Exclusive Interview With Carolyn Porco – Star Trek’s New Science Advisor | TrekMovie.com
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Exclusive Interview With Carolyn Porco – Star Trek’s New Science Advisor February 11, 2008

by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: Interview,Science/Technology,Star Trek (2009 film) , trackback

It was announced today that Carolyn Porco, the leader of the Imaging Science team on NASA’S Cassini mission at Saturn, has accepted an invitation from Star Trek director/producer, J.J. Abrams, to join the Star Trek production crew as a consultant on planetary science and imagery. Porco spoke exclusively with TrekMovie.com about her role bringing science to the Star Trek film (and the fans).

Porco’s role in the new Star Trek film will be to help the team artistically show the reality and beauty of space, but this isn’t her first go around. She is a frequent commentator on science, astronomy, and space exploration for television, radio, and print media. She served as a consultant on the Jodi Foster movie Contact  and the A&E television special on the 25th anniversary of the Voyager mission, “Cosmic Journey.” Porco was especially well suited for the Voyager show because she played a prominent role in the Voyager mission.

Porco is highly recognized in her field. She has an asteroid named in her honor, was named ‘one of 18 scientific leaders of the 21st century’ by the London Times and was the recipient of the 2008 Isaac Asimov Science Award. Much of Porco’s current focus is as the director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. CICLOPS is the center of uplink and downlink flight operations for the Cassini imaging experiment, and the place where Cassini images are processed for release to the public. Bringing space imagery to the public has been a passion of Porco’s and that is how she garnered the attention of Star Trek’s director. 

Abrams, Guyett and Bormanis on Porco
Carolyn Porco came to the attention of Star Trek director JJ Abrams at the TED conference in 2007 where they both spoke. Abrams was impressed with Porco and in the release Abrams states why he felt she was the right person to help guide the team, saying:

Carolyn and her team have produced images that are simply stunning. I’m thrilled that she will help guide our production in creating an authentic vision of space, one that immerses our audience in a visual experience as awe-inspiring as what Carolyn’s cameras have captured.

Porco will be working directly with Roger Guyett, the film’s supervisor for visual effects (who recently popped in to the online chat with fans here at TrekMovie.com). In the release Guyett, an ILM vet of films such as “Star Wars: Episode III”, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, “Mission: Impossible III”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, had this to say about  Porco

Everybody is very excited about Carolyn’s involvement in the film. Her incredible knowledge and expertise is obviously something we’re going to tap into. And the breathtaking imagery that she brings to the collaboration will inspire us all to create some awesome images for our movie!

Dr. Porco joins a long line of science advisors who have helped guide the Trek franchise since the beginning. The most recent advisor Andre Bormanis thinks that Abrams couldn’t have made a better choice, telling TrekMovie.com:

I have known Carolyn from many years, beginning when we were both at the University of Arizona. I think she’s a great choice for the movie. Not only is she one of the world’s top planetary scientists, but she has a wonderful artistic sensibility, which is rare among scientists but indispensable for the visually- powerful storytelling that’s always been a hallmark of Star Trek.


Porco at TED


Porco talks to TrekMovie.com

Porco knows Trek, but isn’t necessarily ‘a Trekkie,’ saying:

I couldn’t tell you the year Kirk was born, but I am part of the original crowd. I was young when it was first on and I watched the original Star Trek when it was on in the 60s. And I’ve checked in every once in a while with the The Next Generation series and I liked that very much. I’ve also seen the best of the previous ten movies.

Porco hasn’t started working on the Trek project yet, but she expects it to be different

I have a feeling from everything I have seen and heard, that this Star Trek production is going to be very different.

So how realistic will the film be? Trek films have always taken liberties with the look of space, especially in the case of having space a lot brighter than it really is. Porco feels that the team will make things as accurate as possible, but points out that, in the case of lighting, there is no choice, saying….

We even have to do this with our pictures on the [Cassini] website. You have no trouble seeing any of those objects, we have to put it on a website so you can see it with your eyes. But if we were really to show it, literally the way it would look if you were there in space, it would be a hundred times less bright. Because the sunlight at Saturn is a hundred times less bright.  So there are circumstances just to do with practicalities that right out of the gate demand you violate some rule. So of course to bring reality onto a two dimensional screen you have to violate it to some degree. That is just the way it goes. There have been in Hollywood movies, there have been violations far more extreme than that. From what I have seen so far I think that this production crew is going to reach farther in trying to make it as accurate as possible.

So is there going to be sound in space?

Ahh [laughs] I can’t say anything more more because I don’t know, but those are the kind of issues that are probably going to be debated…You know 2001 is, in my opinion, the best science-fiction film ever made and it didn’t have any sound in space. As I understand it, [director Stanley] Kubrick went into debt making that film and making it as scientifically accurate as possible. I must have seen that film like fifteen or twenty-five times…But that film didn’t do all that great and was more of a cult film….So you might use the argument that not having sound in space was not a very financially good decision.  

