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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old November 21 2009, 12:20 PM   #1
LilyB
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is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

I mean is it pure goobledegook?
Or things that scientists understand NOW, that should be able to work in theory, but there is just not the technology for it yet?


Thankyou!
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Old November 21 2009, 12:30 PM   #2
FinalFrontier
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

Most of it was just convincing(or unconvincing) "technobabble" that was thought up to move the plot along. Some of it has some sort of base in fact, and they mention real things, but a lot of the time it's just made up to solve plot points and fill space.
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Old November 21 2009, 03:39 PM   #3
Holdfast
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

The relationship between science and technobabble in Star Trek is tangential at best. Sometimes there's a little overlap, more often they use vaguely correct words in incorrect contexts, and more often still it's just pulled out of their Borg collective ass to serve plot purpose.

When Star Trek does technobabble well, there's an internal consistency to work with and some vague element of pseudoplausible science.
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Old November 22 2009, 12:02 AM   #4
LilyB
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

thanks! i guess they would have to do a lot of cross referencing between all the series & machines to make it all as true as poss, tho 99% of people would just be happy to take it at face value - it SOUNDS impressive!!
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Old November 23 2009, 12:34 AM   #5
JoeFromEarth
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

they do try and make it as realistic as possible. they even provide writers guides to keep the writers on track. the technical manuals that have been offered over the years evolved from these writers guide. sometimes you can find the actual text of writers guide (often in the form of pdfs) floating around on p2p sites.
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Old November 23 2009, 05:11 PM   #6
Doug Otte
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

I read a good article once about this topic. It might have been in the Washington Post, but I might be wrong. Anyway, they interviewed one of the TNG science advisors (Andre Bormanis?), who described how he was consulted when they wanted to introduce some new science for episodes. He would advise whether it was realistic, and would offer suggestions for how to make it more believable when it wasn't realistic. Sometimes they would take his advice, and sometimes they didn't (when it would disrupt the dramatic need for said "science").

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Old November 23 2009, 05:25 PM   #7
cultcross
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

Andre Bormanis has also produced a book called the Star Trek Science Logs in which he details a number of the scientific premises of the shows, and their grounding in real science and engineering - it's a good read, and very accessible for the layman.
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Old November 24 2009, 06:10 PM   #8
Christopher
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

It kind of depends on the era. In the early years of TNG, while Roddenberry was still alive, the science was about as good as Trek science ever gets. Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda were the main technical advisors and they made a good effort to keep the show grounded in real ideas. The astronomical phenomena depicted were often real, such as the periodic nova star in "Evolution," and even the more fanciful ideas were grounded in real concepts (for instance, the time warp in "Yesterday's Enterprise" was described as "a Kerr loop of superstring material;" that's an inaccurate use of "superstring," but otherwise the concept is grounded in real physics ideas, such as a Kerr ring singularity, something which does theoretically allow for time travel). For a while, the credited science advisor on the show was Naren Shankar, who's an actual physicist as well as a writer.

But once Roddenberry was gone, and once Bormanis took over as science advisor, the science began to get progressively more fanciful. Berman didn't care as much about good science as Roddenberry did, and just wanted a continuing stream of new gimmicks and technobabble, and Bormanis obliged him by coming up with an ever-lengthening stream of gibberish words (he seemed inordinately fond of fake words containing "-genic" and "-lytic," culminating in the catchall "isolytic," which was used for all sorts of things and has the nonsensical meaning of "equally dissolving"). Not that Bormanis wasn't trying; when he wrote the Voyager episode "Demon," he scripted it as dilithium that the ship was low on, but Berman & Braga changed it to deuterium, which was nonsensical on many, many levels (it's one of the most abundant substances in the universe, it would never be found in any quantity on a superhot non-Jovian planet, and it has no liquid form except at incredibly low temperatures), because they enjoyed the conceit of a starship "running out of gas." So I'm sure Bormanis knows his stuff and wasn't the root of the problem, but he did strike me as kind of an enabler, given all the technobabble word salad he churned out.
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Old November 26 2009, 06:59 AM   #9
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

