Science Supplemental: Breathtaking Saturn Video From Real Cassini Photos + Why Carolyn Porco was a Great Trek Science Advisor |
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Science Supplemental: Breathtaking Saturn Video From Real Cassini Photos + Why Carolyn Porco was a Great Trek Science Advisor March 15, 2011

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Editorial,Science/Technology,Star Trek (2009 film) , trackback

A new breathtaking video of the Jewel of the Solar System, Saturn, and her moons has been circulating the internet today. Saturn is gorgeous, we all know this. So what makes this video so special? It was made using ONLY NASA/JPL photos taken by the Cassini Spacecraft. No CGI, no 3D models. Just photographs.


New video of Saturn

5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation from stephen v2 on Vimeo.

This is Why Carolyn Porco was Star Trek‘s Science Advisor
Carolyn Porco is lead imaging scientist for the NASA Cassini mission and was also the Science Advisor for JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, a role for which she has taken a lot of flack from some Trekkies. I have seen many nitpicking comments here on TrekMovie and other websites knocking Porco for the “bad science” in JJ’s film. As a scientist myself I am not about to back red matter or black hole time travel, no sir. But, if it’s really real science you want, direct your ire toward the writers (sorry, Bob & Alex!), not Porco.

Her job? Making sure scenes like the one pictured below came out gorgeous and realistic. The misdirected Trek-rage is partly the fault of the title given to her. “Science Advisor” is not quite accurate and should really be “Science Imagery Advisor”.

Stills from the scenes Porco helped to create

(click to embiggen)

In the words of JJ himself:

“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.”

More praise for Porco’s work from Andre Bormanis, a previous science advisor for Star Trek:

“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.”

For quite some time now, I have wanted to set the record straight on this issue. Seeing this video floating around the interwebs gave me a great opportunity to do so. In conclusion: great job, Carolyn! Keep up the good work! Stay up to date on the latest beautiful Cassini images at the imaging lab’s website

P.S. Bob and Alex, if you’re reading this, I know a GREAT scientist who would love to be the full-fledged science advisor for the sequel…


POLL: Science of Star Trek?

How well do you rate the science of JJ Abrams’ Trek?

How accurate was the science in Star Trek 2009?

View Results

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1. James Kerwin - March 15, 2011


Brings to mind Bob and Alex’s classic interview in which they described the Multi-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics — a model which by its very nature can neither be verified, falsified, nor even tested — as “the most thoroughly tested scientific theory in history.”

Yikes. :)

2. Vultan - March 15, 2011

I still have some issues with the design of the new Enterprise, but that shot of it rising above Titan is glorious! Worth the price of admission alone.

3. Cobalt 1365 - March 15, 2011

Fantastic video, I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time. The Trek supreme court couldn’t have picked a more talented individual for science imagery advisor.

I’m an engineering student, and I’m all about scientific accuracy in movies, but darn it if I didn’t almost applaud the Titan scene the first time I saw it in theatres. Well done one and all!

4. Ensign RedShirt - March 15, 2011

I never blamed her-I knew where the fault lay….it may be the least scientifically accurate of all the Trek films.

Stunning Saturn animation! Thanks Kayla!

5. Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire - March 15, 2011

That was one of the best scenes in Trek 09 when the Enterprise was rising above Titan. Beautiful. Now. Change the Engineering to be a real Engine room and not a Brewery.

6. Hat Rick - March 15, 2011

Carolyn rocks! :-)

7. HeyHeyHEY - March 15, 2011

Carolyn Porco was great because there was NO SCIENCE!!! in the movie!! Damn thats whats bad about this site. I feel like they have to kiss JJ Butt. I would like to see something that will point out some of the many bad parts of the movie, that will never happen on this site. They want more interviews from JJ and the rest of the cast when the next movie comes out!!

