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Comments on No-Way Physics And Science Fiction
Do you like your physics possible, or impossible? SF lets you have it both ways. (Read the complete story)

"All I know is that my microwave oven would likely get me burned at the stake for witchcraft a couple hundred or so years ago (providing I remembered to bring a generator)."
(Chris Johnston 7/10/2007 3:15:38 PM)
"Heinlein jumped right on the microwave (Raytheon patented it in 1946) with microwavable rations for space patrols in his 1946 novel Space Cadet."
(Bill Christensen 7/10/2007 3:29:42 PM)
"I'm all about no-way physics. To me, the 'laws of physics' are made to be broken, and one day we will be looking at these ideas and thinking.... "how limited". The future can be pretty damn shocking. I anticipate that shock every time I look up a new story on the net :)"
(SJ 7/10/2007 4:30:21 PM)
"Don't forget about "no-way" biology. Witness Bacteria Save Your Data, Hybrid Insects and Cultured Meat."
(Bill Christensen 7/10/2007 6:27:52 PM)
""Childhood's End" didn't have superluminal travel! The Overlords' ships accelerated to %99.9 light speed in a very short period of time. Clarke does seem to have a thing for reactionless drives though. "
(EGN 7/11/2007 7:26:53 AM)
"You're right. Here's the quote:
"The important fact was that I knew how far they had to travel, and therefore how long the journey took. NGS 549672 is forty light-years from Earth. The Overlords ships reach more than ninety-nine per cent of the speed of light, so the trip must last forty years of our time."
However, you can't argue with Dave Bowman's speed in 2001 using the Stargate:
" It was some kind of cosmic switching device, routing the traffic of the stars through unimaginable dimensions of space and time. He was passing through a Grand Central Station of the galaxy. Far ahead, the walls of the slot were becoming dimly visible once more, in the faint light diffusing downward from some still hidden source. And then the darkness was abruptly whipped away, as the tiny space pod hurtled upward into a sky ablaze with stars. He was back in space as he knew it, but a single glance told him that he was light-centuries from Earth.""
(Bill Christensen 7/11/2007 9:04:16 AM)
"Where did Rama go. Did it cloak. Did it go superluminal. There are so many mysteries of the universe that we do not yet understand."
(Matt 7/19/2007 10:14:08 AM)
"I actually prefer possible fiction because well, it can happen! The universe is an amazing place full of possible stories whether you go around the laws of physics or not."
(KP 7/19/2007 10:43:17 AM)
"If it helps with the story, go for it, but get back to hard science right away. Example, Dave Bowman's ride through the Stargate. Hard science up to that point, then science as we don't know it, right back to hard science again. When (at least it seems to me), that was ignored in 2010 and etc, in favor ot the hard science approach, the series lost a lot of the simply jaw dropping magic of the first. "
(Rich 7/19/2007 10:48:22 AM)
"Asimov has it in I Robot,and predicting the future in Foundation . I know science and physics rules are to be broken."
(Larry 7/19/07 12:58 PM 7/19/2007 10:54:33 AM)
"It is such a hard task to distinguish between absolutely no-way physics and physics that seems bizzare from our perspective. In most cases, it is not the science that leaves an aftertaste, but the plot itself."
(Salim 7/19/2007 10:46:31 AM)
"First of all, it's the height of arrogance for any to say that something is impossible. Superluminal travel may be impossible, but are there to detour around the speed limit? I don't think we know enough to say no. There are a lot of counterintuitive things that have been observed in quantum physics, and some of them hint at interesting applications that are far beyond our current level of technology. Scientists who say "never" are on the same level as any other luddite. "
(Jerry 7/19/2007 11:07:30 AM)
"Science FICTION is just that - fiction. Break all the rules you want. These stories are an escape, a fantasy. Also, the best SF stories are human dramas; the hardware is just gravy, so it doesn't really matter if it's plausible or not."
(jt 7/19/2007 11:21:53 AM)
"Shouldn't that by "No-way Physics with today's knowledge", how can we categorically say that there is no-way to break the rules when we don't know what discoveries will come along in the future. If we were to go back several hundred years and tell people that we would be flying, going into space, exploring the solar system with humans and probes. They would have all said the same thing, we the knowledge they had it would be impossible. Yes science fiction allows us to explore concepts that with today’s knowledge seem impossible but we have no way of knowing if that is always going to be the case."
