance government had to rediscover a few things about reforming a federation. Real-world analogies aside, the New republic seems to be more of a unitary state compared to the looser confederation that it was (and perhaps the Old Republic, despite its designation as "federal") had become. I'm haven't read NJO and am therefore not fully familiar with the post-Endor story, but my impression is that even in the face of the Vong threat, there was a tension between those who viewed the Alliance as an interim or stop-gap government "on the way back" to confederation, and this turned out not to be the case. (Of course, the NR had only 11,000 member worlds versus the Empire's million.)

(continued)
Jedi trysts - banazir - Sep. 27th, 2005 02:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Jedi trysts - gondhir - Sep. 28th, 2005 05:31 am (UTC) - Expand
orangerful
Sep. 11th, 2005 05:49 pm (UTC)
Star Wars issues:

1 - story - I'm not huge on the EU, but one of the big issues for me was what Lucas turned the clone war into. So many stories had be written one way or the other, and I had my own ideas in my head from what Obi-Wan told Luke in ANH, but Lucas tried to be clever and go a different way and not its just a mess with "what are the stormtroopers?" "what happened to kamino?" and "why Lucas WHY!"

Also, you can travel across time and space, you can build lightsabers and blasters and harness the power of an unseen force...yet you can die by "losing the will to live?" Riiiight. Heck, people try to do that in this day and age and we plug them into respirators and such. I bet if they had just plugged Padme in for a few hours, she would have realized that her husband was a jerk and she had two new babies to take care of.

also - how small is this galaxy?? Can we have a few more people bump into each other that should never have met? The inclusion of R2 and 3PO in the prequels was just silly and really makes no sense. And don't get my started on Boba Fett! Ugh, he was a mysterious bounty hunter, now he's just some guy wearing an old suit who has daddy issues.

Star Trek - I liked the universal translator! It was a nice easy way to insure that all alien species could communicate without saying that everyone in the galaxy knows english (star wars!). I only watched TNG faithfully though, the rest sorta fall by the wayside for me.

Can't discuss Harry Potter until book 7 hehe. Can't tell what are inconsistencies and what is a plot device by JK to trick us hehe.
gondhir
Sep. 11th, 2005 06:46 pm (UTC)
Star Trek - I liked the universal translator! It was a nice easy way to insure that all alien species could communicate without saying that everyone in the galaxy knows english (star wars!).
It wasn't English, it was "Galactic Standard" (or something). It makes sense for there to be a common language used by most interstellar travellers. English is extremtly common in the world today for that reason. Someone from a non-English speaking country might speak English to someone from another non-English speaking country because it's convenient.

But there's loads of other languages floating around SW. In fact, with the exception of the Jar-Jar people (forget their species name)(who share a planet with humans), the Neimoidians (who may be so into trade that Galactic Standard is their native tongue), and members of the Jedi order (who are probably raised almost from birth to speak Galactic Standard), very few non-humans DO speak "English". Even most of the droids don't speak "English"! C-3PO's main purpose was as a translator.
(no subject) - orangerful - Sep. 11th, 2005 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gondhir - Sep. 12th, 2005 05:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Star Wars linguistics and Star Trek allergies - banazir - Sep. 12th, 2005 08:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Alien Allergies and Mad Zerg Disease - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Alien Allergies and Mad Zerg Disease - gondhir - Sep. 14th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Size of the antigen - banazir - Sep. 16th, 2005 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Size of the antigen - gondhir - Sep. 16th, 2005 07:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Size of the antigen - zaimoni - Sep. 19th, 2005 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaimoni - Sep. 12th, 2005 02:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
Well, of course - banazir - Sep. 12th, 2005 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
The Shrinking of the Galaxy - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Harry Potter - orangerful - Sep. 14th, 2005 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
banazir
Sep. 15th, 2005 08:30 pm (UTC)
Realism and "common" sense, epistemologically speaking
Thanks. I quite agree, at least in that realism is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose my only difference of opinion is that I see the line as higher in certain areas (physics, biology, the time it takes to solve engineering problems).

