VC10er
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SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:40 pm

This is a very different kind of aviation topic...I hope it is approached as fun or as appropriate.

I have often wondered, so many action-adventure or science fiction movies today use fantasy flying machines. Much of which are based on some familiar technology e.g jets/turbofan propulsion (vs the Enterprise). I often wonder if a director like James Cameron actually does consult aerospace engineers to add any theoretically plausible science to their imaginations. So for those of you here who are experts who go to see Avitar or the Avengers (flying aircraft carrier   ) or other such flying machines do you just chuckle in your seat or does your brain start to figure out "how that might be achieved in the future, if you had a trillion dollars?"

I am a total novice, but love to imagine, I find I do think to myself if what I am seeing is absurd but fun vs wow, this is fun and "could" that really ever work???
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tdscanuck
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:24 pm

Quoting VC10er (Thread starter):
I often wonder if a director like James Cameron actually does consult aerospace engineers to add any theoretically plausible science to their imaginations.

My brother develops movie scripts for the SyFy network; I asked him about that a few months ago. There are science consultants occasionally brought in for films but it seems to be rare...they're more involved when the point is historical accuracy rather than fantasy. There is a niche field of law enforcement/military experts who do film consulting but then it's all procedural rather than technological.

Quoting VC10er (Thread starter):
So for those of you here who are experts who go to see Avitar or the Avengers (flying aircraft carrier   ) or other such flying machines do you just chuckle in your seat or does your brain start to figure out "how that might be achieved in the future, if you had a trillion dollars?"

Usually both. The most common problem with movie vehicles, in my opinion, is absurd energy density. There's nothing physically wrong with something like the Avengers' flying aircraft carrier but the amount of power required to do something like that for any duration would require far more fuel (or a whole new energy source) than anything we know about.

It's much cleaner when you go Bablyon 5-style...just invent a new form of energy (zero point energy for them) and, poof, problem solved.

Tom.
 
Maverick623
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 2:40 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
There's nothing physically wrong with something like the Avengers' flying aircraft carrier but the amount of power required to do something like that for any duration would require far more fuel (or a whole new energy source) than anything we know about.

Not to mention the effects of the force needed to keep it aloft. Without getting into technical aspects, suffice it to say if such a carrier were to be airborne at less than 5000ft AGL, Anything below it would be flattened like a pancake.
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TSS
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 3:31 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
The most common problem with movie vehicles, in my opinion, is absurd energy density. There's nothing physically wrong with something like the Avengers' flying aircraft carrier but the amount of power required to do something like that for any duration would require far more fuel (or a whole new energy source) than anything we know about.

It's much cleaner when you go Bablyon 5-style...just invent a new form of energy (zero point energy for them) and, poof, problem solved.

Ditto Star Trek, with their matter/anti-matter reactor which in some way uses dilithium crystals to focus the energy of the reaction. Of course, even in the future according to Star Trek energy demands and energy density remain problems to be overcome as witnessed by the Romulan "cloaking device" which, while fully effective, used so much of the ship's power when engaged that Romulan ships were unable to achieve warp speed and be cloaked at the same time.
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Aesma
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:02 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
There's nothing physically wrong with something like the Avengers' flying aircraft carrier but the amount of power required to do something like that for any duration would require far more fuel (or a whole new energy source) than anything we know about.

I'd say the fans don't seem big enough to keep the thing afloat, whatever the energy.

I read exclusively SF books and some don't try to explain things, others are just in the near future without too implausible stuff (Mars trilogy). I like when there are a lot of details given even if the basis is not really believable.

Movies are just not long enough to take the time, so they usually don't bother. The scripts get also full of stupid stuff, like if since it's SF logic doesn't apply.
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VC10er
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:14 pm

Quoting TSS (Reply 3):

I believe that a "cloaked" ship can achieve warp, but can't fire weapons until the movie "Star Trek, the Undiscovered Country". But, I will check that out! But I don't want this to become a Star Trek thread. Their are about a billion of those. And the energy problems are solved purely by fantasy.

But in other films where the flying machines seem more conventional. The first Terminator has those fan powered aircraft used by the machines, the drop ship in Aliens flys around like an airplane and makes the same whine as today's aircraft.

So far what I'm reading is...beside for a good dose of fantasy, theoretically speaking there is a dose of reality or avionics to make the fantasty more real. Has anything from the drawing boards of Boeing or NASA been used in Hollywood?

I often think that by the time I die in 30 or 40 years, I will STILL only be spotting a 737-2000X or Tube, wings, 2 holes.
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neutrino
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:20 pm

Quoting VC10er (Thread starter):
I am a total novice, but love to imagine

Your creative juice at play?  
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neutrino
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:25 pm

Quoting Maverick623 (Reply 2):
Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
There's nothing physically wrong with something like the Avengers' flying aircraft carrier but the amount of power required to do something like that for any duration would require far more fuel (or a whole new energy source) than anything we know about.

