Retcon artist

By Phil Plait | November 21, 2010 7:34 am

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie. Still.

What’s funny to me is that when Spock corrects Kirk about weight, he’s actually wrong. Making the ship less massive means the same force applied would give a greater acceleration. But by then they’d already ejected the warp core, so it doesn’t matter.

Or maybe I’m thinking about this too hard.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, SciFi, TV/Movies
MORE ABOUT: Star Trek

Comments (64)

  1. Messier Tidy Upper
  2. That was soooo wrong…. ;)

  3. R2K

    Star wars is teh worst.

  4. Max Lazer

    Huh. It always seemed to me that Kirk’s reasoning was that if they make the ship lighter/less massive, it will simply float away from the black hole, as if space is an ocean. Hence Spock’s attempt at correcting Kirk.

  5. XPT

    You’re right, Phil. That pretty much ruins the clip for me.

  6. John Paradox

    Now, if JJ Abrams will listen to the part about the ‘lens flare generators’, I could handle a sequel. I refer to the film as Star Trek:The Lens Flares.

    J/P=?

  7. Sam

    Aww they should have gotten spaghettified!

  8. Jennifer

    I am still laughing. The ending (both of them) was so unexpected and hilarious!

  9. Chelsea

    Question is, will it leave a missile contrail?

  10. >>Or maybe I’m thinking about this too hard.
    Way, way too hard, LOL… but OMG that was hilarious. Dude, you’re gonna get complaints from The Red Shirt Society if you promote stuff like this ;)

  11. noen

    I loath Star Trek.

  12. Douglas Troy

    Gotta love HISHE. They do some funny stuff.

  13. alfaniner

    I just got Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning from Netflix, which works along similar lines. Even though it’s in Dutch (subtitled) it’s one of the best parodies I’ve ever seen, with more suspense and better special effects that a lot of “real” sci-fi movies. Highly recommended.

  14. Gary Ansorge

    Hilarious!

    “Oh, we’re going to get so much crap for that.” Now THAT’S a classic line. Perhaps it should be etched into the very structure of space/time.

    Gary 7

  15. Sir Craig

    Umm…correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m sure I am), but isn’t there a difference between mass and weight? When Kirk says they need to lose some weight, Spock would actually be correct in saying weight is irrelevant in space because weight is predicated on its environment, and in space there is nothing on which to base ‘weight’ on.

    Now if Kirk had said, “We need to lose some mass,” then it would make sense.

    Perhaps I’m thinking too hard about this.

    On edit: Okay, I just re-watched the video and the Kirk/Scotty bit actually says the ship needs to be ‘lighter’, so it could either be mass or weight. Now I have a headache. Still a funny clip.

  16. Save the ship by warp-ejecting the fat girls plus Newton’s first law.

  17. Chris
  18. NAW

    They have some really great “endings” to some movies. Check out the Star Wars ones.

  19. m5

    Uncle Al, may I be the first to say you are a misogynist prick.

  20. Oh noes! My new keyboard is full of cider now!

    /Nice one

  21. Mike K.

    Sorry Phil, you blew this one big time. The black hole is exerting force on the ship via gravity within a near vacuum. Less massive ship means less force from gravity. Less massive ship also means easier to accelerate. The two effects cancel each other out, just like the demo of the rock and the feather falling at the same rate within a near vacuum tube.

  22. Mike K (22): The force I meant was from the ship’s engines, and not from gravity. The mass of the ship is meaningless to the black hole; the acceleration is the same no matter what mass the ship has.

    Dumping extra mass means the engines have less mass to accelerate, so the force they apply on the ship gives a greater acceleration.

  23. Uncle Al (17) and m5 (20): I strongly urge you to read my commenting policy. Strongly.

  24. Have you seen the one they did about the 1978 Superman movie? That one’s my favorite.

  25. Mike Saunders

    Uncle Al is funny

    “Uncle Al has committed two terrible acts in public! He published (pdf) a pair of simple experiments using existing apparatus and commercial materials that could falsify the whole of physics without contradicting any prior observation in any venue at any scale. Contemporary physical theory is a disaster – quantized gravitation and SUSY. Only new observation can transcend Official cluelessness (the parity Eötvös experiment!). ”

    Good job you ruined physics

  26. NAW

    @ 25. Arik Rice: Yea, that one is great. Spiderman 3 is awesome as well.