Porco will not be at work on the Trek project for a while (likely when the go into post-production). So for now she is focusing on her day job and like a real life Starship captain, Porco and her team are out there (via Cassini) seeking out strange new worlds (and maybe even new life forms). Right now she is very excited by Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. Her team recently discovered geysers which may mean that there could be more to be found. Porco effuses about the discovery:

It has water, heat and simple organic materials! It has all the basic ingredients for being another habitable zone. The Holy Grail of planetary science is to find other environments in our solar system that might be conducive to the origins of life.

In a month Cassini will be doing a flyby of Enceladus and so expect more from Porco and her team then. TrekMovie.com will be sure to keep you all up to date on Porco and Cassini in our regular ‘Science Friday‘ column.

Bringing science to the fans
As mentioned before, Carolyn Porco has made it her mission to bring imagery from space science to the public. She hopes to help raise awareness of science and spark discussions of science with the public. She has recently created a forum to do that at her company website (Diamond Sky Productions), you can visit the forum HERE. Carolyn has started a new post about an interesting debate she recently participated in titled “Science and the Public Sphere: Getting out the Truth – A Media Roundtable” (with Michael Lemonick, Robert Krulwich, Shirley Jackson, Lawrence Krauss, Jim Lehrer, Mike Turner, and Walter Isaacson). The topic and link to video are available HERE

Eclipse at Saturn…one of the amazing images available at CICLOPS


More links For Carolyn Porco:
Wikipedia Page
Cassini (NASA)
Diamond Sky Productions
CICLOPS (Cassini imagery site)



1. Minnesota Bruin - February 11, 2008

Yeah! Carolyn Porco is great!

2. Pragmaticus - February 11, 2008

Very nice!

3. Chapman - February 11, 2008

Cool I want to be a Science Advisor

4. The Guardian of Forever - February 11, 2008

*wants her job*

5. Diabolik - February 11, 2008

I’m sorry, but unless the planets look like the ones in TOS, the new movie won’t be canon. They must look like painted balls.

I just had to say it, sorry. :) I for one think you can’t beat the beauty of creation (and I did say “creation”) and there’s a lot more to see in space than stars. I hope they capture some of that majesty. The last movie to do that was “Contact” which did a good job of the awe-inspiring vistas out there. And the opening credit of Superman Returns was also cool.

So, bring it on!

6. Michael Hall - February 11, 2008

This is really awesome. As has been endlessly pointed out on these fora, there are innumerable downsides to this project, but the one thing it really has going for it is the potential to bring so much about what we’ve loved in this franchise up to a whole new level.

A film based on TOS which will really attempt to adhere to what’s currently known to 21st century science, rather than merely (as has so often been the case before) paying lip service to the idea? That’s almost worth the price of this ‘reimagining’ all by itself.

7. ~~TARA~~ - February 11, 2008

There’s been a lot of talk here about making the new movie more “real” and “gritty”. Forget the “gritty”, Rodenberry’s future was more optomistic. However I like this “real”. I want to see this movie and feel like I am there in space too!

8. Jovan - February 11, 2008

I think a good compromise between realism and stylisation, like TOS-R, is the best course. But however way they do it, I think the film will be good. In fact, I know it will be.

They may be doing the sets, ship design, and amount of “space realism” differently than I (or James Cawley) would, but I really look forward to the film nonetheless.

9. OneBuckFilms - February 11, 2008

7 – Amen to that. I LOVE the remade BSG, one of my favourite shows.

However, Gritty is not what Star Trek is about.

Realism is good. Make it more believable and plausible, and it makes it easier to imagine reaching such a future.

10. Carolyn Porco - February 11, 2008

Hello to all you Star Trek fans,

I’m of course new to all this, but I’d love to know what Michael Hall means by “there are innumerable downsides to this project”. What are they?

And as Anthony pointed out, Diamond Sky Productions has set up a forum for discussion of topics related to science and the public, be they related to journalism, movies, TV …. whatever. Please feel free to drop by and record your thoughts there! I’d love to hear them too.

Carolyn Porco

11. Father Rob - February 11, 2008

As much as I would love to see silence in space, I am certain that there will be sound and the like, mainly because people expect sound effects these days.

I’d love to see a Star Trek film that was accurate in its portrayl of space, but in that instance, I would probably wind up being one of six people in the theater.

A few thoughts, though, that always irked me about space-combat in Star Trek

1) Phasers travel at lightspeed. Using them at warp 7 makes no sense.

2) If you are going to use phasers, however, at warp 7, you have to have an explanation – something like travelling in hyperspace, where you can cheat your way out of the laws of physics.

3) Herky-Jerky movements of starships with mass are absolutely unrealistic. The space shuttle takes 2 minutes to do a 360 degree flip (the RPM Manueuver completed these days in order to examine the orbiter for TPS damage). The Enterprise is FAR more massive than the shuttle.

4) Developing some hard and fast ‘universal rules and laws’ can add drama. If we always know it takes 1 hour for a subspace communication to travel 1 parsec, then we’ll know just how long it takes to get an answer… and it will be consistent, thus forcing the crew into a situation that will force them to act without hearing back.

Just some rambling thoughts on the Science of Trek.

Like Porco, I count 2001 as my favorite space movie of all time… so she definately has that going for her in my book.


