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May 16th 2015 at 8:27:45 PM •••

Where would HG Wells's works fit, and how about Borderlands and TF 2? And Godzilla?

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May 21st 2015 at 9:02:40 PM •••

For Wells' works it depends on which work.

Borderlands is definitely World of Phlebotinum.

Team Fortress 2... Isn't in the Science Fiction genre.

And for Godzilla it depends on which version (but it's probably Physics Plus).

Edited by Robrecht
Sep 29th 2014 at 7:14:07 PM •••

What would the Back To The Future movies be? I think 4 or maybe 3 for part 2

Mar 29th 2014 at 12:20:35 PM •••

Cutting this paragraph:

Paradoxically, hard SF often does include technology that looks impossible. Many works of hard SF embrace the maxim, "A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This was coined by Arthur C Clarke (one of the definitive hard SF writers) and is embraced at the end of his novel (and movie) 2001: A Space Odyssey (a definitive hard SF work), where the many fantastic abilities of the monoliths are simply presented as "sufficiently advanced" and inexplicable. Essentially, a deep understanding of how scientific advancement has worked in the past leads to the knowledge that we have no real idea how it will go in the future.

...because it, in fact, contradicts everything else on the page. I get that The Singularity is, by definition, a boundary beyond which prediction is impossible, but that means it is a boundary beyond which achieving the criteria of hard SF is impossible. Arthur C Clarke may be deemed a hard SF author, but that doesn't mean that he fits within the definition we're using.

Jan 5th 2014 at 9:41:23 AM •••

I'd suggest that both Star Trek: The Original Series, and Smith's Lensmen work belong in Category 3 at the softest. Granted, EES's technology is outdated, but, for its time... ST:TOS suffered from the usual network meddling and budget problems, but it was doing good work considering those constraints.

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Jun 17th 2013 at 4:36:00 PM •••

This scale focuses almost solely on physics and technological development.

My question is why?

The biological and biochemical science (realistic Starfish Aliens vs. Human Aliens and No Biochemical Barriers, plausible or implausible planets, etc.), and the social sciences (human societies and economies that are believable from a social science view, or more fantastical in nature) are just as important as physics.

When I see a work which has totally Real Life+ technology, but Rubber-Forehead Aliens, No Biochemical Barriers, and fantasy economics, I would not call it a hard science fiction.

Yet aside from asking whether a work features psychic powers, the scale is about technology and physics.

I also agree with some other posters that treating "hardness" like a scoring system is beside the point. Some authors did do the research, but chose to use certain tropes for literary reasons. Some are more interested in social commentary than in a perfectly plausible future. Some are using aliens as proxies for human societies, not as biologically alien entities. Some authors deliberately combine scifi and fantasy concepts.

Edited by Hide/Show Replies
Feb 27th 2014 at 6:15:00 PM •••

Possibly because Rubber-Forehead Aliens and No Biochemical Barriers aren't technically unscientific. The chances of one, let alone several, sentient alien species of the 'Rubber Forehead' variety existing in all the circumstances required for our hypothetical space exploring descendants to encounter them are very slim. But it's not, scientifically speaking, impossible. And therefore a work using them isn't really 'softer' than work using only Starfish Aliens or Absent Aliens. The fact is that until and unless we actually (and recognize, which may prove just as difficult) encounter real life extraterrestrial lifeforms (or their remains), everything we 'know' about aliens is mostly just guesswork and conjecture based on what we know about life on earth.

Other biological science things do get ignored frequently though. Such as the fact that human waste is not enough, even after being processed by all the necessary micro-organism, to provide sufficient nutrients for plants we can eat on its own, so "Hydroponics, of course!" is not actually an answer to the question "How do these astronauts spending several years between star systems stay fed?", yet works that use this excuse aren't considered 'softer' for it.

See also the aforementioned Human Popsicle issue.

Edited by
May 31st 2013 at 12:35:58 PM •••

One big problem with the scale is that near the "softer" extremes—levels 1 or 2—the creator might not be intending to write science fiction in the first place, or doesn't think of it as primarily SF. For example: Ray Bradbury's works are often considered fantasy books whose SF trappings are all but incidental. In this view, even approaching them as SF—whether through the Mohs Scale or otherwise—is kind of missing the point.

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Jun 3rd 2013 at 1:54:33 AM •••

I think this is just for fun really. Not many people live by the scale, except for the few who only read the harder stuff.

My only problem is that it's listed as a trope on a few pages. It would be better as trivia (the same goes for the rock and metal hardness scale), especially since "hardness" is so ill defined. A lot of stuff on the higher ends of this scale (especially the film, TV, and video game entries) are not what I, or a lot of people, would call "hard" SF, no matter how accurate the science is, because they don't require much scientific knowledge to appreciate, unlike the actual hard SF literature, and even if the science is important to the plot, they're generally not about the technology itself. I don't think hard SF can be effectively done in mediums other than literature, since info dumps and related tropes are a big part of it.

Edited by
May 4th 2013 at 11:29:13 AM •••

Why is Battlestar Galactica on the third level? it just ignores all physics, that doesn't make it physics plus any more than Aniara. Its a space opera not a sci-fi.At best it should be Science in genre only. Because the only thing sci-fi about it is the setting. Other than that it only deals with unrealistic amounts of melodrama.

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Aug 17th 2013 at 3:06:24 PM •••

I'm kind of new here, but you seem to have missunderstood the fundamental concept of the scale. It's a measurment of scientific accuracy. And in Bsg, what little exotic technology does appear is as accurate as one could desire, handled with full consistency, and newtonian physics are obeyed to the letter. A space opera pehaps, but a scientifically accuarate one. It most certainly deserves it's third-level rating.

Edited by
Sep 15th 2018 at 9:48:44 AM •••

BSG technology is not at all accurate by any reasonable standard. Newtonian physics is a tiny, tiny, part of science and observing it may be unusual and commendable for a sci fi show but doesn\'t make it in any way scientifically accurate. The combination of technologies in the constellation depicted is not credible. It is like putting an age of sail royal navy interior into a Gerald Ford class carrier, and civilian infrastructure is likewise antique compared to the top levels of technologies. That\'s not how scientific progress works - progress in one area inevitably leads to leapfrog progress in others. And yet in some areas of technology, BSG is lagging behind even the early 21st century. And most notably, as is quite common in sci fi, biological sciences get sorely neglected (above and beyond the existence of androids undistinguishable from humans, which magically was possible without any parallel advancements in medicine).

The technology of BSG is a convoluted mess that lacks any and all internal logic, and the notion that Galactica is a museum piece in no way excuses that. It\'s still an FTL capable carrier, which likely should be centuries ahead of our technology.

Mar 29th 2013 at 12:47:27 PM •••

I'm not sure if Hitchhiker's should be classified as science in genre only. Just because the "science" is completely ridiculous doesn't mean he doesn't try to explain his nonsense science. In many ways it's a parody of Hard Sci Fi.

I'd say it falls under world of phlebotinum... It makes a better job of explaining how everything works than NGE, that's for certain...

Edited by porschelemans Hide/Show Replies
Oct 11th 2013 at 8:21:18 PM •••

I still think it belongs under science in genre only. The "science" is not only absurd, it also falls consistently under It Runs on Nonsensoleum.

Edited by
Jan 14th 2013 at 6:05:52 AM •••

I disagree with Clarke's Third Law, and find citing it as an excuse to not explain how something work no more "Hard" then just saying "Oh it's Magic no explanation needed".

Thing with the Third Law is it doesn't just apply to how Future Technology in a Thousand or a Million years might look to us, it's also linked to a belief that our Technology would look like Magic to a Medieval, Ancient of or Primitive people. To this is absurd, I agree you can make Technology look like magic when your deliberately trying to be deceptive (That's exactly what stage magic is), but the idea then if I time-traveled back to Ancient Rome and fired a Gun they'd assume that was Magic is silly to me, I think even primitive people can see quite quickly that it's clearly a piece of technology, a very advanced Bow and Arrow. In fact one Star Trek The Next Generation episode actually insinuated a Bow and Arrow would seem a god-like power to someone who hadn't seen one before, that the height of absurdity to me.

What I will say, as someone who believes the Very Ancient World was more technologically advanced then we think, that I od believe Technology could become Magik in a myth as it retold over and over again generations after the technology was lost and forgotten, especially if much of that was by pure oral Tradition.

Edited by MithrandirOlorin Hide/Show Replies
Sep 15th 2018 at 9:50:46 AM •••

A gun is a fairly primitive piece of technology at its core, but try explaining a high altitude strategic bomber to a Roman without being accused of blasphemy.

Nov 21st 2011 at 12:44:37 PM •••

A minor point - but how does the Science Marches On contribute to scale? So far I though that work is evaluated in context so for ex. the 19 c. work on faster-then-light travel (according to Newton) is hard science even if we now think it is unlikely to happen (i.e. our current understanding of physics prohibits this). Then I read the 'note 4' about reclassification of work.

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Nov 22nd 2011 at 8:38:30 AM •••

Anything that was 'hard' according to the general scientific understanding of the time is still hard.

Note 4 is mostly there to stop the 'hard science' fandom and people who like works that happen to have FTL from getting into an edit war every time a study 'reveals' a particle travelling faster than light.

Because as I pointed out above, the 'hardness' scale is less about realism and more about whether or not a work conforms to the 'hard science' fandom's understanding of Physics.