( 7/19/2007 11:33:11 AM)
"i like a mix of both, mostly because reality tends to be a mix of both. we find some things to be possible when said they werent and some things to be impossible when claimed they were. scifi has been a generally good predictor of things to come (who would have imagined back when star trek first came out that a stage prop would bear so close a resemblance to an eventual practical item even if the lifespan of said item was rather short, i of course am talking about those funny colored computer data storage devices we took to calling 'diskettes' short 3 decades later) the first book to get my attention in hard science dealt with nanites at a time when people were claiming itd be decades if ever before nanotech saw practical use ... five years later we were building composites with carbonfibre nanotubes and cosmetics were adding nanoparticles to the mix "
( 7/19/2007 12:05:57 PM)
"Why is it that people always think that the advancement of science will always result in more forgiving rulesets and less restriction. Einstein's special theory of relatvity shows that science can suddenly create restrictions that we didn't previously know about. We shouldn't assume that the advancement of science will always create the universe of our dreams. Let's admit that we just can't predict scientific progress. So far almost all longterm prediction have turned out to be seriously flawed."
(Peter 7/19/2007 12:21:56 PM)
"I like it on the fringe: that gray, hazy area where we don't know for sure how much we can bend these "rules." If it's believably written and properly researched, it makes an excellent foundation for SF. New scientific breakthroughs and technologies always open the door for new possibilities. It is these things that we hope, dread, and misunderstand which make great SciFi."
(Tamisan 7/19/2007 12:55:10 PM)
"It's Fiction after all! It's meant to be enjoyed, as in after a rough day of solving real engineering problems, it's nice to turn off the brain, open a good science fiction book and escape from reality for a while. Don't make a mole hill into a mountain. There are plenty of real problems in this world to worry about. One fact is important, if you asked a large number of the technical people who made the moon missions possible they will tell you they are big science fiction fans."
(RH 7/19/2007 1:17:28 PM)
"Best SciFi ends up being about the people and the relationships. But if it's too "way out" it loses credibility. So I like ideas projected from real science: if the explanation makes sense you can take me anywhere - I'll go."
(David 7/19/2007 1:28:04 PM)
"I prefer some measure of reality in what I read: SciFi that's true to science. But there is so much good stuff out there that wouldn't be possible without light speed, time travel, or giant shield hungry sandworms. When a writer throws too much "SciFact" into a story, I feel like I'm reading a tech journal or encyclopedia. I read SciFi because I want the escape from reality."
(Brandon 7/19/2007 1:41:37 PM)
"I don't really care whether the science in a science-fiction story is 'possible' - it *is* fiction, after all! As long as the science and technology are internally consistent and the story is good, 'real-world' accuracy doesn't really matter to me."
(Schijnn 7/19/2007 3:05:41 PM)
"I read Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds. They know what's up."
(EricAlan714 7/19/2007 3:19:13 PM)
"I think my SciFi/Fantasy Art Speaks about how I feel...It's production serves to place me where I can't get to. http://web.tampabay.rr.com/imbadbug/fractalland.htm "
(MojoBug 7/19/2007 3:14:37 PM)
"All such discussions inevitably remind me of the mathematician who "proved" that bumblebees could not fly. New knowledge and/or a different set of assumptions and the bee flies just fine."
(alphageek 7/19/2007 3:35:42 PM)
"Considering that there seems to be at least one new story a week about how scientists have had it all wrong up until now, it doesn't seem wise to put scientists in charge of determining what's possible and what isn't. I get the impression that scientists feel superior to others because they entertain themselves with remarkable nonsense such as quantum physics, black holes, the Big Bang, etc. I don't expect scientists to know everything, but the self-importance with which they drape themselves is astonishing."
(Greg Raven 7/19/2007 3:46:52 PM)
"Maybe we should call it “Science Future” instead of “Science Fiction” because most of the Science Fiction of the past is today’s “Science Reality”. We went to the Moon and back. We have robots driving around on Mars. We even have giant particle accelerators creating Anti Matter, which it turns out is a possible future power source for things like “Artificial Worm Holes” and maybe “Warp Drive”! "
(Michael Staten Island 7/19/2007 5:27:36 PM)
"Not sure you would have much SciFi without some amount of "No-Way" or "We don't know how to" physics. It might be boring if it was completely valid science fiction. Closer to just fiction. No Jurassic Park. No interstellar travel at a pace anything near a Human life span. Someone once said that any sufficiently advanced technology might seem like magic to another culture. I can manage to enjoy SciFi even when my Science knowledge tells me we don't have any evidence that a technology is possible. "
(Steve 7/19/2007 7:03:59 PM)
"I'm most interested in stories that deal with the universe we've discovered in the last 50 years, especially our solar system. In the 50's, writing about life on say, Europa was pretty much the same as writing about faster than light drive--we didn't know much about either one. Today, Europa seems like a much more rewarding choice, because the more we know about it, the more unknowns there are to explore."
