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The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Clichés:

Section IV: Silly Science

  1. Super-intelligent computers blow up when the hero confuses them.
  2. Super-intelligent computers get confused when the hero says to them "everything I say is a lie" or some other paradoxical statement.
  3. Space vessels lack fuses, circuit breakers, and surge suppressors, so that the control panels explode when some distant portion of the ship is damaged.
  4. Computers get reprogrammed by someone who has no knowledge of the computer's operating system.
  5. Computer terminals display the current operation (e.g., "UPLOADING VIRUS") in huge, flashing letters.
  6. The patently obvious design flaws in a vehicle or weapon system go uncorrected during the entire life cycle of the system in question.
  7. A vehicles and/or weapons system is deployed in an entirely impractical environment.
  8. Spacecraft features have been pointlessly carried over from water-borne designs.
  9. An untested medical treatment is used. It's 100% effective and has no side effects.
  10. Someone acquires a medical condition that will be fatal in an amount of time expressed to the tenth significant digit; the cure is found and applied in the nick of time, enabling a 100% recovery.
  11. A robot is shot and bleeds oil.
  12. Spacecraft, when shot, blow up as if they had been hit in their fuel tanks, regardless of where they were actually damaged.
  13. Computers, when shot, explode as if they had been stuffed full of Roman candles.
  14. An item of technology is quickly reverse-engineered by a far less advanced group of researchers.
  15. A group of aliens is smart enough to steal someone else's technology, but too stupid to make any improvements on it.
  16. A technological development progresses from half-baked theory to useful implementation in fifteen minutes instead of fifteen months.
  17. After thirty years of crew members being tossed around like the balls in a bingo cage, the spacecraft still has no seatbelts.
  18. Nuclear weapons have an effect well out of proportion for reasonable yields.
  19. Computer security protocols are overridden merely by saying "override" to the computer.
  20. A clone grows to match the cloned person's state of physiological development in a small fraction of the time.
  21. Clones think, act, and speak in a manner indistinguishable from that of the cloned person.
  22. Clones come out of the cloning vat with the same haircut as the individual cloned.
  23. AI software has unique properties that prevent it from being copied or transmitted like any other data.
  24. AI software is able to bypass the security protocols of the operating system in which it runs.
  25. On-board computers always know exactly how long it will take for the malfunction to blow up the ship.
  26. Computers that exist in the far future or are alleged to be 'cutting edge,' will demonstrate less functionality than a Commodore 64.
  27. Two races have never contacted each other, cannot speak each other's language, and cannot possibly have worked out compatible protocols for transmission of data; nonetheless, their computers enable them to communicate over their ships' viewscreens upon first contact.
  28. Twentieth century firearms are abandoned, even though the high-tech replacement is significantly more complex to engineer, more costly to build, and is not appreciably deadlier, longer-ranged, or more accurate.
  29. When an extra or a minor character is shot, they fall over immediately dead; when a major character is shot, they either survive with a nasty-looking wound, or they linger long enough to utter some parting words.
  30. Lasers are visible when travelling through the vacuum of outer space.
  31. A robot that can't climb stairs is deployed in an area where stairs are common.
  32. A tactical system that can only deal with targets visible to the naked eye is still considered worthwhile.
  33. A tactical system of the future that has no targeting capabilities is still considered satisfactory.
  34. "Reversing the polarity" is the solution to virtually every engineering problem.
  35. Laser beams travel about as quickly as an arrow.
  36. Heroes/ships can dodge laser beams because the beams travel about as quickly as an arrow.
  37. Alien artifacts still work after being abandoned for a million years.
  38. Spaceships make a whoosh as they go by.
  39. Huge, expensive spacecraft are used to transport inexpensive goods in tiny quantities.
  40. Stars go shooting past the spaceship as it flies through space.
  41. A large dose of radiation results in super powers instead of super tumors.
  42. A large dose of radiation causes an individual creature to "evolve" into a more advanced form.
  43. The solution for a problem solved four weeks ago is thrown away and never seen again.
  44. When a character is aged prematurely, or cured of premature aging, hair that has already grown changes color to match.