Nov 13th 2011 at 8:57:35 PM •••

The two most significant problems I've always had with 'Science Fiction Hardness' seem to have reared their heads both on this discussion page and in the general treatment of the article as a whole:

1. The fact that people treat it as a scoring system.

Even though this has been mentioned a few times already, scoring higher for hardness does not affect the quality of a work. The problem there lies with both fans of 'hard' science fiction and public perception in general making it sound like a 'harder' work is inherently superior to a 'softer' work. And when fans of those works encounter that attitude, their direct response is to proclaim the ways the work they like is harder than proposed for some reason they will then explain, with varying degrees of success.

This even results in a bit of unadulterated stupid (I have no kinder word to give to it) where the second paragraph is basically written from the pro-hard perspective of "Hard is better because it (supposedly) takes more effort to write." while the page text ends on the note of "We don't take an opinion on whether or not harder or softer is better." Apparently, we do. We very specifically did a couple paragraphs back when we stated that 'Hard' science-fiction usually shows it's work. (And the dumb thing is that it usually doesn't. Most 'Hard' Sci-Fi specifically written with the intent to be 'hard', especially online, is dreadfully formulaic tripe that replicates the scientific interpretations of whatever much better classic it's basing itself on, including that work's unfortunate scientific mistakes.)

The true problem of the hardness discussion in my eyes, however, is also the biggest here:

2. 'Hardness' seems to be based mostly on 'pure' physics. Not applied physics. Or other scientific fields. Or realism in general.

The topic above this one asks whether the mere presence of FTL changes the hardness rating of a work. The answer is that it does in the eyes of many and that there is no reason for this. Officially a work's 'hardness' is supposed to reflect, or be judged on, it's scientific realism, but in the eyes of many people scientific realism equates to 'strict adherence to pure physics'. If a work does not contradict 'pure physics' (Directly stated 'rules' of physics, like 'gravity pulls things together' and 'you can't go faster than c.') it can get away with Ass Pull after Ass Pull on physics as it actually applies to the real world.

To give an example of what I mean: Suspended animation is often lauded as one of the 'realistic' and 'hard science' ways to have people travelling to other stars and planets without being geriatric by the time they arrive and it's often used to preserve characters for decades, even centuries while travelling. This opposed to FTL which is 'unrealistic' and 'soft'.

In reality, however, it's merely scientifically improbable that a way to travel faster than light will be discovered in a form applicable to spacecraft. It's scientifically impossible to keep someone in cryonic preservation for such a long time and still revive them. The problem scientist are currently working on is consistency in temperature, because the minute amounts of thawing and refreezing that results from not being able to completely control the temperature in whatever the frozen thing is in causes erosion. Once we fix this, we might be able to preserve biological samples almost indefinitely. Managing this on a space ship is... More problematic, but theoretically possible

The limit to preserving actual living human beings however is mostly determined by free radicals in a person's cells damaging them from the inside with the biological countermeasures to prevent this deactivated by the preservation process. There is no way to remove all the free radicals from a living human without turning them into a dead human, free radicals are needed for cells to work. While freezing does slow this, it doesn't stop it completely and the maximum time possible for a human taking all possible (survivable) precautions is 20 to 30 years. Free radicals are present in every cell and are created by the body itself as a result of respiration, so it's literally impossible to have someone 'take a treatment' to remove the free radicals from their body or to remove them after freezing, not without making them unrevivable in the process.

This is physics, just as much as 'no going faster than light' is, but because it's physics by way of biology, it gets ignored. As a result, many of the works that employ suspended animation are considered harder than works that use FTL travel, even though by any definition of hard science other than 'Must adhere to what I read on Atomic Rocket' suspended animation through cryonic freezing as it's used in most works (as a replacement for FTL to get to places that it takes more than 50 years to travel to while keeping the crew 'young') is actually 'softer'. Other common areas 'hard' science writers can fudge the rules on if they adhere to 'standard' or 'pure' physics without comment are Biology (certain areas of biology at least), Economics, Sociology, Chemistry, Logistics and Physics.

Yes, physics. Because the point I'm trying to make is that the 'hard science' fandom (and it's very much a fandom that's behind this classification) has several rules it focusses on and which are given undue importance over others.

Could we try to take these elements out of the page? Or else could we rework it to reflect the specific set of selection criteria on which the rating is based rather than pretending that Hardness on this scale is a reflection of the actual scientific realism of a work in general?

Edited by Robrecht Hide/Show Replies
Jun 22nd 2012 at 12:37:34 PM •••

It does seem a bit silly that the page's sole argument for why harder sci-fi is appealing ... is that the author took greater effort. That, and a few dollars, will get the reader a cup of coffee. It'd be best if some hard sci0fi fan could add a little something extra to explain its appeal.

I think we should also add a specific disclaimer that a sci-fi work's "hardness" has no correlation to its literary value: masterpieces and hackwork can be found up and down the scale. Both "softness" and "hardness" have qualities that a talented writer can exploit, and that an untalented writer can hide behind.

Sep 15th 2012 at 2:56:00 PM •••

Made a few small edits so it looks more neutral. Not all science fiction fans are worried about the science aspect of the story. What is good or bad depends on the reader, and there is absolutely no rule that it has to be dominated with science fact. I, and I know for a fact, others, feel that science should be used as a means to an end, not the other way round, and with few exceptions most of the respected "literary" SF authors after the "Golden Age" are not what most people would generally describe as hard science fiction - Banks, Le Guin, Phil Dick, Vance, Simmons, Wolfe, etc. Of course there are great hard SF writers as well, like Baxter, but for a lot of fans it seems getting the science right, or at least focusing a lot of time explaining the fictional science is more important than telling the story. Of course, there's a difference between deliberately altering the laws of physics and making genuine mistakes, but in the end it still shouldn't matter that much. A story that relies entirely on the strength of it's science probably isn't a very good story to begin with.

Another thing is that, despite the seeming prevalence of "Hard SF only" types (as seen on sites like Amazon), a lot of the major respected SF critics and writers tend to be more neutral about it or even opposed to the harder stuff (see this and this for examples).

Edited by supergod
Sep 27th 2011 at 3:14:37 PM •••

I'm a bit confused. Does the scale depend solely on how the physics/technology is explained, or are there certain things that automatically bump a work? For example, a work could involve faster than light travel while basing it only on current theories, and yet I get the idea it would be autobumped to hard sci fi (from very hard sci fi) at best.

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Sep 28th 2011 at 1:22:34 AM •••

You may be taking the scale too seriously! :)

But in general, going outside the standard model, even to a plausible and current model, to explain FTL, would definitely soften the work slightly. Even though we don't know that the standard model is correct, it's still the standard model, and ignoring it takes the edge off your hardness. Not as much as if you went with a discredited or nonsense theory of course, but still...

Consider quantum mechanics. I may be a little out-of-date here, but last I heard, the Copenhagen Interpretation and the alternate worlds hypothesis were both still valid theories. But the CI requires a lot less handwaving, and thus is (or was until very recently) the standard theory. Of course, alternate worlds is a great theory for writers, and perfectly valid physics, but because it's less accepted (for good reasons), it reduces the hardness of the work, slightly.

Jan 28th 2013 at 1:09:01 PM •••

I have a pulled out of the air theory. There is a fifth force in the multiverse such that the universe is biased to provide sentients with what they expect and/or desire. The coefficient of this force varies from universe to universe, and is an indicator of how much a universe's physics is enslaved to the desires and expectations of its inhabitants. A very hard science fiction universe has a bias coefficient of zero, a universe composed entirely of reality warpers (very soft)has a bias coefficient of 1.

I leave it to the tropers to argue whether the bias coefficient of real life has a nonzero value.

Sep 1st 2011 at 3:27:04 PM •••

Mass Effect is listed on the main page under Small Fib, but appears under the example page for Science Plus. I don't know which page is supposed to be more correct, but someone should fix that.

Also, shouldn't Doctor Who show up somewhere? I assume it'd be a 1.

Edited by Zagen30
Aug 25th 2011 at 2:05:19 AM •••

On a scale of 1-10: Moon: 10 Primer: 10 2001: 9.5 (alien monoliths are not hard science) Gattaca: 8 Outland: 7 (went for personal realism, but spent little time actually showing their work on the science) Ghost In The Shell: 6.5 Solaris: 5.5 Firefly: 5 (frequently limited by real-world machinery issues, transit time) Matrix: 4 (the philosophy was fairly coherent, but the science was silly; human bodies are not a SOURCE of electricity. Ideas of reality being an illusion of perception are scientifically relevant. Once we start introducing underground cities the robots can't find, hoverships they couldn't build, and geothermal power than would have bypassed the machines' need to farm human energy, it softens up far more) Back To The Future: 3.5 (scores high because they at least attempt to follow rules, and went for a experimenter science-y aesthetic) Star Wars: 3 (had a realistic, down-to-earth aesthetic, although clearly the FTL, lasers, and The Force are designed to facilitate the desired plot, not science. Great character writing, sure, but it's not science) Star Trek TNG: 2.5 (sometimes overlaps real science, but science-y things most often function as Phlebotinum, limited by Ridiculously Human Robots though) Tron: 2 Star Trek TOS: 2 Doctor Who: 1 (not saying it's not fun, but there's no science, every line of the plot is generally Phlebotinum)

The Lost Room: ?? Where do you place fantastic Minovskis? They're largely unrelated to "science".

Hmm... the things I might want to note here: Good or bad writing is NOT what the Mohs Scale is about, but the orientation of the writing's adherence to science. Bad character design and plot flow do not lower its score, nor does plot excellence raise it. We all love Star Wars- but it's scientifically weak.

Likewise, writing being groundbreaking and original does not boost its hardness over cheaper copycats pulling the same ideas.

Trope execution does matter. If you establish a rule and later ignore it completely- say establish that ships use fuel, then have a ship travel 10x longer than previous fuel-limited trips, never stop for fuel, and simply ignore that it shouldn't be possible- then you're no longer as Hard.