12. Father Rob - February 11, 2008

10: Carolyn Porco –

I think that Michael Hall in post 6 is commenting on things that some Star Trek fans are concerned about with the film, specifically the view that too many things are going to be changed from what has already been shown (which most Trekkers refer to as ‘canon’) in order to suit J.J. Abrams’ (and the entire writing/production crew’s) view of the Star Trek universe.

Glad to see you here!


PS – Did you find a Stargate on Iapetus? (Fans of the novel version of “2001: A Space Odyssey” will know what I am talking about)

13. Vfx2k4 - February 11, 2008

Hmm- does scientific accuracy extend to Orion Slave Girls? I’m happy they are bringing in a scientific voice, but please make sure the fiction is also well-done. Too much realism= Enterprise TV Series= Zzzzzzzzz.

14. NCC-73515 - February 11, 2008

I’m a student of biology and was brought to science by Trek :D

15. Matt Wright - February 11, 2008

Carolyn thanks for stopping by :-)
I think JJ Abrams found the right person for the job.

With the attention to detail that the production team is showing I’m looking forward to the new movie more then ever.

16. Izbot - February 11, 2008

Awesome news! Now bring in futurist and quantum physicist Michio Kaku! Give him a cameo!

17. Greg Stamper - February 11, 2008

#10 Greetings Carolyn –
Love the Cassini Project work and am lucky enough to have my signature aboard her (it was a NASA promotion – – Patrick Stewart’s is aboard as well as thousands of others). Really feel confident with you aboard the next Trek film.

Also, a tip for those interested in the heavens – – try visiting the ‘NASA Photo of the Day’ every day. Cassini gets a lot of coverage there as well:

18. ensign joe - February 11, 2008

Star Trek has taken sort of a hit nowadays with the idea that too much tech was made up too easily… So and so fixing this and that because of babble babble babble.. but one got the sense that there wasn’t much fact behind it.. more fiction than science.. I for one am glad to hear that a little more seriousness is going into this movie .. and it sounds like Porco will be a nice addition to the team..

Though I loathe loathe not being able to hear all those cool sound effects (in space)..

19. SPB - February 11, 2008


…because CONTACT was one of the most BEAUTIFUL sci-fi movies ever, image-wise. Ranks right up there with 2001 and yes, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.

Too many science-fiction films go for “realism” above all else. Let’s bring back some mystery, awe and beauty to STAR TREK! Can’t wait to see what they come up with!

20. ensign joe - February 11, 2008

#18. Ugh I made the Shaft grammer mistake! Can you find it?

21. SPB - February 11, 2008

#5 –

Thanks for mentioning SUPERMAN RETURNS! That’s another recent film that literally took my breath away, in terms of special effects and imagery. Yeah, the film was kind of lackluster, but it certainly was beautiful to look at! Some real IMAGINATION went into that one.

22. trekee - February 11, 2008

Nice article, and Carolyn will be following in the footsteps of Asimov (TMP) which was the only other Trek film to have a scientific advisor? (Correct me if I’m wrong, and I KNOW you will…)

I do like that she understands the difference between the kind of awesome coolness of no sound in space that purists like, but that the whole roar of the Star Destroyer overhead and blowing the speakers off the wall thing is just so much more… dramatic!

Now if she can only persuade JJ that Orange Bridge Rails are a scientific certainty in the 23rd Century….

23. Ed - February 11, 2008

Saw this at space.com today, that’s pretty cool.

24. Anthony Pascale - February 11, 2008

I just want to say that articles like this is why I created TrekMovie.com. To bring news and extra levels of context to both Trek and its place in the world…and to spark discussion with the fans about that. And to have the new Science Advisor drop by makes my day.

25. SB - February 11, 2008

I’m always very amused by the whole “sound-in-space”/scientific accuracy question when it comes to media science fiction.

For me, the question is very easily settled.

When someone tells me that there’s no sound in space — and that, therefore, any science-fiction entertainment depicting the travelling of sound waves through a vacuum is wrong, bad, invalid, insulting to the intelligence and in all other possible ways lame and stinky — I remind him that, as far as we know, there aren’t any starships, inhabited planets, sentient alien lifeforms, non-sentient alien life forms, or gigantic hooting beer cans with the ability to communicate with humpback whales, either.

Tends to end the conversation.

26. Captain Robert April - February 11, 2008

I’d be happy if she could convince JJ & Co. that assembilng that much of the ship on the ground is not a good idea.

27. SB - February 11, 2008

Oh… and while I’m on the subject… when people cry that the original Enterprise wasn’t built on a planet’s surface, i tend to agree…

It was built in a woodworking shop. :)

28. max - February 11, 2008

Cool news. Welcome to the world of Trekkies, Carolyn Porco. God help you! ;)

29. nscates - February 11, 2008

#18, #20
Ummm, lemme see. Could it be lack of capitalization? How about the big run-on sentence sprinkled with partial elipses ( the ..’s)? How about the last statement being a sentence fragment? No? Okay I’m out of guesses. :D I pretty much agree with what you were saying, though.

I totally agree: Contact was visually stunning. I’d love to see imagery like that in the new film.

30. j w wright - February 11, 2008

i know i feel better about the new movie knowing that the science is being handled by a very capable person. congratulations, carolyn!

31. Kayla Iacovino - February 11, 2008

Yay for real science! I have been so excited to see the latest data coming from Cassini, the pictures to date have been spectacular.