I'm sure that in others, such as architectural elements out of place, anachronisms in both the real and fictional history, and linguistic errors, you and many others are more discerning than I.

Science and art are shaped by its practitioners, and so what is "common sense" will vary across disciplines, as always. This includes not only what we know and notice, but what we tend to reflect on and infer.

--
Banazir
gondhir
Sep. 11th, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC)
Critique: 1/2
Technological levels of different species
IMO, this is less of a problem with SW and more of a problem with ST. In SW, the general technological level seems to have been more or less constant for millennia. This implies that they may have reached some kind of "upper limit" as to what is possible. Additionally, pretty much every sub-civilization in the galactic-civilization has been in interstellar contact for countless generations, plenty of time for technology to diffuse among them.

In ST, OTOH, every civilization seems to be at more or less the same technological level, but this level RISES and rises with all of the major civilizations at more or less the same rate. Even with first contacts or in other parts of the galaxy, there are rarely civilizations with a significantly higher level of technology than the Federation and when they do it's usually a stay-at-home civ in one star system or something. Often, the Enterprise meets a new species and they have a ship that almost exactly matches their capabilities. No matter which Enterprise in which century! Moreover, civilizations are constantly emerging in ST. Earth went from being a non-warp drive civ to being one of the major powers in the quadrant in a couple centuries.

Governments
The kind of government you have really has very little to do with your technological level. There were democracies millennia ago and dictatorships today. The Cold War was between the two most powerful and technologically advanced nations the world has ever known; one was a democracy and the other a repressive regime.

And all they can come up with is a dojo?
That was a sparring program. A dojo simulation sounds like a very good program to practice hand-to-hand combat in. They also had the jump program where Neo tried to jump from one skyscraper to the next. It had it's own purpose. I suspect they had a lot of stock simulation training programs. In "The Animatrix", some of the segments show radically different and elaborate simulation programs. Also, keep in mind that the Construct (the simulation the Humans make on their ships) is inherently limited compared to the Matrix. It must be a lot smaller and less complex due to the relatively low level of computing power available.

Universal Translator
It's a load of bantha fodder. They meet an alien race they've never met before. They hail it. The alien speaks. AND THEY UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING IT SAYS FROM THE FIRST WORD ON. The only possible explanation is that the Universal Translator is psychic and knows what the alien's going to say before it says it. In which case, it shouldn't have a problem with any language but SHOULD have a problem with aliens impervious to psychic readings (both of which have been shown false).

Deanna Troi was kind of cute, but "Captain! I feel pain!" as a large alien creature is being disintegrated is just GalaxyQuest silly.
What about at the end of "Starship Troopers", where the psychic Doogie Houser goes up the alien and says, "It's afraid!" and everyone cheers. Well, no shit it's afraid.

they made Hoshi one of the inventors of the device that would apparently make linguistics "obsolete" as more than a hobby science
Right, because once a machine can do something, it's pointless to understand the mechanics of how the machine does it.
banazir
Sep. 11th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC)
The Inigo Montoya explanation: response 1 of 4
Technological levels of different species
IMO, this is less of a problem with SW and more of a problem with ST.
OK, I grant that, but I was quoting Shostak above as an ancillary point to my own: that species at similar levels of sapience shouldn't even be possible. If species are evolving all over the galaxy, the sapient milieu ("Galactic Milieu" cf. Julian May, "Civilization" cf. E.E. Doc Smith, "Sentiunt Milieu" cf. the authors of Star Control) should consist of a handful of species at most, and the ones a few millenia ahead might well seem to be of godlike ability (cf. Clarke's Third Law). That's one nice thing about the Vorlon-Shadow War in Babylon 5: there's a nice sense of continuity, and of the galaxy as a cradle of civilization for many species, where we are neither the first nor the last.