8. Daoud - March 15, 2011

As a physicist, I never go to a Star Trek movie for physics. I go to enjoy a story. However, it sure helps when a bit of accuracy can be thrown in without affecting the needs of the story.
Kayla, I think boborci knows there are a few of us out here who’d be more than glad to suggest “science adjustments” gladly. I’d just like them to have a throwaway type line, or background announcement here and there that would be realistic. Just some indication that food processing, waste reprocessing, raw materials, and most of all *water* are being handled somewhere on the ship and moved around and about…. um…. like exactly what might look a bit like a brewery with tanks and pipes and pumps! ;)

9. Carolyn Porco - March 15, 2011

I would like to add here that I had nothing to do with the video above and in fact do not think it’s worth the hoopla. Turn the music off and it’s not much better than what’s already been done.

Also, I was not asked about ANY of the science on Star Trek 2009. I was not even asked about how the signal from Enterprise might escape the enemy detectors: hence, that silliness about the magnetic fields of the rings! I was only responsible for suggesting, and commenting on the development of, the scene above.

If ppl are knocking my `science advisorship’, they don’t know the facts.

10. Carolyn Porco - March 15, 2011

Oh… and please let me add my many thanks to those who did appreciate what I contributed to the film. And yes, I would LOVE to have a cameo in the next one, and I’m so pleased that over 1000 folks would like that too, as evidenced by this wonderful petition begun by some of `my fans’.

11. Daoud - March 15, 2011

Oh, and the subtitle for the video reading:
…”5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation”
should read:
…”5.6k Saturn Cassini Photographic Composite Video
It’s certainly *not* an animation per se! :)
And sometime we should talk about how the event horizons of rotating black holes very much are events which open wormholes in spacetime that could theoretically allow travel to another time and place and still not violate the Einstein equations….

12. Jonboc - March 15, 2011

#7 “I would like to see something that will point out some of the many bad parts of the movie, that will never happen on this site.”

I sure hope it never happens!

13. Anthony Pascale - March 15, 2011

this site, and i myself, have posted critiques of Star Trek 2009. And i am in fact working on another critical article for this weekend. JJ/Bob/Alex/etc are very open to critiques in fact.

14. Basement Blogger - March 15, 2011

The real images of Saturn are stunning. They have me thinking of man’s place in the universe.

15. Kayla Iacovino - March 15, 2011

@9&10 Carolyn Porco:

I just think the video does a good job of showing off your gorgeous pictures. I applaud the imagery and science behind it!

That said, it can’t hurt to throw a dramatic score behind something that is already great just to get the internet abuzz.

16. Anthony Pascale - March 15, 2011

Oh and great to see Carolyn Porco drop by

17. Basement Blogger - March 15, 2011

You’re right Kayla, Michio Kaku would be a great science advisor for the sequel. I keeeed. Yeah, trading Antartica for sunny Los Angeles sounds great Kayla. Thanks for the cool stuff.

You did remember our warnings about not thawing out any aliens you might find in Antartica? Pass the message to the Norwegians. And keep flamethrowers handy. :-)

18. Battle-scarred Sciatica - March 15, 2011

Barbers Adagio for Strings fits beautifully.

…”Space, the final frontier”….

19. Commodore Mike of the Terran Empire - March 15, 2011

Hey Carolyn thanks for dropping by. Feel free to post with us crazy Trek fans any time ok. A great score can help to make a good Movie great and a great movie even better. Try watching tos with out any music and it won’t be as enjoyable. Most of the Tng Eps could have been better with a better score. Example. Tng. The Best of both Worlds had it all. A Great story and a great music score.

20. moauvian waoul- aka: seymour hiney - March 15, 2011

guess the position of science advisor is still open then. They need to fill it for the next go around.

21. moauvian waoul- aka: seymour hiney - March 15, 2011

“I would like to see something that will point out some of the many bad parts of the movie, that will never happen on this site.”

Like Carolyn Porco, Bob Orci never gets criticized on this web site.

And thanks for joining us Ms. Porco.

22. somethoughts - March 15, 2011

Now if only nasa would stop photoshopping out monuments on mars, moon and huge alien ships and satelites near saturn, but hey at least there is no panic on earth and the prime directive is followed.

