Nasa / Space

The top 12 sci-fi plot devices geeks love to hate

You know what a lot of geeks hate about science fiction? The same things a lot of geeks love about science fiction -- scientific inaccuracies!

Image courtesy of Penny Arcade

You know what a lot of geeks hate about science fiction? The same things a lot of geeks love about science fiction -- scientific inaccuracies! There are basically two schools of thought in sci-fi: Either your novel is a meticulously researched and considered a treatise on a plausible techno-future, or it's a logic-smashing romp into the fantastical, with just enough science-y trappings to distinguish it from pure fantasy (maybe). When it comes to the latter group, some people hate the classic sci-fi tropes, some people love goofy movie science. Whatever your position, here are the top 12 sci-fi plot devices geeks love to hate:

12. Computer programs with needless and instantaneous animations and graphics

I always marvel at the gene sequencers and fingerprint scanners that instantly generate 3D models of complex chemical reactions, or that visibly cycle through hundreds of police photos while running a database search. Clearly, in the sci-fi world, computing power is so cheap that horribly un-optimized code and superfluous visual eye-candy don't give software engineers a moment's pause. Now that's cyberpunk.

11. Nuclear weapons can accomplish anything.

Restart the sun? No problem. Blow up an asteroid the size of Texas? Don't sweat it. Get the Earth's core spinning again (even though it isn't really spinning to begin with)? Check and check. Vaporize a mothership a quarter the size of Earth's moon? Of course. Nukes can do anything, so long as "anything" here is defined as "produce more energy than the world's entire weapons arsenal, yet create no noticeable fallout." Eat it, Oppenheimer.

10. Nukes are survivable, especially for title characters.

Even though nuclear weapons can solve the problems posed by natural disasters and alien warships (see above), a protagonist (or twelve) can survive a nuclear blast -- or holocaust -- by hiding in a refrigerator, fallout shelter, or simply by not living in the United States. Things like nuclear winter, radioactive fallout or, you know, the complete collapse of civilization aren't really an issue. Everyone will still be beautiful, healthy, and clean-shaven. Including the girls. Hail the apocalypse.

9. Footspeed is the ultimate weapon.

No matter what threat you face, what weapons your enemy has at his disposal, what insurmountable odds stand against you, as a protagonist, you can outrun anything, especially in slow motion. Fireballs of any variety, strange spacetime effects, airborne plagues and -- my personal favorite -- precision-targeted machine or laser-gun fire from opposing aircraft can all be defeated by running for several seconds during a very tense moment, then diving flat-out behind some dramatically placed cover. You'd think sci-fi heroes would skip right to the 40-yard dash anytime a problem came up, but then all geek movies would be 15 minutes long.

8. Artificial gravity is only used to make walking on spaceships easy.

Hey, look, we've found a way to efficiently and effectively manipulate one of the four fundamental forces of the universe, no doubt bespeaking an incredible advance in our understanding of quantum physics, matter, energy, and the nature of all existence. And all we use it for is simulating Earth gravity on spaceships. No graviton guns. No zero-point energy sources. No wild and fantastic meta-tech based on the new science. Nope, just walking around on spaceships. Awesome.

7. Aliens speak English, or at least learn it in about five minutes.

The English language is a lot of things, but intuitive and logical aren't on the list. Every rule of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and general usage has about eleventy-dozen exceptions, yet aliens either show up from day one knowing how to speak English (or, more likely, American), or learn it by reading an old MS Encarta disk or watching 24 hours of basic cable. Look, there are people who have heard nothing but English their entire lives who can't figure out how to pronounce nuclear, and that's before we introduce slang and regional dialects into the equation. Any breed of alien smart enough to master the Queen's English and hip-hop jive in less than a day is obviously too smart to ever be defeated by mere humans. (Unless we run fast, possibly from a nuclear blast.)