In story universes where there are competing sapient races, the first one on scene will either wipe the other out, or be (or become) enlightened cf. Orson Scott Card's humans in the Ender Saga, and learn to peacefully coexist. To do this, it must forbear genocide.

Case in point: given their penchant for "beat them or join them", the Borg should have taken over the Milky Way with relative ease. What were they doing between 1400 and 2150? Or between 2150 and 2350? Are the transwarp conduits in the Voyager finale a brand new thing? You're right: ST should be ST: The Original Borg, ST: The Next Borg, ST: Borg Space 9, ST: Assimilator, and ST: Dinky Little Scout Sphere.

The kind of government you have really has very little to do with your technological level.
Yes and no. Autonomous sovereign states, separate but equal? Yes. Hence I have no quibble with the Centauri being a reflection of the Roman Empire. A single federal republic with lots of elective monarchies and hereditary fiefdoms? One that stays this way for 25,000 years? It must be really pacifistic for so few of the native populations to look at the government of the others and decide, "Hey, Prince! The Rodians have a nice constitution; why don't you give us some of that?".

My theory is that Lucas just liked the sound of "Princess Leia" and, in what we now know to be standard Lucasian reasoning, inferred that a Princess must be the daughter of a Queen, etc. Bail Organa was a hereditary prince of Alderaan as early as the original trilogy, IIRC. So it's just hard to back out of. I see no reason why the Alderaanians would not want some decentralized or local government, though. My guess is that they have it, and the hereditary title is largely ceremonial, at least as purely symbolic as the British monarchy is today. Dynasties have a way of dying out, after all; and Lucasian elective monarchies even have term limits.

This is what I call the Inigo Montoya explanation: "You use that word `monarchy' a lot. I do not think it means what you think it means."

There were democracies millennia ago and dictatorships today. The Cold War was between the two most powerful and technologically advanced nations the world has ever known; one was a democracy and the other a repressive regime.
Yes, but the Cold War is over, after a mere 40 years, and democracy seems to have taken the upper hand. Whether that's thanks to technology or regardless of it, here we are.

That was a sparring program. A dojo simulation sounds like a very good program to practice hand-to-hand combat in... In "The Animatrix", some of the segments show radically different and elaborate simulation programs.
Hrm... it all depends on how they expected people to infiltrate the Matrix. I will say that the whole hand-to-hand metaphor wears thin. From Lethal Weapon to modern Westernized wuxia (House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and especially Hero), the Homeric Urge To Close is starting to eat the brains of American kids like so many hungry boohbahs.

(continued)
Adama on the Holodeck: response 2 of 4 - banazir - Sep. 11th, 2005 08:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Adama on the Holodeck: response 2 of 4 - gondhir - Sep. 26th, 2005 05:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
gondhir
Sep. 11th, 2005 06:55 pm (UTC)
Critique: 2/2
Most people go on about the implausibility of lightsabres
No one really knows how lightsabres supposedly do what they do. Even a very simple explanation (some kind of forcefield holds plasma inside (or something)) seems plausible enough to me.

blaster bolts traveling slower than sound
Blaster bolts are not lasers so there's no reason they can't go as slow as they want.

turbolasers capable of exploding a planet
That simply requires an incredible amount of energy. Devices in the SW universe regularly use mind-blowing amounts of energy for all sorts of things.

giant nematodes living on asteroids
I agree this is improbable. Even more improbable is that it's stomach could be exposed to the vacuum of space and yet contain gasses more dense than on most of the Earth. Or that this remote creature would be infested with organisms that Han recognized and that can feed on spaceship power couplings (What do they eat when they can't get spaceships?).

I will take up the biologists' quibble and say that too many hominids are the biggest implausibility.
You complain about this for SW but not the far more egregious ST? IN SW, most of the non-humans at least have radically different facial featurs (more so than even the Klingons or the Cardassians, not to mention all the ST aliens that look EXACTLY like humans) and there's no sign of inter-species breeding.