(Trodo 7/19/2007 7:08:09 PM)
"We can have hundreds of diverse worlds (planets, moons and asteroids) containing cities with architectures a hundred times more massive than anything on earth. Some worlds we can flit between in days, others may be isolated by years and permenantly mysterious. Earth may become a backwater. We can have many races. Our in-laws may be zepelin sized gas bags that live in the atmosphere of a gas giant. We can build minds the size of moons. We can build floating cities. We can be immortal... We can achieve all this with highly probable technology, and before even leaving this solar system. FTL and Aliens? Who needs them? Except perhaps to escape the truely strange and majestic future that is actually approaching."
(KelvinZero 7/19/2007 6:45:51 PM)
"As much as we can say that something is impossible, even with all our advanced knowledge and technology. we are not nearly advanced enough to declare anything impossible. We aren't even a type 1 civilization. Perhaps when the day comes a million or so years from now when we (if we survive) are a type 3 civilization we will be advanced enough to declare something impossible."
(Matthew Lower 7/19/2007 11:00:21 PM)
"Maybe Sciences are just that, "no-way" physics. How is it possible to break the rules when we can't (for now) say what they are! Maybe some SciFi techs are really impossible but who can say it for sure (100% sure, not 99.9% sure)? SciFi stories are just cool stories whether or not they respect the "Rules" of the physics we've discover yet! "
(Nicolas 7/19/2007 11:20:23 PM)
"The ultimate virtue in quality sci-fi is believability. Whether a plot or concept is possible or impossible is secondary and also a matter of perspective. Good science fiction has to be something that readers from all walks of life can find a way to identify with and relate to. An author who creates worlds, beings and histories as well as technologies that are "out there" and believable at the same time doesn't necessarily have to be bound by the "laws" currently on the books of the scientific community. The content of the story just has to make some sort of sense to the reader. Good sci-fi is an art form, not a statement of reality. Creativity and imagigination are the defining factors of whether the work is brilliant or lackluster. The term "fiction" is exactly that. Science fiction is a form of story telling that allows us to visit other times and places that we can not, in our present state of evolution, visit any other way."
(wes lambert 7/19/2007 8:20:44 PM)
"The natural curiosity and will to break the known rules of physics (but not only) have pushed the humanity beyond their limits. The today technology is due to peoples that have think that the known limits where breakables. It's natural for peoples to think so and it's a very good push to the progress. This imply that most peoples think that we can break all the rules (after enough years of study). Maybe it's false, maybe it's true. If you where talking with an ancient Greek about the radio communications he certainly answer that it's impossible because we cannot act a distance as the simple mechanics don't allow this sort of communication. Only after the discovery of the electromagnetism and their properties we have think about the possibility to communicate at distance. The same with many other discoveries related to the quantum mechanics. Maybe in the future someone will discover another "physics" that break the current rules. This possibility is too beautiful to be simply ignored. (sorry for my bad English)."
(leopoldo 7/20/2007 1:11:05 AM)
"It's vital we challenge what we know. We learn something new when we do. I can go on a monologue, but in the end the Universe will always be stranger than fiction!"
(Greg 7/20/2007 6:04:23 AM)
"Even amazingly great speculative fiction like Battlestar Galactica cannot deal with no way physics (eg their FTL drives). For entertainment purposes I accept it. I would be way, way more impressed by a writer to can make an equally compelling story that is rooted in the REAL world. The thing is, we know there are many laws of physics we don't yet understand -- however, we have tested time and again many fundamental rules. Speed of light is the speed of light. Someone who can deal with a good story given that limitation is far more impressive than someone who cheats and borrows an easy out. But even staying subluminal can be cheating. Does anyone understand the extreme difficulty and obstacles to going 99.999% the speed of light? And the enormous cost? And who would pay to build a ship that won't return for centuries, if ever? Folks -- in 60 years, we haven't even gotten back to the moon, and we apparently are gonna do it by rebuilding Apollo, with new cmoputer screens. Doing anything in space requires massive investments, and nothing happens in an economy without profit. So, smoeone who can deal with BOTH no way physics AND no way economics, THAt would be a remarkable achievement worthy of praise."
(David 7/20/2007 6:39:14 AM)
"If I wanted to watch a scifiction show that obey the laws of known physics I'd turn to Discovery Science for goodness sake. They don't call it science FICTION for nothing."
( 7/20/2007 6:43:48 AM)
"I like some predictable sci-fi as it gives a person a good inspirational perspective to go the lengths of his personnal desire to make it a reality. But by taste in the contrarian sci-fi types is slightly similiar. Considering that you can gain a good sense of escapism."