32. Richard Daystrom - February 11, 2008

I’m glad to hear this. I always thought the series and the movies just didn’t portray space as it actually looked, globular clusters, nebula, etc. And don’t tell me about the nebula in STII! LOL!

33. SPB - February 11, 2008


…THE BLACK HOLE (1979) and ENEMY MINE (1985). Pretty much forgotten by the public at large, and mostly (rightfully) derided by most sci-fi fans, they’re still awesome to LOOK at. Great, old-time sci-fi pulp imagery in these two flicks!.

34. Clinton - February 11, 2008

Great article! But I’m wondering when Anthony ever sleeps. ;-)

And wonderful addition to the Star Trek team! Welcome Carolyn.

35. SPB - February 11, 2008


On the other side of the coin, I think the STAR WARS Prequels suffer GREATLY from the “everything and the kitchen sink, too” mentality of George Lucas. Those films are WAAAY too cluttered for their own good.

Abrams & Porco & Company: Please try to keep the visuals SIMPLE, but arresting!

36. British Naval Dude - February 11, 2008

#32 Arrr.. didn’t ye just have a nervous breakdown over the weekend? That STII was lovely to look out- spooky- but lightning? and flickering lights? I know… but still helped make the movie great.

Which brings me to my point- real science srupously shown will not bring in the movie audience… ala the cult film 2001 as pointed out above…

Adventure needs color, light, sound…

But, yon Star Trek has gone hand in hand with science… from technophobe to technobabble, from cellular phone and ipod which be inspired from Trek… to ideas of non-invasive surgery…

But space should be bonny… let thar be light… and let it be “based on a true story” to maybe inspire would-be anstronomers…

arrrr….when can I get me transporter please? Use it to beam out me beer by-product so I dunna have ta get up during a Beckham match…

37. sisko - February 11, 2008

Dr. Porco, as another former member of the LPL family (it’s the Planetary Science Department at the University of Arizona for those not in the know), I think it’s exciting that you are involved not only in the new Star Trek movie, but also one of the pioneers in our early adventures into the Final Frontier (sorry, but I tried to make that as corny as possible, did it work?).

Seriously though, this is great news. One of the things that made ST:TOS work was the fact that they had real science fiction writers and NASA scientists involved. Glad to see the tradition is still alive.

(Now if only I can get back into working in planetary sciences that would be great. Just finishing the olde Master’s degree first…)

-Geoffrey McStroul

38. Andy Mc - February 11, 2008

“gigantic hooting beer cans with the ability to communicate with humpback whales”

Near choked to death at that comment!

Trek has always had sound in space so lets not change it. All the BSG fans will start calling it a rip off.
And I like the sound of Phasers and Photon torpedos!
I mean how good would the Wrath have Khan been with sound for the space battles?

39. Andy Mc - February 11, 2008

I mean WITHOUT sound

40. British Naval Dude - February 11, 2008

#24 tis better than gossip

Not expecting a planetarium view (“this is how tha stars look if you be on Antares; OR being in a globular cluster brightens your sky”) but still,
good sign here for that ruff and tumble realism… as I’d like ta distill my drunken spiel above to it’s point:

space should be bonny… let thar be light… and let the stars in this film be “based on a true story” to mayhaps inspire would-be astro-nomers…

good starry night to ye all now…

41. Doug - February 11, 2008

#10: Carolyn, your link does not work.


Welcome aboard! Having your participation harkens back to the likes of NASA’s advisor Jesco Van Puttkamer for “Star Trek – The Motion Picture.” or that of Isaac Asimov, also for the first movie.

I, like you, have a great affinity for “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I think, even though the film is 40 years old, it is the gold standard that all science fiction films want to be… and should be measured by.

Your participation in the film, to me, portends great promise!

I swear, every time I read a new post as to what JJ Abrams has planned I get more and more excited! He seems to be doing everything right!

42. Saavik001 - February 11, 2008

I saw Carolyn Porco speak at Spacefest in Mesa, AZ last August. Really awe inspiring speaker and the images she showed us were amazing. This film is going to rock! Glad they are including the scientific community!!

43. AJ - February 11, 2008

Dear Ms. Porco,

I hope there is some beauty to be found which will be portrayed in this film that can set it apart from every other SciFi film that has come these last 20+ years. One thing Trek has done has been to show viewers the beauty of Earth as she looks from space. Hopefully you can give the director a perspective on the rest, looking out.

44. CanuckLou - February 11, 2008

Another primo interview by the TrekMovie team. Thanks guys! Wonderful stuff.

The adventure continues…..

45. Chris TROC - February 11, 2008

Regarding sound in space, just mount the microphone on the hull of the ship instead of on the camera. A vacuum doesn’t conduct sound, but a big metal starship does. The volume changes and doppler effects as the ships fly past the camera can be explained as post-processing to add spatial cues to the sound. In this manner, the sounds of space are no less realistic than the soundtracks of most “real” movies; such soundtracks are usually constructed long after the actual photography and don’t always reflect the sounds one would have heard on scene during principal photography. Why should Trek be held to a higher standard?