What I'm unsure of is how the aesthetic itself bears on its Mohs score. Star Trek TNG seems absurdly "clean" for a functioning vessel. Star Wars' visible industrial machinery SEEMS harder to me. Firefly's does that well, too. Steampunk is machine-oriented too. These are aesthetic decisions, and maybe they have no bearing on hardness. Steampunk is rarely strongly science-based.

I'm gonna suggest that you can actually list tropes over a range: Explosions in Space can never score you higher than 5 Ridiculously Human Robots can never score you higher than 4, except maybe old "classic" scifi where convincing nonhuman robots were simply impractical to put on film.

I do think the principle requires reference examples to be established. Mohs scale of mineral hardness did not actually use units, only empirical examples of superior hardness. Thus the scale lacks units, is neither linear nor exponential nor any other mathematical construct, and its rise with every +1 is a very inconsistent increase; the only guarantee is that something that scratches the prototype for one data point will always scratch those of lower number, and once you find the point prototype that scratches the sample, then higher point samples will always scratch it. There is no basis for scoring anything between points, since the scale is not established, one cannot empirically measure "5.3" for example, only "more than 5 and less than 6" and "more than another material I found between 5 and 6" Hmm, Mohs scale of mineral hardness itself is NOT very scientific!

Notable observation: Sequels lose 1-2 pts of hardness in almost every instance where you'e above, like, a four. 2010 being a rare exception. Or is it? The dead-guy-turned-god seems like it should lose 1/2 a point right there. Star Wars lost no hardness because it wasn't hard enough to begin with to make it difficult to write/mass-market a sequel.

Edited by DannyM
Aug 7th 2011 at 4:32:36 PM •••

Cosman246 added Star Trek The Next Generation to the list of three Physics Plus examples, but I am not familiar enough with the series to know whether it properly falls in that class or World of Phlebotinum. If it does, it would be great to put it there — but conversely, while we can be pretty flexible about the subpages, we want to be very sure when we put anything down on the main page.

So, to reiterate: Is TNG more properly Physics Plus or World of Phlebotinum?

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Sep 28th 2011 at 1:40:07 AM •••

Hard edge of World of Phlebotinum. Almost Physics Plus, but perfectly willing to break the rules if the plot demanded. It also tended to vary depending on the writer. Many individual episodes would qualify as Physics Plus, but the show overall? No.

Edited by Xtifr
Jun 1st 2011 at 2:10:11 PM •••

Moved this one from between Moon and Planetes.

  • Shattered Horizon: An FPS set in space, featuring true zero-G manuevering and combat, inertia, a story that is completely feasible given the timeline (man colonises and mines the moon around 2040) and no sound- while there are battle noises, these are generated by the suit to help with situational awareness. Should the suit be powered down, all you hear is your heartbeat.
    • "completely feasible"? Completely feasible when the central plot point of the story is a mining accident that somehow blows off a huge chunk of the moon filling orbit with billions of tons of debris?!
    • What about the plethora of Explosions in Space? There's no smoke in space, people! Not the thick cotton-looking smoke you get in an atmosphere!
      • Those are just clouds of flash-frozen water vapor - ice.
        • It doesn't matter which substance is used, cotton-looking clouds can't happen in a vacuum - that shape is caused by diffusion processes and is entirely dependent upon an interface between the cloud and the surrounding air. In space, it should be a rapidly-dispersing spherical cloud, visible only for a few tenths of second before dissipating.

Anyone care to clean this up?

Edited by OldManHoOh
Apr 11th 2011 at 3:57:44 AM •••

(Small spoilers!) One body of work that should be mentioned is that be Greg Egan. His first novel was an exploration of the consequences of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, supposing certain individuals could suppress the collapse of the wave function. Others include beings (alien and otherwise - a bit hard to tell as most people/etc have loaded their minds into computers, complete with backups) exploring fundamental physics at the edge of an event horizon, or discovering general relativity empirically just by living inside an asteroid orbiting a back hole.

Somewhere between 6 and 7 for the far distant future stuff? I would put it between 7 and 8, sometimes for the some of his short stories.

Oh and it helps he's published papers in the journal _Classical and quantum gravity_.

Mar 1st 2011 at 1:24:29 PM •••

Patlabor seems about as hard as scifi can be IMO. I would put it in Next Sunday AD personally, certainly not two whole grades softer as presently happens.

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Mar 7th 2011 at 8:32:28 AM •••

I think the power supply, assuming I remember the first two movies well enough is enough for me to look at a bit further out than that. On the other hand, you do have a point, it's not massively advanced, and in some ways I could see them being made in another five years.

Nov 24th 2013 at 4:44:50 PM •••

Fairly hard, yes, but for the fact walking mecha still probably would be a less-than-ideal design for vehicles no matter how realistic you try to make things. I don't really see that changing just because it's The Future.

Jan 2nd 2011 at 7:07:03 AM •••

A question for the people with degrees in the sciences, if they wish to answer it.

Theoretically would faster than light travel be possible if the ship was able to traverse a space in which the distances between the two points where reduced. Relativistically speaking, the speed they travel through a different media would not exceed the speed of light, and would also allow the vessels to travel at great speeds. Of course, the vessels in question would appear to travel faster than light, but it's the 40 miles at 20, vs 50 miles at 60 type of question then.

Or say.... sound in water, and sound in air.

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Jan 2nd 2011 at 7:38:02 AM •••

Yes. That's the entire idea behind wormholes, a connection in two distant points in spacetime. Unfortunately, the only currently known way of stabilizing a wormhole involves a highly theoretical and incredibly vague substance known as "exotic matter."

Wait, are you thinking of a "highway" in space?

Jan 3rd 2011 at 6:32:04 PM •••

As this is for an idea of mine, I was testing the waters, as it is an idea of space as separate to space. I called it the space between spaces when I was discussing this with another person(studying Maths and Phsyics, wanting to be an astrophysist), that within the realms of this physical space we occupy, faster than light travel is not effective possibly for a good long time due to a great many things, but if there was a way to access a denser version of space, travel in that would correlate to relative effective faster than light travel, in that you need to travel less, but still travelling at a sublight speed you arrive there faster because there is less distance to cover.

I also suggested that this space, because it was denser, would transmit the forces in a different way. While it does fall into the 'makes space an ocean' trope, this is a lightly explained hand wave to allow ships to travel vast distances without relativity bcoming a pain. On the other hand, at least in the current version, it creates currents, so a highway of sorts, in this other space.

In this case, as bad as the following example is and please bear with me, that the force of gravity and sound in water are somewhat equivalent in behaviour in this other space. Now you have things live convergent zones, where sounds travels well beyond what it would in air. A roughly similar effect would be seen in this other space, in that you have a gravity well such as a star, that would act a source of the effect. Not getting into specifics which would basically turn this into science fantasy without knights or magic swords, you have currents generated from the interacting of these forces. The more interaction, the greater the current, ideally. Of course 99.99% of this is based on extrapolation on the limited I know of Relativity, Quantum and String Theory.

It lead to a term I used in the game, Light Year Equivalent, because not all travel would be able to accurately measured, and on top of that I've also built in some Uncertainty into it, because I see the universe as advanced, but well and truly out of the Ultratech yet. Yes it has energy weapons, but for a whole the most common weapons for space based naval warfare are missiles and kinetic weapons.

That should explain the question much better.

Edited by LeonPM
Feb 24th 2011 at 1:46:41 AM •••

Well, there are two current speculations (that I know of) to travel FTL while not traveling FTL by making the distance you have to go shorter. None of those have anything to do with a different matter you fly through, in fact, I think that "sort of water! in space! in wormholes! with currents!" is way more silly than FTL travel. The two theories I know of are as such: 1. The wormhole, as mentioned above. If you imagine our spacetime as a sheet of paper, you being on one edge and your target on the other, wormholes would be like folding the target on top of you, so instead of having to travel all the way down the paper, you would just "jump" over to the other side. 2. The Alcubierre drive - Some sort of relativity bubble. It was a long time ago that I read about it, but it went something like that: imagine our spacetime as a soft fabric, you being on one edge and your target on the other again. Instead of folding the fabric, you would push it together in front of you and stretch it behind you, therefore making the way you have yet to go smaller than the one you have allready traveled even when you have barely started traveling. Look up the drive on wikipedia, because my memory of it isn't that good

Mar 7th 2011 at 8:24:15 AM •••

Reading the article, what sticks out in my mind is the fact it is still totally hypothetical, and that there is no current way suggested to create, enter or leave such a bubble. Not to mention, as taken from the Wikipedia article.

A paper by José Natário published in 2002 showed that it would be impossible for the ship to send signals to the front of the bubble, meaning that crew members could not control, steer or stop the ship.

There is no real point in having a ship that can travel vast distances if you don't have any control of it. On top of that the liking of it to the Star Trek warp has made more sceptical of the drive as a possible option. While I have little issue with some of the other factors, it is a case of doing research I need to focus in on my uni work.

Thinking about the drive for a moment, it might as well be the Improbability Drive from Hitchhikers, from some of the logical issues I can see reading some of the articles attached to Wikipedia article.

By chance are you familiar with Event Horizon, as I have seen that explaination of a wormhole there.

I don't see the issue with having travel through a different media, in this case there is a space apart from the one we know. We have air and water, and the same pressure force travels very differently through both, so applying that on a larger scale I can't see any issues. Look at old trading routes, they worked on ocean currents, ocean highways if you will, so again why can't they exist in other media?

