Assignment Desk: You Ask, We Answer

By Eric Wolff | March 12, 2009 6:30 pm

Codex Futurius LogoSometimes there’s just more Sci Fi than the SciNoFi team can keep up with. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true – we live in a golden age of speculative fiction in a host of media. And more than likely, some of it brushes up close enough to real science to make you, our dear readers, wonder: “Can they do that?”  But then the laundry needs folding, or your boss actually wants you to get some work done, or there’s a critical game of Facebook Scrabble that needs playing, and you don’t get around to finding the answer.

We’re here to help. In the comments below, fire away with your science questions about any sci fi book, TV show, movie, radio play, comic, or whatever that you can think of, and we’ll set about answering as many as we can in upcoming posts as part of our Codex Futurius project.

Bear in mind, we yearn to answer science questions. We’re relatively useless for fielding pop entertainment rumors or speculating on why Starbuck keeps having weird visions. But the science of Sci Fi? Bring it on.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Codex Futurius, Utter Nerd
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Comments (6)

  1. DO LEFT AND RIGHT SHOES FALL IDENTICALLY? All compositions of matter locally vacuum free fall identically. This is observed in the lab to 5×10^(-14) relative, and astronomically (arxiv:0805.2396, arxiv:0902.1000). EM is does not constrain massed sector configuration interactions. Is the vacuum parity-odd toward opposite geometric parity, chemically identical atomic mass distributions?

    Handedness is an emergent phenomenon. It disappears below its pitch length. Required are centimeter-scale self-similar aggregates of single-atom helices, all left-handed and separately all right-handed. Crystallography volunteers enantiomorphic space groups P3(1)21 and P3(2)21 with respective all right-handed and all left-handed 3-fold screw axies, no racemic screw axes, no conflicting screw axes. The US hosts superlative Eotvos balances. Large single crystal quartz, berlinite and analogues, tellurium, selenium… are all commercially grown. Do left and right shoes fall identically?

    Alternatively, where did the mc^2 go when matter entered the Krell disintegrator field in Forbidden Planet?

  2. Michael D.

    In the most recent issue of Nature, there are two papers* (which are beyond my understanding in many ways) that detail the characteristics of sodium and lithium under extreme pressure. Specifically, these two metals adopt semiconductor-like (even superconductor-like) characteristics if you subject them to giga-pressure (literally, 80-200 gigapascals). The sodium actually becomes optically transparent during this squeeze. Reading this reminded me of a Star Trek episode (actually, maybe a scene from a “Next Generation” movie) that involved a not-so-scientific explanation of “transparent aluminum” being used in the windows (“ports”) of the Enterprise. My question, then: Is the idea of using transparent metal for windows pure science fiction?



    *Matsuoka, T. & Shimizu, K. Nature 458, 186–189 (2009); and Ma, Y. et al. Nature 458, 182–185 (2009)

  3. Jojo

    I’ve been pondering the questions/thoughts below for some time regarding interstellar flight. IF there are other intelligent races in our galaxy, perhaps the reason we have no solid, definite proof of their existence or visits is because interstellar flight is just not possible (or practicable)?

    Assuming Einstein was correct and one can’t ever travel faster than the speed of light and further assuming that we wanted to travel to another star and could attain near light speed in a reasonably fast time period, how would you actually navigate to the destination?

    Stars are not where we on Earth see them to be. If you could somehow jump say 100 light years from Earth instantaneously, nothing would be where you thought it would be if you depended on the destination position being where it was as viewed from Earth because of the delay in light reaching Earth. If you start from Earth in a light speed capable ship and merely point at where you want to go, you are really looking at where the star was at some point in the past.

    So your destination is now somewhere else in the heavens from where an Earth person would see it. For all we know in present time, the object might have gone nova or there might be another star in the way now. Even the very closest start system (Alpha Centuri) is 4 years away at light speed. A lot can transpire in 4 years!

    With light speed as a maximum limit, it would seem that you would (1) only reasonably be able to travel to very close star systems from any point and (2) would need some sort of real-time stellar location calculation computer with an en route object detection and avoidance system that would function at near light speed (don’t want to run into some sun traveling at light speed), which (3) would require some really major computer power (which is not in existence at this point) to somehow track the object you want to get to while constantly updating the flight path/course as you got ever closer while avoiding objects in the way.

    So the question is: Has anyone (outside of SF authors) given any thought to the mechanics of navigating to other stars? This might make for a good story in Discover.

  4. Jojo

    When looking at photo’s of galaxies in the universe, they appear to be suspended at all different angles (relative to our viewpoint). Does the orientation of galaxies in space have any importance or implications in the bigger picture? I know there is not up or down in space but it just seems so weird to see galaxies at all different angles.

  5. is anthony macntire cheeting on me?


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