More to the point, the nice, even adaptation and "similarity within diversity" that you need even to have a galaxy of mostly oxygen-breathing beings at compatible levels of technology is farfetched.
Actually, it wouldn't surprise me much if most of the multi-cellular life in the universe DID run off of some kind of oxygen cycle. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. Water is incredibly common and even more useful. You get oxygen from that. Carbon is very common and very useful for chemical reactions and both oxygen and hydrogen combine with it readily (even "silicone based life" would run off of oxygen). Moreover, oxygen is INCREDIBLY reactive. It reacts with almost everything. Iron oxidizes, wood oxidizes, peeled apples oxidize before your eyes, people oxidize. It's very very useful for running complex chemical reactions.

"Humans as batteries" is a ridiculous concept. 120 volts?
Extremely ridiculous.

Or, as gondhir pointed out, putting up more of the orbital solar panels that the Machines were already using would do quite nicely.
Or just abandon the Earth. We need it because we like to live in an atmosphere of fairly constant pressure and precise chemical composition. The Machines could care less. If they're afraid of humans eventually rising up and striking at them in space just kill us all.
banazir
Sep. 13th, 2005 05:35 am (UTC)
Lightsabres and asteroids with atmospheres: response 3 of 3
No one really knows how lightsabres supposedly do what they do. Even a very simple explanation (some kind of forcefield holds plasma inside (or something)) seems plausible enough to me.
I wouldn't say no one knows anything about them; rather, there are many competing theories, none of which hold up perfectly under scientific scrutiny, though a few are blatantly wrong and a few are close to plausible with enough assumptions about futuristic science. Robert Brown's page for the SW Technical Commentaries (now dead, but still archived from 1999-2003 on the Wayback Machine) presents and analyzes many such theories.

Blaster bolts are not lasers so there's no reason they can't go as slow as they want.
"As they want"? Now they're sentient?!

[Death stars] simply requires an incredible amount of energy. Devices in the SW universe regularly use mind-blowing amounts of energy for all sorts of things.
Yes, but finish the thought: that kind of energy and no crispy Ewoks?

giant nematodes living on asteroids
I agree this is improbable. Even more improbable is that it's stomach could be exposed to the vacuum of space and yet contain gasses more dense than on most of the Earth...
With that little mass, Han and Leia should have been exposed to hard vacuum.
As 3p asked: what happened to space suits in the Lucasverse?

I will take up the biologists' quibble and say that too many hominids are the biggest implausibility.
You complain about this for SW but not the far more egregious ST? IN SW, most of the non-humans at least have radically different facial featurs (more so than even the Klingons or the Cardassians, not to mention all the ST aliens that look EXACTLY like humans) and there's no sign of inter-species breeding.
If you're talking about Alpha Quadrant races, then yes, I complain about SW (which has no explanation for the similarities such as Neimoidian and Duros).
If you're talking about Alpha-Delta hybrids such as Seska's half-Cardassian, half-Klingon baby, then I agree that ST is worse.

More to the point, the nice, even adaptation and "similarity within diversity" that you need even to have a galaxy of mostly oxygen-breathing beings at compatible levels of technology is farfetched.
Actually, it wouldn't surprise me much if most of the multi-cellular life in the universe DID run off of some kind of oxygen cycle....
You're right; see above. I should have said "Earth-type environment". Atmosphere, gravity, etc. There shouldn't be that many Class M planets, or else humanity should not just be looking for Class Ms. Even with many seedings by the Progenitors, there just aren't going to be that many human-like races emerging at the same period in time.

"Humans as batteries" is a ridiculous concept. 120 volts?
Extremely ridiculous.
We agree. :-)

(continued)
gondhir
Sep. 11th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC)
My own Picks
Biggest inconsistency of premise

1) Star Wars:
The Force. I can think of no realistic way that a handful of individuals spread out over an entire galaxy would be able to "tap into" something that would give them telekinetic powers that would be completely beyond 99.99999% of the rest of the Galaxy. I ain't buying the midichlorian thing. Explain how a sub-cellular parasite can bestow telekinesis. I liked it better when it was just plain magic.