23. Hat Rick - March 15, 2011

Speaking of that, 22, Art Bell has apparently disappeared off the face of the Earth. Even the host that replaced him doesn’t know what happened. Bell was supposed to do so some guest-hosting but that role has gone to someone else by now, apparently.

So, after several “retirements,” Bell may have really retired for good this time.

But where to?

Truly a mystery.

24. dmduncan - March 15, 2011

17: “You’re right Kayla, Michio Kaku would be a great science advisor for the sequel.”


25. TrekMadMeWonder - March 15, 2011

wow. (in an epic way)

26. dmduncan - March 15, 2011

Always, if there is the possibility of going the extra mile by rewriting a scene to make it more scientifically plausible, then I am for that. But realistically? Star Trek’s history with accurate science has ALWAYS been sensationalistic, so if fans want consistency, some of that consistency has to come from fans in what they expect Star Trek to be, which has NEVER been science first, everything else second.

27. RTC - March 15, 2011

I had no idea Carolyn was getting backhanded for the scientific liberties in ST09. Very sad to hear this. It’s definitely undeserved–and I would say that even if ‘science advisor’ were the role many apparently believed it to be. Trek has never made apologies for its willingness to err on the side of drama vs. science–hence the title ‘advisor’ rather than ‘dictator.’

I’m just grateful for the role Carolyn *did* play! Great respect for her and her work!

28. Jack - March 15, 2011

So, Dr. Porco,

Any opinions on the black hole destroying a planet, the supernova threatening the galaxy, or was it the universe? (I’m hoping Spock was fond of hyperbole) and Vulcan’s blue sky?

I’m still happy they left tachyons, chronometric particles, adjustable phase variance, rewritable DNA and the emit-whatever-you-need-it-to main deflector back on the whiteboard in the Voyager writers’ room.

ps. I’m one of the jerks who thought, how’d their NASA science advisor sign off on all this?

29. somethoughts - March 15, 2011

I prefer james cameron or gr sci fi, who cares about sci advisors, if they want one get hawkings.

30. Jack - March 15, 2011

ps. so how could the enterprise really not have been detected by the enemy? Er, if both were real.

31. somethoughts - March 15, 2011

Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with the impact of imagined innovations in science or technology, often in a futuristic setting. [1][2][3] It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”. [4] Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities. [5] The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality but the majority of science fiction relies on a considerable degree of suspension of disbelief, which is facilitated in the reader’s mind by potential scientific explanations or solutions to various fictional elements. These may include: A setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in an historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record A setting in outer space, on other worlds, or involving aliens [6] Stories that involve technology or scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature [7] Stories that involve discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics, or new technology, such as nanotechnology, faster-than-light travel or robots, or of new and different political or social systems (e.g., a dystopia, or a situation where organized society has collapsed)

32. Jack - March 15, 2011

“And sometime we should talk about how the event horizons of rotating black holes very much are events which open wormholes in spacetime that could theoretically allow travel to another time and place and still not violate the Einstein equations….”

heh. let’s talk about it now. so an extra line (even just the term event horizon) would have helped? in the countdown comics they clear it up a little, and it sounds better, but, as a not-science guy, I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just, essentially, gibberish. A very slightly altered mind meld scene would have helped, without, er, alienating the general public (and Spock wouldn’t have been dumbing it down for Kirk, although maybe the writers thought that Kirk wouldn’t need the details spelled out) Hindsight is great — the point is, it would be swell to have
some clarity in the next one, without it turning into a discovery channel show.

33. dmduncan - March 15, 2011

31. somethoughts – March 15, 2011

But movie SF poses a unique problem in that its science is in many cases visually and aurally projected, unlike in literary SF. So you can SEE and HEAR violations that are not under the control of the writers because movies are a collaborative medium. Thus, you HEAR sounds in space, and you SEE slow moving phaser beams.