6. The only fallout from time-travel paradoxes is slapstick comedy.

Okay, so you've somehow gone back in time and begun interacting with history. Set aside the facts that you've added mass and energy to the universe (whoa), that even subtle interactions will have effects on the position and energy of every microcosmic particle and photon of light you come across, domino-ing out across the universe for all time (double whoa), or that your very biology is uncontrollably introducing bacteria, viruses, and antibodies into a world where possibly none such have even existed before (d'oh). You can still go meet yourself at a younger age, but Younger You won't recognize Older You, and you won't instantly cease to exist because you've directly destroyed the version of yourself that led to the one that went back in time. Nope, you'll just date your mom, possibly becoming your own father -- because that's the sole horrible consequence of time-travel that must be avoided at all costs.

5. Clones turn out just like the originals, memories and all.

Even though twins that share the same womb don't turn out exactly alike, often possessing varying heights, weights, eye colors, skin colors, and always different fingerprints (to say nothing of unique personalities), artificially developed clones that were grown at high speed in a vat will not only look just like the original person, but will have the same scars, the same haircut, the same corrected dentition and, oh yeah, the same memories as the original, too. Because all of that stuff is genetically inherited. Lamarckism triumphant. It's a wonder we waste time having new kids at all, what with the necessity of teaching them and everything. Shut down schools and bring in the human photocopier.

4. Giant monsters not only exist, but can walk, run, fly, and probably breathe fire.

The largest animal ever to exist on Earth -- and in Earth's gravity -- is the Blue Whale, at about 100 feet long and a weight of 200 tons. Probably the largest animal ever to walk on Earth, Argentinosaurus, was about as long but half that weight. Neither of these beasties can/could move fast, catch active prey, or do much of anything scary for fear of collapsing under their own weight. And to make a creature any bigger using stuff like bones and flesh is more or less impossible, because bones and flesh have maximum tensile strengths. So that 20-storey lizard that can fly, breathe fire, and...oh yeah...jump without collapsing into a pile of rent flesh is a little suspect. Wicked cool, but suspect.

3. Faster-than-light travel, with no spacetime consequences

We'll spot you the warp drive, fantastically implausible as it is, but if you're going to move faster than 186,000 miles per second, there's going to be some relativistic fallout. The people on your starship aren't going to age at the same rate as the folks back home. You remember those home-front folks, right? The ones that keep radioing you realtime plot updates despite the fact that radio couldn't ever catch you, or any information you exchange would be years out of sync because of time dilation. And even if you have some sort of wormhole/teleportation drive that just instantly zaps you across the galaxy, the now there still isn't the same as the now here, because time is not a constant across the universe. That is, unless your adventure can be wrapped up in 60 minutes or less, minus commercials. Then Einstein doesn't apply, obviously.

2. Teleportation that isn't just a giant quantum Xerox.

Basic rule of text messaging vs. snail mail -- it's easier and cheaper to move information than matter. Thus, if we've got the tech that can build a human being (and his manly sidearm) out of pure energy, why would we bother destroying the original? Moreover, why would we mess with taking the original apart and shuffling his original atoms across the spacetime void when we could just replicate Dashing Hero-2 from stock matter and leave Dashing Hero-1 comfy at home? Heck, why not copy Dashing Hero onto every ship in the fleet, since he's awesome and undefeatable? Oh, right, because audiences react better to an ensemble cast. My bad.

1. Super powers that never wrack up an energy debt or cognitive backlash

Okay, so we'll accept the conceit that some spectacularly unlikely genetic mutation will give a human the power to shoot lasers from his eyes or generate magnetic thrust for flight. But where exactly does the energy behind the laser-gazes and the magno-jet-butt come from? Does FlyBoy or LaserFace eat a metric ton of cornflakes every hour to build up a calorie store? And if so, how exactly are they packing away those calories in an efficient manner? Because there are some major oil corporations and auto manufacturers who would love to know. Oh, and that superspeed dude who can move fast enough to search the entire city in five seconds? Even though he looks uber-fast to us, isn't he experiencing super-speed as everything else just slowing down, so to him searching the whole city would take months, get really boring, and probably at least require a shave, if not a coffee break to preserve his sanity? And wouldn't Mr. Magnet have some strong feelings about Wi-Fi hot spots that he can feel and/or see? Nope, they're all just normal people who look and act just like us -- well, just like J. Crew models, at least -- except when they fly, run super fast, or shoot lasers from their faces. And their energy comes magically from nowhere. Who wouldn't believe that?