2) Star Trek: The Universal Translator is particularly onerous, and I can generally brush off the humanoidness of most of the aliens due to practical movie/show-making concerns. It's the similarness of the general technological levels among the various species that I mentioned elsewhere that gets me.

3) The Matrix: The entire, most basic premise of the whole thing, obviously, that humans are the most superior source of electricity on the planet. If that were the case, then we could just run all of our personal appliances off of ourselves and be done with this "energy crises".

Beyond that, however, I was struck in M2 (and confirmed in M3) that programs seem to be incapable of lying. They may tell you the truth in a way to confuse you, but it's still the truth. Even when it would be in their own best interest to lie, they still must tell the truth. Smith? Only lied when he was a human and only about being a human. The Oracle? Never lied, was just really convoluted. The Architect? All the truth. The Merovingian? Better than George Washington. It's ridiculous.

Biggest technical inconsistency

1) Star Wars:
Why do stormtroopers wear bulky armor when it obviously fails to protect them against blaster fire, lightsabre attacks, or even sticks and stones?

Why can WE build heart/lung machines (albeit big ones) but Darth Vader has to walk around inside an iron lung?

Why should ANYone EVER die in childbirth?

Why are royalty unable to access effective contraception?

Why are holograms always blue and full of static?

2) Star Trek: In addition to the Universal Translator, there's the transporters. Don't EVEN get me started on the "Heisenberg Compensator".

A related technology is the replicator. If you can make anything you want, why bother with regular production methods? And if something that's replicated is somehow inferior to "the real thing" then why does transporting something (including people) not make it inferior?

Since it's obviously possible to replicate people with a transporter (it happened to Riker) and store their pattern in the trasporter for decades and then materialize them (happened to Scotty in TNG), then why not store the pattern of everyone on your ship and update it every time they beam down to a planet? Then, if they get killed, you can just rematerialize them from the point that they last went through the transporter.

Where do they get all this anti-matter from that they run everything off of?

3) The Matrix Why do the Agents need to steal bodies from humans?

Why can't the Machines that run the Matrix just delete Smith if they want to?

Why is there any oxygen in the atmosphere if no sunlight can reach plants?

What do the free humans use for fuel?

Why do all the people in the Matrix look exactly like they do IRL? Don't any of them want to lose a little weight here, gain a little muscle there, have a little bit bigger boobs, be a little taller, etc.?

How can they see at night through those sunglasses?

Why don't the Machines just seal off the sewers?

Why is there a jack-in for a human-interface just sitting around at the Main Machine's HQ?

Why is the Oracle clairvoyant?

Why do they even NEED humanoid agents? Why can't the Machines just manipulate the Matrix as they see fit without them?
masteralida
Sep. 11th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC)
You went for the super extra crispy geeky!
banazir
Sep. 11th, 2005 10:45 pm (UTC)
Extra crispy geeky!
See above! I said I did! ;-)

BTW, I love that icon - it's admired by many, including gondhir, who just showed it to me. :-D

--
Banazir
zaimoni
Sep. 12th, 2005 05:26 am (UTC)
Hmm...why not emulate those noises? Particularly apropos for Star Wars (freaky power plants allow 1 million+ g "acceleration" without ruffling anyway).

My beef with most SF with aliens: alien technology is...alien. Not only do you not have a fighting chance of reverse-engineering it, they don't have a fighting chance of reverse-engineering human technology either. [Note that since Star Trek has an elder race doing mass terraforming, it isn't quite as bad there.]
banazir
Sep. 12th, 2005 07:41 am (UTC)
Alien tech and reverse engineering
Oh, I agree that this is a big one.

Probably the most egregious of these in recent memory is the MacOS virus in Independence Day that just works on the alien mothership - graphics resources and all!