Re: 11, it’s a longstanding convention in Trek that the subspace fields used in impulse and warp drive lower the “apparent mass” of the starship so it can accelerate from 0 to 0.6c in no time flat, without carrying a gobsmackingly huge store of propellant. Structural integrity fields, inertial dampeners, and other such [TECH] keep the whole thing from flying apart into duranium shards and specks of chunky salsa during maneuvers. You could throw that conceit out and demand that everyone obey the laws of physics, but then you’d be left without warp drive, too. A lumbering starship better conveys size and mass to the audience, but a Star Trek ship should be capable of rapid acceleration in any direction.

46. Closettrekker - February 11, 2008

#24–Yet another reason that the carbon units infest trekmovie.com!

47. Doug - February 11, 2008

#20: well, for one, you mis-spelled grammar.


(damned (former) English teachers) heh heh…

48. Diabolik - February 11, 2008

Stars and other celestial bodies can be “heard…” they emit radio frequencies. So I’m sure that many of the energy-based weapons must have some kind of frequencies that they emit when used, that could be picked up and heard on other ships…. so there’s one way to justify it.

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, does it make a sound? Likewise, when a photon torpedo is fired, and there’s no ship around to detect the frequences that can be heard using sensors, does it make a sound?

Think anout it.

49. Diabolik - February 11, 2008

I mean, think ABOUT it. Anyway, when we hear a warp effect, a phaser or torpedo, even a blast, in the Trek movies, we are hearing the sound they would make if you had a sensor tuned to the resonent frequencies they emit.

So there.

50. Doug - February 11, 2008


loathe loathe?

Don’t feel too bad, I do it all the time… I wish we could make edits on our comments on this sit (oh Anthony?)

and speaking of errors…

“Porco will not be at work on the Trek project for a while (likely when the go into post-production). So for now she is focusing on her day job and like a real life Starship captain, Porco and her team are out there (via Cassini) seeking out strange new worlds (and maybe even new life forms). Right now she is very excited by Enceladus, one of Saturns moons. Her team recently discovered geysers which may mean that there could be more to discover, Porco effuses about the disocvery:”

Saturns moons?

truly… (damned English teachers) …. In a way, I hate pointing out grammatical errors… I have this fear of folks sitting out there with phasers drawn waiting for me to make any errors. ;-)

51. Doug - February 11, 2008

#33: “The Black Hole..”

UGH, I hate that movie. What a mess it was!!!! In my opinion, it was nothing more than a hobbled remake of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” set in space… without any of the charm and grace of the original.


52. Doug - February 11, 2008

#50… see what I mean

site… not sit… aarrgghh!!!

53. sean - February 11, 2008


Hey now, I don’t think The Black Hole or Enemy Mine are ‘rightfully’ derided at all. In fact, I think TBH is the best movie Disney ever made, hands-down. Scientifically, yes, it makes little-to-no sense. But that movie is all metaphysics & archetypes, and throughly enjoyable as such. Science is just a backdrop for the story.

And hey, Enemy Mine was good enough for Enterprise to rip off for one of their episodes! ;)

54. Chris Pike - February 11, 2008

11 Mass and momentum. I always thought and indeed I think it has been implied very occasionally in past Trek, that an important aspect of warp field effect is to neutralise ship’s mass and therefore momentum. Think about it, if an object could be made to appear to our universe as having zero mass, then lightspeed barriers and gravity have zero effect. It must be implied that warp field is some exotic form of energy yet to be discovered, and is the basis of many of Trek’s technology development such as subspace manipulation, faster than light quantum particles, discovery of the graviton and therefore sci-fi concepts such as tractor beams, artificial gravity and anti gravity. To travel at anywhere near warp speed an object would need to (appear to) shed any trace of momentum.

55. Myrth - February 11, 2008

Wow. I love the Trek Community. People are worried about the scientific acuracy of sound vs no sound when we have a transporter that can transport anything. Which is just hilariously ridiculous from a science stand point and a tactical stand point since it is breaking down the very matter of the object and reassembles it. The transporter even efortlessly transports peices of star ship hull which are made to be very dense for protection, which means that the transporter is actualy the most powerful and deadly wepon on trek because it can produce enough energy to disintegrate even the toughest of material, which the phasers and torps do not alwasy do 100% of the time. The energy diparity alone is laughable, but no one ever complains about that ;)

56. Kevin - February 11, 2008

>11. Father Rob – February 11, 2008

>1) Phasers travel at lightspeed. Using them at warp 7 makes no sense.

Actually phasers were not supposed to be used at warp. If they ever have been (and I can’t think of an example where they have) it was an oversight.

>2) If you are going to use phasers, however, at warp 7, you have to have an explanation – something like travelling in hyperspace, where you can cheat your way out of the laws of physics.

A ship traveling at warp is supposed to traveling within a sort of subspace bubble. Warp drive itself already cheats the laws of physics. Traveling at the speed of light and beyond is impossible w/o cheating.

>3) Herky-Jerky movements of starships with mass are absolutely unrealistic. The space shuttle takes 2 minutes to do a 360 degree flip (the RPM Manueuver completed these days in order to examine the orbiter for TPS damage). The Enterprise is FAR more massive than the shuttle.

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. Sounds like your applying present day technology to a fictional technology that’s supposed to be more two centuries ahead.

