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Author Topic: some flaws in a very good film.  (Read 2649 times)
WyreWizard
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« on: April 02, 2004, 06:54:49 PM »

Last time, I gave some scientific flaws and fallacies in one particularly bad film and BOY did I ever get admonished for it.  I got flaming relpies from people who both agreed and disagreed with me.  Well, now its time for me to reveal some of the scientific flaws and fallacies in a good film.  This film was released in 1977 and has many sequels and prequels running even today.  And this film is none other than the brainchild of George Lucas, Star Wars.  I was 6 yrs old when I first saw this film at a drive-in in NJ.  I enjoyed it.  But like all sci-fi films, this one also has its share of scientific flaws and fallacies.  IMHO, Star Wars should be labeled as a fantasy rather than sci-fi because of the Jedi factor.  But Star Wars has technology and happens in space and on different planets, so it has the label of a sci-fi flick.  So now I will give some of Star Wars scientific errors,

Tatooine.  This planet is definitely the result of a lazy imagination and is also a scientific problem.  How can a planet with an entire surface that is all desert support life?  As far as I can see, tattoine has no oceans, lakes, rivers or bodies of water of any kind.  So where is all the water?  And Tatooine has no plants, so how is its atmosphere regulated?  Yet Tatooine not only has life, but a thriving civilization.  So Tattoine is not only a scientific flaw, but he result of a lazy imagination.

Light-saber.  Now this is interesting.  A sword with a blade of pure energy.  It would be interesting if something like this were possible.  But sadly, its not.  And here's why.  The blade of a lightsaber looks like a laser.  So exactly how is this laser transmitted to only a short length?  A real laser would keep on going until it met with a solid or opaque barrier.  In order for a laser to be able to cut something requires a lot of energy, much more than that little handle can harness.
Also if two lasers met, they would pass through each other.  So parrying one laser with another wouldn't work.  Also, LASERS ARE SILENT.

Light-speed.  No there are a lot of problems with this.  First off. it has been theorized that objects traveling at the speed of light increase in mass infinitessimally.  Although there is no way to prove this theory at the moment, I won't explore it any further.  Also by traveling at the speed of light, the inertia alone would be more than enough to kill you.  Such inertia is enough to paint the walls of the millennium Falcon red with blood.  There is nothing known to science that can stop inertia.

Death Star.  Something like this would not be able to hold itself together.  Such a structure would be crushed by its own mass.  The reason that planets don't crush themselves is because they are much more solid.
The Death Star is an assembly of nuts, bolts and rivets.  Something like this if built too large wouldn't stay together.  Another problem with the Death Star is its superlaser.  It would take a far more massive blast of energy to destroy a planet.  The Death Star would be far too small to harness it.

That's all I have.

-WyreWizard
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ulthar
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« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2004, 07:49:19 PM »

WyreWizard wrote:

> How can a planet
> with an entire surface that is all desert support life?  As far
> as I can see, tattoine has no oceans, lakes, rivers or bodies
> of water of any kind.  So where is all the water?  

Just because oceans, et al, are not shown on screen does not mean they do not exist.  Our planet has some very large deserts, and some rather large oceans.  If you are smack in the middle (or even near the edge) of either, you might doubt the other exits.  AFAIK, it is never mentioned in Star Wars that the ENTIRE planet is a desert.

Luke's uncle was a farmer, and spoke (iirc) of 'pumps;' this suggests to me that there is, in fact, water present.  Maybe it is all/mostly underground.

>
> Light-saber.  Now this is interesting.  A sword with a blade of
> pure energy.  It would be interesting if something like this
> were possible.  But sadly, its not.  And here's why.  The blade
> of a lightsaber looks like a laser.  So exactly how is this
> laser transmitted to only a short length?  A real laser would
> keep on going until it met with a solid or opaque barrier.  In
> order for a laser to be able to cut something requires a lot of
> energy, much more than that little handle can harness.
> Also if two lasers met, they would pass through each other.  So
> parrying one laser with another wouldn't work.  Also, LASERS
> ARE SILENT.

Ah, but you are again measuring against the yardstick of OUR TECHNOLOGY and understanding of electromagnetic radiation.  This is why it is called science FICTION.  There must be some suspension of disbelief.  Besides, the term 'light saber' could be just a name because it emits radiation.  Maybe there is MASS there, it is just in a very excited state so it emits.  In other words, think SABER that emits LIGHT.  ;)

>
> Light-speed.  No there are a lot of problems with this.  First
> off. it has been theorized that objects traveling at the speed
> of light increase in mass infinitessimally.  Although there is
> no way to prove this theory at the moment, I won't explore it
> any further.  Also by traveling at the speed of light, the
> inertia alone would be more than enough to kill you.  Such
> inertia is enough to paint the walls of the millennium Falcon
> red with blood.  There is nothing known to science that can
> stop inertia.

