Monday, June 11, 2012

6 Sci-Fi Tropes That Seems Right (But Aren't)

Every time a new sci-fi flick, like Prometheus appear, you can bet that lots and lots of fans will discuss how much 'sci' and how much 'fi' the movie have. They will go as far as citing academic articles to justify what they believe that is hard science and what is pure fiction. While many sci-fi writers in fact use scientific people as consultants, they will not let something like reality get in the way of creativity or low budget. That is why we ended up with things that seems plausible but aren't, like...

6. People getting sick in the far future.

Why do you get sick? Easy, you get sick due to something causing problems in your organism. It could be organic, like virus, bacteria and fungus; chemical, like poison; genetic, like cancer, lupus and degenerative diseases; physical, like radiation or getting run over with a pick-up truck. the thing is, there is something causing disease, and the doctor's job is to find the cause and cure it. If we have diseases today, killing people, is because we either don't know the cause or we know it but don't know how to revert it. But in the far future of many sci-fi flicks, there is no reason to anyone to have any disease.

Take Star Trek for example. They have so modern scanners for medical use that it can trace sub-atomic particles. There is no way that a virulent organism like a virus can hide from it. you just need to find some organism that isn't there. Remember, Star Trek ships have scanners powerful enough to detect individuals by its DNA from fucking orbit. There is no way the virus can hide from it.

Now, you can say that they can know about the disease causes, but have no access to a cure. Except they have constant access to it. The teletransport system is so efficient that they can just transport any foreign body within the sick people, like poisons and bacteria. If teletransport is not an option, they can use the nano-machines to hunt it down. You can also use these same nano-machines to repair any damaged caused so far.

So, next time you see someone getting sick in a movie where they have technology to make sexy semi-nude androids but not enough to find a virus, you know the writer killed logic in order to create a more interesting plot.

5. The Alien Design is weird, even if does the same thing our technology do.

You see an alien ship, who looks like some kind of insect. It have several weird protuberances and moving parts and lights. You enter it and discover all doors an corridors are weirdly shaped, with several organic-like plates who form some waving effect on the walls. All the plugs and buttons are shaped in weird formats and then you encounter the humanoid aliens who made the ship.

Except that is not how tech works. Yes, they can have different designs, but ask any engineer and they will tell you how much mathematics and physics is used to make any piece of tech. Any design cannot deviate as much as affecting the efficiency of the machine. That is why most cellphones are very similar to it other in the basic design, airplanes made from different companies look like the same and even cars don't have many wild designs out there.

The truth is that due to physics and engineering laws, the chance is that most pieces of tech made even by aliens will be similar. That is why the basic design of a lance or a bow and arrow, for example, is the same even with people on Earth that had barely any contact with each other. Nobody will sacrifice efficiency just to look rad.

4. Conqueror aliens

Aliens see Earth and decide that they want it, they want it bad and want it now. They come to the conclusion that they need our natural resources, or they want to feed on us, or we have the key to cure some disease they suffer. They come here, lasers aflame, conquering us and enslaving us. Or they just want to make some cool houses and sell them to their rich people.

Except they have no reason, whatsoever, to do that.

If they need natural resources, there is plenty in space itself. They can kine meteorites or planets with no life. They have faster than light technology, so they can just make some domed cities to live in the planets awhile they mine what they want. It would be cheaper than trying a war against us.

If they need to feed upon us, unless they have some weird and stupid religion, they can just got some DNA samples, or maybe some live specimens and bread us like we do with cows. They don't need to hunt nor her us here. If we are the perfect source of food for them, you better bet that our planet is very similar to theirs.

Damn, if they have the tech to come here and try to conquer us, they don't need us as slaves either. They can just make some robots, who will be way better at work than unwilling slaves. Maybe they will in fact send robots first just to not risk themselves.

And about living here. Why not find some other people without a civilization on it? With the universe being so big, the chance of finding a planet like ours is very big. Or, since they have such better tech, they can just terraform any planet they want to their liking. Really, no matter how you see it, war is the worst solution when you have such tech.

3. Telepathy.

At first you may be thinking why not? Telepathy is a pretty cool form of communication, like having wi-fi in our brains. It seems as an efficient, better way to communicate between members of your race and aliens than simple voice. Except for one thing. Why any creature would need telepathy, when easier ways of communication exist?

See, the reason we use sounds is because it is easy to use air through our throats than transmit radio with our brains. Other animals use smells. A few, like sharks, detect their prey electrical signals to hunt. But none developed some kind of telepathy. Remember, evolution is not about complexity, it is about being adapted to the environment. And in what environment telepathy would be a better way to communicate than any other mean?

In the space vacuum.

See, the only way you could need telepathy is somewhere with no air or water to transmit sound or chemicals and even there using bio-luminescence would be a easier way to transmit something than telepathy. So, put your tin foil hats down. There is very little chance to find telepathic aliens.

2. Underwater Civilizations

I am not talking about people who lived in the surface and made underwater cities. I am talking about entire races who developed themselves underwater, with no contact with the surface. So, why I believe we ill never found alien mermaids? Because they will lack fire. And any need to have opposite thumbs.

See, humans developed their brains partly because of the need to better use tools, that they could use skillfully with opposite thumbs. Meanwhile, few creatures in the sea use something even similar to our thumbs, like crabs and their pincers or octopus and their tentacles. But even them rarely have the need to use tools. And even if they had, they would develop at best to the level of cavemen and their stone weaponry. Why?

Fire don't happen underwater. There is no way to melt metal underwater, and metal work is fundamental to the development of a society and science. Without metal works, there would be no electricity, therefore becoming basically impossible to find an alien race of fishmen.

1. Aliens completely different from ourselves

Yes, i know what are you thinking. 'How could a complete alien environment develop life forms similar to our own Earth life forms? They need to be completely different or they will just show how little money they had for the movie! there is no way I will land in an alien planet and find cows, for example!'

Except that you very well can find some creatures who totally looks like cows.

First you need to understand that life don't happen in any condition. It needs certain materials and conditions to happen, like some liquid environment (not necessarily water, but liquid nonetheless), atmosphere, temperature (life cannot happen if the floor is lava) and certain elements to be present (life will not happen with only aluminum to work, for example). Meaning that any planet where life is possible will not be so radically different than ours.

Second, evolution, as I said, is not about creativity. If you have similar conditions, life tend to evolve similarly. Look at Australia, a continent who was isolated from other mass lands for such a long time and yet many creatures are very similar to creatures you find in other places. That happens because evolution will repeat many same designs through time. Because if it work, there is no need to change it.

Desertic planets will have creatures similar to our own deserts. Ice planets to our Artic/Antarctica. You got the idea. So, in the end, those low budget movies may in fact have a better idea to what aliens will look like than us.

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