Other limitations of the medium were responsible for Star Trek’s sensational use of teleportation, because stories had to be told weekly with a set time frame for production and a budget that restricted possibilities.

34. dmduncan - March 15, 2011

BTW, Enterprise rising up out of Titan was one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Loved that.

35. Daoud - March 15, 2011

I meant talk about such things as cabbages and kings *here*, not in the next film’s dialogue! :)

And, sure, there were really three types of phenomena in the movie lumped together as ‘black holes':

(1) The Hobus supernova remnant: that would have been a 5+stellar mass black hole, rotating, with an event horizon and space-time wormholes easily…. but sure, it was easy to say “black hole formed after the Hobus star went supernova”.

(2) The compression of Vulcan into a planetary point mass. ‘Tain’t nothin’ I know of, however substellar mass black holes are certainly possible: the turbulence in real supernovas is thought to be one way to create such holes… you need some magic material, or, erm, in the real words “exotic matter” to create a freestanding wormhole: that’s in the famous Alcubierre paper on warping space-time to create something akin to Trek’s warp travel. If that be what ‘red matter’ is… something that has negative mass, and negative energy… which appears red in the visual spectrum because of some perverse redshifting… then so be it. Stick that in the middle of a planetary mass and ‘ignite’ it, and I’m sure something nasty happens. However, the angular momentum of a rotating Vulcan is nothing compared to a rotating star, like Hobus, or our Sun, so the resulting black hole won’t be enough to create a naked singularity and event horizon: thus no wormholes and no time travel.

(3) And finally, opening a singularity in the middle of the Narada. I’d call that a mass hole. Presumably this micro-mass (having only the red matter’s mass) black hole, akin to primordial blackholes (from the beginning/Big Bang/creation/Big Spaghetti Dinner: low enough mass to have evaporated by now) would have quickly incorporated the Narada. It’s not rotating, so no naked singularity, and no significant event horizon: not enough mass to create wormholes.

Each is different. They just have “black hole” as a term in common.

36. Daoud - March 15, 2011

>Any opinions … Vulcan’s blue sky?

All skies are at the baseline blue due to Rayleigh scattering. To get a different color, you need either a gas that has a color: such as chlorine Cl2 which is green… or you need dust which causes a different scattering effect.

The butterscotch skies of Mars are due to the dust particles. But even on Mars at higher altitudes, or when the dust rarely subsides, the sky overhead is bluish.

Vulcan seems to have a lot in common with Mars geology-wise: so in Trek 2009, it was just a very clear day in ShiKahr. :)

37. Corinthian7 - March 15, 2011

I loved Star Trek 09 but maybe it would be good idea to ask for Carolyn’s opinion on more than just the visuals this time around. After all Bob did make a big deal about saying the science would be realistic – ‘there will be no slingshotting around the sun on my watch’ sort of thing. To be fair though the last script was completed just before the writers strike so by then I guess it would have been too late to run it by an actual scientist.

38. Rick Sternbach - March 15, 2011

As one who has also wrangled planets and moons (in miniature form) for the PBS miniseries COSMOS, let me say that regardless of the level of accuracy (mainly geometry) of the final Saturn/Titan shot in Star Trek 2009, I applaud whatever measures Carolyn Porco brought to bear on the look of things. Getting the folks who make SF films to go with real science – or even consistent, well thought out future super-science – is sometimes a battle. We had a very good “battling average” on TNG/DS9/Voy, though there were instances where we compromised because of timing, drama, visual excitement, etc. In the art department we tried to pick our battles wisely.

As far as the specific Saturn/Titan shot is concerned, could it have been made as visually exciting with the correct geometry (and oblateness of Saturn)? Of course. This specific artistic vision won out, and the film is what it is. We do what we can.

39. Dac - March 15, 2011

When I first saw that video a few weeks ago I was under the impression it was a series of time lapse photos taken from Cassini as it entered the Saturn system, however I quickly learned that wasnt the case and that took away the “awe”.

It’s basically one bloke making Saturn spin in after effects. Whoop de doo.