>4) Developing some hard and fast ‘universal rules and laws’ can add drama. If we always know it takes 1 hour for a subspace communication to travel 1 parsec, then we’ll know just how long it takes to get an answer… and it will be consistent, thus forcing the crew into a situation that will force them to act without hearing back.

These rules are already in place… and have been since the start of TNG (in TOS they pretty much did what they wanted to). However, writers are given a bit of leeway and the rules have not always been strictly adhered to. However, without having any real idea how far away the ship is from a starbase or earth and without knowing whether or not there are any subspace relay stations in between them and what kind of interstellar phenomena are affecting that… would knowing exactly how fast a transmission is moving help you? Would being given all that information really increase the drama for you?

57. Ed - February 11, 2008

Forgot to add this to my earlier post but if you look at the large image of the pic in this article (Eclipse at Saturn) you can see Earth in the rings. We’re a bright dot in the rings. This pic just made me go WOW when I first saw it.

58. cugel the clever - February 11, 2008


A flaw in your argument is that ST clearly establishes that transporters cannot work through shields. Therefore they are useless as a weapon.


59. Michael Adams - February 11, 2008

When they (Star Trek Land) built a matter/anti-matter engine that could produce allmost unlimted amounts of power for allmost any type devise, we first had force fields, then antimatter containment, transporter, and a devise that could produce an electromagnetic field around the ship (warp field) soooo strong that it could [be made to appear to our universe as having zero mass, then lightspeed barriers and gravity have zero effect.- #54] I think your idea is great and scientific. Massive amounts of power needed for a warp field generator, but no problem for matter/anti-matter. I think.

60. Scott - February 11, 2008

Re: #45, Chris TROC — Enjoyed your post. Just as NASA and the JPL add false colors to images from probes like Cassini — which Ms. Porco acknowledges in her speech above — sound could very well be simulated based on whatever’s happening in space. Sound can be as important a cue for humans as visual stimulus. “Value-added” sound during a pitched battle with a Klingon battlecruiser could be just as critical as the sulphur smell added to the natural gas that’s piped into your home. Perhaps we audience members are merely hearing sounds that are simulated by the Enterprise tactical systems. Cool as “2001” is, I guess I’m “pro-sound” where Trek is concerned.

It appears that Carolyn Porco (welcome aboard, Ms. Porco!)’s role with the new movie is more as an advisor on planetary and astronomical matters, rather than the general physics conundrums that plague a fast-paced action adventure like Star Trek. I think that’s fantastic! To me, there’s nothing more interesting in the world of science than extraterrestrial and extrasolar planets. I hope her knowledge and imagination gives this movie a scope and grandeur we’ve rarely seen in not only Trek, but most celluloid science fiction.

Scott B. out.

61. Michael Adams - February 11, 2008

# 55 Transporters unlike photon torpedoes are not toys. The technology is a totally different animal than warp theory or gunnery.

62. ensign joe - February 11, 2008

#29, 47, 50 Yikes! Thank (insert deity) for compilers!

Here’s a hint:

Hmmmm back on topic.. back on topic.. oh, RIGHT!

Sooo hopefully they will document the discussions between JJ and Porco for the special edition.. It would be neat to observe the process..

63. Richard Daystrom - February 11, 2008

British Naval Dude!!!

Being a former American Naval Dude, I was wondering if Empire Sailors still spoke like that. I guess you do. Arg, Matey!

64. Myrth - February 11, 2008

#58 and #61 Its not a matter of different tech or shields blocking something, its a matter of energy output. When you get down to it, both phasers and transporters do damage to what they hit, and from what we have seen, transporters can break down dense materials far better than phasers or torps.

65. scifib5st - February 11, 2008

Welcom Carolyn Porco, what a wounderful supprise to see such talent helping out on this film. Glad to know you are a fan of ST. This is another reason to see this film on the “Big Screen” And another reason I still paying for the Sony 60″ screen for our family viewing.

Thank you for your past work and awiting the great shots in the furture.

66. Enc - February 11, 2008

uh oh. we fans usualy pic the science advisors apart.

oh please you mean that movie where they got the nubula backwards.


your planet. wecome :D

#26 LOL

Firefly’s lack of sound in space and handheld cammeraa work is what inprired BSG so browncoats would be calling ripoff. :D

i would prefer to only use tos and contemporary technobable

EM to ENT. and poorly done at that

67. Dr. Image - February 11, 2008

The Enterprise SHOULD be self-illuminating, as per Doug Trumbull’s excellent depiction in TMP.
We know it probably won’t be though…
Welcome, Carolyn!

68. trekofficial - February 11, 2008

#64 your entirely wrong, obviously you didn’t make it past day 3 of the academy.
Transporters use a different and more focused form of matter displacement
the energy required for a transport vs a phaser blast are quite different.
To get the same amount of damage from a transporter “attack” would be much greater than just using a phaser in the first place which tuned for destruction.
Back to the ferengi homeworld with ya..

69. Thomas Jensen - February 11, 2008

Maybe they can dispense with that goofy ‘rubber band’ effect as a ship stretches and goes to warp. I’ve never liked that. It’s overdone. It’s interesting to see the stars or particles (whatever those are) rush past the ship to convey speed. I like keeping it simple.