Again, science fiction.  I imagine you also have a problem with all versions of Star Trek for the same reason.  I think the sci fi is just the back drop to tell interesting stories.  By focusing on the details, however incorrect, your attention is removed from the story.  There's more to it than the 'stage setting.'

>
> Death Star.  Something like this would not be able to hold
> itself together.  Such a structure would be crushed by its own
> mass.  The reason that planets don't crush themselves is
> because they are much more solid.
> The Death Star is an assembly of nuts, bolts and rivets.
> Something like this if built too large wouldn't stay together.
> Another problem with the Death Star is its superlaser.  It
> would take a far more massive blast of energy to destroy a
> planet.  The Death Star would be far too small to harness it.
>

Why?  Since you lay this out as a theory, let's see some engineering analysis but be sure to include the use of ultralight metals, future technological fastening systems, etc.  There is little reason to assume that it would crush under its own mass, if the mass of the structure itself is small.  What makes a planet TEND to crush itself is the density of the core.  There's a lot of mass there.  Lots of mass = lots of gravity.  I have no problem assuming, for the sake of not getting my mind side tracked on pedantic detail, that the structural members of the Death Star are of sufficiently low density that the net gravity of the core is relatively small.

About the laser, sure, it is fiction.  It's a vehicle to tell a story.  Just like a WHOLE BUNCH of other movies and books use.

On another point, I don't recall you being flamed in your other thread.  You asserted a position, and some folks disagreed.  If you state an opinion, you gotta expect that.  We can respect your opinion without thinking it is correct (that is, in agreement with our own, hehe).

Are you, in fact, a scientist?  Is this why you have some problems with suspension of disbelief for the purpose of entertainment?  FWIW, I am a scientist:  Physics and Chemistry, and to some degree, engineering.  Worked in labs, taught in universities, gave talks at international meetings and hung out with several different nobel winners.  Had my fair share of jaw sessions about Star Trek, Star Wars and other sci fi in some of these interactions, too.

Movies, books, tv shows, etc. are entertainment.  Not peer review.

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Bgrade
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« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2004, 09:08:42 PM »

 
> Are you, in fact, a scientist?  Is this why you have some
> problems with suspension of disbelief for the purpose of
> entertainment?  FWIW, I am a scientist:  Physics and Chemistry,
> and to some degree, engineering.  Worked in labs, taught in
> universities, gave talks at international meetings and hung out
> with several different nobel winners.  Had my fair share of jaw
> sessions about Star Trek, Star Wars and other sci fi in some of
> these interactions, too.
>

Hey "welcome" to the Club.  I'm a Protein Chemist by training and trade.
I've noticed that many scientist tend to be bad movie fans.  Where did you go to school?  I got my Ph.D and did a post doc  at the University of Illinois (urbana). I then did a post doc at the Mayo clinic.  For the past 4 years I finalyl decided to have a real job that makes money.  I'm a R&D group leader with a biotechnology company.

On a sidenote for Wyre Wizard.  Not to be mean or disagree with you, as science in most movies is pure crap, but nothing you say makes any sense. If you are going to say something is not true scientifically that pretty much means you should supply proof the other way.  They teach you that in science.

The death star is much more likely to fall apart outward that it is to colapse on itself.  And what does size directly have to due with the ability to generate power?. (other than E=MC2).  As for the lightsabre consider it a magentically cotained plasma field. The magnetic fields repeal eachother in the fight but go straight through people. (yes this is stupid also).
As for water if they have light speed space travel they most likely can combine hydrogen and oxygen to make water.
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raj
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« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2004, 09:15:15 PM »

The one thing that requires the most suspension of disbelief (and I'd put FTL as more reasonable) is the fact that aliens are basically almost always humanoids.  Star Wars, Star Trek -- in all the iterations-- Babylon 5, etc., all have most of the alien species with a torso, two legs, two arms, and a humanoid head.  And they usually breathe the same air as humans, vocalizing as humans (forget the speaking english/common language.)  But I ignore that in order to be entertained, and usually the director/writer is making a comment on the human condition, and rather than have  for example Americans vs. Germans, it's humans vs. aliens or humans + aliens vs. humans + aliens.  I don't mean to flame here, just that I will suspend what I know for a good story.  Heck, Fantasia has dancing mushrooms and hippos.