Look, being honest Leogarg, it looks to me like you want the cake and to eat it as well. You can't have both in this case, as if you apply any form of relativity to it, you need wormholes, other dimensions, and plenty of handwavium or similar, because FTL in the current four dimensional space we occupy means FTL is very difficult to outright impossible. Yet on the other hand you suggest a drive that has serious control issues that would allow FTL travel, with some serious questions raised on my understanding of relativity. In creation of the above idea I tried to be consistent and bring it back to real world, proven theories in physics, which I hope we can both agree is alot more effort than alot of people put in.

Edited by LeonPM
Mar 17th 2011 at 3:42:25 AM •••

Sorry, but that medium idea is just silly. If you want to leave your audience any suspension of disbelief at all, you'll better scratch that. Space is NOT an ocean. You cannot beat the speed of light, and any material, any current, any other matter/energy can't too. In fact, any medium but the vacuum of space would most likely just slow you down. Compare the speeds of your boat in a current and the one of a car. Hint: The boat is slower.

And even if the whole content of that alternate universe would be moving in your direction (maybe you meant that with "current"), it wouldn't help you. I guess you fell for the old "a train is traveling at the speed of light. I take a walk through the wagons, therefore being faster than light"-fallacy.

Even IF it would work, which it wouldn't, you would only generate yourself more problems. how would you ever get back against the current?

And that's not even counting the fact that "alternate universes" might not even exist, not occupy the same "space", not have a doorway to our universe, not be suitable for life, not have any current etc etc etc.

To say it harshly, your idea is not more credible than one invloving a prayer engine that gets god to teleport you to your destination.

You open way more holes than you close with that idea.

Edited by Leogarg
Mar 20th 2011 at 9:33:23 AM •••

Heard of tacking against the wind? I can't see how that forces such as gravity would not have an effect in a denser medium. This is not just normal space, it's a different type of space. I am LIKING its behaviour to an ocean because it is the most effective way to convey the idea to a wide audience. If you don't know the details about how sound works in water, it's hard to visualise exactly what this is like when thinking about it on an astrological scale.

In some forms this is another version of the hyperspace in Babylon 5, because it is a different space, with different rules. It is so happens, that again, I am using an analagy to explain it, and using sound in water versus sound in air, or ocean currents because that is something that is easier to understand than me drawing up a whole frecking manifesto on a fictional world that explains exactly how it works.

At no point does this run into the massive and self-destructive issues that your idea has. It is controllable to a degree, it is something that keeps to the rules of both Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, though I will be honest and did use a touch of String Theory. At no points do the vessels break the speed of light, they are working in a medium that allows objects within to travel faster than they could in normal space. It just so happens that in this denser version of space that other forces of the universe, ie gravity, are transmitted differently to what they are in normal space. If we can have flows of water or ocean currents, why can't there, on a much larger scale be gravity currents?

Tell me, how many other concepts of hyperspace/FTL even mention the fact the forces would be transmitted differently? The only one I could think of at the moment is Star Wars, for the Kessel Run, because the last thing they wanted to do was run into a black hole or sun. Prove me wrong, and yes, that is a challenge.

If you want to put my idea in those words, then yours is a prayer engine, because there is nothing you can do to control it. That is such a serious issue to the idea I can not take it seriously. You don't say that you can have the cake and eat it, have both at the same time in some form of the quantum entanglement, and then say 'but... you can't control it, or get out of it once you're in it, and.... yeah, can't steer it either, actually it might rip your ship apart if you do anything other than let it keep on going.'

I will say this very simply, ships using this appear to travel faster than light, because they have less distance to travel. In this case, the boat is a hell of a lot faster, because it can use roads that would rip apart cars. Some of the time they will need to tack against the wind, other times they will have a much easier route. Or better yet, think of it as the wormhole being it's own dimension, and that through the drive technology you can access it.

To familiarise yourself with the principle, see attached web link.

Edited by LeonPM
Jan 2nd 2011 at 2:26:42 AM •••

Question: Superman. I'm not even talking his powers, or how they're fueled. I'm talking his origin. It never occurred to me, but he was sent to earth (well, "away") as an infant. Krypton is obviously not in our solar system. Possibly not even within our galaxy, I don't know, but it's definitely interstellar travel. Completely controlled by a computer. With an infant on board. Who was still an infant when he arrived.

I don't exactly follow comics, so I don't know how much has been explained, but I'm seeing a 1 or 2. Maybe 3.

Hide/Show Replies
Jan 2nd 2011 at 3:53:20 PM •••

Which has what to do with anything, my fellow feathered friend? You're talking to an artist here, not a scientist.

Jan 2nd 2011 at 6:28:45 PM •••

DC universe as a whole is very, very soft - I think it's listed already, but if it isn't, feel free to add it.

Feb 8th 2011 at 4:40:19 PM •••

Korbi - One of the more well known ramifications of E=MC^2, though I'm not going to try and explain in any detail since I don't grok the why or have any idea the mathematical proof, is that the faster you travel the slower you age from your perspective. This has been proven with sending atomic clocks at high speeds (But not high enough to really make this effect much noticeable) that were out by a few microseconds compared to identical atomic clocks which stayed on Earth. IIRC on the experiment that proves that effect.

In short, though - If you're traveling fast enough (as in a decent percentage of light speed), you age really slowly.

Feb 8th 2011 at 5:17:17 PM •••

Gizensha: I don't believe you're wrong, but I would emphasize that relativity means that "the faster you travel" is not really a well-defined phrase in the way your phrasing suggests — "relativity" literally means "you can recalculate everything as if you were standing perfectly still, and there will be no difference in your ultimate results." I would guess the folks editing The Other Wiki are a bit more informed; the case in question is rather well-known.

Sep 15th 2012 at 3:00:50 PM •••

TO be honest, the DC and Marvel universes shouldn't even be on these lists. Sure there are Sci FI elements, but it's very clearly fantasy. I know that the argument could be made for things like Star Wars, but in these universes things like magic, god, demons, etc., clearly exist. Something like Watchmen on the other hand could be classified as Sci-Fi.

Nov 25th 2010 at 10:00:29 PM •••

A quick note: the presence of two quotes at the top of this page was not a redundancy or an error — these two quotes were chosen to illustrate the two extremes of the sliding scale.

Nov 2nd 2010 at 7:26:14 PM •••

About the quote: I really don't think the James Nicoll is as good as the pair it replaced. It's pretty much exactly the same as the time travel example - a stylistic criterion - while the Clement/Absurd Notions pair contrasts methodologies.

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Nov 2nd 2010 at 8:56:57 PM •••

I agree; it reads like an unnecessary repetition of the time travel example below.

Nov 2nd 2010 at 10:05:19 PM •••

I am sending it to the Quotes page and bringing back the pair — Micah, feel free to comment here if you have strong feelings about it.

Jul 29th 2010 at 7:22:34 PM •••

while physicists are working hard to try to rule it out, there is still some debate about Closed timelike curve [1] according to current models time travel is possible.

Edited by joeyjojo Hide/Show Replies
Jul 29th 2010 at 7:32:47 PM •••

I think this (and the whole hottip thing) kind of miss the point. It shouldn't be a discussion about whether or not time travel is possible, but an illustration that hard science fiction is perfectly happy to cut out applied phlebotinum and plot twists used in softer sci-fi if they aren't perfectly justifiable by present-day science.

Jul 29th 2010 at 7:51:17 PM •••

In "really hard sci-fi" things with no known mechanism to initiate and no positive proof are treated as impossible. That's basically what makes it "really hard sci-fi" rather than "hard sci-fi".

Jul 29th 2010 at 10:00:05 PM •••

Can we cut out the hot-tip? Please? It's not relevant to the matter at hand, and it's really really long. We can create, I dunno, a "Useful Notes / Time Travel" article or something?

Mind you, I usually like hottips fine, but in this bullet-ed list, it really detracts from the impact. This bullet point should be short and sweet, and shouldn't come with a paragraph discussing the speculative physics of time travel in Real Life. We already have an (appropriate) long spiel for the "Hard Sci Fi" bullet point.

Edited by girlyboy
Jul 30th 2010 at 4:29:11 AM •••

Agreed — I mean, I could imagine writing a joke ("You sit in that chair until it's the time you want."), but brevity is a virtue there.

Jun 30th 2010 at 9:00:11 PM •••

Okay, Avatar is turning into a bit of an Edit War, so I'm going to wait for some replies here before I do anything, but even as it's written, it doesn't seem to belong under "the only difference is the presence of FTL Travel," (emphasis thus) since other problems are called out in the long paragraph, an obvious Edit War battleground. Honestly, it's not meant to be hard. This is "the film [Cameron] wanted to make when [he] was fourteen," and consequently runs off Rule of Cool. The current paragraph is where it is (having been at the hard end of the lowest category, I think) because of a fan adding the following objections (which a more responsible editor quite sensibly incorporated where appropriate and removed, but only moving it as far as "no FTL" due to the admission that there was FTL):

  • Read the manual and you will find out that:
    • 1) The venture Star although being 1 km long has a payload of just 300 tons and that's way...
    • 2) NO MINING EQUIPMENT WAS CARRIED FROM EARTH. It was all constructed on site the only things carried on the Venture Star's (there are 4 of them) are people and electronics, outbound, and Unobtanium, mediciene and some Na'vi art, inbound. And it's by no means cheap.
    • 3) The Na'vi don't have DNA, Pandora life uses some other molecule to store genetic inforamation, it took 20 or so years to manage to mix human DNA and whatever the Na'vi use.
    • 4) FTL communication is based on the observed phenomenon of quantum entanglement. But it's not casual, because of the low bandwidth it has priorities assigned to each message, that's way it takes Quaritch 3 months to set up Jake's surgery. Bulk of communication is light speed via laser.
    • 5) For all this reasons the Avatat entry is moved to No FTL.