Honorable mention - Giant humanoid military robots with swords

But then, I hate to repeat myself.

Got a sci-fi trope you love to hate? Rant all about it in the comments, if you dare.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

79 comments
jlafleche
jlafleche

I find that most of the criticisms show a lack of imagination. Two examples: Artificial Gravity: they already have a "graviton gun", it's usually called a "tractor beam"; matter/antimatter injectors use AG for control; senors use an AG lens effect to help gather data. Time Travel: the big flaw is the assumption that time is rigid and inflexible; it is dynamic and will adapt to almost any change you make unless it is something drastic ( if you kill a butterfly in the past, another one with almost identical DNA will takes its place ). You can come up with your own examples.

summand
summand

Hated that movie. There is that stupid scene when he rams some metal rod into the camera/monitor (the "Eye") and the whole computer gets destroyed. Yeah, sure. Oh, and the whole masterplan the SUPERAI comes up with. I mean, I have better ideas when drunk. Oh, and when the guy tries to flee the AI somehow manages to somehow cut off a powerline and drop it on his head to kill him. Sure. Happens all the time. Oh, my god, I have to stop thinking of that movie or I die again on the inside...

michael.tindall
michael.tindall

Are total invisibility, the earth-like behavior of space bound special effects, and the incredible danger posed by sci-fi fusion reactors. In theory, a totally invisible person would also be blind, as light would either pass AROUND the person, or THROUGH their retinas, without triggering an action potential within the rods and cones. Also, the lenses of their eyes would have no refractive properties, and thus fail to focus light. Note that in a FANTASY environment, that magic (which of course requires no further explanation) can be used to make one fully invisible with no other side effects, but in sci-fi, in order to see, the individual must either: 1. be at least partially visible, if only in the form of two floating lens/retina combinations (or perhaps the whole eyeball), or a severely washed out "shadow" of ones former self, in which case the images seen by the invisible one would see would also appear washed out, 2. be able to see some OTHER frequency of light, such as infrared or ultraviolet, 3. be capable of "seeing" with sound, through echolocation, not unlike a bat or a porpoise. or 4. have some ability to see through external eyes. Once we've made the PERSON invisible, what happens to their stuff? If they are wearing some kind of invisiblity shroud (or thermoptics, or a huge light bending gravitational array, presumably on their belt buckle)one must assume that anything outside the device must be visible (think the invisible man's pants...). Worse yet, if light is pasing through a person, then what happens to things that not part of their body? Imagine being chased around by a person's surgical pins, pacemaker, and the contents of their stomach and lower G.I tract. Oh, the Horror! also, lets add physical effects which act the same in zero-g/zero pressure environments. In space, no one can hear you scream...nor hear your laser beam,nor expect to be impressed by a "seismic charge", nor expect fire to work correctly, or for that matter, be shaken by the blast effects of a nuclear explosion, unless you are practically in it. While fragmentation, light, radiation/radiant heat will all work as they always did, anything which requires an atmosphere to transmit energy simply WON'T. You may find yourself being vaporized and irradiated, a nuclear explosion will not have much of a blast effect unless you are caught within the fireball. Speaking of gravity, anything which requires gravity to work in the traditional manner will fail...for example fire, even in a pressurized environment. Granted, a well mixed batch of gaseous fuel and oxygen will make for a DANDY explosion, and liquid fuels can still vaporize, but solid things burn VERY strangely. Since there is no gravity, heated gaseous products of combustion DO NOT rise, and thus, tends to smother out the flame, which then tries to burn in WHICHEVER direction it can find oxygen. This results in a sputtering, uneven, unreliable flame. Of course, anyone who sets fire to ANYTHING in a spacecraft is likely an idiot. My final sci-fi plot quibble is the way that ANY fusion reactor in a sci-fi movie is destined to explode, releasing a holocaust upon those unlucky enough to be trapped nearby. What would be the point of having one, if not to blow it? The audiance WON'T STAND for a fusion reactor that survives the movie intact. WHEN it finally goes, the computer will read a count-down in a pleasant female voice, (knowing EXACTLY when the explosion is to come, even though all the systems which control EVERYTHING ABOUT the system have already failed) while the compound self destructs around the hero/heroine for dramatic effect, as if the explosion/collapse/contamination effects wouldn't kill the main characters by themselves, and once they have reached a safe distance, the whole place goes up in a big fireball, just like the explosion from a thermonuclear weapon. Fusion reactors rely on IMMENSE pressure to allow controlled fusion. As soon as pressure is released, the reaction will cease. Period. Mind you, the rupture of the pressure vessel of a fusion reactor would be a spectacular event, but more akin to a boiler explosion (a REALLY REALLY REALLY BIG ONE) than a thermonuclear bomb, which is using a nuclear explosion to generate the heat and overpressure required to initiate the fusion reaction. But where would video games based on movies be without a fusion reactor to blow up, nor a count-down within which to escape? p.s. Forgive me if someone already posted any of these...I didn't get the chance to read the whole thread, but don't worry, you'll survive. I promise.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