Also, the problem with Trek XI wasnt the dodgy science, it was the dodgy editing (How does a shuttle perform a 360 degree turn in a fraction of a second and appear a few hundred meters away from where it was?).

40. Jack - March 15, 2011

33. The slow moving phaser beam was a massive pet peeve — but I wonder of it was sometimes written that way ex. TNG Conspiracy, where Picard slowly ducks (if I’d been tossing a nerf ball at him, I would have hit him) out of the way of a phaser beam and then a pyrotechnic thing goes off behind him. Okay maybe that’s more the carrying out.

35 and 36. Heh. Yep, thanks… I too want to talk about them here. But I guess I was also hoping for a little clarity in the next one (in its science, not the last one’s) so Roger Ebert isn’t screaming “preposterous!” and linking to bad astronomy.

So it sounds like most of the Trek 09 science was actually sort of not entirely implausible, the black hole stuff at least, but just simplified (and I’m a fan of keeping the science simple, it would be bizarre to have a 40-second explanation each time something happens…. and now I’m slamming Voyager again, Sorry Rick).

But, still,in Trek 09 it sounded like, “hey, if you go through a black hole you’ll go back in time!” and many went “huh? that’s not what we learned in the fourth grade.” I think it would have helped the flick to emphasize that Spock had intended it to be a suicide mission and hadn’t planned on getting caught in the event horizon and the time travel. But in fewer words than I just used. But really, who knows? I’m not a writer.

I am a nerd. though.

The ‘wow, this must be an alternate reality’ scene worked like crazy precisely because it didn’t dwell on made-up details. Spock didn’t have to launch a power point presentation on the main viewer: he had a couple of lines and everybody (the crew and us) got it quickly. That’s how it should be.

And 38. Rick, your shows looked great. The art direction and fx were convincing, they didn’t need to be scientifically accurate (as long as nobody’s talking and breathing in space, I’m fine), well, at least that’s my opinion.

There was always the sense that y’all were striving to get it all as right as possible, despite my endless complaints about the writers and their occasional love of do-what-you-need-em-to tachyons and watch-it-happen-before-your-eyes reversible mutations.

I was a Voyager fan, so I’d get frustrated when it was goofy.

41. Rick Sternbach - March 15, 2011

#40 – I got frustrated, too. I was never one for overly wordy tech, so if you had an issue with anything like that, it wasn’t me. :) And agreed, the stuff didn’t have to 100% scientifically accurate (just going to warp violates all kinds of present-day principles), but we strove for internal consistency in the future concepts and tried to make sure -established- science wasn’t given the heave-ho in favor of some bit of cool fluff. Unfortunately, we never could prevent things like Paris and Janeway turning into salamanders or grown crew turning into kids (missing mass?) or the countless other DNA-rewrites-of-the-week. There are so many more great concepts in SF that nobody’s touched, not just Trek, so we end up with a lot of the same stuff over and over.

42. Daoud - March 15, 2011

But Rick, transporters “adjusting” the mass of objects goes all the way back to the first season of TOS with “Enemy Within”! Shouldn’t good Kirk have been really light in the loafers with half the mass? :)
I always like to think that the replicators and the transporters drew upon some raw material storage tanks…. Anyway, that only takes care of the tech transformations.
I don’t know how the heck you age people (TOS Deadly Years), turn them into spiders and cavemen (TNG), or salamanders (VOY) by simply ‘adjusting their DNA’. Then there’s that creepy VOY episode where they reanimate dead corpses as new members of their species…. that makes totally no sense at all.
Oh well… someday we’ll get a Science Fiction series that has rational tech (like BSG) *and* great characters (like TOS) *and* good science (like Cosmos) all in one. What a market for it there is….

43. Polly - March 15, 2011

I swear that scene was the most beautiful one out of the whole movie

44. tony - March 15, 2011

gettin alittle picking. i thought visuals were great

45. Green Blooded Bastard - March 15, 2011

I never heard anyone was giving anyone any flack over the “science” of the new Trek film. Also, I can’t believe there are people so petty that with the limited, precious time we have here on Earth, anyone would spend one second of it nit-picking a science fiction movie. Is this what people go to the movies and spend their hard earned dollars for? Jesus!