  27. Keith (the first one)

    Great ending. Got a good laugh from me. I was actually thinking they might do a Futurama ending joke (we haven’t seen the new series in the UK yet so sush!), or a Galaxy Quest ending joke. Very good though.

  28. Very amusing toon. They should get Tom and Gerry to play Cat and Mouse with the rules of physics. Not sure if it’s about the size/volume of the ship but rather its density wanting to be reduced for its easy get away. Paradoxically, if the ship can’t move, maybe the ship engine should gain enormous amounts of mass to increase density, to slow down any spaghettification.

  29. Hevach

    Nerd time here, but I’d argue the Enterprise could have survived that hit if her shields were up, assuming that’s the anti-ship superlaser mode they used in the Battle of Endor (the planet destroying mode takes too long to charge to target a passing ship like that). Didn’t the TOS Enterprise actually take a hit from the Doomsday Machine? The Constallation took one with shields down and was mostly intact.

    I could type a big wall of text, but my basic argument is in ship to ship combat, Star Trek shields are shown being far more effective against ridiculously more powerful weapons than their Star Wars equivalents. In terms of destructive power, the TOS Enterprise was described to be able to level a planet in short order, and indeed a small fleet in DS9 wiped out the surface of the Changeling homeworld in a single volley and expected to strip the planet to the core in a matter of minutes. Han Solo was skeptical even the entire Imperial Fleet could accomplish the same feat, and when most forms of planetary depopulation aside from Death Star equivalents have been described in the Star Wars universe, they’re prolonged events bombardments requiring numerous ships.

  30. Ray

    Why does the vid clip stop every 5 seconds? I’ve got the little read bar all the way across and every 5 seconds it stops like its loading something. But it can’t be loading anything, since the little red bar is maxed.

  31. “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning” is in Finnish, not Dutch.

  32. Taiga

    I wish they’d addressed why it was Kirk who received the promotion and honours when it was actually SPOCK that saved Earth. That really bugged me.

  33. Kevin

    Yeah, that was good.

  34. chaz

    i was done with this movie on a technical basis when they went “through” the black hole. although, that being said, i did like the drop to silence when the woman was sucked out in at the beginning.

  35. Shaun

    What’s worse is they got Titan’s orbit all wrong!

  36. Aaron

    @Hevach (30): The Enterprise emerged from the wormhole into the Star Wars universe, where the laws of physics differ from those of the Star Trek universe. When that happened, her shields became as weak and useless as those of an A-wing.

    @Shaun (35): True, but it looked freakin’ awesome.

  37. Jeff Corey

    So she juiced the piglet?

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The real deal is of course as long as you *see* the black hole event horizon as in the movie you aren’t really in it.

    (Btw, later on, in the actual transition into an event horizon, it is fundamentally unnoticeable for an isolated photon, but AFAIU there are plenty of web movie simulations that shows how the topology of the integrated light cones becomes so screwed up a camera like an eye can’t miss it.)

    So they should have done the usual Star Trek slingshot, preferably without time travel. I guess that would have been too little drama. Or perhaps made a time travel slingshot into the sequel without taking care of Kirk’s & Spock’s respective redemptions.

    “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning” is in Finnish, not Dutch.

    Yeah, to get that wrong is on the order of calling a polar bear a whale because “it swims out there” (it’s in a foreign language). Just saying.

  39. Grand Lunar

    This is a great video series, Phil.
    And I figured this one was in your territory. :)

    Spoiler Alert!:

    Loved how Nimoy nerve pinches Vader at the end. Classic!

  40. XPT

    Besides, even if they have no engine, dumping stuff towards the black hole pushes the ship forward, amirite?

  41. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ XPT :

    Whose amirite? ;-)

    Yeah, Newton’s something-th* law : For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Was I the the only person bothered about the fact that the Trek “altquel”** created a black hole near the Earth at the end of the movie? I mean, think of the gravity & its effects on the solar system!