Not to mention the effects of the force needed to keep it aloft. Without getting into technical aspects, suffice it to say if such a carrier were to be airborne at less than 5000ft AGL, Anything below it would be flattened like a pancake.

Not if they have some form of limited anti-grav device to "lighten" the carrier. 
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TSS
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:44 pm

Quoting VC10er (Reply 5):
I believe that a "cloaked" ship can achieve warp, but can't fire weapons until the movie "Star Trek, the Undiscovered Country". But, I will check that out!

No need to; You are correct and I was wrong. Mea Culpa. It's been a long time since I've seen the relevant episodes.

Quoting VC10er (Reply 5):
But I don't want this to become a Star Trek thread.

Nor do I. That was just the first, and as it turns out incorrect in detail, example I could think of.
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VC10er
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 7:18 pm

Quoting TSS (Reply 8):

It's ok- I'm a trekker! From childhood. One reason among many that I love to fly and will stare with awe at any airplane, parked or flying. I am on an 11 hour flight tonight and I can't wait!

The spark that gave me the idea for this thread came last week on a long haul flight. I watched a SciFi movie and here I was on a newly refitted United 767-400, in BF, and thought "wow, what a better experience today than just in the 90's, the interior with the pod seats etc- so what will I see and experience in another 20 years?"
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 9:32 pm

Quoting VC10er (Thread starter):
the Avengers (flying aircraft carrier )

Don't know about the flying carrier, but the Alphajets it carried were very real... 

Sci-Fi movies and series are just about the worst when it comes to technical feasibility. They're mostly derived from novels whose authors had little knowledge of advanced or theoretical science.

Very few hard sci-fi novels ever made it to the screens. I can cite '2001 Space Odyssey' and 'Mission to Mars' off the top of my head.

A few authors out there do try to stay within the boundaries of the theoretically achievable. They extrapolate and blow up current scientific theories for propulsion, space travel and general technologies. It still remains very far-fetched, even in the best case.
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petertenthije
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Sun Sep 16, 2012 10:03 pm

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
It's much cleaner when you go Bablyon 5-style...just invent a new form of energy (zero point energy for them) and, poof, problem solved.

I think you are confused with Stargate. Babylon 5 used regular reactors and solar panels. But the creators of B5 did go out of their way to give Earch scientifically possible technology (minus the insterstellar jump gates, but they sold that as alien technology). In particular it shows in their use of rotating sections to simulate gravity and the "Starfury" using newtonian motion in their space battles.
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tdscanuck
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Mon Sep 17, 2012 12:01 am

Quoting francoflier (Reply 10):
Very few hard sci-fi novels ever made it to the screens. I can cite '2001 Space Odyssey' and 'Mission to Mars' off the top of my head.

I'd add "The Abyss" to that. Yes, there were aliens, but all the human stuff was pretty good for plausible-state-of-the-art.

Quoting petertenthije (Reply 11):
Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
It's much cleaner when you go Bablyon 5-style...just invent a new form of energy (zero point energy for them) and, poof, problem solved.

I think you are confused with Stargate.

Nah, although Stargate did something like it too.

Quoting petertenthije (Reply 11):
Babylon 5 used regular reactors and solar panels.

That was just the humans (fusion + solar). The Minbari used zero point energy. It's also assumed that the Vorlons and Shadows did although I don't think they ever stated that outright.

Tom.
 
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Aesma
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:43 am

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 12):
Nah, although Stargate did something like it too.

ZPM : zero point module.

One thing that is often brushed over is the fact that everybody from every species from every corner of the universe speak English. In Farscape, this is avoided with the help of translator microbes that everyone has been injected with.
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BE77
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:47 am

Quoting francoflier (Reply 10):
A few authors out there do try to stay within the boundaries of the theoretically achievable. They extrapolate and blow up current scientific theories for propulsion, space travel and general technologies.

Many of the 'better' (for values of personal taste) hard SciFi writers try to stay consistent in their created universe. Usually they try to create one or two 'science breakthroughs' and then use them as the basis of anything else they need to do. Roddenberry added the transported to deal with the problem he create with the warp drive field - he couldn't land the ship with those big engines in gravity because it would look unreasonable (even though he knew the thing would have had to be strong enough anyway to stay together in space), and of course for TV he couldn't have characters spending hours in the shuttles.

Other writers (Pournelle, Niven, Bradbury, Weber, Ringo, etc.,etc.) actually do go through a lot of effort to keep the 'science' consistent as long as you accept one or two key constructs or 'breakthroughs' - for example, most of them need FTL (taster than light), so they find or adopt one of about 4 mechanisms for that to work - but then they keep it consistent thereafter, and, they will often go a long long way to make sure the 'rest' of there science is perfect within current theory - either through their own knowledge (many physics majors in sci-fi) or through getting professional help in the form of PhD's to collaborate.
Some of the universe's include a 'natural' progression in their histories, and use things that current theory supports once the engineering catches up (RamShips and hibernation for really slow but theoretically possible interstellar travel) but then add in 'magic' in the form of a new breakthrough for FTL later on.