I went to the theater with friends and had myself an good old fashion afternoon with a huge tub of popcorn and a soda and loved every second of it from start to finish. It’s entertainment, and better than most. The moment you start to question what’s going on or take yourself out of the “movie-moment” you stop having a good time. Why go then? If you can’t sit and enjoy it for what it is, you have bigger issues. Save your money, see a psychologist and figure out why you have trouble enjoying life.

The visuals were breathtaking, and the Cassini video shows how far they went to make sure everything looked right. Be grateful they worked so hard, it’s not like any of us are going there anytime soon. I’m grateful anyone cared enough about Trek to even make a movie for me to watch and enjoy. Thank you all!

46. CaptainDonovin - March 15, 2011

Anyone know the name of the music used, very beautiful.

47. BobFM - March 16, 2011

“Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

48. Enterprisingguy - March 16, 2011

45. Green Blooded Bastard:
“The moment you start to question what’s going on or take yourself out of the ‘movie-moment’ you stop having a good time.”

I agree. But by the same token don’t you feel that when we are shown scenes such as the Enterprise being a mere 30 seconds behind the fleet, (due to Sulu’s “parking brake” mistake) only to arrive and see it already destroyed, that you are taken out of the movie by such a WTF moment?

I don’t like to nitpick the science, but I don’t expect to be treated like an idiot either. Audiences are a lot more up on real science than they were when Star Trek first came out in the 60’s. I can suspend my disbelief for things like warp drive as being plausible. But don’t expect me to believe that a super nova can “threaten the galaxy”! Sheesh!

49. gingerly - March 16, 2011


LOL@the petition

I can’t hate though, because if I were in your position, I’d shamelessly lobby until I could lobby no more to get into the next Trek. :)

Good Luck!

I tell you what, at the rate they’re going with all these people who want to be in Trek, at least any large crowd scenes won’t need CGI filler.

As for the work done, Saturn was stunning and you contributed to my favorite scene in the movie for me, hands down.

But yeah, Orci and co. do need to fully utilize their science advisor(s) this go round.

Might I suggest, Dr. Michio Kaku?

50. gingerly - March 16, 2011

…And I’d still love to see more alienness in general.

I could see a creature using it’s own excretions and a giant foot like a snail to get around, for example or floating around using it’s own mixture of gases, and just faceless, as we know it, with crazy colors, and shapes.

I dug Keenser, Madeline, and that four-eyed snitch from Rura Penthe, but I’d like to see more crazy imaginative creatures among the humanoids, who aren’t necessarily bipeds in silicone prostheses.

Take cues from the oddest of our earthbound creatures to create them.

We’ve seen too many humanoids and not enough creatures like the Horta in Trek, IMO.

I’ve always felt Star Trek was lacking in diversity and proliferation of realistic indigenous alien life populating it’s planets…especially when you look at the crazy creatures we have just on Earth.

51. VZX - March 16, 2011

Bob and Alex, if you’re reading this, I know another GREAT scientist who would love to be the full-fledged science advisor for the sequel…ME!!!!

52. VZX - March 16, 2011

Carolyn: I’m surprised that no one asked you or any other science person about the whole “supernova threatening entire galaxy” nonsense. Even some of my students stated that that whole thing took them out of the movie. I know that JJ was aiming for stupid Joe Public, but come on! Really!

53. CmdrR - March 16, 2011

Utterly gorgeous. (Sorry, Anthony, I meant the planet.)

It may be addressed above; I only skimmed. Sorry. But… is that what we’d see if we were looking through a porthole? I know the Hubble stuff is often computer color-augmented to represent real elements. Is Saturn really that colorful?

