I was thinking (as I often do) about space travel, and realized there’s a very real problem that’s solved in every science fiction show without any sort of reference to it in the first place; gravity. Well, ok, two problems; gravity and inertia.

Such a simple thing that gets overlooked for the sake of creating drama. Here’s a rough example:
Captain: “We need to get away from these bad people right now!”
Engineer: “If we were to reverse the polarity on the port side injector, while creating an inverse tachyon field with starboard exhaust, just as Ensign Redshirt makes a cell phone call in the aft hangar . . . we should be able to get a small speed boost!”

vs.

Captain: “There’s no gravity in this hallway.”
Engineer: “Um . . . we’ll replace the . . . gravity . . . plate?”

I believe that people take gravity and inertia for granted in science fiction. According to Newtonian Physics, everyone moving in the ship should be turned into chunky salsa everytime it speeds up, slows down, turns, spins, etc. They should also be floating around as they are being liquified against the walls!

Zohner and I were discussing the idea of gravity generators, and at first the very term seems to solve all our problems. Gravity? Check! And it’s generated, so we’re all good, right? Wrong!

Gravity decays at a constant rate, and it’s strength is measured in G’s. On Earth, we expirience 1G. I know what a lot of people might say to this: “Yeah, but Zuke, it’s only 1G! Rockets overcome that all the time. It shouldn’t that big a deal to generate 1G on a ship!”

1G also holds the moon in orbit.

Suddenly, the thought of the Enterprise flying through space is fraught with disasterous consequences; asteroids and comets leaving their normal paths to impact the hull, the ship having it’s own atmosphere whenever it gets too close to a gas cloud, the possibility of wiping out entire civilizations when it enters orbit!

I can never watch sci-fi the same way again. I’ve ruined my own fun. Just in time for Battlestar to start up again.

About The Author

Co-founder of Stolendroids.com and Executive Producer for Stolendroids Podcast. Also resident 'tech-head' and de-facto leader of the group.

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  • Jeremiah

    Thanks, Zuke. Now I can never watch The Empire Strikes Back again. Every asteroid in the field near Hoth will cause me to scream something like “How are you not leaving your orbit and destroying the Falcon?” Dang you and your science knowing ways…

  • Zuke

    Well, the Falcon (“What the hell’s an aluminum falcon?”) is moving awfully fast for the gravitational pull to crush them immediately. I imagine it’d look a lot more like Tim Allen dragging mines in Galaxy Quest.

  • TardisCaptain

    I know that the Star Trek writers tech manual it had some technobable excuse for avoiding the chunky salsa results (they even used those words to describe what would happen).

    Now if they could just explain why they didn’t put circuit breakers in the consoles so they wouldn’t explode all the time? So many dead Ensigns….

  • Zuke

    They use a system called the IDF, or Inertial Dampning Field. (I have the TNG Technical Manual). Even then, the technobable is “um, insert something about forcefields here.”

    Oh well.

  • As requested,
    Not sure what else I can add as a thought but Fiction is Fiction, it should be taken “as is” and not compared with the “real world”. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, may even give inspiration to create “something real” but remains inconsistent as much.
    Attempting a comparision will end with, endless, as inconsistent, possibly irrelevant arguments.

    To conclude, it’s hard to compare a cow with a fish…