Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stand Back, We're Doing Science

I tend to like more than a little science in my science fiction. Flash Gordon never appealed to me because it didn't ask for me to accept much more than Sam Jones or Buster Crabbe rushing about in their tight pants. In the future, why couldn't they find a way to get some pants that actually fit? The same can be said for the Starship Enterprise: A vehicle that can travel faster than the speed of light really ought to come equipped with seat belts. Still, the folks at Star Trek did keep us wondering about things like the time space continuum, as well as the somewhat ridiculous cut of their officer's slacks. And so it's entirely possible that when one's mind is so consumed with special relativity, the last thing you worry about is haberdashery.
In space, they say, no one can you you scream. My older brother, who was my first and best instructor on the ways of things outside our atmosphere, is the one who pointed out early on that all those explosions that we hear in all those space operas really shouldn't be in the vacuum of space. It would likewise be just as difficult to hear John Williams' score. Or the Blue Danube. After seeing "2001: A Space Odyssey," I pretty much figured that once you left the earth, you were probably going to hear a lot of Strauss. I do remember how quiet most of that film is, and how much science there was before fiction took over. The fact that Stanley Kubrick seems to have presaged Siri by a few decades adds cred to the science end of things. Most of the time, however, we don't need to fuss about physics while we're sitting in the dark, munching on popcorn.
The most recent example of this disconnect was the way Neil Degrasse Tyson ripped into "Gravity." Doctor Tyson would very much like us to know that Sandra Bullock may be America's sweetheart, but she doesn't know beans about astrophysics. I heard all of these voices in my head as I watched Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar."  I was caught up in the story of one man's journey to save the Earth for his children, but somewhere in the midst of all that vast expanse of space were the murmurs of why I should reign in all the belief that I had so willingly suspended. Eventually, I'm happy to say, the story won out. It was a film-going experience that took me back to 1968, when I sat with my family who were all swept away by Kubrick's masterpiece. I was also reminded of a conversation that my older brother had with me about whether aliens from another planet would necessarily be carbon-based life forms. Upon further reflection, I decided that it didn't matter, as long as they weren't carrying death rays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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