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
The most common problem with movie vehicles, in my opinion, is absurd energy density

Absolutely - but as a sci-fi geek I'll buy into the hovering stuff and energy densities if there is a good premise for it - generally if the writer has a consistent story that explains FTL, then by default then there is some form of gravity management available (if our current real world sciense is 'right'). You 'probably' can't get to the speed of light without understanding gravity a whole lot better than we do now...so by default we can probably bend and otherwise manage gravity at that point (much like we can with light now). So next movie you see too much energy involved in flying, just ask yourself if there has been anything to explain the speed of light problem...if so, then the solution for the energy problem is probably tivial.

For movies, the clientele is less critical, so consistency is not required nor often not desired, so more liberties can be taken - Avatar for example takes every liberty and includes no science (except the science involved in the filming and theatre presentations!).
For Avengers (which I really liked as a movie) you already have to be willing to accept so much that the Helicarrier #64 is trivial in comparison. Even then it's sort of consistent with the history of Marvel (Comic sci-fi geeks are even more critical than other sci-fi geeks).


Quoting Aesma (Reply 4):
I like when there are a lot of details given even if the basis is not really believable.

Definitely my view as well!


Finally - from the Master (Arthur C. Clarke) "Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic".
For almost the entire history of mankind, we can be reasonably certain that every single aircraft we take for granted today would have been considered magic!
(Imagine a boring old A330 or B767 crossing the Atlantic instead of the Titanic, a mission of B17's and P51's in the US Civil War, or a Mi-24 Hind foray in the Russian Civil War - all would have been Magic, but we regard as old school or obsolete.)
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rwy04lga
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:49 pm

Quoting VC10er (Reply 9):
It's ok- I'm a trekker! From childhood. One reason among many that I love to fly and will stare with awe at any airplane, parked or flying.

Me too! On a recently viewed episode of STTNG I saw the doctor handle a device that looked suspiciously like an iPad. Slowly but surely, we're getting there! Ka PLAH!
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petertenthije
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:14 pm

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 12):
That was just the humans (fusion + solar). The Minbari used zero point energy. It's also assumed that the Vorlons and Shadows did although I don't think they ever stated that outright.

Fair enough, I was looking at it from a purely human (Earth Alliance) point of view.

The writer made a point out of giving Earth and her colonies "achievable technology". Most of the aliens where treated differently. Using Arthur C. Clarke's theory (see reply 14) the writer figured that some of the aliens would have technology that far advanced it would look like magic to humans. The Techno-Mages specifically mentioned they used advanced technology and a good dose of deception to achieve the effect of magic.
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:47 pm

Quoting tdscanuck (Reply 1):
The most common problem with movie vehicles, in my opinion, is absurd energy density.

That sums it up. Energy and Power density. Now, we've made great strides in aviation improving the power density. We could even claim energy density as part of efficiency. However, nothing to what is needed.

For example, whenever I see a Star Wars city, I wonder 'how hot is that city due to all the flying vehicles?!?' But that is just me wondering where the waste heat goes...

Quoting Aesma (Reply 13):
One thing that is often brushed over is the fact that everybody from every species from every corner of the universe speak English.

What needs to stop is the lack of multi-colored women who want that English speaking man.  
Quoting petertenthije (Reply 16):
the writer figured that some of the aliens would have technology that far advanced it would look like magic to humans

That has been known since early European colonization that advanced technology (e.g., a cell phone) looks like magic if one doesn't have the background. For anyone who grows up with technology, it is but an appliance.

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tdscanuck
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Tue Sep 18, 2012 12:50 am

Quoting Aesma (Reply 13):
One thing that is often brushed over is the fact that everybody from every species from every corner of the universe speak English.

Doctor Who had the cleanest solution to this (which was basically the Hitchiker's Guide To the Galaxy Solution)...you just have everyone equipped with a really awesome translator.

Tom.
 
nomadd22
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RE: SiFi Fantasy Flying Machines: Any Real Science?

Tue Sep 18, 2012 1:46 am

Speaking of Larry Niven, in Footfall he created a version of the old Orion to battle alien invaders. In the Mote in God's eye, the Moties used a light sail propelled by a huge laser to make an interstellar journey. I liked it when the Ringworld readers pointed out that the ring would be inherently unstable position wise, and he had to add station keeping jets in the next novel.
There was some first class science in a lot of sci-fi. Not all authors have space ships that are "stopped dead in space" because their engines failed or treated gravity like some evil force hiding out in a planet only to reach out and snare unwary passers by.

[Edited 2012-09-17 18:50:36]
Anon