Star Trek

May. 25th, 2009 12:05 am
shirou: (Default)
[personal profile] shirou
I just got back from watching Star Trek. The characterization was really well done, and on the whole I enjoyed the movie. However, being a physicist makes some parts of it difficult to take. I was prepared for all the warp drive/faster than light pseudo-science. I remember that stuff from watching Star Trek as a kid, and somehow it doesn't bother me. Even the time travel I can take. The black hole physics, though, ouch. For whatever reason, this really got to me. First of all, they could SEE the black hole. Light was leaving the black hole and coming to the Enterprise (which was not within the event horizon). Also, they kept talking about a singularity. Yes, the known solutions to Einstein's equations (eg Schwarzschild) do have a curvature singularity, but the singularity is believed to be -- has to be! -- unphysical. Singularities don't make sense, but by the cardinal assumption of physics, the universe does. The problem is that Einstein's equations must have higher order terms that become important very close to the black hole. This is what quantum gravity/string theory is trying to discover. The singularities in the known solutions are a product of our lack of understanding, a product of the incompleteness of the theory. The full theory almost surely will not have singularities, and it drove me crazy to hear the characters in Star Trek talking about singularities as though they were real, physical things.

The funny thing about science fiction is that science fact (and theory!) is much more interesting, and much more bizarre. A back hole does not have a location in space, exactly, although the mass of the black hole does. The hole itself is a hypersurface that has a location in time, although time may be spacelike instead of timelike inside the horizon. I doubt that would even mean much to many people. But if one has the gumption to dig through the general theory of spacetime, what one finds is much stranger than what the Hollywood producers concoct.

on 2009-05-25 05:15 am (UTC)
marius_silverwolf: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] marius_silverwolf
To fit within the context of the Star Trek universe, though, they HAD to treat singularities like physical, detectable elements. Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation subspace irregularities and various singularities are not only detectable but also visible, and to avoid upsetting the core fanbase that approach had to be held consistent.

Also, from what I understand, the approach to time travel isn't exactly time travel in the linear sense, but instead in the multi-verse sense, so that nothing Spock Prime experienced has been undone or still failed to happen, but in this new, alternate variation of the universe all that comes after Kirk takes command simply has not yet happened, and may not happen at all. An entire episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation dealt with this subject, in which Worf was the only one noticing he was hopping realities.

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