Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Defying Gravity--and Relativity

I've been watching Defying Gravity since it premiered a few weeks ago. I'm a science fiction fan, so I decided to give it a try despite hearing it described as "Grey's Astronomy". Which is true enough--there's plenty of soap opera stuff in the show. They do lots of flashbacks to the astronauts' training, and to a Mars Mission that went wrong when two of the protagonists had to abandon two fellow astronauts on Mars when they left.

There's angst aplenty, plus lots of hookups (drunken or otherwise) among the astronauts and astronaut wannabes during training, and some aboard the ship. There's also a mysterious alien maguffin (a Martian, I suspect) secreted aboard the ship and using weird alien mind whammy powers to impose its will--causing a couple of astronauts to be grounded at the last minute so two others took their places, among other things.

It's fairly realistic as television science fiction goes. The ship has "personal quarters" modules on rotating booms to provide gravity in the living quarters. There's no "torch drive"--the ship uses a reaction drive (no magical reactionless propulsion) and thus isn't under continuous acceleration. The ship is as spacious as tv spaceships always are, but I'm willing to cut them some slack on that. The rationale for the "artificial gravity in the non-rotating parts of the ship is harder to swallow: some kind magical "magnetic" nanotech fabric in their uniforms which is attracted to the floors, thereby providing "gravity" of a sort. Yeah, right.

But the biggest blunder (or decision to simply ignore reality in favor of drama) is the fact that they are constantly having real-time conversations via (crystal clear) video phone with people at Mission Control on Earth. That's a problem for my suspension of disbelief. Here's why:

This most recent episode had a character state explicitly that the ship was about 30,000,000 kilometers from Earth. The speed of light is (very roughly) 300,000 kilometers per second. The ship is 100 times that distance from earth--which means it would take 100 seconds (over a minute and a half) for someone on the ship to receive the words spoken by someone on earth, and vice versa. More than THREE minutes are required for a character to ask a question and get a response.

Yet they're still having real-time conversations. Therefore, they appear to possess FTL communication. You'd think they might have mentioned that....

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