54. keachick - March 16, 2011

#50 Yes, I would love to see the Horta. I read a lovely Star Trek novel a while back which had a small horta as a member of Starfleet and working on the bridge of the Enterprise. I don’t know how you would get, what Kirk lovingly referred to a “deep pan pizza”, regulation uniform on this creature. Perhaps, a pin and nametag type thing would just have to suffice. Spock described the big mama horta as highly intelligent and sensitive. Sounds like a great alien addition to the crew.

55. SB - March 16, 2011


“Protomatter,” just like “red matter,” is a MacGuffin designed to “explain” how a nonexistent technology works… yet I don’t recall seeing any tantrums over it from the fan community.

Nor do I recall anyone pitching a fit over “transparent aluminum.”

Or how Ceti Alpha V could possibly explode, since planets don’t explode.

Or how an explosion on a Klingon moon could possibly create ” a deadly pollution of the ozone” on other Klingon worlds.

I’ve lost count of how many ridiculous “particles” were invented for TNG and VOYAGER, things that have no explanation and no basis, but were basically tossed in to be the “thing we don’t have yet that makes all this invented tech work.” Where are the complaints on those?

I don’t hear any, and that’s as it should be. My point, boys and girls, is that it’s all whining for the sake of whining. ALL of Star Trek’s “technology” is fictional. Invented. BOGUS. THEY MADE IT ALL UP. Yes, admittedly, in many cases a concerted effort was made to make the Bolonium “sound” plausible, to make it at least seem to acknowledge the boundaries of currently known and theoretical physics. And that’s admirable, at least when it wasn’t being used an excuse for pages and pages of technobabble. But just as many times, that effort wasn’t made.

And it doesn’t matter. “Tetryon particles” and “red matter” come out of the exact same container, the tank where you get nonexistent technology to “explain” something that really needs no explanation.

All the bitching and moaning about Ms. Porco boils down to just one more reason to dislike something you’d already made up your mind to dislike.

Truth. Sorry. *shrugs*

56. Mel - March 16, 2011

The science in a science fiction movie doesn’t have to be right, but I like it, if it appears at least half way plausible to non scientists. That was often not the case in the last movie. That should be done better in the next movie.

57. nx-2000 - March 16, 2011

#50: I agree. “Devil in the Dark” proved that you can have a very different, decidedly un-humanoid life form and still create a good story and have the alien be a character you can identify with, and the more we learn about life forms even just here on Earth, the more we’re beginning to see that it could take a wild, weird variety of forms – as long as it’s geared to survive in whatever environment it’s found in, it sometimes seems like “anything goes.” I know this would sorely tax special effects budgets, but it would be wonderful to see that kind of beautiful “weirdness” in future “Star Trek” productions – something more along the lines of the famous “Alien Planet” documentary.

58. Daoud - March 16, 2011

@56. Well, it can also sound plausible to scientists too. We know it’s science fiction: create a fictional tweak on a physical law. Change G, or the mass of an electron, whatever… the key is to be *internally* consistent. If you explain warp drive one way this week, don’t change it next week. That’s the fun of playing “what if”, that even us scientists do. “What if” we could travel up to and cross beyond light speed? is an example.

If the science fiction fictional science isn’t internally consistent… that’s when I say “science fantasy”. Classically the supposed distinction between Star Trek and Star Wars.

59. dmduncan - March 16, 2011

Dilithium crystals were the original red matter. Yep. No mad fan rage over the dilithium though.

60. CarlG - March 16, 2011

Meh, most of the fun concepts of Trek are probably the most scientifically insane. As long as the science holds together enough to get our favourite crew out to the final frontier, it’s all good! :)

@54: You’re probably thinking of Lieutenant Naraht, who showed up in a bunch of stories by Diane Duane. He was awesome.

61. Michael Hall - March 16, 2011


Yes, you’re absolutely right that tetryon particles, red matter, and dilithium crystals have all been pulled from the same bag of pseudoscientific hoo-haw. I have no problem with that at all, but do have an issue with third grade-level shenanigans like a supernova threatening the galaxy in real time, not to mention storytelling too lazy to be consistent with the technology of a well-established fictional universe (e.g., we need to get Kirk and Scotty back on the Enterprise by the next scene, so give them a super-transporter device, definitely out of place for the era and most likely never to be seen again).