Jeers to Stargate: SG-1 for the 1969 time travel ep where they are able to just hook up a truck and jump start the stargate with minutes to spare before the solar flare that will take them home.

I'm not sure what you mean by emulation. And by "elder race", do you mean the Progenitors from "The Chase"?

--
Banazir
Re: Alien tech and reverse engineering - zaimoni - Sep. 12th, 2005 02:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Alien tech and reverse engineering - gondhir - Sep. 12th, 2005 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Alien tech and reverse engineering - zaimoni - Sep. 12th, 2005 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Alien tech and reverse engineering - gondhir - Sep. 12th, 2005 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Tinycraft and large starships in ST and SW - banazir - Sep. 13th, 2005 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Stealth communication - banazir - Sep. 13th, 2005 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Ball-of-twine? - banazir - Sep. 15th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ball-of-twine? - gondhir - Sep. 15th, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Vectored thrust and flying gyroscopes - banazir - Sep. 19th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Ball-of-twine? - zaimoni - Sep. 16th, 2005 02:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Intertialess drive - banazir - Sep. 19th, 2005 09:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Intertialess drive - zaimoni - Sep. 20th, 2005 01:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Intertialess drive - gondhir - Sep. 20th, 2005 03:00 am (UTC) - Expand
In Space, No One Can Hear You Go to Warp - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 09:12 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: In Space, No One Can Hear You Go to Warp - gondhir - Sep. 14th, 2005 01:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Wormhole simulation versus sound simulation - banazir - Sep. 15th, 2005 07:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Rever Engineering. - lordmathem - Sep. 12th, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Rever Engineering. - zaimoni - Sep. 12th, 2005 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
casecob
Sep. 12th, 2005 11:57 am (UTC)
As I didn't pay that much attention to...
the details of these sci-fi productions when I viewed them, I can't offer comments as in depth as the ones that follow here.

But, I have my own set of beef about Vista/Longhorn/whatever they want to call it.

Explain to me, if you can, why MS is so concerned about secured content? I'm uncertain of whether my monitor will be up to snuff, and thus all my movies will play back fuzzy. That's just a huge thorn in my side. (LOL, you write reasonable criticism about stability - and I just want my $$$ flat screen to play movies...)
gondhir
Sep. 12th, 2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
Re: As I didn't pay that much attention to...
Explain to me, if you can, why MS is so concerned about secured content?
Mainly because MS software is rampantly pirated. Which is understandable when they're asking $100-$200+ for some basic pieces of software (Windows, Office, etc.).

That and they're in cohoots with other big companies like Sony who will sell you a CD or DVD for $20+ but don't want you to have any control over it once you've bought it.

Basically, if you read the fine print on most of these "User Agreement" things, you didn't actually buy the software, you paid for permission to install the software on your computer in the manner in which the software company wants you to. Even once you install it, it's still not yours, it's the property of the software company, it just happens to be on your computer. Of course, this is counter to the average person's conception of "ownership" ("I paid for it, it's mine"), so they seek to limit your ability to use their property in any way they do not deem fit. Music and movie companies have similar concerns. So MS, Sony, etc. are "kindred spirits" if nothing else.
Re: As I didn't pay that much attention to... - casecob - Sep. 12th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: As I didn't pay that much attention to... - gondhir - Sep. 12th, 2005 08:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: As I didn't pay that much attention to... - zaimoni - Sep. 12th, 2005 10:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
taiji_jian
Sep. 12th, 2005 03:47 pm (UTC)
"This is a major retcon from the early 1990s. I remember Spock's World, a novel where Sarek and Spock's mother Amanda Grayson had to use a lot of in vitro technology in order to conceive. Later, B'Elanna Torres and Worf's 3/4 Klingon, 1/4 Human son Alexander Rozhenko seem to have been conceived with no technology at all."