    Finally, I wonder how a Trek / Wars ‘verse cross over would work? I don’t mind ether of those Science fantasty series and each has its flaws and its moments of brilliance. Trek has transporters which could indicate better technology but then there’s the Death Star and the Force. How would Kirk handle Jedi Vs Sith or Janeway and Seven of Nine manage against Han Solo and Princess Leia? I’m sure somebody’s done written something on that idea already and I’m sure the rsults could be .. fascinating! ;-)

    —-

    * First? Second? Third? One of those I think, I forget which though.

    ** Alternative universe sequel. What? Is the BA the only one who can coin neologisms here or something? ;-)

  42. rob

    @Hevach (30):

    your argument is a classic appeal to authority. by invoking what Han Solo thinks, you have invalidated your whole line of reasoning.

    :)

  43. Jamie Mueller

    @42 Messier:

    “Was I the the only person bothered about the fact that the Trek “altquel”** created a black hole near the Earth at the end of the movie? I mean, think of the gravity & its effects on the solar system!”

    They didn’t: Just before that point Spock jumps to warp (granted for not very long) to get away and they follow–presumably he goes far enough away from earth so that the new black hole doesn’t have much affect.

  44. mike burkhart

    Star Trek ending? NEVER STAR TREK FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!All they have to do is go thro the Guardian of forever back to the 1960s .Where it all started. (By the way I would like someone to answer the questions I and many have about the Guardian of forever: like who built it?,what happened to the civilazion that built it? what about the city it was found is how big was it ? the ruins extended to the horizon that makes me wonder if it covered the hole planet and they resembled Greek and Roman bulidings was it possiable the builders used the Gaurdian to go to Earth and adopted Greek and Roman archtecure? lets have the answers)

  45. Sam wrote:

    “Aww they should have gotten spaghettified!”

    I concur! We need to make “Star Trek: How It Should Have Ended: How It Should Have Ended”

  46. Joseph G

    What I don’t get is why every sci-fi ship in this situation always tries to thrust directly away from the black hole. Granted, tidal forces could get nasty if you swing too close, but if you thrust perpendicular to the gravitational force from the black hole (putting yourself in an orbit, or at least an orbital section), you’ll have quite a bit more time to accelerate.
    In fact, the odds of just tooling along through space and falling directly into the event horizon are slim anyway – black holes are relatively compact. That’s why you get accretion discs, right? Randomly distributed matter normally is curved toward the gravitating object, but usually doesn’t hit it (at least, right away).

  47. Joseph G

    Regarding spaghettification: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that the most massive of supermassive black holes can have event horizons so huge that the average density of the BH within the event horizon is less then that of water. Supposedly, tidal gradients around such objects are so mild that you could easily reach the event horizon without getting spaghettified.
    Of course, you’d still get spaghettified quite spectacularly as you move closer to the singularity, but at least no outside observers would have to see it ;)

    Regarding tidal forces, a nice (physically accurate, as far as I know, with the exception of some unobtanium in the ship’s hull) short story on the topic is “Neutron Star” by Larry Niven. It’s not about a black hole, of course, but some of the issues encountered near a small BH are similar.

  48. Matt B.

    Actually, how it should have ended is:

    “Using a minor amount of thrust, the Enterprise easily drifts away from the pinprick-size black hole that has only as much mass as the mining craft that became it. The black hole eventually evaporates due to Hawking radiation.”

    A common mistake of TV and movie sci-fi is indicating that black holes have stronger gravity at the same distance than the objects that went into making them. Stargate SG-1 has a particularly egregious example.

  49. Anchor

    #45 mike burkhart Says:
    “All they have to do is go thro the Guardian of forever back to the 1960s .Where it all started. (By the way I would like someone to answer the questions I and many have about the Guardian of forever: like who built it?,what happened to the civilazion that built it? what about the city it was found is how big was it ? the ruins extended to the horizon that makes me wonder if it covered the hole planet and they resembled Greek and Roman bulidings was it possiable the builders used the Gaurdian to go to Earth and adopted Greek and Roman archtecure? lets have the answers)”

    The answer?