(Charlie Keeble 7/20/2007 8:36:19 AM)
"I like "big" ideas, but they should have some grain of plausibility to them. Breaking the rules is okay in pursuit of a good story, in my opinion, but we shouldn't be asked to suspend disbelief so much that our brains fall out."
(Brad 7/20/2007 9:23:29 AM)
"For an easily readable, reference-able and enjoyable take on hard-science fiction, try Atomic Rockets: http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/index.html they have some great designs in the gallery, and great math for beginners to stick to the rules. A must for any wannabe hard-scifi writer."
(Adam B. 7/20/2007 9:45:02 AM)
"The direction and environment of the story should dictate whether the science is "real" or "fake". Doesn't matter to me as long as the writer is consistent."
(Baron 7/20/2007 4:00:55 PM)
"I have a premise for a science fiction series that is possible with todays understandings. I don't know if, in the future, it would be viewed as I view Steam Punk fiction ;) I feel that storylines should dictate stories, but actual science is a tool of the story teller."
(David Daniel Ball 7/21/2007 3:59:14 AM)
"Just because I'm irritated to hear expressions that suggest No Way Physics and Science Fiction are difficult I'd like to float some truths. Science Fiction that matches Sea Patrol, Submarine or Westward Expansion fiction can be easily written. Consider the epic nature of colonising an extra solar planet .. add to the mix that on the new planet is intelligent beings without space travel .. Or orbiting the planet is a million year old, abandoned ship .. or the useful but redundent supply ship has gone missing .. or that a nearby planet seems interesting, possibly forerunner .."
(David Daniel Ball 7/21/2007 6:07:59 AM)
"How about battles between spaceships of particular designs. Perhaps a neutron beam weapon can cripple an engine based on fission .. X Ray Beams .. Nuke Warheads .. electronic countermeasures, but what if a culture is more trusting than ours? and they have no ecm? .. Bioships that grow .. ships which use their skeleton to ram for damage. Ships succeptable to mid level temperatures, but not high level temps .. creatures based on Hydrogen that live as gas clouds .. Why travel at 0.99c when travelling at 0.9c is adequate for most purposes, given cryogenics."
(David Daniel Ball 7/21/2007 6:15:26 AM)
"Science fiction provides the ideas to some extent.Physics make them happen"
(shaft-o Eng 7/21/2007 2:59:02 PM)
"I like both. However as we all should know, conventional(or "possible")science once said that we could NOT safely violate the speed of sound. We did and I believe that we will find a way around without violating some of todays "impossible" things like the so called speed of light barrier and FTL communications. Personally I hope to be around when we do."
(Bill Kohler 7/28/2007 1:23:17 AM)
"It's a non-starter of a question. What matters is how good the story is, how convincing the situations are. So long as the story environs are largely predicated upon hard science, the occasional jaunt through the what-if is inconsquential, in terms of "merit". In terms of scope, grandeur, and excitement, however, it can be a very effective tool."
(Kosh 8/2/2007 11:07:45 AM)
"No-way physics is called that because it contradicts what we DO know. but I am sure there is more to know yet that will provide opportunities we have not yet dreamed of - but perhaps wriiten about."
(Wilsonx 8/2/2007 1:20:33 PM)
"As with all philosophical disciplines, sooner or later you bite the bullet, the same can be said for 'No-way Physics' I think a better way of looking at is is 'No-Way Now Physics.' In my work, I do my best to be supported by what is. But for great story telling, imagination is intricate value to the equation. There, No-Way Now, has its voice."
(Mark Gabriel (soon to be published S/F writer 8/8/2007 2:32:24 AM)
"Meh, too much sci-fi nowadays concentrates on technology as the driving principle of story. There's a rule somewhere that says "technology is only a multiplier" when it comes to characterization; it doesn't seem to be followed much even if the author's good at characterization (I'm looking at YOU, Alastair Reynolds). I hope no-way physics eventually becomes some-way physics; but that is admittedly mere emotional fancy. I expect no-way physics to remain no-way for the rest of my lifetime, Kurzweilian singularities be damned."
(Tim Cooper 8/9/2007 12:45:04 PM)
"Just when we say that something is impossible, someone will come along with a way to show how it can be done. By our very limites view of the universe and the laws that govern it we say that certain things can not be achieved, but as our knowledge increases, we will see that what was once thought to be impossible is now very possible. Let you imagination flow and do not allow laws to stop you from imagining what could happen."
