Have descended from the mountains once again, grizzled and gruff, with many maps and hundreds of photographs in tow. These will be communicated to you, dear readers, forthwith. However, today will be mostly spent dealing with unpacking, with backed up email, and such mundanities. Posts will post when they post.

An announcement that will shock several: I have been compelled to acquire a cell phone. If anyone from the department wants to give me a ride to Roseville to pick it up, IM me. Thanks.

That is all.


Was interested if you see anything I got terribly wrong in this space movie rantlet. (not that ranty

Nice article, read it this morning. But you've got weight and gravity subtly wrong, and this leads you into a minor error down the line.

It's true that r can be large in space, but gravity still accelerates you. Hence the Earth stays in orbit about the sun. But with no ground to arrest the acceleration, everything is in free-fall, and hence you feel no weight, because your ship accelerates almost exactly the same as your feet. Space being big, its still pretty easy not to hit anything.

Then you say of space shrapnel, "These bits will continue on at their initial velocities until, pretty much, they hit something or they fall into an orbit." The bit about falling into orbit is kinda wrong. They will move under inertia and gravity, and are by definition already in orbit relative to everything else. Planets, stars, the galaxy. Although it is more usual to think of matter as orbiting whatever body most immediately affects it's motion.

And really minor nits. You can have firey explosions in space, if the ship you just blew up had enough air inside. The flames just won't last very long. Also, I've always assumed that Star Wars-style "blasters" were firing some kind of rather slow-moving plasma. Referring to such things as LASERs, as movies often do, is clearly absurd.

That's one of the things I always liked about Babylon 5. Fairly plausible depiction of space life, if you ignore the odd physics needed for hyperspace to work. The first time an Earth captain steps onto an alien ship with artificial gravity, he's confused by the lack of spinning bits.

Babylon 5 really benefitted from Harlan Ellison.

I'll steal your nits for the first column in September, you will receive credit of course.

So, the opening battle of episode 3... worst space physics ever?

Empire has the worst physics of the Star Wars movies, I think, as it combines the franchise's weird notions of space combat with those about asteroids with those about gravity in the asteroid field pursuit sequence. Lacking the patience to watch it more than once, I haven't really scrutinized the ep. 3 opening battle, but my broad impression is that it isn't quite as bad as everyone says if you assume it's actually taking place in the planet's upper atmosphere, as I actually did at the time. But still laughable.

A fun proposal I've heard to make SW space combat more believable is to posit that in the far away galaxy where the movies transpire, there actually is air in space. If it's thin and only present in solar systems, the entire galaxy doesn't even immediately collapse into a black hole. Would imply all kinds of strange things about the stars in this galaxy, though.

SW physics is silly, but to an extent gets a pass since the technology, dingy though it can look, is supposed to be advanced scads of millennia beyond our own. Who am I to say that X-Wings don't bank against dark matter, for instance? In this respect, Star Trek science strikes me as actually less believable.

2001 has some good physics, and then there's...
ummm, the Val Kilmer Mars movie actually acknowledges a 20 minute lag time in radio communication to earth, and has a spinny thing to generate gravity, but it still sucks

I live at 70007 Commonwealth in Seattle. Been up here before?

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