    1. Fiction.

    2. Fiction.

    3. Fiction.

    4. The whim of the next hack writer who writes a tale – take your pick of fictional scenarios specifically designed to titilate Star Trek fans for further profit: real science has absolutely positively nothing, without a shred of connection other than mention, whatsoever to do with it.

    I trust these would be reason enough for even the most rabid Star Trek afficianado to accede that what FICTIONS they watch on a Big Screen orchestrated by Hollywood isn’t necessarily true to any authentic science, let alone any remote semblance of reality.

  50. Murff

    “Aye Captain”….slips on a yellow shirt

    Best part right there.

  51. Anyone who’s actually watched Star Trek should know Spock is usually wrong on the science. Not sometimes. Usually.

  52. Wildride

    … Shatner wakes up and it was it a bad dream. An awful, awful, horribly written bad dream.

  53. Zaphod

    The correct ending (besides ‘nothing happens'; the planet doesn’t magically become an ultramassive force sucking everything into it just because it is now a black hole) is that without perfect aim and guidance, they miss the singularity’s event horizon and just slingshot around it and are now in a highly eccentric elliptical orbit around the black hole with an aphelion pretty much where they started. If they manage to fall directly on a collision course with the singularity, the Enterprise is ripped into subatomic particles (by tidal forces) that fall forever into the black hole.

  54. Joseph G

    @#54: Exactly! I must confess I haven’t seen the movie, but I would assume that the enterprise is in orbit around the planet anyway, rather then hovering there on engine thrust.
    So now instead of orbiting a planet, it’s orbiting a black hole roughly the size of a marble (I’m probably off on that size, but not by more then a few orders of magnitude :P ).

  55. Joseph G

    @#50 Anchor: I’ll bet you had fun as a little kid watching Saturday morning cartoons and saying “Hah! That’s impossible!” every 10 seconds or so.

  56. Messier Tidy Upper

    @44. Jamie Mueller Says:

    @42 Messier: “Was I the the only person bothered about the fact that the Trek “altquel”** created a black hole near the Earth at the end of the movie? I mean, think of the gravity & its effects on the solar system!”
    They didn’t: Just before that point Spock jumps to warp (granted for not very long) to get away and they follow–presumably he goes far enough away from earth so that the new black hole doesn’t have much affect.

    Hmm… Thanks :-)

    But I must say I’m not entirely convinced. It was a *very* short jump after all and having something with the mass of a black hole suddenly appear in our solar system anywhere or even just right next to it? I don’t think that’d be good.

    BTW. The BA’s review of the Trek rebooted movie is here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/05/08/ba-review-star-trek/

    Personally, Ithought it was a fun fast-paced flick which I kinda enjoyed but the dreadful bad science of it and the convenience-itis factor of the weak plot. *Facepalm*

  57. Messier Tidy Upper

    From the BA’s original review (^ linked above, awaiting moderation, posted 2009 May 8th, 11:32 PM) Dr Phil Plait wrote :

    ***

    The Scene:

    After The Final Battle, the Enterprise gets too close to the black hole! They’re getting drawn in, and Scotty says that if they eject the warp core and blow it up, the explosion might propel them to safety.

    The Science:

    Simply put, that won’t work. Sorry Scotty!

    On Earth, detonating a bomb creates a shock wave, an expanding wave of pressure as the force from the explosion propagates through the air. In space — wait for it, wait for it… — there’s no air! So you don’t get a shock wave. When the matter and antimatter in the core combine, you get a fierce blast of electromagnetic radiation (fancy science-talk for light) in the form of gamma rays, and an expanding very thin shell of vaporized atoms from the material in the warp core itself.

    To propel the Big E to safety, the bomb would have to transfer momentum to the ship. This is like hitting a pool ball with another one; the moving ball has momentum, which it then gives to the other one, causing it to move. Detonating the warp core would generate a lot of light, but only a tiny bit of mass would explode outward, so the momentum transfer would be minimal.