the one where the police or military either can't hit the side of a large monster or their weapons are ineffective. They die. Then the hero using a makeshift spear or even less drives his point home saving the day.

jpgollaba
jpgollaba

There isn't a problem in the world that cant be solved with the right amount of explosives. Although those nukes in the examples are too small have the desired effect. Just like in Valkyrie. Hehe.

olskoolgamer
olskoolgamer

The Flash is an exception to the rule. On many occasions he states that he has to eat all the time because he has a "enhanced metabolism" due to his speed. But then you have EVERYTHING done in the old Superman movies to prove the point (come on flying around the world so fast you turn back time...)

rludwig_z
rludwig_z

"Giant humanoid military robots with swords " AND, that wear kilts Oh, and that verbally communicate. At least the newer models have lost the swords and kilts. And, they have cool morphing hands and can pop machine guns out of their skinny little forearms (where are the ammo belts anyway?)

wbs_aus
wbs_aus

Many years ago when the internet was relatively new there was a movie where the girl was using her laptop on the beach. At the time everyone scoffed at the idea - internet without wires, but lo and behold, many years later we have wireless internet. Who knows what else will become the next generation of science inventions.

seanferd
seanferd

D@amn, that was good. Corollary to #1: Things that grow larger, apparently extracting mass from nowhere and organizing it perfectly. One of my favorites.

ShadowSpawnOFCS
ShadowSpawnOFCS

My favorite was watching the Godzilla remake with some fellow geeks. At the point where the taxi tries to drive out of Godzilla's mouth, one said "There's no way that would work", to which my friend Rachelle replied, "Yet you have no problem with minor radiation growing a 50-story iguana?" Funny what some people are willing to accept/ignore/suspend disbelief for, and what they're not...

eric
eric

Teleportation (#2) issue nicely worked into the plot of "The Prestige." One of the few SF movies that left me thinking about the nature of self, consciousness, death, and top hats.

zgozvrm
zgozvrm

I watched CSI Miami the other day. This guy used a microwave oven to blow up an aerosol can and burn a house down. At one point, the timer on the microwave read, "9:99" ... when does THAT ever happen? But then pretty much everything on CSI: Miami is questionable...

pgit
pgit

Don't forget all the noises! Every computer/gizmo in the future makes all kinds of stupid noises, tons of them. People don't expect that from their real technology today, so why does Hollywood layer on all that noise? It's the most seriously annoying part of any sci fi in my book...

C
C

I'm tired of movies/TV where the aliens are here for our water/minerals/women/etc. Other than women (there can never be enough :-) ), everything else exists in abundance in the universe. Additionally, any race that can traverse interstellar distances can probably manufacture anything they need.

