Thursday, February 16, 2006

Myths of Space (movies)

There are pretty big problems with every science fiction space movie or TV show, except 2001: Space Odyssey.

1. There are no auditable sounds in outer space. Maybe ships battling it out in a very dense nebula might produce auditable noises, but other than that, the only auditable noise transmitted is within the ships or objects themselves, and not across the vacuum of space. The first season of Star Trek got this right, but even the makers of that show eventually opted for the excitement of noisy explosions.

2. Massive fireball explosions do not occur in the vacuum of space, even when oxygen is involved. How is this known? Well, although Apollo 13 crew members did not see their service module oxygen tank explode, it certainly didn’t rip through their vessel in a fireball when it did blow. That incident may suggest it’s pretty hard to blow-up even flimsiest objects in space because the vacuum outside the object creates the path of least resistance for any force being exerted on the object. That’s my own thought on the matter. But the fact is, the vacuum outside the ship does cause any explosion to dissipate so rapidly, no fireball would have a chance to form.

3. When a person is ejected into space without protection, they will not simply explode from the pressure of their body. I’ve only seen two movies get this right: 2001: Space Odyssey and (believe it or not) Airplane II. The human body doesn’t have nearly enough pressure built up within it to spontaneously explode when going from normal atmosphere to vacuum. What would happen is that the person would suffer lose of consciousness from lack of oxygen to the brain, get the bends and prolly actually begin to die only after a couple of minutes. A couple of incidents have already occurred that support these conclusions, where either a whole person or an area of the body was exposed to a vacuum environment.

Sources: Basic High School curriculum (LOL), http://spider.ipac.caltech.edu/staff/waw/mad/mad12.html, http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/question.php?number=8, http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/970603.html, and the Apollo 13 “historical records”.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the information. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle!