2014-07-08

Density, Indeed: Points of Logical Departure

This is a bit long, my apologies, but as it has to do with the very nature of how to do this sort of thing I couldn't help but have to address a few topics in one post.   But first, let's ponder this example:

Naboo's "core" is famously (perhaps infamously) shown as a watery-cavern-filled intraplanetary highway enabling quick transit from one part of the planet to another.  Authors of Star Wars-related works have tried to imagine unique ways for this to be the case despite what we know of planets, with varying degrees of success.

Of course, we all know that there should be no possible way for this to happen.  Rock is hot enough at a point not too terribly deep on Earth to be in a very plastic . . . one might go so far as to say almost gooey . . . state.  Liquid water would have no business there, and more importantly couldn't.

If that weren't enough, the Naboo power station (the peculiar-looking location for the lightsaber battle in TPM) and its "plasma-fueled generator core" on Theed as referenced in the RotS novelization were apparently fed by plasma mined from Naboo.   Note "Crisis on Naboo":
"Take a moment and look around this glorious city of yours.  It wasn't long ago this was all plasma mines.  Naboo has indeed come a long way. But as we chart a bold course for the future, let us never forget our past."
This is even worse.   Just as water shouldn't be hanging out around semi-solid rock, plasma . . . ionized gas . . . shouldn't be hanging out around or below the surface of the planet.  Even more strange is that the pit Maul fell into is said in the TPM novelization to be the melting pit for the power station's residue.  What residue? No idea.

I bring up these canonical oddities because once again an inflationist is trying to insist that his interpretation of science, applied to the canon, thus overrides it.

As most of my readers know, over a decade ago inflationists started trying to make Star Wars win technology versus debates at any cost, and this included inflating the power systems and requiring some strange ultra-dense tachyonic (FTL-particle-based) fuel with a complex mass/energy that allowed for vessel mass nullification.

This brings us to my recent post about fuel density from the TCW novelization.  There, it is made clear that sufficient fuel to reach another system less than a day's hyperspace travel away doesn't weigh too terribly much, in the grand scheme. This fits nicely with the classic Star Wars technology base of fusion power systems and liquid fuel storage along with additional liquid fuel examples from TCW.  Put simply, fuel in Star Wars invariably gives every appearance of being a normal-density fluid that's flammable under the proper conditions, and there is no evidence to the contrary.

However, the Star Wars canon's description of fuel thus runs contrary to inflationist mythology . . . obviously, canonically-based not-so-dense flammable liquid fuel . . . the sort of stuff you can literally swim through . . . completely destroys the inflationist claims.  The fact that the TCW novelization gives us a specific density reference clearly tied to that small vessel's fuel supply was a nice extra.

But, desperate to keep Star Wars aligned with the values he and his inflationist comrades pulled from the stratosphere despite years of canon evidence standing against it the whole time (and more having come since!), Brian Young has attempted to retort that since at least one type of fuel was mined from the "core" of Malastare in TCW's zillo beast episodes, then Star Wars fuel is in fact the hyperdense tachyonic nonsense.

Given that plasma from the ground on a planet with a watery core was sufficient to help build Naboo, it doesn't seem to me that such an assumption is necessarily the safest one in reference to Star Wars . . . it certainly doesn't override the rest of the canon, as Brian seems to desire.  This notion seems borne out by the fuel's actual behavior.

First, the Dugs opened the valves to pour the fuel into the beast's sinkhole using large manually-turned valves to unleash a flow in meter-wide pipes.   That hardly suggests a super-dense fluid with great weight pressing against the valving.   Sure, they could've been using the equivalent of power steering to turn it, but why then have a wheel-style user interface at all on a valve?

Second, the fuel was pretty clearly evaporating at a decent rate, given the green fog emanating from the sinkhole.   It was not merely the earlier dust from the sinkhole's creation, since that was pretty much gone by the time the fuel started getting poured in, and there was no indication of mist or spray from the fuel itself on the way down, a la a waterfall.   Interestingly, the fuel vapor did not ignite when explosions happened within the pit, which actually fits reasonably well with the fuel not igniting until making contact with sparky things in RotS, making it more like diesel than gasoline.   But in any case, the point is that denser fluids don't evaporate as easily, so if this was super-dense, we wouldn't expect to see evaporation at all.

