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Science Fantasy vs Science

  1. Jun 12, 2015 #1
    Science fantasy vs science fiction. Do we have it wrong?

    At out science Meet Up group we were talking about Interstellar travel. As usual, the properties of matter, energy brought up.

    Regardless of how described in scientific jargon, FTL is all silly gobbledygook in science fiction books and movies. A magician waving a magic wand to get the Enterprise around the galaxy is no less silly than evoking Warp Speed or whatever. Scotty could put on a magician's hat and it would all be the same.

    We were rambling on and someone pointed out that it may be within the laws of physics to one day develop a real life flying dragon-like animal. It is within the law of physics that a sword yielding princess could ride on its back and slay the enemies of her father, the king. The scenario might be 'fiction' but the theoretical science is not fantasy.

    In contrast, as soon as any property of matter or energy is ignored, then something becomes 'fantasy' regardless of the plot. Anything contrary to the property of a subatomic particle, quantum mechanics...etc....etc. is 'fantasy'. Liberties taken for convenience sake to push a plot along are actually magic wands being waved. Technology that we say we may develop 'one day' will actually not be developed unless it conforms to properties of physics.

    Anyways, it is a contrarian position. I've always been a science fiction reader with little interest in what's called science fantasy. Perhaps there is more fantasy in a lot of science fiction than in a lot science fantasy.
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  3. Jun 12, 2015 #2
    So science fiction is robots and man-made where fantasy is magic and faeries. The best are both. The universe has a logical side and a mystical one by nature.

    I'm watching 2001: a space odyssey thinking how ironic this is.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2015
  4. Jun 13, 2015 #3


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    From wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_fantasy

    Distinguishing between science fiction and fantasy, Rod Serling claimed that the former was "the improbable made possible" while the latter was "the impossible made probable".[2] As a combination of the two, science fantasy gives a scientific veneer of realism to things that simply could not happen in the real world under any circumstances. Where science fiction does not permit the existence of fantasy or supernatural elements, science fantasy explicitly relies upon them.

    It's not just about what is possible either. It's also about the tropes used and the overall tone, setting, and other content in the story.

    The key is that warp travel and transporters are based in science, regardless of whether or not they are actually possible. A mystical band of fairies who push a spaceship through space at FTL speeds are NOT science based, they are fantasy based.

    I don't agree with this definition of fantasy. Fantasy, as a genre, uses mainly non-scientific explanations for their more 'fantastic' breaks from reality. And that's what everything here is. A break from reality. Contrary to what you've said, the explanation given for the break in reality DOES make a difference. It is one of the defining characteristics that separates two genres.
  5. Jun 13, 2015 #4


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    You make a good point. But, sorry, everybody just agrees that FTL is science and magic is not. o_O
    I guess FTL is at least posed as having been developed by science whereas flying dragons and magic swords are not posed as products of science (generally).

    A book containing advanced science and mutant dragons developed though genetic techniques could probably be called science fiction.
  6. Jun 13, 2015 #5
    Dark kith,
    I would say that FTL had never been posed within some scientific explanation. Adding scientific sounding jargon is not scientific explanation.. It has always been fudged and hidden behind something that is not science. The properties of matter and energy can't be cherry picked. General Relativity or Quantum Mechanics can't be tweaked be tweaked to allow for happenings outside of physical reality.

    A whole chapter devoted to explaining how a human spacecraft avoids the law of physics is no more scientific in explanation than saying we jumped into a jar of peanut butter and when we opened the lid we were on Alpha Centauri. The description of some method that contradicts GR or QM may sound neat but it is no less fantasy.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2015
  7. Jun 13, 2015 #6


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    Pretty much all of literature disagrees with you. Besides, scientific laws are not set in stone. There's absolutely no way to know if some future discovery will enable FTL or not.

    I disagree. What you're claiming doesn't match up with what the word Fantasy means in this context.

    Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures are common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.

    While FTL travel and mythical creatures are both breaks from reality, the former is generally explained within a technological/scientific context, unlike the latter. And that makes all the difference in the world to readers.
  8. Jun 14, 2015 #7
    Whether there is any possibility that the Alcubierre drive could work in reality or no, whether there are extra dimensions, wormholes or not, whether there is a superset that makes things possible without rewrite everything we know or not (mathematical example, sqrt(-1) is defined on the set of complex numbers, and you dont have to change anything on the set of real numbers) ; i disagree with your point.
    IMHO if FTL is needed for a good story, a writer shouldnt be ashamed to use it, especially if s/he cares about, that every other thing should be as scientific as possible (newtonian dynamics in space for example, time slows down near to a black hole etc)
    If an SF cares about discovery, creating a self-consistent universe, how breakthroughs can affect our future lives (make young ones interested in science, space explorations) etc, then i say its good SF, whether it involves the element zero and unobtanium or not.
  9. Jun 16, 2015 #8