ScarF
ScarF

It is absolutely amazing how cool the spacecrafts sound in vacuum, played on a THX 7.1 system with enhanced low frequencies. The sofa shakes like hell. Because, of course, the elementary physics doesn't apply to the brains of these producers. They believe that a space ship will pollute the vacuum with a lot of noise, same as on an Indy ring. And, as I recollect, 2001-A Space Odyssey was the only movie to observe that sound waves don't travel into vacuum. Even in Alien - which starts with the Motto "In space no one can hear you scream", the director doesn't avoid falling in the mediocrity and placing some vrooooom-like and booooom-like sound effects in the vacuum. Although I may be wrong and mistake it for the sequels. Hm. I have to watch it again.

doug
doug

My #1 pet peeve is computers being beaten by being driven insane thru human illogic. Perhaps it's because it was the plot of every third Star Trek episode. A related peeve is emotional computers or androids. Like Data with his cat. I understand now that emotional computers have nothing to do with science, but are rather in the stream of Pinocial or Golem, but it still drives me crazy. Now I'm willing to give S-F a bit of leeway, more than the OP. I know faster than light is impossible, still, it's difficult to have a galactic empire without it. And so I was willing to accept the teleportaion in Star Trek once it was explained that it was a plot device to get people down to a planet without a shuttle. But then they started using it as the center of the episode, doing things, like restoring youth, that would change the entire society. STNG does this with the holodeck. ESP always causes me trouble when they just throw it into an otherwise science based story. And I'm getting very tired of Sci-Fi universes where the level of alien intelligence can be seen by their attractiveness according to European standards of beauty. If the alien looks like a supermodel, you know she's super intelligent and super good. If the alien looks like Quasimodo, you know he's very stupid and probably eats young children.

htmapes
htmapes

My favorite comes at the end of the movie when the hero, who has just vanquished the evil, cheating hordes or the invulnerable monster, is summoned to the alien utopia where everyone looks like Michael Rennie on Xanax in a caftan. These aliens seems to do nothing but wander around in a daze and observe things. Their technology has no edges or knobs, and there don't seem to be any people who build, maintain or clean up anything. Overall, these sci-fi utopia remind me of a 60's neighborhood in the Hollywood hills where everyone has a lot of cool ideas, good drugs, Daddy's money, and Consuela to clean up after them.

rickeyln
rickeyln

Might I also add: ships (like Star Wars' X-Wings)in outer space(supposedly a void/vacuum)that behave like fighter aircraft here on Earth- they can turn and maneuver just as if there is air out there! Oh - and you can HEAR them too!

jstribling
jstribling

My pet peeve is scenes of laboratories with lots of brightly colored solutions in every hue of the spectrum. There are probably millions of people who think science labs really look like that. CSI Miami does it every episode, usually closely tied with Garmon's #12 computer display silliness. It has transcended the status of mere cliche. I think that directors feel it's necessary to establish the scene. If they made the lab look like a regular working lab folks would say, "Shoot, that ain't no lab, Ma -- where's all them red and green and blue chemicals? -- Hey, could'ja bring me some more Cheez Doodles?" Oh, and the kicker: dry ice in everything. Please, for the love of Sagan, will you guys just stop it with the dry ice already? That went out with Karloff. A variation on the theme: water tinted with food coloring that burns somebody's face off. Hey, it's RED! That must be some powerful stuff!