The one reason why I found the Mote in God's Eye to be interesting was because the aliens were so unhuman.
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trekgeezer
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« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2004, 09:56:38 PM »

I really hate discussions like this. Who really cares how realistic it is? I admit that sometimes I have problems with movies  in the suspension of disbelief department.  But I don't  fell compelled to tell everyone in the world what was wrong.

If FTL travel is a problem  then 90% of SF should be labeled fantasy.  I choose to believe that there are a lot of things in the universe that we accept as fact that at some  point in the future will be proven as absolute poppy cock.  There is a hell of a lot  more that we don't understand than there are things we do.

My only problem with Star Wars was the fighters not having any directional thrusters for steering, instead they bank and turn in space like a plane in the armosphere.

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And you thought Trek isn't cool.
ulthar
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2004, 12:18:34 AM »

Bgrade wrote:

> Where did you go to school?  I got my Ph.D and did a post doc
> at the University of Illinois (urbana).
>

Ph.D. 1993 University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.  Owned my consulting business since 2000.

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Professor Hathaway:  I noticed you stopped stuttering.
Bodie:      I've been giving myself shock treatments.
Professor Hathaway: Up the voltage.

--Real Genius
AndyC
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2004, 12:28:51 AM »

I used to ask the same question about the length of lightsabers until I heard a great explanation. Think of a fountain. The water shoots up a certain distance and falls back. The light saber shoots the energy out, but also employs an attractive force that pulls it back. Doesn't answer all the questions (raises a couple more in fact), but I like it.

As for Tatooine, not much of the life there is indigenous. Seems to be mostly space travellers passing through, criminals and others trying to hide, and the moisture farmers and folks necessary to keep it going. That basically leaves the sand people and jawas, but for all we know, their ancestors might have been space travellers too. Another possibility is that Tattooine underwent some sort of climate change in its history, leaving only a few of the hardier creatures. Anyway, the water is now found in the air and the ground.

The death star would probably have to be made out of a tougher and lighter metal than anything we know, but I wouldn't say that's a terribly far fetched idea. It might also employ some sort of structural integrity field. Even without these things, a sphere is a pretty strong structure - like an arch or a dome. The other thing that must be kept in mind is that the death star is mostly hollow. Besides all of the interior spaces, it has a huge hollow space around the power core. Even if it were a solid rock that size, it's gravity would be miniscule, but it's far from solid.

It's always been my opinion that anyone can pick out things that don't work in a sci-fi movie, but it takes a smart person to speculate out how they might work. If Star Wars only included things that fit within the bounds of our science and technology, what would it be? The whole point of sci-fi is to speculate on what might be possible.



Post Edited (04-02-04 23:33)
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JohnL
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2004, 03:04:48 AM »

I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the sound in space in Star Wars.
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Bgrade
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« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2004, 09:49:25 AM »

WHAT?  THERE IS NO SOUND IN  SPACE????
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Mr. Hockstatter
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« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2004, 10:45:52 AM »

According to some Star Wars books I've read, the light sabre has a crystal in it that can only be formed by someone very powerful in the force.  They focus their force powers on the crystal to shape it's molecular structure as it is being formed, which is why only Jedi's and Sith Lords have them.  It's one of the tests of their powers, if they can make a light sabre crystal.  Okay okay, so maybe in a scientific sense it still doesn't make any sense, but I thought it was a very cool explanation! ;)

As far as the Death Star collapsing under it's own weight, I don't see that as a problem.  Unlike a planet, the Death Star is mostly empty space - rooms and such.  It's mostly just floors and ceilings and walls, along with some heavy equipment.  I think that in the sci-fi world, we can accept that they've got materials strong enough to build one without it collapsing.  

As far as light speed, it's imposible so far as we know, but in the future we may make some scientific progress which will make it possible.  It's one of those things that one sort of has to suspend disbelief on to watch sci-fi - would anyone really want to watch a show where people sit on a spaceship and say things like "Only 3, 487 years until we reach the planet sir."?  

But for some scientific flaws I noticed in the films, the whole idea that you'd have to plot a course at light speed so that you didn't "fly through a sun", even though the enemy is about to kill you.  Plotting a course would probably be a good idea for a normal flight, but space is almost entirely empty, and there'd be almost no chance of hitting anything if you just took off in any given direction.  

Also, why didn't the Death Star just blast the planet that the Rebel moon was orbiting?  It was a gas giant I believe, but that wouldn't have made any difference.  If you blast the planet that the moon is orbiting, the moon would be destroyed as well.  And no waiting for anything to come into range.