Ms. Porco, I’m just in awe of your regular work. As for Trek ’09, whatever excellent suggestions you made that the producers chose not to use, it was their loss.

62. Jack - March 17, 2011

@55 I didn’t mind the red matter (it wasn’t invented in the course of an episode on a lone ship stuck in, oh, say the delta quadrant), or the transwarp beaming. i wasn’t thrilled with the “I was a jerk and used protomatter” cop out (a bit too simple a fix to the ultimate weapon pickle, but whatever. these things don’t really exist and they were there to forward the plot. same with the transporter and warp drive. frankly, dilithium always bugged me a little. But still, there’s a difference between our pal the MacGuffin and well, the magic last minute deus ex machina plot fixer. trek 09 wasn’t guilty of that. But lots smarter than me noticed that some of the science stuff (that’s a scientific term) apparently didn’t quite make sense (like how a supernova or a black holes works) and it gets talked about especially by people like me who wikipedia (I know) everything they’ve just seen in a movie (I was stunned to learn a couple years back that aliens weren’t really taking people from nome, alaska).

i keep going back to Roger Ebert, but he nearly killed my post-movie buzz by pointing out the whole black hole thing and pretty much using it to argue that Trek 09 wasn’t sci fi like TOS, but space opera like Star Wars, and because of that, he couldn’t recommend an otherwise entertaining movie.

i wrote him an incensed email about this and he nicely cut it to shreds in his column.

although, again, maybe the movie was actually sort of right about black holes and supernovae (novas?) and just left out the fine print.

heck, it gets us talking about science, which is pretty awesome.

And the trick with Trek has always been trying to make it appear to be a plausible future, with what we know, and what we speculate, now. they did it in tos by, generally, avoiding specifics. It’s tricky to balance that with the needs of thé story. or so wikipedia tells me.

It’s also trick y to keep my French keyboard from turning on.

and I agree

63. Jack - March 17, 2011

Sorry, that last fragment escaped the view of my ipad text window, and or was caused by a subspace anomaly.

PS @55 I kind of think that jerks like me complained about ALL the things you mentioned, at some point.

64. CaptainDonovin - March 17, 2011

Thanks for the info BobFM.

65. Gotta do it - March 17, 2011

Rick Sternbach for a cameo in the next Trek film!! :)

66. Rick Sternbach - March 17, 2011

#65 – Ha. In your dreams. Actually, I was in the rec room scene in TMP. Well, behind the wall where Uhura touched the com panel, having just applied a final bit of graphic stuff like a minute earlier. :)

67. I am not Herbert - March 18, 2011

Yes, the “science” in ST09 sucked ass; my number 1 reason for hating the movie.

…i’m sure it’s just pissing against the wind with these guys…, but


…and please don’t make ST2012 a “character study”… WTF!?

68. Stephen - March 19, 2011

Oh, who cares about the science? Sure it’s nice to see them get some things right, and I’ve seen some, (OK, most episodes) that made me absolutely cringe, (sonic disruptors aimed at an orbiting spacecraft in a vacuum in TOS anyone?), but if the story is good, I can suspend disbelief for an hour or two.

BTW- Was anyone else reminded of part of the title sequence of Voyager at about 1:45 in the video?

69. Jack - March 20, 2011

68. See 58 and 61.

But, yeah, a good story matters most.

And I find it pretty neat to talk about the science stuff that they get not quite right (deliberately or not) as it’s a good way to learn about some of these things. And sometimes it turns out that the “they got it wrong!” people are wrong.

One I’ve always wondered about is solar systems, as in, isn’t ours the only real Solar system (and the others are whatever-their-star-is-named systems). Do both (solar and star) get used scientifically? I’m pretty sure
Trek has varied in how this gets used. Trek 09 had Uhura “tracking solar
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