Is The Science Channel after our hearts?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Gotham Central, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. Gotham Central

    Gotham Central Vice Admiral Admiral

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    So its slowly starting to look like Discovery's Science is starting to go after the fan base that SyFy has largely abandoned.

    I was actually opposed to this at first. I like Science, and lamented the fact that it was yet another channel moving away from its core concept.

    However a hybrid Science channel that actively tries to build bridges between real world science and science fiction could be pretty awesome. Its sort of how back in the golden days of the 90s, the SciFi Channel used to show things like Inside Space and other science fact shows.

    Between BBC America and Science actively courting science fiction fans...can we now officially kick SyFy to the curb? Let SyFy become what its wanted to be for awhile now....USA2
     
  2. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    I've thought for quite some time now, that it would be great for Science Channel to have a few SciFi shows, followed by (Or mixed in during the show) an analysis/discussion of the Science in the show versus real life science.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The thing is, the shows The Science Channel is picking -- Firefly and Fringe -- rate very, very low on the scientific-plausibility scale. Firefly didn't even figure out until the movie whether it was set in a single star system or a whole galaxy. And the only way to do a "Science of Fringe" feature like they're reportedly going to would be to explain how horribly wrong and nonsensical all the "science" in Fringe actually is.

    Granted, there aren't many SFTV shows out there that have anything remotely resembling competent science, but there have been a few. Most of ST:TNG had relatively good science compared to later Trek shows. The Stargate franchise was often pretty good with the science -- SG-1's "Tangent" was one of the best hard-SF stories I've ever seen on TV, and Stargate Universe as a whole had pretty solid science thanks to using SF novelist John Scalzi as a consultant. The first season and a half of Andromeda was a pretty solid hard-SF show, although it went completely off the rails after its developer/showrunner Robert Hewitt Wolfe was let go. The first season or two of Primeval were pretty good with the paleontology, aside from some dramatic license, since that show was basically a spinoff of the Walking With Dinosaurs educational franchise, but again, it's gotten more and more fanciful and conceptually sloppy with each season since.

    It's frustrating to me how little good science there is in SFTV and film, since I've always found SF to be a great vehicle for teaching science in an entertaining way. I'd love to see a channel that developed new SF programming that was designed to be plausible and educational. But I won't hold my breath. You can call yourself the Science Channel or the Discovery Channel or the Learning Channel, but the bottom line is that as long as you need to sell ad time to stay in business, you'll put ratings over educational integrity every time. That's why TLC and Discovery have so little on them that qualifies as educational anymore; even the venerable Mythbusters seems to have let the experimental process suffer in the name of simplicity and spectacle lately. And the Science Channel will pick up any show that they think will help them garner ratings, regardless of its educational merit, which is how we got the ludicrous situation of Fringe being passed off as a vehicle for teaching about science.
     
  4. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Oddly, this makes more sense for Science than it did for SyFy - bringing in skiffy viewers potentially enlarges Science's viewership, while SyFy needed to move beyond that base in order to grow.
     
  5. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    But, Christopher, can't yu teach just as well by pointing at how attrocious the Science in a progam is, and then laying out how the real science actually would work. After a Space Battle with view screens, point out what's wrong with the staging of the Space Battle, and how a vew screen would be completely useless in a real space battle...
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^Sure, you can do that, but it's kind of inefficient to start out showing nonsense and then go to the effort to un-teach it. It would work better to insert good science in the shows themselves. There's a wealth of prose science fiction out there that features solid, plausible science and is very educational, but very little mass-media SF has ever tried to follow suit, and that's a missed opportunity.
     
  7. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, I'm really starting to wish I got Science.
     
  8. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Me too.

    Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto, you're beautiful...
     
  9. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Picking up reruns does nohing for me, I can get those on netflix. Does Science have any new scripted series in development? Preferably space opera.
     
  10. Sindatur

    Sindatur The Grey Owl Wizard Premium Member

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    That's OK, study hard and keep trying, one day you'll get it ;)
     
  11. gblews

    gblews Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I doubt they will attempt to explain how some of the more outlandish Fringe technobabble or "framistats" are "real science". What they will more than likely deal with are the broader concepts presented on the show, like alternate universes and the like -- concepts that do have some basis in real science, or at least real theoretical science.

    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.
     
  12. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Does anyone seriously expect to learn science from fictional TV shows? I would be happy just not to be bored by yet another show about ghost hunting cops or teen vampires.
     
  13. gblews

    gblews Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    So would I, and though I wouldn't depend on it, yes, you can learn some science from a fictional TV show. The problem is figuring out what is real science or at least real scientific theory, and what is just made up stuff to push the story forward.
     
  14. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I'd watch a talk show after a space opera series, like Talking Dead, where the episodes dissected stuff like "why are they using a viewscreen in a space ship?!?" to discuss how the show compared with real science, but I wouldn't demand the real science be in the show all the time. I don't mind sound effects in space, I chalk that up to dramatic license. Ditto for viewscreens, they exist so the audience can follow the action better.
     
  15. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Exactly. Airing reruns of Fringe and Firefly is not at all comparable to what Syfy is doing, that is, they're still in the business of actually making science fiction series (like Defiance, due next year).

    It's a bit of a stretch to say the Science Channel is courting sci-fi fans more than Syfy or that Syfy has abandoned them.
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.



    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.
     
  17. Kegg

    Kegg Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Actually yes, the idea was Andre Bormanis' although he didn't credit Asimov's novelisation of Fantastic Voyage. I used to have his book on Star Trek's science and I think IIRC it came up there.
     
  18. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    No.

    Liked the first episode of Fringe but they're counting the episodes ran on Friday as part of the regular rotation. So next Tuesday, they'll pick up where the marathon leaves off today (the episode Tuesday jumps to 2009). I didn't have the time to watch today and don't like cluttering up my DVR with a dozen episodes of a single show.

    So I'll watch it when it comes back to Netflix, if it ever does.
     
  19. Bob Morton

    Bob Morton Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I totally got interested in science after reading Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz as a kid. Now I read George Gamow, Kip Thorne and Richard Dawkins.

    As a 10 year old, I knew stuff like Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica wern't realistic but it got me interested to know what real science was.
     
  20. Owain Taggart

    Owain Taggart Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Agreed, Christopher. It really is frustrating to see a diminished role of science in Sci-Fi, when it could easily be both entertaining and educational. Even our daily science program on Canada's Discovery Channel Daily Planet is more entertainment magazine compared to science magazine of previous years. The best production they've ever done that is along the lines that you've talked about is the Race to Mars miniseries from a couple of years ago. It was a dramatized trip to Mars and it was actually pretty realistic and they also had a companion documentary to go with it. I wish they'd have more content like that, but I realize that budget is a concern.