70. Sir Lurxalot - February 11, 2008

#54 Chris Pike
> I always thought and indeed I think it has been implied
> very occasionally in past Trek, that an important aspect
> of warp field effect is to neutralise ship’s mass
> and therefore momentum. …

This idea was explored by J. Hinson
in his 1994 essay “Subspace Physics”.

71. Jamie - February 11, 2008

No disrespect to Porco, but I would disagree with one thing she said about “making photos of space brighter so we can see it”…

Technically it’s not messing with the photos, or creating something false. Photos have a limited contrast range, so all cameras need to be adjusted so that dark scenes are visible. Otherwise it’s an underexposed photo.

Even if the stars were 100 times darker in space than on the photo, your eyes would adjust so you would still see them. Adjusting the photo only simulates what your eyes would do. There’s nothing “false” about brightening a photo, although that was how Porco made it sound.

I don’t claim to know more about photography than Porco, but I do think this one comment of hers may have been a little inaccurate, or misleading.

72. diabolk - February 11, 2008

Welcome to the scary place, Mz Porco, where anyone who contributes to ST gets picked apart.

73. neal - February 11, 2008

What a relief. This is some of the best news I’ve heard. Any injection of proper science into the mix makes for a better picture, IMHO. Nearly every sci fi film I have seen contains a moment (or many) in which I groan. Indeed 99% of pop media is aimed at the lowest common denominator. Sure would be nice to have some proper science that inspires young people to aim higher and gaze wider, rather than dumbing it down so that their younger siblings get it too.

74. BK613 - February 11, 2008

Best watch The Ultimate Computer. Not only does the Ent fire phasers at warp, the dialog supports the fact that the Ent fires them at warp. IIRC, phasers firing only at sublight speeds was a TMP revision.

75. Xplodin' Nacelle - February 11, 2008

I know that she knows her stuff about the solar system. I’ve seen her speak intelligently during almost every major mission coverage special on The Science Channel.

This is fantastic news!

76. Michael Hall - February 11, 2008

Ms. Porco,

My fault for the clumsy wording–what I meant to say was innumerable potential downsides to this project, most of which I think fall into areas you can readily guess: the absence of Mr. Shatner (no thread hijacking, please!); replacement of all of the original cast, save one; changes to the established look of the Enterprise; contradictions to a “canon” some regard as a sort of secular religion; etc.

At the end of the day most of us just want a really good Star Trek film, I think, and are willing to overlook a few things that might not jibe with our preconceptions for the sake of bringing the franchise more in line with current tastes, so long as it doesn’t involve dumbing things down–and I take your involvement as very reassuring news on that score. :-)

77. Fleet Captain Kor'Tar - February 11, 2008

I look forward to seeing the grand lady Enterprise slowly embark on her first mission against a glorious backdrop, with sound and score and lights!

78. Xai - February 11, 2008

Carolyn Porco

Welcome. Glad to have you in on the project

79. Kevin - February 11, 2008


I said the rules were in place… I didn’t say that they were followed.

The speed of warp drive in TOS was all over the place. I’ve come across some articles where people have done the math (yes some people have no lives… of course I was actually reading them so I guess that proves I don’t have much of one either) and proven that there’s no set speed for warp factors in TOS.

The writers more often did what they wanted to in TOS (they were after all writers and not mathmaticians). Most of the rules came later, but even then weren’t always followed.

So what I’m saying is that rules are currently in place, but writers still have some leeway.

80. Jabob Slatter - February 11, 2008

You guys make me laugh. Trek never has adhered to physical, nor astrophysical, laws. We see these glaring inconsistencies and we make lame excuses to explain them, so we’ll feel better.

I’m guilty of the same thing. Ya gotta laugh.

81. cd - February 11, 2008

Good to have you working on Star Trek, Dr. Porco! It would be cool to get some real astronomical images, etc. in Star Trek, in addition to the multicolored worlds that are already there. Some things in the real universe are stranger and more interesting than fiction!

82. GaryS - February 11, 2008

carolyn ,
when you get the time
i am just curious what you consider the best of the ten movies.

83. Negotiator - February 11, 2008

The doctor walks in…

Mr Abrams, no fiery explosions or sound in space, the ships emmit their own light source so they’re barely visible to the camera, and everybody floats inside the Enterprise.

Good luck with your movie.

Walks out.

84. DJT - February 12, 2008

Ms. Porco,

Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the universe. After seeing that video, I just wanted to say that it is very gratifying to hear someone speak of such matters with so much enthusiasm and intelligence.

85. Enc - February 12, 2008

cute :)

but TSFS was closest in the scene of the merchant ships demise. it did burn, htere was fire. as the gasses (whatever there was) ignited and burned and the moment those flameshit the vacume of space they quickly died. so yes we can have firey explsosions in space but the fre must quickly die.

you want grand scale space and all that try moving the ship across the frame slowly at a great distance, yes barely lit, and remove all the stars from the background.

86. Marian Ciobanu - February 12, 2008

This is really an amazing point of view…now i remember about the lost things from trek world..one of them is knowledge.. another is mistery ..i think the next movie will be very different…i miss ‘ huge’ things..
In tng the federations ships look oversized..especially when they are approaching to a planet…

87. FAB - February 12, 2008

Any need for a biology ST advisor? Please, anything to get me out of this lab.

