Star Trek “Science”

Candice eetimesI love Star Trek.  As a kid, I used to sneak out of my bedroom and down the hall just far enough to glimpse, at an awkward angle, the TV in the living room as my parents watched the original broadcasts such that they wouldn’t be able to see me doing so.  The show aired past my parentally enforced bedtime; but that didn’t stop me.  It wasn’t the only Sci Fi show I watched, of course, but it was my fave.

Today, I saw an essay by a Forbes blogger complaining, in a shocked and lamenting tone, that Star Trek had used bogus biological science as a plot take-off.  I’m also shocked… but not for the same reason.  I’m shocked that he thought that Star Trek and anything to do with science.  Seriously?  This is Science Fiction, emphasis on fiction.

Let’s start with the simple fact Star Trek is based on the premise that Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel and communications is possible.  In good science fiction, it is said that one may have one impossible device or technology and build around that.  But Star Trek has used tons of “impossible” technologies and tech-babble.  The point of Star Trek was to entertain and perhaps, occasionally, moralize.

Oh… now I can hear some folks complain, “How do we know that FTL is impossible?”

OK, I’ll grant that we don’t know everything about the universe yet.  We don’t know what Dark Energy or even the more prosaic, Dark Matter are.  We don’t really know how gravity and quantum physics can be unified.  These are indeed deep questions.  But they don’t hint at anything that will allow FTL.

Why? Because the combination of Newton’s Laws of Motion and Relativity, both Special and General.  To get FTL, those laws would have to be shown to be totally wrong.  Oh… and you can forget time travel for the same reasons…  There may be a loophole for FTL communications… or not.  But forget FTL travel.

The other key area where Star Trek has ignored science is indeed biology.  The very casting of humans as aliens that look like humans?  Even considering convergent evolution, the type that has created brains, eyes, wings, and fins several times does NOT mean that it will create creatures like us with very different biology but very similar physiognomy.  Even worse, that these folks can conceive hybrid human/alien children? The writers of the later series, Next Generation eventually tried to create an explanation, that was even worse the than the original plot hole by suggesting that evolution had not done it alone, but was directed DNA manipulation by a progenitor species to control the end result of evolutionary processes on thousands of worlds.  Say what?

So that’s TWO impossible things… the list is long.

For myself, when I started out to write “All The Stars Are Suns” and to map out its successor books in the same universe (not a “series” per se as the characters will not be reappearing), I decided that there would be NO impossible device or technology.  Everything, every tiny detail, would be not only scientifically possible, but technologically probable.  The technologies are things that I would like to have been able to develop myself before I die.  But I can’t.  I won’t live long enough and don’t have the energy to pursue them all.  But I can write about them, popularize them, inspire future technologists to development them.

Excelsior Ad Astra


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