Third, and most importantly, we get good views of three horizontal pipes at least a meter wide each that get bent when the vertical sections that elbow down into the ground collapse into the sinkhole . . . they were empty at the time.   These bent pipes obviously could not resist the force of the connected sections falling away, but could hang into the air several meters after being bent and could effortlessly support the weight of the liquid fuel without further deformation.  Obviously, then, the piping was not ultra-strong, given that the vertical sections did not continue to stand irrespective of the collapsing earth around it.

So, imagine for a moment a wrist-sized metal pipe that gets bent when a section is pulled slowly away by hand.  This means that it is weaker than most modern piping, where anything more than about an inch-and-a-half diameter is too solid to bend without assistance.

Now imagine it allows a fluid to travel through the bent section with no additional damage or bending visible at all.   It would hardly follow at that point that the fluid is of the density of iron or anywhere north of it.  You would assume water, at best, so the forces that bent the pipe are greater than the force of the extra weight of the fluid in the same pipe.

(Also, just while we're on the topic of the Malastare fuel, the green glowing nature of it seems to be related to whatever toxin that was in it which affected the zillo beast.  When in the second of the two zillo beast episodes, the alien doctor's conversion of the Malastare fuel's toxin into a poison gas was a green glowing gassy yuck.  Thus, once refined or otherwise filtered, we would expect the Malastare fuel to be the same sort of non-glowing liquids as seen elsewhere in the canon.)

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So basically, here, the situation we seem to have . . . as always, it seems . . . is that inflationists will try as hard as possible to ignore or warp the canon to their own ends, trying to force it to match some pet theory based on tenuous conclusions on other events.  I get it . . . sometimes the canon is silly, no matter which canon it is.   And the whole bit about hyperdense fuel with tachyonic whatzits that allow FTL travel via complex mass manipulation (as well as the whole neutrino-based magical heat sink stuff they claim) is some very imaginative science fiction.  But, it isn't Star Wars.

The simple fact is, if it's clear canon in some fictional universe that 1+1=3 on all occasions, you can't ignore it . . . it's a fact of the universe.   If you don't want to analyze a universe where that is the case, then pick another.  Don't cherry-pick and pretend 1+1=2 despite the canon.

Indeed, not to make him a whipping boy, but Brian Young has had the very same issue with his foes in the past when in regards to Babylon 5.   In a tale he loves to re-tell over and over again, an opposing Babylon 5 technology site's author had, after exhaustive work, concluded that a Minbari Sharlin cruiser should have such-and-such hull resilience.   However, some episode or other featured a "mere" two-megaton device at a great range causing the cruiser's destruction, which the guy thought was at least an order of magnitude too low.   Brian Young says that while Brian himself correctly rolled with what the canon said and tried to make it work sensibly with the rest of the material, this other chap . . . a B5 inflationist, it seems . . . supposedly went bonkers over the notion that it just had to be a bigger kaboom, supposedly even trying to do a letter-writing campaign to have the canon changed via a redub of the line (an attempt which failed miserably), et cetera.

Now, I know approximately zip about Babylon 5 and frankly couldn't care less.   However, what's notable here is that Brian Young engages in the exact same behavior now, outright dismissing inconvenient portions of the Star Wars canon when it fails to live up to what he considers a carefully-constructed worldview of what Star Wars technology should be.  (Indeed, in several of his videos he posits that an actor must've flubbed a line (e.g. Tom Paris in "The 37's", Taitt in "Descent", et cetera), which suggests he's much more like his former storied adversary than he would care to admit.)

That's simply no way to do science fiction analysis, and indeed it's not very scientific generally.  The first rule of analysis . . . the first rule of science . . .  is to observe the universe.   We treat this stuff like it's a documentary of events in that universe, a universe which we can clearly observe to have certain technologies and capabilities far beyond our modern comprehension. The universe itself features a separate spatial domain we've never even heard of that allows for fantastic velocities, for instance, not to mention mystical energy fields that violate time and space.

And yet, rather than accept that in this context we are stupid and should behave accordingly, not being too overbold in our assertions, some people think it best to ignore any inconvenient evidence in favor of their own limited comprehension of our own hyperspaceless, Cosmic-Forceless, Living-Forceless, Floating-Island-less, Crazy-Masked-Chicks-less universe.

The moment we start ignoring canon because we think we know real science and thus don't have to listen to that pesky canon thing anymore, we undercut the entire enterprise of analyzing a sci-fi universe.

And, of course, at that moment when we're disregarding canon as a first move rather than a final act of desperation when the "documentary" logic simply breaks down (e.g. visible mic booms and similar production errors, flagrant and completely un-reconcilable internal contradiction and inconsistency, et cetera), then we're just talking about our assumptions plus a few scenes from Star Wars we've deigned to bother discussing.  Suffice it to say, that's not Star Wars anymore.