BILL'S TEETH! And you call yourself a geek? B'Elanna is from VOYAGER. Worf wouldn't be caught dead fraternizing with the likes of her! Alexander's mom was K'ehleyr!

"# Windows Vista is to come in seven editions, according to this Slashdot article: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate. "Ultimate" must be the one that bluescreens only once a month. Or is the edition that bluescreens the most frequently? As I've often said, Windows users are becoming increasingly tolerant of insability and fragile or quirky functionality, and this should not be the price of an applications-rich, transparent OS. My comments appear here. One kernel, seven distros, one brand - all the monopolization of SCO and none of the POSIX compliance. ;-)"

Not that I disagree with anything that anyone has said (esp. Graham) WRT Windows in general, what's the alternative? I mean, I'm posting this from my Ubuntu box, which is supposed to be the linux community's best shot so far at making a human-useable OS (as opposed to geek-useable). And, yeah, it's pretty good. But dial-up networking is still a pain, midi doesn't work (no drivers), GNOME runs slower than Windows, and most things that you want to do that can be done in windows are unsupported. (Like, yeah, in theory you can run games from id software that were DEVELOPED ON LINUX MACHINES, but actually doing it without having to hack code is another story.)

So, the question is not whether or not Windows is *BAD* (it is) but whether or not any other OS is *BETTER.* I've used Linux, BSD, and Windows on my home machines. I haven't tried OS X, since I don't have a mac. Is it the way of the future? Or do, as we suspect, ALL OSES SUCK?
gondhir
Sep. 12th, 2005 05:15 pm (UTC)
Later, B'Elanna Torres and Worf's 3/4 Klingon, 1/4 Human son Alexander Rozhenko seem to have been conceived with no technology at all.
BILL'S TEETH! And you call yourself a geek? B'Elanna is from VOYAGER. Worf wouldn't be caught dead fraternizing with the likes of her! Alexander's mom was K'ehleyr!

Yeah, I puzzled over that too, but finally I decided he meant:

(B'Elanna Torres) and (Worf's 3/4 Klingon, 1/4 Human son)

Instead of:

(B'Elanna Torres and Worf)'s 3/4 Klingon, 1/4 Human son

B'Elanna was 1/2 Human, 1/2 Klingon. K'ehleyr was also 1/2 Klingon, 1/2 Human. Which would make Alexander 3/4 Klingon, 1/4 Human.

So, the question is not whether or not Windows is *BAD* (it is) but whether or not any other OS is *BETTER.* I've used Linux, BSD, and Windows on my home machines. I haven't tried OS X, since I don't have a mac. Is it the way of the future? Or do, as we suspect, ALL OSES SUCK?
I use OSX and I can assure you that it does, indeed, suck, but far far less than Windows and far far less than Linux. The only real downside to it that I can see is the relative (not total) lack of games for it. Fortunately, I'm not a big gamer. ;)
There's no ambiguity, you nincompoops! - banazir - Sep. 15th, 2005 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Every OS sucks - REALLY - banazir - Sep. 15th, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
taiji_jian
Sep. 13th, 2005 05:11 pm (UTC)
Ah. Well, that does make more sense.

/me knows of another downside of OS X:

I can't afford a Mac!!!
banazir
Sep. 13th, 2005 10:50 pm (UTC)
Who are you replying to?!
And how did you manage to post an orphaned comment?
I can't even get a parent link!

--
Banazir
Re: Who are you replying to?! - taiji_jian - Sep. 14th, 2005 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Who are you replying to?! - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 09:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Who are you replying to?! - taiji_jian - Sep. 14th, 2005 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sorted beneath - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Sorted beneath - gondhir - Sep. 14th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Spatial anomalies - banazir - Sep. 16th, 2005 08:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gondhir - Sep. 14th, 2005 02:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - taiji_jian - Sep. 14th, 2005 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gondhir - Sep. 14th, 2005 05:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
How eViol! - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Musicians without Money - banazir - Sep. 14th, 2005 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 137 comments — Leave a comment )

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