First, this comes off as quite arrogant, and more than a bit obsessive, since the explanations are All There in the Manual, but even if we're to stipulate that the aliens don't actually use DNA (and I'm pretty sure they refer to it as such in the film, although I may be wrong), it's a bit of a stretch to believe that they could MacGuyver up mining equipment based on what they found there, especially not equipment that could double as a military force against the natives. And as for quantum entanglement, you could claim gravitons carried the information and it would still be the same technobabble, not changing the unmentioned fact that even the slightest functional FTL in this little universe creates a causal mess. And he didn't even attempt to address the fact that the mechs flat-out ignore the square-cube law, and their intuitiveness can't compare to the efficiency of a design that requires, what, a few days' training?

And all of this doesn't change the big objection: why the Na'vi?! They're what Native Americans are to a white fourteen-year-old who's never looked into the subject, and somehow, they showed up, in essentially human form (albeit a time and a half the size), on another planet! Not only is it pure Hollywood, no one who isn't in the thrall of CGI beauty could think otherwise! Even Cameron must realize how absurd it is; like I said before, the film is driven by Rule of Cool, and that's essentially the definition of "soft science fiction."

In any case, the sheer length of that paragraph seems to me to be a problem. Any suggestions?

Also, for the benefit of any fans who are still living on Pandora, I should point out: "soft" does not necessarily mean "bad."

Edited by TwinBird Hide/Show Replies
Jul 1st 2010 at 7:43:43 AM •••

I have mixed feelings about this. I realise that Avatar was not meant to be hard science fiction, but I think they managed to make it fairly hard nonetheless, and this successfully added to the film's overall effect. A lot of good sci-fi finds a balance like this, being "hard" when it adds impact, and "soft" where it's necessary to make the story better. Avatar has some very soft elements, but it also has some impressively hard bits (at least compared to many other works) that I think should be recognized.

The slower-than-light starship alone is very note-worthy, I think, and is the reason I think it can stay near the bottom of "FTL Travel". The AMP suits are actually a personal favourite of mine — you're right that they don't make perfect sense, but they're much more justified than what one might expect, considering that they're basically little mechs. I liked how the utility of their humanoid shape was actually shown on screen, for example, and they remind me a little of Real Life prototype powered suits.

So I'd caution against being too hard (...) on Avatar. I absolutely agree it doesn't belong any lower than the FTL section on account of the presence of the Subspace Ansible (amongst other things), but I don't think it's all mushy-soft, either. I absolutely agree that the Na'vi are ridiculous, but I'd also point out that there's a lot of otherwise-fairly-hard sci-fi that doesn't handle aliens very well, especially when it's trying to make some point or another about humanity. So while the Na'vi do make Avatar soft, I'd say they're no justification for treating it as being completely gooey.

Personally, the biggest problem I have is those beautiful, beautiful, but completely ridiculous floating mountains. I... don't know what to do about that.

Incidentally, I'd say the difficulty of picking a section for this movie really just illustrates an overall problem we have with categories. Basing how hard or soft a work is exclusively on whether it has faster than light travel or not is a bit silly. When it comes to its actual portrayal of space travel itself, Avatar is a lot harder than the majority of sci-fi works out there... But then, floating mountains.

What to do?

Honestly, I don't know. I don't much mind long paragraphs myself, but I suppose some less essential parts of it could be cut to make it look neater. I think the current position on the list is fine, but if you want to move it up a bit I can't think of a solid objection. I'd keep it in the same category, though, since I honestly think it's at least as hard as and probably harder than all the works in the Minovsky Particle section (which, again... makes little sense as a category if you look at its description. But if we judge how "hard" it is based on the works listed in the section so far, I'd say Avatar belongs a little to the south of it).

Jul 1st 2010 at 2:23:32 PM •••

If you're going to base how hard scifi is on the laws of science it doesn't break, this scale needs substantial rearrangement. Even Star Wars has laws of physics it didn't break (I can't actually think of any, but...). And while aliens frequently take on quite specific human traits to illustrate a point, the Na'vi are blatant enough to embarrass Gene Roddenberry, and even he at least came up with the excuse of Precursors. The way I understand it, the breaches in the Minovsky Particle entries are (or should be) given just enough plausible technobabble that someone who's taken some AP science courses could believe in the phenomenon if told by a scientist rather than a screenwriter, or essentially, as hard as all the stuff about Unobtanium, which would include the flying mountains. Between the Unobtanium and the lack of the tiniest hint of who put the cast of Dances With Wolves on Pandora with a human-like language and an appendage that "just happens" to look like a hair braid, I'd say this certainly belongs at the hardish end of Imported Alien Phlebotinum, maybe generously into Minovsky Particle.

Jul 1st 2010 at 3:23:25 PM •••

Well, I'd say if a work goes out of its way to not break a law of science that very commonly is broken in science fiction — e.g. faster-than-light starships — then that merits some consideration.

Honestly, I prefer to go by the overall feel of a work, rather than by counting exactly how many scientific laws it does and does not break, and to what extent. A work that goes out of its way to justify its superscience and make it seem plausible is, all things being equal, harder than one that does not. Avatar goes further out of its way to justify things like interstellar travel, interstellar trade, cool robot suits, and other assorted Rule of Cool stuff, than is the norm for such a film. As a result, it doesn't feel as soft as many other works involving these elements. Tossing it further up the list just because it includes several elements that don't make sense would seem to ignore this, and I think it'd be wrong to do so.

Heck, if I really wanted to play devil's advocate I'd claim Avatar should go into the No FTL section. After all, the Subspace Ansible is only implied in the film, as I recall, and never mentioned explicitly, so unless you go digging around in the manual, it's pretty easy to ignore... Combine that with a comparatively realistic non-FTL starship... And, as the No FTL description says, "even if some aspects are slightly softer than in a story with FTL, the physicists will forgive it in exchange for appeasing their Einstein-worship." (Incidentally, this contrasts with your view that we shouldn't judge how hard a work is based on which laws of science it doesn't break.) Hey, one could argue Avatar fits here perfectly!

Mind you, I don't really want to see it any further down than the FTL section. But I think bumping it all the way up to Minovsky Particle range, never mind Imported Phlebotinum, wouldn't be much better.

For the record, I'm not a big fan of the movie as such; but I am impressed by the things it got right, and I think the ridiculous things — the Na'vi and the floaty mountains — shouldn't be considered in isolation from this.

So in conclusion, if you want to move it to, say, the top of the FTL section, I'd have no real objections, but I don't think it should be moved any higher up than that. And if you're going to cut the paragraph down a bit, I think you should still include at least a brief mention of the things Avatar goes out of its way to try and plausibly justify.

Jul 29th 2010 at 7:44:08 PM •••

"the mechs flat-out ignore the square-cube law, and their intuitiveness can't compare to the efficiency of a design that requires, what, a few days' training?"

they are Mini-Mecha, they are not at a scale for the square-cube law to be a issue. the mechas are physical plausible, whether the design is efficiency is neither here or there.

Edited by joeyjojo
Aug 20th 2011 at 6:08:49 PM •••

Not to mention the lower gravity.

May 30th 2010 at 12:54:09 PM •••

Do we really need to list video games — and I mean arcade-like, platfrom-jumpy, shoot-them-up games that run on Acceptable Breaks from Reality? I mean, you could make the MST3K Mantra section about a million examples long if you included every published computer game that fit there. I think we can take it for granted that most games that involve you double-jumping around platforms blasting bad dudes and collecting stars/crystals/whatever will fit there. Right now we have a Mario game, a Ratchet and Clank game, and, latest, a Metroid game on this list. The latter is placed as being harder than Star Trek, even though it includes points like "enemies die and turn into health and ammo pickups."

I mean, I understand something like Mass Effect, or other games that do make a stab at realism or at least full-blown Space Opera, but do we really need to be told that Super Mario Galaxy isn't particularly hard sci fi?

Maybe make a general note under MST3K Mantra: "Most arcade and platform games with a sci-fi theme fit here." Or some such. Exceptions would be more interesting anyway.

Edited by girlyboy
Apr 1st 2010 at 12:58:05 PM •••

Restoring this from the Archives... There doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for it, so I don't believe this change will ever actually be made, but I'm gonna throw this out here anyway just out of curiosity as to what other people think.

Basically, I think the current way of ranking this scale is counter-intuitive and includes more categories than is necessary. Do we really need eight or nine categories to tell us how squishy-soft a sci-fi work is? I personally think not, especially considering that these extra categories tend to just confuse things, without really making the distinctions between hard and soft sci-fi any clearer.

In some cases, the categories seem primarily concerned with whether specific types of Applied Phlebotinum are or are not featured in a story, which I think is not at all the best way to sort sci-fi hardness. To see what I mean, look no further than the FTL / No FTL categories. The "No FTL" description even says that the stories there may actually be somewhat softer on the whole than stories in FTL, except for that one single Einsteinian distinction. So, does it really make sense to rank stories by whether they include FTL or not? What if you're comparing a story that includes FTL, but takes a lot of time to justify how it works, and has no other super-science at all, to another work where we only have extremely fast interplanetary travel in tiny spaceships, but with no justification at all as to how this works, and also things like artificial gravity, etc.?

Or, take a look at the Minovsky Particle category. This category doesn't make sense at all. It's supposed to be, according to its description, a category for works with one single, really well-defined deviation from real-life physics, and completely internally consistent fictional physics, and completely hard science in every other way. In practice, however, this category is just used as a place to cram everything a little harder than Imported Alien Phlebotinum and a little softer than FTL, whether it involves one justified break from physics, or a dozen barely-consistent ones. Heck, if you take its description alone, this category should really be lower than FTL, since FTL just by itself would be a break from physics, and it's not always all that well-explored and internally-consistent, and usually comes bundled with other soft stuff as well. And yet, Minovsky Particle is somehow softer than FTL, and full of works that don't match its description at all.