88. Johnny Ice - February 12, 2008

19# because CONTACT was one of the most BEAUTIFUL sci-fi movies ever, image-wise. Ranks right up there with 2001 and yes, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE

Agree. i just re-watch Contact last week and its great scifi movie. TMP is also my favorite Trek movie.

89. Carolyn Porco - February 12, 2008

Reply to Jamie (comment 71)…

Your `dark adapted’ eyes do not perceive color the way your `light adapted’ eyes do. Ever notice how, in dim lighting, colored objects tend to look grey?

So, there really are alterations (I call them violations) of reality that one has to make when trying to make an image of a 3-dimensional object at 10 AU look `real’ to a human with electromagnetic sensors (ie,eyes) like those we are born with.

Now, back to work.


90. Michael Hall - February 12, 2008

Ms. Porco,

Ever read Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy about the colonization of Mars and the outer solar system? In one of the later volumes there’s a scene set on a colony on one of the moons of Uranus, and the humans living there have genetically modified eyes to make up for the lack of light so far from the sun.

Great stuff. What wonders the future might hold, if we don’t screw it all up.

91. Doug - February 12, 2008

I watched ‘Contact’ last night. I sure do like that film.

I think my favorite scene is with Elly and Palmer… (not exact quotes)
Arroway: “How do you know you’re not just fooling yourself about the existence of God? I need proof.”
Joss: “Do you love your father?”
Arroway: “Yes.”
Joss: “Prove it.”


This movie, to me is the perfect movie about faith, be it faith in science or faith in a higher power.

Oddly enough, “Star Trek-The Motion Picture” addresses similar issues as well (V’ger’s faith that finding its creator will give meaning to its existence).

I think it funny that after 28 years this film is being remembered more fondly than it ever has been. I am one of those who still ranks it one of the best (if not the best) of the TREK big-screen adventures.

92. Garovorkin - February 12, 2008

Just about every spaced based scifi film I have ever seen With maybe the Exception of 2001 a space odyssey violates the rule that says there can be no sound in space. Since space is a vacume there is no air to transmit. They do this in the movies because without sound alot movies science wont work ofr have the same impact without sound. This is an error which pretty much all of us can live with

93. Elrond L. - February 12, 2008

This is really exciting news. I’d love to see Trek use space almost like a character… much like the westerns used the grandeur of places like Monument Valley and Red Rock Park to give their stories a mythic quality. Congratulations, Carolyn!

94. Enterprisingguy - February 12, 2008

Welcome aboard Dr. Porco!

I have enjoyed seeing you on the Science Channel shows. If you can help make us feel a fraction of the wonder and amazement that you display when talking about the planets then your job will be successful!

How about a liquid methane volcanic eruption peeking over the horizon of some moon? That would bee truly beautiful!

95. Go Spock! - February 12, 2008

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Ms. Porco!

96. Diabolik - February 13, 2008

#91… agreed, a good moment there. Another moment I loved was when Ellie is pinned down in the hearing about whether what she experienced really happened, and she looks across at Josh and realises that she is now in the position she placed him in earlier. She understands what he was saying.

97. Jamie - February 13, 2008

Wow. Carolyn Porco actually read my post. What a great day! :)

Thank you, Carolyn, for taking the time to reply. My criticism of what you said was meant in the humblest and most respectful way — intended as discussion rather than criticism. (I never thought it would be you replying to it!)

It’s an honour to talk to a real genuine space “explorer”! And congratulations on all your brilliant work.

Jamie xxx :D

98. Maria Iovieno, Susan Bovino, Margaret Costigan - April 29, 2008

We knew Carolyn when she was “Clara” Porco in the first grade of Our Lady of the Assumption grammar school in the Bronx. We remember her as being a nice kid and smart but never imagined she’d reach the heights she has achieved. Way to go! A few former classmates will be at her lecture on 9/15/08 at the Hayden Planetarium. Hope we can have some time to reminisce with you, Carolyn. Keep up the good work.


99. Cheryl’s Mewsings » Blog Archive » #ALD09 – Carolyn Porco - March 24, 2009

[…] You can find biographical information about Carolyn Porco at Space.com, Edge.org, and of course Wikipedia. Also of interest are interviews at Wired and TrekMovie.com. […]

100. Glenn - December 22, 2009

I watch the science/discovery channels all the time….I saw the name and the face…I remembered a Porco Family back in Pelham bay in the Bronx and OLA school…..did some research and it seems the Carolyn went to OLA and Cardinal Spellman HS…..I left the Bronx after 10th grade at St Helena’s HS…..

Good to see a home girl (no sexist or racist intent) makes good in such a great cosmic field….I envy her stick to it ness, most of my time from HS onward was wasted on less lofty persuits….mostly partying…..though I spent a bit of that time looking through a 4 inch reflector at the planets….it still amazes me to look at the gas giants with their circling satellites….

101. Carmelo Rodi - September 25, 2011

Hello, I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a custom theme or did you modify it yourself ? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, its rare to see a great blog like this one today.. Thanks!.

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