(Michael A. Whitty 8/20/2007 7:57:35 AM)
"Let it all hang out! Imagination is what got humans to where we are today. Dream the impossible then make it happen! Without rules to break life would be very boring... look at all the EXTREME stuff the kids of today. It's great!! No limits we must always look up, down, sideways... and any other impossible direction!"
(Cliff Ward 8/25/2007 8:22:02 AM)
"What is possible? I remember back in grade school when life could only exist in certain places on earth, within certain narrow boundaries. Not too long after that life was discovered deep under the oceans where it couldn't develop. The same with the artic, the tops of mountains and boiling pools of water near volcanos. We don't really know all that much, despite our arrogant beliefs. Much that is impossible today could easily become possible tomorrow. Often, it is the science fiction writer who first postulates what is impossible but becomes possible later."
(Bob G 8/28/2007 4:51:28 AM)
"I like my sci-fi grounded in hard science, but not imprisoned by it. Every invention, whether its a wheel or a particle acelerator starts as a spark of imagination in someone's head. I like sci-fi that attacks those hard to get around facts with innovative, plausable ways of overcoming obstacles. My hope is that someone reading a well thought out way of getting around one of these obsticles will say, "No that wouldn't work, but if we did this instead - that might do it!" I think sometimes scientist are too grounded in reality while sci-fi writers are free to explore all options regardless of how impossible they may seem."
(James 8/28/2007 1:47:47 PM)
"Science Fiction novels that don't go into the realm of impossibility are really just fiction novels. So unless an author wants his book to fly onto the endless list of fiction novels, some no-way physics better be included in that book."
(M 8/30/2007 11:58:51 AM)
"no way physics might not be that wierd . it is based on acumen"
(ekwere 9/1/2007 11:53:30 AM)
"The CEO of DIGITAL Equipment Corporation in 1964 said that EVERYTHING that would EVER be invented has already been. How SHORT minded is that! That's what ANYONE who agrees with NO-WAY physics is doing. Go ask someone from 1712 (yeah, oxymoron) about a car and it's technology. Small minded Fish town cretons."
(Genius 9/10/2007 12:20:50 PM)
"As an (as-yet) unpublished SF author, I consider SF to be an art form which uses science & scientific principles as the medium. I think it is perfectly legitimate to include 'fictional science' in my science fiction! How else can I tell the story of my financially strapped starship crew when they fly more than 200 light years and experience the things they experience, including the discovery of a whole new (and delightfully fictitious) revolution in the understanding of physics?"
('Samuel Norton Yass' 10/11/2007 11:15:37 PM)
"I am a hopeless romantic so I have to have my FTL. Anyway, science fiction is not ABOUT science, science is merely the backdrop or stage prop. Science fiction is ABOUT philosophy and human life, like all literature. And how many of today's commonplaces are yesterday's no-way physics?"
(Izdubar 10/18/2007 1:36:46 PM)
"sci-fi is great and science is even better. however, as Kirk said ti Spock its only impossible until somebody does it....How true look at the world of quantum mechanics that alone is changing the way we look at the universe and things closer to home, even brought the Transporter a step closer. Sci-fi writers have to think outside the box as well as the future physicist just look at the past and what coming up. LOL.. good luck to them hope the humane race and governments don't begger it up to much eh????? "
(Duggy RH 2/4/2008 3:11:31 AM)
""There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.""
(Mergatroid 2/19/2008 8:50:05 PM)
"The light is blinding us all. The gravity is faster then the light, that's why the black holes are black, no light overpass gravity. That's why the lenses effect exist. And the dark energy isn't dark, it's light in the form of wave/particle effect. Hey! I just started a science fiction Noble!!"
( 3/4/2008 8:31:19 AM)
"There is no way that FTL drives will be invented as shown in Star Trek or most other sci-fi series simply because if you have FTL, you have to have time travel. So time travel, force fields, antigravity, etc. are no-way physics, and some of these apparently no-way physics could become possible in the future. But FTL travel and FTL communications without any problems of causality is simply doesn't-make-sense physics, because the speed of light isn't simply some speed limit that can be got around by advanced scientific trickery, it's part of the fabric of the universe."
(Chris 3/23/2008 3:21:53 PM)
" SF is on a sliding scale, with no-way physics at one end (hard SF) sliding through maybe physics, to why-not physics, finally ending up in non-physics (fantasy). In the end, don't forget it's fiction, not textbooks, a huge genre with room for all tastes. As for today's physicists, as much as I love scientific rigor, I am also aware that 10,000 years from now physicists will be looking back at today's physicists and seeing much less accuracy and completeness in their ideas than today's physicists see when looking at medieval alchemists."
(Jim 8/23/2008 10:28:15 AM)

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