And the last two categories (if not the last three)? Could be merged into one without losing anything at all. The only difference seems to be the presence of space travel. Again, being obsessed with the exact technology involved just confuses the matter. I mean, G.I. Joe is harder than 2001: A Space Odyssey? Just because the latter has space travel? Come on, now.

So basically, the list as it currently exists includes way more categories than needed, the descriptions of these categories are unclear and don't always fit the works in them, and the order of how hard and soft works really are doesn't always fit the order of the categories whose description they fit, because too much attention is paid to things like "FTL" and "Space Travel", rather than the over-all, big-picture hardness or softness of a work.

I think things would be better if we created categories reflecting how much research the author has done, how much attention they pay to internal consistency, and other inherent properties of the work itself, rather than exactly which forms of Applied Phlebotinum are involved. This would be much more useful since our concern at TV Tropes is really about the nature of works of fiction, rather than how realistic or unrealistic FTL travel and the like might be given real-world physics. This would also allow us to cut down on the number of categories, generally making things clearer. There would also no longer be confusion as to which category should really be harder or softer than which.

So, I propose a scale with the following Four Categories:

1: Rule of Cool : The author is completely unconcerned with realism or internal consistency. New super-science and Applied Phlebotinum is tossed in whenever the plot demands it. Bellisario's Maxim and the MST3K Mantra are in full effect.

2: Magic A Is Magic A : Rule of Cool still trumps Real Life physics, but now the author is putting some effort into keeping their fictional science and Applied Phlebotinum internally consistent. Technology will do impossible things, but it will do the same impossible things in the same way, and with the same limitations each time, and characters will be aware of, and will need to work within, these limits. The laws of physics are still broken all the time, but the laws of logic are at least mostly respected (though the full logical implications of the Applied Phlebotinum will not always be considered).

3: Minovsky Particle : The rules of physics are broken, but only in limited ways, and only with at least some justification. Technology that is, as far as we know, completely impossible will still appear, but the author will go out of their way to justify its existence, and explore the implications of the fictional science behind it. They will also stick to reality whenever they can, and will generally make the setting seem as realistic as possible.

4: Hard Science Fiction : The rules of physics are not broken. Any Applied Phlebotinum that makes an appearance is carefully extrapolated from existing technology, and never, ever does things that current science tells us should be impossible. The realism of the story is part of its appeal.

So, in category 1., the writer will say: "The Hero using Transporters And Teleporters to get to the other side of the Galaxy in an instant? That's cool and convenient! I'll throw that in!" In 2., the writer will say: "Transporters And Teleporters are cool... But I established in a previous chapter that they have limited range; The Hero can't use them to get to the other side of the Galaxy in an instant, no matter how convenient that would be for the plot." In 3., the writer will say: "Transporters And Teleporters are cool... but unrealistic. I'll put them in, but I'll spend some time explaining how they work, and why they're possible when they seem to contradict present-day science. And since I'm putting them in, I'll try to cut back on other Applied Phlebotinum, because I want to stay at least a little realistic." And in 4. the writer will say, "Transporters And Teleporters are cool... but impossible. They have no place in my story at all, no matter what."

As an example, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy would be in category 1.; most (but not all) Star Trek series would be in 2.; Banks' Culture novels would be in 3. (though perhaps on the softer end); and the film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey would be in 4 (though the book version would be on the hard end of 3).

And there you go. Four categories are all you need. You don't need eight or nine categories with confusing definitions. You don't need to analyse all the fictional science in the story and see how realistic it is compared to real-life physics. All you need to care about is the author's intent, the effort they've put in (edit: meaning, the effort put into keeping it realistic / internally consistent / doing the research; I don't mean to imply soft sci-fi requires less effort), and the overall feel of the work. And you get a much more intuitive, much less confusing, and much more logical scale as a result.

Edited by girlyboy Hide/Show Replies
Apr 1st 2010 at 6:52:10 PM •••

...that is a better scale, but "Hard Science Fiction" is too general to be the name for 4 — Like Reality Unless Noted, perhaps?

Apr 1st 2010 at 7:38:42 PM •••

Either that, or just 20 Minutes into the Future again, or some such. :P I'm not insisting on specifics here, just throwin' an idea out there.

Edited by girlyboy
Apr 2nd 2010 at 1:41:40 PM •••

I would generally agree, and I like your names for the fist two categories (or, well, the tropes you picked to describe those categories). I'm not sure I like "Minovsky Particle" for the name of the third — though I may be biased, since I don't know the reference. ;) My big objection is that it's not as self-explanatory (to my mind) as "Rule of Cool" or "Magic A Is Magic A".

I also had a little problem with the FTL/no FTL distinction: Stephen Baxter writes some of the hardest sci-fi in existence, if not the hardest sci-fi in existence, and his stories include FTL drives of various types. Ditto for Greg Bear, actually: Aeon/Eternity are extremely hard sci-fi, which includes... well, space warping to make FTL look like it represents a scientific knowledge no more advanced then a sailing ship.

But, yes, I agree with you completely, and think your scale is a large improvement.

Edit: I think that Like Reality Unless Noted is more the concept of number 3, where breaks from reality are allowed, but aggressively minimized. Category 4 is for things that do not violate the laws of physics at all.

Whether or not we know how to do Category 4 stuff now, we have every reason to believe that it's perfectly physically possible that it could be done. Artificial Intelligence (rigorous, human-equivalent Artificial Intelligence) might be a good category 4 entry: we don't know how to do it yet, but we have every reason to believe that, eventually, we'll figure it out.

Freefall has a lot of category 4 elements, and is one of the best examples I can think of right off the top of my head: it's fairly futuristic, and features a lot of impressive future-tech — but, for the most part, common SF elements that would violate the laws of physics as we understand them have been avoided. There's no faster-than-light travel, there's no artificial gravity, there're no teleporters, and etc.

(Well, there is faster-than-light travel in Freefall, but it's apparently ridiculously expensive, very dangerous, and practically unused. It's not actually ever used in the main story, other than to explicitly say that it's ridiculously dangerous and expensive and no-one does it. I think. But you get the idea!)

Edited by boldingd
Apr 9th 2010 at 8:28:19 AM •••

I wonder if we could make a second Sliding Scale page - Rockwell Scale Of Science Fiction Hardness, perhaps.

Apr 9th 2010 at 12:34:53 PM •••

It'd be my preference that we fix this page, especially since I doubt a separate, redundant index with a different scale would survive long. But I'd settle for that solution, if you don't think we can get away with a significant rewrite of this page.

Apr 9th 2010 at 12:41:22 PM •••

I don't know how to put it to a vote - that would be the usual way.

Incidentally, I just remembered a bit in "The Closely Reasoned Technological Story": The Critical History of Hard Science Fiction:

This principle, then, comes first: hard SF is committed to avoiding scientific errors in stories. There are four ways to achieve this: two are noted in "Whirligig World" but are sanctioned only as minor elements in the kind of SF writing he espouses. A third—implicit in some stories by Clement and others later identified as hard SF writers—and a fourth—the subject of Clement's article—lead to the two forms commonly identified as hard SF.

The first way to avoid scientific errors is simply to employ jargon, impressive-sounding doubletalk that acknowledges the seeming implausibility of some device without trying to explain it—what Clement later called the "gobbledygook subclass" of SF (#6 51). In Clement's case, facing the problem of Mesklin's enormous gravity, he says, "Any science fiction author can get around that, of course. Simply invent a gravity screen. No one will mind little details like violation of the law of conservation of energy, or the difference of potential across the screen which will prevent the exchange of anything more concrete than visual signals.... No one but Astounding [sic] readers, that is; and there is my own conscience" (#13 106-107). Clement concedes the method has "obvious advantages"—"the scope of [a writer's] story is not constrained by mere facts; and a vocabulary can serve in place of scientific knowledge" (#6 42).

Clement offers three reasons for avoiding this approach, each involving different SF readers. In "Whirligig World," the problems is that terminology alone will not satisfy knowledgeable readers, who want more scientific substance in what they read. Twenty years later, Clement is more concerned about people who do not regularly read SF: gobbledygook "furnishes ammunition to intellectual snobs who can't admit that science fiction is a legitimate branch of the storyteller's art." The major reason seems to involve only one reader—the writer—as indicated by Clement's reference to his "conscience": the author of hard SF regards the use of obfuscatory jargon as a type of cheating, not doing the work of SF; it does not provide what he later called the necessary "discipline" of the hard SF game (#6 42, 45).

The second way to avoid scientific errors is to speculate in areas where there is little scientific data. Writing Mission of Gravity in 1953, Clement said, "I don't have to describe the life processes [of Mesklinites] in rigorous detail. Anyone who wants me to will have to wait until someone can do the same with our own life form" (#13 113).6 Still, while Clement would venture into vague or questionable science as a small part of his writing, he did not wish to focus a story in such areas: "There may be an afterlife. Telepathy and other psionic manifestations may be real and may some day come under orderly human control. There may be flaws in the laws of thermodynamics, even the first one. It is fun to read stories about such possibilities, but I seem to lack what it takes to write them" (#12 374). Writing about matters where one cannot make scientific errors, like inventing terms to cover scientific uncertainties, presumably does not involve much of a challenge.