  45. A space vessel is sent out on missions before its systems are fully operational.
  46. The Hero knows how to defuse the bomb, but can't remember which of two wires to cut.
  47. When a computer is working on a difficult problem, the increased power requirements cause the room lights to dim or flicker.
  48. Robots that despite their size and function are designed with exactly the same features as a human (two arms and legs, ten fingers, two eyes, same joint system, etc.)
  49. Somebody lifts a car (or some other heavy object) with his bionic arm, even though the rest of his body is normal flesh and bone and couldn't possibly support the load.
  50. The plans for a complicated device can be downloaded onto a 1.44 Meg floppy.
  51. Increasing a computer beyond a certain level of speed, memory capacity, or complexity causes it to become self-aware.
  52. Creatures capable of changing their shapes can also alter their mass while they're at it.
  53. A hole the size of a barn is made in the hull of a space ship; decompression of the ship's atmosphere takes a half minute or so.
  54. A hole the size of a dime is made in the hull of a space ship; decompression of the ship's atmosphere takes a half minute or so.
  55. A large nuclear explosion can be obtained by putting several smaller devices together.
  56. The same energy beam which causes rocks, buildings and robots to violently explode produces only a puff of smoke and a bit of burnt flesh and clothing when used on a living being.
  57. The sewers/ventilation ducts provide easy access throughout the city/ship/castle.
  58. All computers have madly whirling tape drives.
  59. When something explodes in space, the shock wave is ring-shaped.
  60. When an orbiting space vessel is crippled or otherwise put out of action, it immediately starts falling out of orbit.
  61. A shape-shifter whose natural form is homogeneous can be knocked out with a blow to the head when in humanoid form.
  62. The narrow energy beam disintegrates the entire person it hits, and his clothing and possessions, but doesn't leave so much as a stain on the chair he is sitting in or the ground he is standing on.
  63. Instead of a solid physical door, jail cells of the future are secured with force fields, turning every power failure into a jailbreak.
  64. Space vessels bank in order to make turns.
  65. When the ship goes to red alert, the lights dim and turn red.
  66. In spite of the tremendous safety hazard presented, glassware is permitted in large quantities on ships that make use of artificial gravity.
  67. Colored irregular crystals are the power source of the future.
  68. The artificial gravity is the last system of all to fail.
  69. Ion storms.
  70. Alien life forms that increase their mass without ingesting anything.
  71. When two ships meet, they are both oriented with "up" in the same direction, unless one is disabled, in which case it always lists.
  72. Computer security passwords are entered by saying them out loud. The possibility of bugs or spies never hinders this practice.
  73. The matter transmission device cannot duplicate live organisms, except by accident. Duplicating the circumstances of the accident never succeeds.
  74. Data processing devices emit a quasi-random series of innocuous sounds when processing information. Every character that is printed on the computer screen is accompanied by a sound.
  75. Although computer keyboards of the future will still have the space bar, nobody will use it anymore.
  76. The spaceship that is really a living creature with a significant amount of intelligence.
  77. Laser guns have recoil. note 
  78. The stolen alien technology is already compatible with our power systems and can be installed and used immediately.
  79. Beam weapons can only be fired in a narrow beam in a continuous direction, and can never be swept across a target or fired at a wide angle.
  80. The alien forces are dependent on the mothership, such that destroying the mothership disables them.
  81. Every inhabited planet rotates around its axis about as quickly as Earth does, give or take a couple hours.
  82. The chemicals in the lab are mostly colorful. The poisonous ones are always bright green.
  83. Computer displays project their contents onto the face of the viewer.
  84. Dimming the lights on the bridge conserves enough power to enable a significant increase in the speed of a multi-ton spacecraft.
  85. You can get from the common areas of a ship to the most sensitive areas via the ventilation and maintenance ducts. There are never any security precautions in place to prevent this.
  86. A computer can be destroyed by shooting its display screen.
  87. Computer bugs are always catastrophic and life-threatening. They are never merely minor and annoying.
  88. When the alien's speech is translated for the crewmembers, the alien's lips move according to the language of the crew member. Additionally, we don't hear the alien's actual speech.