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Aliens that can travel for hundreds, thousands, or millions of light years in the blink of an eye can be defeated by a paper clip, if it's only inserted into the correct port. Don't forget the joys of watching the aliens die because they were too stupid to attack earth in sealed ships or sealed suits...so they get sick and die...

jgeorge12001
jgeorge12001

"also, lets add physical effects which act the same in zero-g/zero pressure environments. In space, no one can hear you scream...nor hear your laser beam,nor expect to be impressed by a "seismic charge", nor expect fire to work correctly, or for that matter, be shaken by the blast effects of a nuclear explosion, unless you are practically in it. While fragmentation, light, radiation/radiant heat will all work as they always did, anything which requires an atmosphere to transmit energy simply WON'T. You may find yourself being vaporized and irradiated, a nuclear explosion will not have much of a blast effect unless you are caught within the fireball. "Speaking of gravity, anything which requires gravity to work in the traditional manner will fail...for example fire, even in a pressurized environment. Granted, a well mixed batch of gaseous fuel and oxygen will make for a DANDY explosion, and liquid fuels can still vaporize, but solid things burn VERY strangely. Since there is no gravity, heated gaseous products of combustion DO NOT rise, and thus, tends to smother out the flame, which then tries to burn in WHICHEVER direction it can find oxygen. This results in a sputtering, uneven, unreliable flame. Of course, anyone who sets fire to ANYTHING in a spacecraft is likely an idiot." There's an excellent story by Arthur C. Clarke in which a "new guy" on a spaceship was being hazed a little. In zero gravity, the old hand and the new guy were moving around, and the old hand explained that using a lit candle was a good way to test for air problems. If there was a leak, the lit candle flame would be pulled, along with the smoke, toward the leak; if the oxygen were to get low, the candle would die, and then the humans would have only a few moments to live themselves. As he explains this, the old hand is moving the candle gently about, allowing fresh air to replace the combustion products. He hands the lit candle (with an oddly spherical flame, due to microgravity effects) to the new guy who doesn't move it about. Sure enough, as the old hand turns away, the new guy sees with horror that the flame flickers and goes out. After the moment of panic, the old hand explains that it's just a little joke. Clarke wrote this (maybe in _Sands of Mars_?) years before anybody had much real experience with microgravity. The book _The Science of Star Trek_ includes a nice chapter on physics fallacies in Independence Day and other SF films of the time; I recommend it.

merrid
merrid

I always liked the quote in Dr Who about that - UNIT was always trying to the shoot the monsters and it never had any effect on them. The Brigadier once said "Why can't we ever meet an alien who's pervious to bullets?!"

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

drives me up a wall across the genre spectrum. There's not a good guy on the planet with accurate aim. Hello?...

Realvdude
Realvdude

They made the make believe stuff work. Seriously though, these types of things track back to before Star Trek.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Years ago my son almost set the kitchen on fire. He thought he set it for 4 minutes but it was actually 4 hours and he forgot about it until we all smelled smoke.

seanferd
seanferd

and the microwave oven beeped/dinged? I've always been partial to that bit of idiocy.

rykerabel
rykerabel

I don't know about computer noises. ever sat near a Mac user? what about people who actually leave the key noises active on their cell phonse?

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

One of the all-time worst movies. There's not enough ice in the universe.

DNSB
DNSB

In space, no one can hear you scream -- in Dolby surround!

bigredbird
bigredbird

I remember reading a number of years ago that the original opener for Star Trek had the Enterprise zoom past the camera realistically, that is, silently. Audiences did not like it - it seemed empty, void of substance, uncomfortable or unreal. Knowingly going against physics, they added the "whoosh" sound to make the scene more dynamic. I suspect the same is true of Star Wars and many of the films that followed. The writers / producers are not completly ignorant; they know what audiences like and expect.

robo_dev
robo_dev

when the teleporter device actually turns things inside-out, or on Airplane II where the sliding doors open and close only when Striker makes the "shhh" sound out loud.

Geek3001
Geek3001

I would consider 'emotional' computers to have a better chance of passing the Turing test than other computers. If you are going to have a humanoid computer interacting with people, you might want it to emulate empathy and related emotions. ESP should fall into a minimal use category. I won't say that it is impossible, but it shouldn't be used as a high frequency plot device in hard SF.

Betageek52
Betageek52

that happens in Battlestar Galactica and many other movies.

wompus
wompus

There is always a universal "up" in space. All of the space are using the Direction of Up and down as everyone else even though they just bumped into each other in the vastness of space and they happen to be facing the same direction.

AbbyD
AbbyD

Television shows like CSI and CSI Miami are starting to have an impact on our real lives. The part where the fiction is portrayed as being so real that some people actually start to believe it. There have been several stories in local newspapers about criminal court proceedings where the lawyers for both sides are reminding jurors that CSI labs as shown on these television shows do not actually exist. Apparently, some jurors are raising questions about why real police departments cannot produce evidence of the same level of quality as shown on TV. I'll never forget the episode where an image on an ATM video camera was enhanced to reveal a reflection of a murder suspect's face off a car bumper from across the street.

seanferd
seanferd

Yeah, there's about 10^5 stupid lab effects and procedures in movies and TV. Excellent post.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If you play Slim Whitman loud enough. :^0

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

...they attack a planet that is covered in acid, essentially (Signs was one film that took this angle). Hey, look, there's a planet out there that is 71% battery acid. Let's encourage NASA to go colonize it. ARGH!!! The only show/movie I've seen recently that got this 'right' was a 'Masters of Horror' episode. Basically, aliens used a technique we use on some insects (chemically treat them so males become uber-aggressive when stimulated) to wipe out humanity. Another fine example was 'The Monsters are due on Maple Street' from the old Twilight Zone.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

At least, back before the most recent Trek reboot movie.

jruby
jruby

On a really hard packed dirt road when it's been dry for about 3 months, you can get a squawk from the tires. Ask any country boy who's been bored out of his mind and the only form of entertainment is a large block Ford pickup :-> It's not a long squeal like you can get on hot pavement, but it does happen...

ScarF
ScarF

For someone who leaved all his live on Earth, the space itself is unreal. Probably for some, the idea of Earth moving around the Sun - and not viceversa, is unreal. For some from the audiences, the Earth is flat. Others, quite many, believe that the man didn't walk on the Moon. I also know a lot of people who don't like the trigonometry. For them, Pythagoras is an endless mystery. Or, how one of my friends used to say, the circle boils at 360 centigrade. So. If some in the audiences are stupid enough to become annoyed by the missing of sound in space, what the producers do is just feeding them with more stupidity instead of first hand education. Because, ultimately, the high quality SF is nothing else but the exploration of theories of any kind, but not contradicting the elementary ones. Like the lack of sound in vacuum. And, btw, Star Trek doesn't excel in good SF. It is nothing else but a stupid foundation for selling more TV ads. Same for the LucaSpielberg's "SciFi" movies. Unfortunately, all these "artistic" sub-products are for that >70% of the population, too lazy to learn something or to think with their heads. Guys putting water on heaters for ionizing the air inside the room.

Steve.Irvine
Steve.Irvine

I think the use of Up/Down etc in films and TV is more for the viewers comfort... we humans become easily disorientated after all. In a real vehicle you have all round vision, peripheral vision, gravity and points of reference. In TV/Movies/Games you loose some of this input, and so I just think the makers of the entertainment take pity of us and portray Up for our benefit. Take the beginning of Event Horizoon... as we spiral away from the window of the space station. That got me big time :)

Realvdude
Realvdude

criminals believing that this is real :-}

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Now THAT was funny. I don't care who you are.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

of SG-1 that went there, somewhat successfully. Advanced race promises humans help against the Goa'uld, along with advanced technology and the curing of human problems. Only Jack is suspicious. Turns out, a vaccine they give humans, ostensibly to lengthen and healthify lifespan, also sterilizes them. These guys need planetary resources, just go about getting them very slyly.

DNSB
DNSB

I seem to remember that was Damon Knight not RAH. There was also a cookbook by George Scithers using Karl Wurf as a pseudonym of the same name. Basically meat recipes with long pig as the key ingredient. The cowboy chili recipe on the back cover was likely the best of the lot.

merrid
merrid

That's a very old plot line - Robert Heinlein did a story on that, among others. Superintelligent race visits Earth, offers to cure all ills. "Cure" is either preventing humans propagating - or eating humans. "To Serve Man" - it's a cook book!!!