The third way to avoid scientific errors is to play it safe: set the story in the near future and feature scientific advances that are either already planned or plausible in light of current scientific and technological knowledge. Such stories, which usually occur in outer space, have always been accepted as hard SF: one of the first works ever associated with the term was A Fall of Moondust, and all writers later identified with hard SF have sometimes written in this vein: Clement, "Fireproof" Clarke, Islands in the Sky; Anderson, "Sunjammer"; and Niven, "The Coldest Place." One could call this microcosmic hard SF—involving small steps into the future to predict small advances; in his own classification of two types of hard SF, writer David Brin calls it "engineering SF" (#30 9). Such works are rarely offered as noteworthy examples of hard SF, and few would argue for the superiority of those works over Mission of Gravity, Rendezvous with Rama, Tau Zero, or Ringworld. Still, since persons known as hard SF writers produce these works, and since these works have been called hard SF, they must be considered part of the subgenre.

The fourth way to avoid scientific errors is to deliberately create the most spectacular and implausible environment or development possible while adhering to all known scientific facts. I call this "world-building" macrocosmic hard SF—involving large leaps into the future to envision large advances and new worlds: Brin's term for it is "scientific SF" (#30 9). This seems the most interesting form and can produce impressive results, like Mesklin and Ringworld. In terms of Clement's game, though, it is a high-risk strategy; in Niven's case, knowledgeable readers noted that a structure like Ringworld could not maintain its position, which required Niven to awkwardly add stabilizing rockets in a sequel, Ringworld Engineers. "Whirligig World" is the first description of the process: writers accumulate and absorb all available scientific information—in this case, information regarding the unseen companion to 61 Cygni—and based on that data carefully develop a detailed picture of the imagined environment, using equations when possible or informed guesswork. Clement says "Whirligig World" is not a "text" on how to create such worlds, "since if the subject is teachable I'd be creating competition and if it isn't I'd be wasting time" (#13 102), but texts later appeared: Anderson's "The Creation of Imaginary Worlds: The World Builder's Handbook and Pocket Companion" and Clement's "The Creation of Imaginary Beings" (both in #7).

3 and 4 are reversed relative to the scale girlyboy proposed, but otherwise the similarities are striking.

Edited by RobinZimm
Apr 9th 2010 at 12:49:55 PM •••

I agree that a second page prolly wouldn't survive for long. It would be seen as redundant, and deleted... However, a YKTTW could be created, perhaps. I've seen the YKTTW used a couple of times to "work on" tropes, rather than just propose new ones, so perhaps this would be an appropriate use? It would have the advantage of getting lots of people's opinions through comments (... if people are interested enough to comment, that is :P), helping to gauge just how (un)popular such a change would be and perhaps getting more input than it would here in Discussion, and the entire list could be re-sorted gradually, with everyone getting input, and with an already-sorted article complete and ready should the change ever actually be made.

I suppose if we wanted to get serious about this change (which I have to admit I didn't anticipate... :P) this could be coupled with (or, perhaps better, preceded by) a submission to the Trope Repair Shop, perhaps with a Crowner, to further see how people react and to get more attention. >_>

But such a fundamental change to such a huge, popular, and... also fundamental article might not be particularly popular. I guess it did eventually win Robin Zimm over to some extent... :P

Edit: Whoops, missed your last comment, Robin Zimm. I have not read that article... sound quite interesting indeed. It might bear mention in the main article as an interesting examination of sci-fi hardness, regardless of any other changes made...

Edited by girlyboy
Sep 25th 2010 at 4:09:50 AM •••

  • 1 to this; I came to propose something on these lines. So if you can see a way to make it happen, please do.

Dec 8th 2010 at 9:04:43 PM •••

I agree with the above. A lot of the current distinctions are either fuzzy or just bizarre; as mentioned, the emphasis seems to be on what Phlebotinum is/isn't used rather than how much research the author actually did. The example above of Baxter's Xeelee Sequence is far harder then some of what's lower on the scale, just because he uses FTL (with time travel as mandatory accompaniment. That's almost unheard of, even in hard SF).

I frankly doubt enough tropers will actually care enough to rework the article. But I agree in principle that it needs the reworking.

Dec 9th 2010 at 11:36:33 AM •••

Thank you, RobinZimm. :) I am sorry for being all lazy and useless. It looks like there might be some discussion, at least, which is promising.

Edited by girlyboy
Mar 30th 2010 at 9:20:29 PM •••

Just wondering, where would the orignal Matrix go?

Edited by joeyjojo Hide/Show Replies
Mar 30th 2010 at 10:47:50 PM •••

Given the "humans-as-batteries" premise, I'm tempted to say — at the hard end of "MST3K Mantra." Though to be fair, on the whole it feels harder than that, so I guess maybe somewhere in the "Imported Alien Phlebotinum" range?

Mar 31st 2010 at 2:59:39 PM •••

oh right well here's an overview.

  • The Matrix itself. It would be the world's largest MMO but could be done.
  • Anti-gravity… that takes us to about NO FTL.
  • Hard AI. taking as a giving by most scientist now a days
  • Blacken Skies. no idea how this was supposed to of been done, any idea?
  • Your Mind Makes It Real. there have been extrema cases of psychosomatic damage IRL… but there are the exceptions not the rules.
  • The Bio Batteries. never happen.
  • Fossil fuels running out and being replaced with solar power ;-)

The Sequels.

  • Mind Uploading. smith taking over Blane.
  • neo's powers working the The Real World. no _that_ far out. it's possible that he leaned the ''off codes" to the machines, it's not clear how he was able to turn his brain into a Wi Fi transmitter however.
  • Neo getting trapped between worlds (either a result of uploading or the Wifi brain).

Edited by joeyjojo
Mar 31st 2010 at 3:08:58 PM •••

Um... okay, well, Dis Continuity or not I'm pretty sure the humans as batteries thing was still there in the first movie, and was the whole reason why the Matrix even existed, and I think that rather sharply limits how hard it can be considered to be.

Mar 31st 2010 at 3:29:00 PM •••

I'd put it as a fairly hard Imported Alien Phlebotinum, accounting for the bio-batteries and the Your Mind Makes It Real (edit: and Oracular Precognition). You could make a good case for making it harder save for those elements.

Edited by RobinZimm
Apr 1st 2010 at 9:21:37 AM •••

well yes we are forced to take the bio power as canon i guess. i never got the impression that the machines were only feeling the bodies of the dead to the People Farms. so thermodynamics if not logic is persevere IMHO.

Edited by joeyjojo
Apr 1st 2010 at 1:20:51 PM •••

I agree with Robin Zimm: it belongs in the Imported Alien Phlebotinum range. I think the hard end of that part of the scale is reasonable.

Edited by girlyboy
Apr 9th 2010 at 12:17:13 PM •••

If we pretend that Morpheus meant to hold up a microchip, I might buy Minovsky Particle.

May 1st 2010 at 10:18:02 PM •••

okay well i placed it on the very top of of Minovsky Particle then if there is a consensus. feel free to move it you got a reason.

Edited by joeyjojo
May 2nd 2010 at 7:45:59 AM •••

... I'm pretty sure that if you look exactly two posts up and there's a comment saying it should be in Imported Alien Phlebotinum, which is also an agreement with an earlier comment saying the same thing, that means there isn't a "consensus" on moving it into Minovsky Particle. It's not a big enough deal for me to move it, I just felt the strong need to point that out.

Your brief description of the film is really good though. :)

Edited by girlyboy
Mar 22nd 2010 at 7:15:10 AM •••

Proposal: Bump "FTL Travel" to 4, and add as the new 3 "Time Travel". They're fundamentally connected, but it's possible to have an FTL story in which Time Travel is impossible, so the order is thus.

Edited by RobinZimm Hide/Show Replies
Mar 29th 2010 at 1:24:17 PM •••

Just wondering, where would the orignal Matrix go?

Edited by joeyjojo
Mar 29th 2010 at 2:46:07 PM •••

Considering the blatant disregard for the laws of thermodynamics in the first movie, I'd say it's softer than most cyberpunk. Maybe a 4 or a 3.

Mar 29th 2010 at 2:48:36 PM •••

Even declaring Discontinuity on the sequels, I would hesitate to go higher than Imported Alien Phlebotinum (is it actually possible to have a good enough reaction time to dodge a bullet at close range?), but you could argue for No FTL if you believe that the Oracle is extrapolating from current data.

Edit: Oh, yeah, and that Morpheus is an ignoramus. Thanks, zarpaulus.

Edited by RobinZimm
Mar 30th 2010 at 5:01:31 AM •••

Everything in the matrix itself can be handwaved. the Real World is were problems begins. the bio batteries were never said to be a closed system so we could generously label under moronic but inefficient. The mystic elements don't help things.

Mar 30th 2010 at 6:11:41 AM •••

Also: Giant anti-gravity flying squid robots? Not *too* bad I suppose, considering other stuff on the list but anyway, the Matrix definitely has a soft vibe. And IIRC the film very clearly meant that the robots were using humans as their main power source, to replace the solar power that was blocked out by the humans to try and shut them down, without any additional tricks to justify it. Sure, you could make excuses, but there's no real reason to believe Morpheus is an Unreliable Narrator or mis-informed or anything.

Edited by girlyboy
Mar 30th 2010 at 6:53:55 AM •••

Great! We are now agreed on the derail. Now for the question I actually asked: is Time Travel (which would include precognition, of course) a good subdivision to add?

Mar 30th 2010 at 8:19:58 AM •••

I think the range on time-travel is very, *very* wide, especially if you include pre-cognition. I mean, that would include everything from oracles who read tea leaves to some really well-justified hard sci-fi time travel story that uses everything known about real-life physics to come up with a plausible time machine...

