My Older Legacy Literary Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SF Movies and Gravity, or the Lack Thereof

In “It, the Terror from Beyond Space” (s. Jerome Bixby), early on in the movie a crewmember is cheerfully pouring steaming hot coffee into the coffee cups of the crew on a sleek cylindrical spaceship which has several ‘decks’ and there is no explanation of how gravity is explained in any way.

 But maybe that is good because in a lot of these old movies they make it a science lesson with every move they make (in ”Destination Moon” there is a Woody Woodpecker cartoon shown to prospective big wheeler-dealers to explain how rocket propulsion works), explaining why they do this or do that, usually to some guy from Brooklyn in the crew that keeps mentioning the Brooklyn Dodgers..

Many SF movies do the same thing: “Forbidden Planet,” the redoubtable “Angry Red Planet,” “Rocketship X-M,” the Flash Gordon serials, Star Trek, Lost in Space, almost any SF movie or TV show, and Star Wars. 

In Heinlein’s “Destination Moon” and others, like “Flight to Mars they explain about why one has to be strapped in so as ‘not to float’ on the nuclear-powered ship run on steam thrust.  

Also done in the Willy Ley inspired ”Conquest of Space” (p. George Pal) but the movie goes as step further as the Earth-orbiting space station revolves and spins to create artificial gravity. 

It was not until “2001: A Space Odyssey” that there was an actual rotating living quarters on a ship that generated some centrifugal force to create artificial gravity, and again in the sequel, “2010.” 

Even in “Alien” there is no explanation for the induced gravity in the ship. In the Star Trek movies they finally explained it all with convenient Anti-Gravity devices.In H.G. Wells “The First Men in the Moon” there is a “Cavorite” substance which works the same way. .

In many spaceships in older movies there is no space below to account for the mechanics that make the ship run. If you ever look at a V-2 rocket diagram you’ll see Werner Von Braun’s genius apparatus that made it go. Look what it took for the Apollo missions. 

In very ‘cheap’ movies you’ll see the gangplank to get into the ship is at the very bottom of the ship. In Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon” the ship is just a large bullet but we realize that shooting a large manned projectile is essentially “Spam in a Can” to anyone within the projectile..

In James Blish’s novels he came up with this: SpinDizzy: A device that made use of a relationship between electron spin, electromagnetism and gravity allowed any object to leave the Earth’s surface. ;.Famed Astounding Editor John W. Campbell, Jr was big on the Dean Drive, which did not work. He was obviously a legend as an SF editor. He often talked about Scientology and Psionics as well.  The Dean Drive: 

The Dean drive was a device created and promoted by inventor Norman Lomer Dean (1902–1972) that he claimed to be a reactionless drive.[1] Dean claimed that his device was able to generate a uni-directional force in free space, in violation of Newton's third law of motionfrom classical physics. His claims generated notoriety because, if true, such a device would have had enormous applications, completely changing human transport, engineering, space travel and more.[2] Dean made several controlled private demonstrations of a number of different devices, however no working models were ever demonstrated publicly or subjected to independent analysis and Dean never presented any rigorous theoretical basis for their operation. Analysts conclude that the motion seen in Dean's device demonstrations was likely reliant on unsymmetrical frictional resistance between the device and the surface on which the device was set, resulting in the device moving in one direction when in operation, driven by the vibrations of the apparatus

Woodward effect. A reactionless thruster would have many practical applications, including the propulsion of spacecraft. According to Dean, his drive is a reactionless thruster, and his models were able to demonstrate this effect. He received two patents for related devices that are known to be unable to generate a uni-directional force, but he occasionally demonstrated devices that were different. Dean’s claims of reactionless thrust generation have subsequently been shown to be in error; the thrust generated is understood to be reliant on friction with the surface on which the device is resting. .

Sidenote: I read that Phil Dick sent him a lot of stories but that Campbell thought that PKD was ‘insane,’ just plain crazy. That is, his stories were so far-fetched that he did not understand them. So he never bought anything by PKD. .

I wrote a short story about twenty years ago called ”Jimbob Goes to Mars” which essentially took from Steinbeck’s ”The Grapes of Wrath” about how one of the Joad boys had ‘a certain way of knowin’ about engines and trucks and could just fix ‘em’.  I just applied that to rockets and had pimple-faced Jim-bob Johnson offworld on Io applying the courses of a Dr. Biddle, etc.  .

I’ve also left out here 99 percent of what is left to talk about propulsion in literature or reality, star drives or ion drives or fusion drives. When I was a kid in all our Encyclopedias they had diagrams of potential moon shots and potential Mars shots and how we would get there.  I never did outgrow the sense of wonder about the way we could get to a destination in space.  I remember reading books on how to build a Moonbase, whether to dig out a vast pit on the surface and cover it, hence the base is completed.  

When I was a kid I realized while watching enough space launches that certain things in science fiction movies were taken for granted and there is not much verisimitude.  I just know that Nasa astronauts don’t talk much about the Brooklyn Dodgers while inflight.

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