  89. When a spacecraft is found adrift in space, there is always enough power remaining in it to turn on the lights, artificial gravity, and life support. One or more of these systems is usually on when the heroes board the ship.
  90. Don't know the code for the lock? Just shoot the keypad. The door will open.
  91. A robot or other AI speaks progressively more slowly as it shuts down from some malfunction.
  92. The harder an AI thinks, the faster its lights blink.
  93. The ships of two species that have never met can dock without a few days of engineering work.
  94. The weapon that vaporizes people at a high setting only stuns them (without injury) at a low setting.
  95. Telepathy works on alien creatures with a radically different nervous system.
  96. The inside of your space helmet is well-lit so that other people can see your face clearly. Never mind that this is unnecessary, and makes it harder for you to see what you're doing.
  97. Military spacecraft have a light-colored exterior, making them easy to see. Only the Bad Guys ever appreciate the danger of this.
  98. Despite the informed attribute of a Universal Translator or similar plot device, nobody looks or sounds like a dubbed film.
  99. People who live all of their lives in space or on Earth's moon, for example, have no physiological consequences of living in an environment with gravity lower than Earth normal. These include such things as weaker bones and muscles and reduced physical strength.
  100. Cryogenics is depicted simply as lowering the person's body temperature to freezing temperature. People in cryostasis simply look like people sleeping in an empty refrigerated tube. note 
  101. The modern Gregorian calendar is the default mode of navigation in time travel.
  102. Constellations are used as reference points in space, even by aliens visiting Earth who might say that they are from a planet in the Lynx Constellation, despite the fact that they don't see any of the same constellation star patterns from their native star system.
  103. Anti-aging treatments, when removed, will cause the body of the person who received them to instantly jump to the chronological age that they would have been without the treatment, instead of simply resuming aging at a normal rate. If the chronological age lies outside of average human lifespan, it will naturally result in death.
  104. Sensor or fire control lock-on systems require an object such as an enemy ship to be visible to the naked eye or to conventional optics. Thus the pretext for invisibility cloaking devices. This is used to address the argument of "no stealth in space" due to thermodynamics. Generally, the cloak also diffuses or masks the electromagnetic signatures of the object so that you ship knows the general but not precise location. However, the anomaly effect still clearly shows up on the sensor reading but the science officer rarely thinks to aim at the center of it.
  105. All advanced alien mathematics (beyond simple counting and arithmetic) are completely understandable to human scientists and compatible with familiar forms of math. Aliens also use the exact same format in their algebra, calculus, and statistics. They also always use base 10 and the metric style of measurement. Math is said to be universal, but not necessarily math systems since Arabic numbers won't be universal. It is assumed that all civilizations everywhere must have the concept of zero, prime numbers, negative numbers, and use the exact same mathematical models in science and other practical applications (Pythahorean theorem or Einstein's relativity theory for example).note 
  106. Planet Killer machines that consume planets for fuel never run out of fuel (thus becoming inert and harmless) on the long interstellar voyages between star systems. Planets also always seem to have enough material that can be converted to fuel, whether gas giants or inert, rocky worlds. Keeping in consideration that it costs energy to break down this material, let alone convert it to usable fuel, these machines should barely break even if not constantly operating at a deficit.
  107. Space warships adhere to the traditional naval designations and have all of the strengths and limitations of those designations. Frigates are small and weak, but fast. Destroyers are a little better than frigates but still weak compared to battlecruisers which are the mainstay of a fleet. Dreadnoughts are the fleet flagships. Carriers are large, slow, and lack sufficient weaponry to defend themselves, relying on escorts.
    1. Light attack craft also conform to Air Force designations. Interceptors are fast but lightly armed. Bombers are slower but carry heavier ordnance. Fighters are general purpose but not outstanding at either intercepting or bombing.
  108. Desert planets often are said to once have had oceans that vanished. But it is never explained where the water vanished to. The atmosphere would keep the water from boiling off into space as by the time it reached lower temperature high altitude, it would precipitate.