    What would really happen is the ship would be vaporized from the massive release of energy. Oops! That would’ve made for a dramatic ending to the movie, but not a terribly satisfying one.

    [Oh I don’t know about that! – Ed. ;-) ]

    (Bold original, cut’n’pasted from linked BA blog item.)

    ***

    So I’d like to see the “what would really happen” science version where the Enterprise starts to sphaghettify then Scotty dumps the warp cores which vaporise the whole ship in a huge soundless flash of light explosion leaving just the black hole.

    My cruel side would like to see the expression on the Trekkies faces as they realise Kirk et al have been totally vapourised and wiped out once and for all! :-o

    (Or have they – parallel universes, time travel redos and all considered!)

    I don’t mind Star Trek I really don’t but .. ;-)

    Then the newly minted red matter black hole pulls Earth out of its orbit – along with Mars and our Moon and we watch as the Earth fries or freezes with a brief shot of the gravitational effects causing huge moonquakes and Mars-quakes sending Humanity extinct as well.

    Followed by the closing line – not ‘The End’ but a huge bold ‘D’oh!’ aa-aand roll credits! ;-)

  58. Messier Tidy Upper

    @51. Murff Says:

    “Aye Captain”….slips on a yellow shirt
    Best part right there.

    Indeed. :-)

    If I was running the Federation or their ‘Occ. Health & Safety’ division – I’d seriously consider banning all employees from wearing red shirts – and even red clothes of any other type just to be safe. I’m sure it would more than halve their workplace fatalities rate! ;-)

  59. Also one last point I cannot resist noting :

    We all know that Darth Vader can sense things through The Force right.

    So, therefore, the second that Spock Prime beams in at the very end shouldn’t Vader sense that happening & old Spock’s hostile intentions & thus spin around activating his lightsaber and chopping Spock Prime in half!? Y’know just like Yoda did when that stormtrooper came up behind Yoda to carry out order 66? ;-)

    Now *that* – & Vader ending with the line “Never underestimate the Pow-wah of the Dark side!” would make an even better ending! ;-)

    – In My Humble Opinion Naturally.

  60. Joseph G

    That warp-core ejection bit is just plain ridiculous for another reason (besides the rather important bit about getting fried by radiation). Even if the detonating antimatter is surrounded by enough mass (and it’d take a helluva lot) to turn all that gamma radiation into a (relatively) cool expanding fireball, you have to figure that the percentage of that energy that moves the ship would be miniscule. It’d be like trying to go up a steep hill by blowing up an entire tank of gasoline behind your car. Surely the Enterprise’s engines are more efficient then THAT?

    Granted, the idea of using nukes to move a ship isn’t new (see Project Orion) – but those particular nukes would be fine-tuned to make sure that more of the weapon yield goes into pushing plasma against the pusher plate. (Yes, I know antimatter annihilation and fission bombs are different things, but generally speaking, the results are more or less a question of magnitude)
    And yes, the Enterprise lacks the enormous solid pusher plate and shock absorption system, so… ouch :)

  61. Joseph G

    @#58 Messier Tidy: Bwahahaha :D

    I’m wondering about that change in ST:TNG uniforms – did they give the high ranking officers red shirts on purpose, to dispell the whole red-shirt gag among fans?
    Didn’t seem to work, in any case :D

  62. “The mass of the ship is meaningless to the black hole; the acceleration is the same no matter what mass the ship has.”

    Wait, what? Am I the only one confused by this statement. I thought black holes exerted gravitational forces, in which case mass (of each body) would matter? Jettisoning the engines into the blackhole would just be transferring the mass, so zero sum right?

  63. Really, just going to warp should have worked on several levels. Most notably the fact that the warp field reduces the “visible” or “apparent” mass of the starship to zero allowing the whole faster-than-light thing to happen (Remember that episode when Q was made human, and he told Geordi to change the gravitational constant? All they had to do was throw a warp field around it).

    Unless they were too close in for Warp 6ish to kick them out of the event horizon. But they’d have to be pretty close in for that, especially considering the total mass of the black hole … but I may be overanalysing.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »