Video Review: The Expanse

Candice eetimesI finally had the chance to watch the first two episodes of The Expanse.  It has been well reviewed by others.  Those reviews all speak well of the production values and the scientific realism of the show.  Sigh…

First, there are lots of wonderful high quality details… but as I’ve explained before, one of my pet peeves is the fetish that Hollywood has for transparent displays.  This show has them in abundance.  It’s irritating and pulls me out of the story and into my career as an expert on display design.  But that isn’t the only problem with science and technology on the show.

In one scene, a hard-boiled cop with a streak of cynical corruption pours liquid from a bottle into a glass… that goes sideways… SIDEWAYS!  Ummmm… if that’s the effect of gravity of Ceres, then the engineers of the habitat messed up and didn’t plumb the building.  Then it occurred to me… perhaps they are trying to show the effect of Coriolis?  No, that can’t be right as Ceres has a rotation (day length) of nine hours.  The coriolis effect would be far too small to be noticed.  Ok… could it represent that the bottle was under some pressure and Ceres tiny 0.03g gravity wasn’t involved?  This would make more sense… but the bottle didn’t seem to be a pressured bottle.  Nothing I can think of would explain the behavior of the liquid.

Thinking of gravity… at that tiny gravity, everyone on Ceres should have been loping, not walking… and certainly NOT running as occurred in several scenes.  The moment someone tried it, they would be bounding off the floor!  And then there is the issue of shipboard gravity/acceleration.  While it may make superficial sense for people to use magnetic boots in zero g, a long time favorite staple of budget limited science fiction film, actual walking in them makes zero sense.  Walking is a form of “falling” forward and toward the floor then catching yourself.  Without real gravity/acceleration walking just isn’t possible.  The best that could occur is to use the mag boots in situation where one wants to lock oneself into one “standing” position so as to enable working on tasks that require that torque be applied by one’s arms.  Then… there are the scenes where ship acceleration is used to provide gravity.  Yes, the physics allow that… the energetics do not.  One would not provide constant moderate g burns to rocket around the solar system.  It would take more reaction mass than the mass of the ship!  Then there is the sillyness of the design of the chairs used during high g burns… sigh… one would not be sitting upright!  One would be lying down, lazyboy fashion, so that one’s heart didn’t have to fight the acceleration to keep blood flowing to one’s brain (drugs or no drugs).

Speaking of energetics and economics.  The notion of capturing ice in the outer solar system and storing it in a ship that then brings it back to the belt makes zero sense.  Ice is very plentiful in the outer system in the form of comets and Saturn’s rings.  One would simply (as if anything in space is “simple”) strap an ion rocket powered by plutonium Radioactive Thermal Generator (RTG) to nudge it into a least energy orbit to the belt.  If that’s not enough water and other gasses… do it over and over.  No human should be riding it back down to the belt.  There should NEVER be a shortage of water available to the belt.

OK… I love the show for it’s hard science fiction feel… I just wish that they had a better science advisor!  Or perhaps, had chosen to base the show on a SciFi book series where the author knew better?

Additional Reading:

What Hollywood Gets Wrong In Futuristic Science Fiction

3 Responses to Video Review: The Expanse

  1. maybrick2001 says:

    Ok, i will bite. The show has magic physics defying alien intelligences. It deliberately fudges a lot of things in order to tell a story. It’s odd to me how you have focussed on criticising the few points which you seem to have misunderstood.
    One of the central dynamics of the setting is how Earth and Mars treat the belters as essentially their servants. The resources are mostly sent to the core worlds leaving the Belt with the scraps. Pretty much like any number of scenarios on earth were there were plenty of resources but the locals didn’t get any and suffered as a result.

    They ARE lying down in their seats. Plus they have (magic) juice to help with high G acceleration.

    As to Coriolis effect, the book at least makes it clear that the closer to the centre of the asteroid the cheaper the real estate and I think that Miller is supposed to be pretty low rent. But honestly, it looks cool.

    If bendy fungus Scotch throws you wait till you get to wormhole tech.

    • Perfect comment!
      Also, on the point of transparent screens: what, exactly, is the OP’s story-correct solution?
      I read of her hatred of them in two of her articles, but never once in either of them did she have a suggestion for what she expects to be a better “futuristic” option. So What that it’s”retro tech?” What’s the”correct” solution? Holograms would suffer from all the same down sides, projection screens premiered in the 1970s, flexible screens in 1987, HUDs in commercial aviation in the 1970s (and in the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in 1988). So… what’s HER BRILLIANT IDEA? And don’t forget, we ARE talking about a TV show…so it HAS to LOOK GOOD. Whatever her opinion, that’s a fact of life for a SF show/movie!
      I’m trying to imagine life in her version of the world… Imagine a starship yard. The engineer team is designing the new model assault craft. “What about the interface screens? Should we go with edge display transparent?”
      “Are you crazy? Those premiered in 1975! Besides, what about SECURITY?”
      “Security? This is a military ship that holds a vetted team of 6 special Force opperatives, who are they hidding their data from?”
      “Eye-strain would…”
      “…Be irrelevant. A single button press, or voice command, would fill in all those “empty pixels” with a pleasant off-white, or whatever the opperator preferred.”

      So, yeah.
      – Maximilian d’Erembourg, author of the Amazon 5-Star rated Nightfall: Book One of the Nightsong Space Opera
      (Wherein star yacht purchasers are free to make their ships look ANYWAY that they can imagine)

      • Kay Brown says:

        First, one of my “my brilliant Ideas” is already in the market. I’m the inventor of the PenTile Matrix (please google it)

        Second, “light field display and camera in one”… so that one is looking THROUGH the glass at what appears to be a window, not a flat screen… and can make actual eye contact with the person one is video chatting with. I know how to build them… but our tech is not quite good enough yet.

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