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    It's a fuzzy boundary. That doesn't mean there's no difference between the two, but there is always some subjective judgement in there. You can have magic in sci-fi, and robots in fantasy--it's about what the focus of the narrative is, and how logic works in the universe. Science fiction doesn't have to be possible, but it has to make sense. The technology (or magic) has clearly defined limits and has ramifications on society. In fantasy, magic is mostly not integrated into society. Even if the characters know that magic exists, it is always a surprise what can be achieved, since there are apparently no limits. Magic is strange. In science fiction, we imagine what society would be like if people possessed certain powers (through technology). In fantasy, we imagine what we would be like, if we had certain powers and we were plopped into an unsuspecting society.
  10. Jun 16, 2015 #9
    Science fiction,

    Todays science fiction is tomorrows science fact..(possibly)
    You have to remember that the scientists need someone to think of an idea to invent it, and then again do we invent anything or if we discover anything surly it already has to exist. You cannot create anything in theory, the possibility has to already exist.
    Perhaps that links to thoughts and ideas.
  11. Jun 16, 2015 #10


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    No, they don't. They do just fine discovering or inventing things on their own.
  12. Jun 16, 2015 #11
    Scientists are not normally outrageous except for the odd few. There are some great thinkers that are not scientists. To block out other ideas is not always a good idea.
    Yes I will agree they can be proved wrong or not applicable. However to assume science has all the ideas is a bit closed minded.

    If you think about it what is a thought? Where does the creation come from?
    I'm talking about the original idea.
    Science fiction is also a way of playing out moral issues which cannot always be done in the "real world".
    We wouldn't want another world war to happen to then think well that was a mistake.
    Or create a computer that takes over the world.
    The above are just reflections on Science fiction however they do have an impact.
    Even thoughts about genetic engineering etc.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2015
  13. Jun 16, 2015 #12


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    I would feel safe saying that Science Fiction makes ZERO contributions to actual science. It does help with cultural acceptance of new concepts, but that is different.
    Science looks for and makes adaptations to account for anomalous data. Anomalies accumulate relative to the accepted paradigm and finally the science community comes up with a solution to the anomalies and there is a sudden revolutionary paradigm shift. Sometimes all the old guard have to die off before a new paradigm is accepted. Discoveries are generally spread across many researchers and even generations, but someone gets the credit and his place in history. There are seemingly standout exceptions, like Galileo or Newton, but even they were building on ideas from peers and predecessors. I suggest Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Not everyone agrees with his views, but it is an enlightening read none-the-less.
  14. Jun 20, 2015 #13
    I doubt that Science Fiction has any real effect on science but I do think that Science Fiction does have an effect on technology. How much does your cell phone look like the communicators from Star Trek?
  15. Jun 20, 2015 #14
    What does Star Trek have to do with the technology of my cell phone....zip. Technology isn't a box. It's what's inside the box.

    I like the movie 'The Time Machine'. One of my favourite lines was when the inventor was asked how the time machine worked. Press the handle ahead ...and you go forward in time. Pull it back ...to go into the past. So, if some timetravel is some day achieved through some manipulation of quantum states, are we going to give credit to HG Wells for the idea?

    I predict that one day a building will be 200 stories tall. When it happens, I want credit for the concept. Predicting things isn't that difficult. Difficulty is developing technology within the limits of matter and energy.
  16. Jun 21, 2015 #15
    But there is the quesiton of whether we would bother looking for a route to the future or past without science fiction. As for the cell phone no one had the technology for such a thing when the idea first entered print, but someone thought it would be possible someday.And I still use one of the older designs that look like Captain Kirk's communicator (the newer cell phones look more like a tricorder).
  17. Jun 22, 2015 #16
    Why would we not look for a route to the future or past without science fiction? Scientists, including myself, base our research by building on science.
  18. Jun 22, 2015 #17
    The same only different. Scientists in this instance are looking at the future as something that is predictable in relation to findings in research. You're something like lawyers who are building on precedent in the hope of creating a predictable future. Unlike lawyers you're not particularly interested in how people are going to relate to that predictability. That's a bit more of the Science Fiction writers domain.
  19. Jun 22, 2015 #18


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    Science fiction has no effect on progress and little effect on products. The star trek communicator had no effect on cell phone designs. Any similarity is due to just common sense design. Public acceptance of ideas is not enhanced by science-fiction (a small minority even read science fiction). Most progress (in a product sense) is motivated by making money, pure and simple.
  20. Jun 22, 2015 #19
    Still, it would be cool if we had something like the Star Trek transporter by now instead of just cell phones
    I am kind of glad also, that Star Trek did not get as ludicrous as to suggest such a things as facebook and etc.
  21. Jun 23, 2015 #20


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    Like they say, reality is stranger than fiction!
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