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Old November 23 2012, 09:36 PM   #16
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Re: Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

gblews wrote: View Post
I would also think that the "science" of ST TNG is no closer to real science than what is seen in Fringe. In fact, of the two, I think Fringe has gotten closer to real science.
Oh, on the contrary. TNG had excellent science advisors in the persons of Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda (both members of the TrekBBS, by the way), and while Roddenberry was alive he pushed for the science to be as credible as it could be. It was much more grounded in real physics and engineering principles than later series were. One of the best examples was the periodic binary-star nova in "Evolution," which was a pretty accurate representation of a real astrophysical phenomenon. There were a fair number of those in the first few seasons of TNG, whereas in the later shows we got far more fanciful ideas. Then there's the time warp in "Yesterday's Enterprise" which was explained as "a Kerr loop of superstring material" -- and though they mistakenly used "superstring" for "cosmic string," otherwise that was pretty solid physics-speak. All in all, TNG's science in the first several seasons was much better than it got to be by the end of the show, or by the time we got to VGR and ENT when it was all pretty ludicrous.

And DS9 had some moments of pretty good science too, even when dealing with fanciful concepts. "One Little Ship" dealt with its premise of miniaturization about as plausibly as anyone could have, actually acknowledging the technical problems and coming up with explanations for them (like the need to miniaturize air molecules in order to breathe them). Obviously the writers of that episode had read Isaac Asimov's novelization of Fantastic Voyage, in which he heavily rewrote the story of the film to make better sense of its shoddy science -- or else their science advisor had read it and the writers, exceptionally, actually listened to him.

Temis the Vorta wrote: View Post
Does anyone seriously expect to learn science from fictional TV shows?
Actually, that's the problem -- a lot of people do expect that, or at least unthinkingly assume it. People gain a lot of their perceptions of how the world works from fiction, and there are countless misconceptions that people have because they've seen them on TV all their lives and don't know any better. Like the belief that crashed cars are likely to explode so that you have to rush their occupants to a safe distance -- which is actually a very dangerous myth because a lot of accident victims have their injuries worsened from being moved too quickly by well-meaning bystanders. And most people believe police myths from fiction like the "one phone call" or the need to read someone their rights during an arrest (it's actually only necessary before an interrogation, IIRC). Then there's stuff like the "we only use 10 percent of our brains" myth that countless sci-fi shows, comic books, etc. use to justify psychic abilities or superpowers. People do routinely assume that what they're shown in fiction is valid -- especially if it's their only exposure to the concept at all.

So we mustn't dismiss the role of fiction as a teaching tool. Fiction does shape our understanding of the world whether it intends to or not, and whether we intend it to or not. Our brains didn't evolve during a time when there were TV and film and computers. For most of our evolutionary history, every experience we had, aside from dreams, was just life, all equally informative about the world and given equal weight. So today, when so much of our life experience is make-believe, we may superficially know the difference, but on a deeper level our brains' perceptions of the world are still being influenced by that input. It's just how they're wired.

And so that same process can be used to teach valid information as well as invalid. I've been reading science fiction all my life -- actually reading, in books with words and everything -- and I've learned a great deal about science from it, because there is A LOT of fiction out there that actually does have good science. It's not impossible. It happens all the time in print, so there's no reason in hell why it couldn't happen onscreen as well.
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage
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