Anticipating the new Trek movie out next month, I picked up the prequel comics that set up the movie. Trek’s good, right? Lots of real SF writers have written for the various Treks. I know that ST is based on stuff that may not be possible in reality, like faster than light travel and teleportation, but I’ll give them that much.
Sadly, the writers for Star Trek Countdown don’t just use common SF tropes to tell their story, but ignore BASIC science. It is disgusting.
The set up: A star goes supernova unexpectedly, threatening the civilizations of known space.
Supernovas are deadly, deadly things. You don’t want one going off in your GALAXY, much less in a local system. A supernova in our stellar neighborhood, within a hundred or so light years, would cleanse every system of all life through sustained hard radiation, and possibly take other systems to death with it as new stars eventually form from its remnants.
But if a star a hundred light years went supernova, we wouldn’t know about it or feel any effects from it for — wait for it — one hundred years. We wouldn’t see the light from its explosion for a hundred years. If we had faster than light travel and witnessed its explosion from close by and then instantly traveled back and looked back at it, we would see what that star looked like a hundred years ago, fat and happy and non-explodey.
There’s also a question of volume. If you took our Sun and exploded it so that it swallowed up every bit of matter in the solar system, the Sun would be so diffuse that it would be hard to tell you were inside the star. It definitely couldn’t sustain fusion. It would just be a fairly small and easy to miss cloud of gas. Our Sun’s fate, by the way, is to eventually become a planetary nebula — a shell of gas with a white dwarf star at its core. We don’t get to become a supernova. But moving on —
Page 12, volume 1: Supernova defined as a star that increases its volume without losing density, enough to swallow nearby SYSTEMS. Um, no. Supernovas destroy nearby systems with hard radiation, not by expanding to swallow them up.
Page 17. Spock and Nero observe the supernova in real time through a common telescope. No. Your ships may travel faster than light, but light only travels at the speed of light — that’s why it’s CALLED the speed of light.
Page 49. The distant star’s surface expands enough to touch and destroy Romulus.
Thought experiment. Let’s say you have one pea. This is your galaxy-killing star. You have a pea-inflating machine which can blow the pea up to any size, but without adding anything into it as it expands with one exception: If, while expanding, it comes across any other pea, then it can add that pea to its mass. A pea plant, cans of peas in a store, pea soup, all our fair game. It can take as many peas as it can get, but only peas.
Question is, will this giant, but incredibly diffuse, pea be any danger to a city a hundred miles away?
The eventual solution the good guys come up with is to trigger the supernova into becoming a black hole, which will suck all the evil supernova stuff into it but won’t suck anything else in. Also, apparently, all the hard radiation which is the real killer. Their magic bullet — and that’s what it is, by the way, a small bottle of something called Red Matter which turns supernovas into black holes — turns the ex-star into a pit of blackness which will tear apart and swallow any matter in the universe that should orbit too close to its event horizon, except star ships, which can pass through safely. Matter-ripping singularity in space for most, but a portal to — wherever? The movie will show us — for star ships.
I dunno. I’m sure it will be a fun movie, but do science fiction movies really need to show such contempt for science? Would it have killed them to have taken the basic effort to actually have SOME real science in the movie?
Of the towering science fiction franchises in the last fifty years, Star Wars and Star Trek, we didn’t expect science in Star Wars. It’s a space opera, it was always meant to be an adventure story with magic and wizards. But Star Trek? The show that had Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, Theodore Sturgeon and many other respected names for episode writers? The show that at least nodded now and again in science’s direction?