Please forgive me for beating of a dead horse . . . I've been saying this sort of things for years (e.g. 1, 2) . . . but the simple fact is that injecting one's own beliefs about science at the expense of canon fact, even if one can claim (rightly or wrongly) that these correspond with real science, defeats our purpose.

After all, even those with the most academically-honorific letters after our names (and don't you forget it) are not necessarily the most powerful prognosticators of future discoveries.  Not to pick on our old friend Mike Wong, but . . .
"How many different abuses of radiation can the Star Trek writers commit? Not only do they seemingly invent a new type of radiation every week, but they have created the most comical science fiction construct that I have ever seen: a radiation vaccine.
Don't believe me? Sadly, it's true. In STFC, Beverly Crusher discovers that there are high levels of radiation in the missile complex where Zefram Cochrane's warp-ship is being readied for launch, so she says that everyone must be "innoculated." Innoculated against radiation! What's next? A vaccine to make you immune to bullets? An injection to make you impervious to being whacked in the head with a baseball bat? A drug to let you walk into a blast furnace without getting burned? Radiation is a physical assault upon the human body, not a viral assault. No vaccine will ever make your body immune to radiation, any more than it can allow you to walk into a blast furnace, shrug off a baseball bat to the head, or bounce bullets off your chest.
Lest you think that perhaps this was an isolated incident, the radiation vaccines have been mentioned elsewhere, such as "Booby Trap" and "The Omega Directive". The Star Trek writers clearly believe that radiation can be treated as if it is a virus. All you can do is shake your head"
 A mere handful of years later, this 'sad', "comical" "abuse" worthy of nothing more than 'shaking one's head' after writing paragraphs about the sheer stupidity of it became real medical science when researchers found that it was possible to selectively inhibit the protein that causes cell suicide when cellular damage occurs.   In other words, your cells are still getting screwed with, but the radiation doesn't cause the cells to say "ah, frak me" and keel over, going mitochondria-up. As such, you live longer.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7341336.stm

There's also a way to use a virus to deliver a gene into bone marrow stem cells, causing increased production of a protein that allows greater capture of free radicals, which also reduces the effects of radiation on the body.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5062840.stm

Given other possibilities relating to existing cellular repair mechanisms, it thus seems entirely likely that one could develop a way to protect from relatively short-term exposure to harmful radiation.  But of course, rather than ponder in that direction and try to imagine what the Federation's doctors might've come up with, it was cheaper fun to just rip into the stupidity of silly old Star Trek, which worked really well for a handful of years until real science caught up and made a mockery of Wong's attitude.

While I can't find the reference, I recall Wong also being convinced that science fiction which revelled in nanotechnology allowing for awesome things to be entirely silly, on the grounds that a material (say, carbon or steel) was just a material, and a nanotech-ified version couldn't possibly have significantly greater properties than a solid block of the material.   I trust that the advancements in nanotechnology over even just the past decade have disavowed him of this notion.

Put simply, while we know a great many things, moreso now than ever before, it is a capital mistake to assume we know everything and dismiss imaginative science fiction on those grounds.  And it's silly . . . we currently "know" lightspeed is the ultimate speed limit, yet we watch shows where violation of that speed limit is commonplace.   If we're going to ignore canon in favor of science, we should at least define where we intend to put the barrier so as to be consistent.   But of course, the location of the border needs to change constantly, because the only consistency to inflationism is its goal.

Personal incredulity, feigned or otherwise, is no basis for a canon analysis.  The scientific method itself involves first observing the facts of the universe, and dismissing those facts as hard to comprehend based on one's current dogma seems like an awfully anti-scientific way of thinking.

As I've noted elsewhere, this would be akin to someone from long ago dismissing assorted parts of a documentary on modern living because they were too unbelievable.   Just imagine a horticulture expert from ages past who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the maximum possible yield of a certain crop, only to see it said that in the modern era, we can do ten times better.   For us, it's a fact of life . . . to him, a sad and comical abuse worthy of nothing more than head-shaking disbelief.

So yeah, you go try to keep your head still while I go eat some tortilla chips made from the corn of a tremendously-productive American farm.

1 comment:

  1. I realize that Paris's statement is on the slow side, but he is likely using the average speed. Clearly warp can be much faster.

    What is wrong with Taitt's statement? It seems well in line with what was stated in TNG: Suspicions? That type of shielding was made to be used in abnormal stars.

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