TOS tried to avoid lengthy, pseudo-scientific technobabble, by using generic terms like "sensors," rather than have to come up with an array of specific terms for specific ship functions. A much better approach, IMO, than the technobabble. -- RR
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Old November 26 2009, 10:19 PM   #10
cultcross
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

Christopher wrote: View Post
It kind of depends on the era. In the early years of TNG, while Roddenberry was still alive, the science was about as good as Trek science ever gets. Rick Sternbach and Mike Okuda were the main technical advisors and they made a good effort to keep the show grounded in real ideas. The astronomical phenomena depicted were often real, such as the periodic nova star in "Evolution," and even the more fanciful ideas were grounded in real concepts (for instance, the time warp in "Yesterday's Enterprise" was described as "a Kerr loop of superstring material;" that's an inaccurate use of "superstring," but otherwise the concept is grounded in real physics ideas, such as a Kerr ring singularity, something which does theoretically allow for time travel). For a while, the credited science advisor on the show was Naren Shankar, who's an actual physicist as well as a writer.

But once Roddenberry was gone, and once Bormanis took over as science advisor, the science began to get progressively more fanciful. Berman didn't care as much about good science as Roddenberry did, and just wanted a continuing stream of new gimmicks and technobabble, and Bormanis obliged him by coming up with an ever-lengthening stream of gibberish words (he seemed inordinately fond of fake words containing "-genic" and "-lytic," culminating in the catchall "isolytic," which was used for all sorts of things and has the nonsensical meaning of "equally dissolving"). Not that Bormanis wasn't trying; when he wrote the Voyager episode "Demon," he scripted it as dilithium that the ship was low on, but Berman & Braga changed it to deuterium, which was nonsensical on many, many levels (it's one of the most abundant substances in the universe, it would never be found in any quantity on a superhot non-Jovian planet, and it has no liquid form except at incredibly low temperatures), because they enjoyed the conceit of a starship "running out of gas." So I'm sure Bormanis knows his stuff and wasn't the root of the problem, but he did strike me as kind of an enabler, given all the technobabble word salad he churned out.

To your last point, I think something very interesting regarding 'consultants' can be read in A Vision of the Future, regarding the script for Caretaker. While describing the job of a script consultant, they showed a large number of notes that they had provided for the producers on script accuracy and content, some of which were fairly glaring/important (the name of Janeway's science ship translated to 'father's pissing'). And yet, tellingly I think, every single error they found remained in the aired episode.
Although the book made no point of this, I think it is quite a testament to how much consultants were actually listened to by that point.
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Old November 28 2009, 05:39 PM   #11
Joby
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

I had always noticed that the later years of TNG just had lines and lines of dialogue that didn't make a whole lot of sense. A made up science problem would be solved by another made up science solution.

There was endless technobabble that started around season 4 of TNG I think, and that was carried to some degree onto DS9 and then reached ridiculous proportions on VOY. There would be multpile VOY episodes that were absolute howlers due to the massive amounts of made of gobbledygook science. By the time of VOY I knew I had grown sick and tired of hearing about singularities, anomalies, tachyons and the word "isolytic".

It was just fucking too much.

"Hey look, Data finally found a way to stop that growing singularity with a recongifured subspace tachyon beam after he adjusted the particle emmiter in the isolytic chamber. Wow I would have never thought of that!"
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Old November 29 2009, 04:02 PM   #12
Forbin
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Re: is all that engineering & physics stuff true?

Janeway and Torres bouncing like happy schoolgirls: "Warp particles! WARP particles!!"

Oy.

I haven't seen any DS9 in many a year, so I picked up season one and watched Emissary this weekend. They frickin start right in with the technobabble. Not a lot, but enough to remind me how much I detested it.
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