Mar 30th 2010 at 8:52:32 AM •••

Time travel is already, at the very least, a special case of faster-than-light communication/travel — anything which doesn't attempt to justify time travel will drift up into the higher categories (e.g. Minovsky Particle). I think it's worth branching out because it creates causal loops and all that implies.

Mar 30th 2010 at 10:47:55 AM •••

Hmm. I think to make it work you'd have to specify precisely what time travel implies. For example, Human Popsicle stories are often written similarly to time travel stories, but there's nothing inherently impossible about them when it comes to known physics. And perfectly realistic space travel at high (sub-light) speeds can lead to time dilation, which is basically (one-way) time travel, yet has been proven to exist in Real Life. So this'd have to be limited to travel into the past, or travel into the future using physics-bending Applied Phlebotinum.

Another problem (which I think also kind of applies to the already-existing "faster than light" and "no faster than light" categories) is that whether a story contains time travel or not doesn't necessarily serve as a solid indicator of how hard or soft it is overall... I can imagine a story that includes time travel but is a lot "harder" than stories that have FTL, but no time travel, for example. (In fact, a story that has FTL and *actually takes the time to explore the fact that FTL would lead to time travel and causality violations* would, arguably, be a lot harder than a story that just has FTL, never mentions time travel, and never brings up the fact that FTL essentially is time travel. What would be harder — a story about a starship with an FTL drive and its crew having to deal with the time-bending consequences of using it, or a story about a starship with an FTL drive in which time travel is never brought up at all, even though according to known physics, it's an inevitable consequence of FTL?)

Sooo... basically I guess what I'm trying to say is *maybe* it would work, but you'd have to be careful about how you define the category, and there'd probably be some stories that involve time travel, but deserve to be harder than this new suggested category, if you're going to place it above FTL. And I dunno how to deal with those.

Mar 30th 2010 at 9:21:15 PM •••

sorry Robin Zimm I ment to hit start new topic not reply, my bad.

Edited by joeyjojo
Apr 1st 2010 at 9:47:13 AM •••

Ever since my second or third year in Undergrad (when I had a course on relativity, as part of a physics minor), I've been more than a little ticked off about series that have FTL drive, but still maintain some causal order — i.e. I head off to Alpha Centauri, spend a week there, head back to Earth, and arrive one-week-plus-travel-time-in-my-reference-frame after I left. Faster-than-light travel and time travel are the same damned thing on a very fundamental level. I wouldn't mind taking that fact into account in the rankings, i.e. by ranking stories with FTL drives and time travel as more realistc than stories with FTL drives and no time travel.

As to your suggestion, you may actually have it backward: if your story has FTL drives, it's more realistic, not less, for it to include time travel also (or at least to address the question). So maybe 3 being "hand-waved and/or causality-mainting FTL drives", and 4 being "relativity/simultanaity-questions-addressed FTL drives"?

Edit: @Girlyboy, I read your comment in detail only after I posted mine, and I think you and I are saying pretty much the same thing. "FTL with time-travel" and "FTL without time-travel" may be a usable ranking system, but it goes in the reverse of what the OP was thinking (FTL with time-travel is more realistic). Correct?

Edited by boldingd
Apr 1st 2010 at 12:06:25 PM •••

Yeah, I agree with that exactly. I dunno how needed this extra category would be. Still, if you're talking about things like Wells' original Time Machine, I could agree to ranking that softer than FTL. Also, take Star Trek: Both FTL and Time Travel exist, but they aren't directly connected. Well, you can travel in time by going around a star or black hole at warp speed (which actually might make some sense — as I recall, some Real Life theories about time travel actually involve travelling around super-massive objects in just the right way), but on the whole, Trek would be an example where FTL and Time Travel coexist, yet it's probably softer than lots of works where FTL exists alone. On the other hand, Trek is already in the MST 3 K section...

... Anyway, basically, as I said before I think this could be done, but would be very complicated, and I think it's not really worth it. And I absolutely agree with boldingd that there'd be exceptions where the inclusion of time travel can actually make a story harder than FTL, not softer.

Apr 5th 2010 at 2:44:20 AM •••

Causality is a more intuitive law than light speed limitations so it's likely that a TV show will break one but not the another. but yes if you got an Enterprise you have a tardis. It's Elephant in the Living Room it's says so in the FTL page

There is, according to special relativity, a fundamental reason why FTL travel is not possible: because of the non-intuitive way Einstein's theory works, FTL travel would always imply time travel, and potential violations of causality itself. This would hold true regardless of which exact method is being used to get around the light-speed limit. The vast majority of works that involve FTL ignore this problem outright, without even attempting a hand-wave.

Edited by joeyjojo
Apr 5th 2010 at 9:47:57 AM •••

I wrote that paragraph. :P Then someone yelled at me that I was ignoring *general* relativity, and somehow (I still don't understand how) in general relativity it's POSSIBLE that you could have FTL without time-travel. So a long explanation was added on. :( I still don't understand any of it... who ever thought theoretical physics would be so complicated! :(

Edited by girlyboy
Apr 5th 2010 at 3:14:24 PM •••

Strictly speaking, if you violate relativity by having a privileged reference frame (the frame of the cosmic background radiation is an obvious choice), then you can allow FTL in that frame only without allowing causal time travel. That's why I put it in that order - time travel necessarily allows FTL, if only by traveling STL and then jumping back (or vice-versa).

And most people don't understand physics, girlyboy, including whoever 'corrected' you. This particular result should be elementary. ;)

Apr 8th 2010 at 11:18:48 AM •••

@Robin Zimm While you obviously know, I'll state it for everyone else: that if there is a pretty huge one. Like, "just about as fundamental as Newton's Laws of Motion or the conservation of energy" huge. The discovery of a privileged reference frame like that would throw out almost a century of (very, very well-tested) physics. I can state with some confidence that no such thing exists. In fact, as I understand it, it was the fact that models based on the assumption that such a frame did exist where failing miserably when tested that led to the development of the theory of relativity in the first place!

My history is pretty week, but this is what I remember being taught: in the late 19th century, people still believed that there was a medium called "ether", and that light waves where propagating through this medium. In effect, they thought this medium might define a privileged, universal reference frame. They tried measuring the speed of light when they where at rest, and then when they where moving (with respect to the light source), thinking the person moving around would measure a slightly different velocity (because he was moving relative to the stationary ether): basically, they where thinking that the light-waves would propagate through the ether at a certain velocity with respect to the ether's fixed frame of reference (like mechanical wave propagate through matter), and that a person moving around with respect to the ether would see the difference in his velocity and the ether's velocity represented as a change in the speed that he would measure for the light wave. It didn't work: the same velocity was recorded (i.e. the person moving around saw the light-wave moving at 300,000 km/s in his frame, even as the person at rest measured the light wave moving at 300,000 km/s in his frame too). Head A Splode. It took years and years of head-scratching for someone (no points for guessing who) to figure out that the problem was the assumption that there was a fundamental rest frame.

FYI, if you can't tell, it gets under my skin the way people seem to assume that complex or counter-intuitive theories, like relativity, are ass-pulls, and that scientists do this kind of stuff because they're deluded at best, or malicious jerks at worst. I suspect most people think that Einstein just got really drunk one night, and came up with relativity as a joke, and then got together with a bunch of his egg-head buddies, and they all said, "what the hell, we'll assume this until proven otherwise." I bet most people would be shocked to learn that it went the other way 'round: scientists got weird experimental results that they could not explain, and not for lack of trying! Relativity, weird and counter-intuitive tho it was, was the only model that fit the experimental results.

@girlyboy I'm pretty sure that you where right the first time, and whoever's trying to convince you that General Relativity has some kind of mechanic for causality-respecting faster-than-light travel is... confused. I think you'll find that there are lots and lots of people, with a tenuous-at-best grasp on physics, who will none-the-less start trying to convince you of all kinds of things, based on something they saw on the Discovery channel... or the Sci-Fi channel... or their friend told them... or they read on this one web-forum about cats...

Edited by boldingd
Apr 8th 2010 at 12:05:53 PM •••

Thanks, boldingd!

Worth adding also is that the idea of relativity goes all the way back to 1632: Galileo Galilei argued in Dialogue Concerning the Two World Systems that experiments carried out belowdecks on a ship at rest and a ship moving at constant speed should produce the same result. He then argued that the same could be said of an Earth moving around the Sun, a claim which led to some disagreement with the Church.

Apr 8th 2010 at 12:19:09 PM •••

Most people who allow faster-than-light travel but not time travel just plain don't understand why they're linked, though, or at least don't let on that they know they have a problem. For that reason, I'd say those would be softer, not harder. Harder are the ones who come up with a way to go faster than light, then actually think about what effects that has on causality. FTL without at least a passing mention of time travel is the realm of pulp space opera.

Also, yeah, @girlyboy: I think whoever "corrected" you was thinking of the Twin Paradox (If one twin stays on Earth while the other takes a ride in a fast ship, each identically sees herself as still and her sister as moving, so which  *

is older at the end and why  *?), the resolution of which lies in general relativity.

Edited by TwinBird
Oct 13th 2010 at 1:52:16 AM •••

I just wanted to make the point of the Star Trek 2009 movie's use of a Black Hole...there are many respected physicists (such as Gerard 't Hooft) who believe that the mathematics of a black hole DO indicate that you could go into it and pop out somewhere else in space-time. The trouble is that if the black hole was too small the gravity waves would tear you apart. However, if it were large enough, you COULD make it into the hole without being torn apart by tidal forces. The trouble is that the accretion disk would pellet you so hard you'd be blown apart by little microscopic pebbles accelerating to relativistic speeds. On the other hand, Star Trek has magical force fields. So it's not necessarily impossible that they could fly into a black hole and wind up somewhere else.

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