And one of my favorites - did anyone notice that the "turbo-lasers" fired from the star destroyers travel at about 100 mph?  That was so funny.  

And I never did buy the idea that the Death Star's shields could keep out large craft but allow fighters to get through.  What is it, sort of like a sieve?

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Jamtoy
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« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2004, 03:15:30 PM »

"According to some Star Wars books I've read, the light sabre has a crystal in it that can only be formed by someone very powerful in the force. They focus their force powers on the crystal to shape it's molecular structure as it is being formed, which is why only Jedi's and Sith Lords have them. It's one of the tests of their powers, if they can make a light sabre crystal. Okay okay, so maybe in a scientific sense it still doesn't make any sense, but I thought it was a very cool explanation! ;)"

Then in Empire Strikes back, Han Solo would have not been able to use it to cut open the beast on Hoth in order to stuff Luke inside.

***Total Geek mode on***
The best explaination I have found for the light saber is "a focusing core of crysallite lenses channels the intense energy of the power cell into a coherent beam THAT BENDS CIRCUMFERENTIALLY BACK UPON ITSELF to create the cutting blade."*  

In short: the "beam blade" of a light sabre is an electromagnetic arc of energy.  the focusing elements allow the shape of the beam to form a tight arc that looks like a blade.  In theory, the color of the light sabre blade indicates the frequency of the arc, (like red light being of one frequency of the electormatic spectrum while blue another),  and as such LIGHT SABRES OF THE SAME COLOR WOULD PASS THOUGH EACH OTHER.  The interference of the different frequencies causes the blades not to pass through each other.

***Total Geek mode off***

The rest of your points I, Death Star size, Desert Planet, I had the same problems.  Of course I was also the kid that in the third grade use mathematics to prove Santa Claus did not exist.

(NOW the flame war starts because I of what I said about Santa!)

*from the Star Wars Technical Journal of the Planet Tatooine by Starlog



Post Edited (04-03-04 14:20)
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Seven years on MacGyver and you cannot figure this out? We got belt buckles, shoe laces, and a piece of gum. Build a nuclear reactor for crying out loud.  You used to be MacGyver, MacGadget, MacGimmick, and now you are now 'Mr. MacUseless'.
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« Reply #11 on: April 03, 2004, 03:23:07 PM »

If a movie was made and it followed science to the "T" how good of a movie do you really think it would be?
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daveblackeye15
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« Reply #12 on: April 03, 2004, 04:40:55 PM »

Mr Hockstatter:

You know not once have I ever thought of that and I've watched the movie about 14 times so far. Maybe the planet was too big for a single shot from the Death Star and they didn't want to have to charge up for another shot. Even if they could destroy the planet with only one shot they'd still have to wait and recharge the laser (at least according to me).

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dirtcreature
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« Reply #13 on: April 03, 2004, 06:49:15 PM »

Sitting down with a notebook to find flaws in films is bad enough, but dissing Star Wars? Don't worry, I'm gonna flame you, but here's what comes to mind everytime someone does this...

That episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets a voice part in Itchy and Scratchy as the new (and ultimately doomed) character Poochie...

DOUG
Hi. Question for Ms. Bellamy. In episode 2F09, when Itchy plays Scratchy's skeleton like a xylophone, he strikes the same rib twice in succession, yet he produces two clearly different tones. I mean, what are we to believe, that this is some sort of a... (sn****ring) magic xylophone or something? Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

BELLAMY
Uh, well, uh...

HOMER
I'll field that one. Let me ask you a question. Why would a man whose shirt says "Genius at Work" spend all of his time watching a children's cartoon show?

DOUG
(embarrassed) I withdraw my question. (eats a chocolate bar)

Another thing about the desert planet that can sustain life...does the same flaw go for Arrakis?
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JohnL
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« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2004, 07:55:02 PM »

>And I never did buy the idea that the Death Star's shields could keep out large
>craft but allow fighters to get through. What is it, sort of like a sieve?

I always figured that the shields kept out shots from energy weapons, but not physical matter. So the fighters could get in close and skim the surface, but unless they wanted to crash into it, there would no point in taking capital ships in past the shield.

>Then in Empire Strikes back, Han Solo would have not been able to use it to cut
>open the beast on Hoth in order to stuff Luke inside.

From reading the description above, it seems to me it's only saying that it takes a Jedi to CREATE a light sabre, but then anyone can use it. Like needing a gunsmith to create a gun, but then anyone can pick it up and use it.
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