The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Star Trekkin’

I saw the new Star Trek movie this morning (9:15am showing to avoid the crowds as much as I could…earliest screening I have ever been to!) Short review: it’s a good, fun summer action movie.  Well produced, cast and the effects look great.  The young actors take inspiration from the original cast without doing impressions.  I did smirk at Spock’s raised eyebrow in one scene (I have always wanted to be able to raise one eyebrow like that and have tried for hours in front of a mirror without success).

But this movie has a lot of science in it…or not quite.  I don’t want to post spoilers here, so I will keep remarks as general as possible.  Still if you want absolutely no clue as to anything that happens in the movie, you might want to stop reading now.

First, I am not going to complain about basics like warp drive…you kind of have to give them a couple of conceipts (like a way to get between the stars and artificial gravity are a couple I usually don’t nitpick as long as they are used consistently and not Get Out of Jail Free cards whenever the plot requires it).

Briefly, one of the plot points is there is a supernova that threatened the galaxy and they were trying to stop it  Supernova are big explosions that happen at the end of the life of a massive star, but they are hardly able to threaten a galaxy.  Planets around the star are toast and maybe a few tens of light years away.  In a galaxy 100,000 light years across, that is hardly a threat to 99.99999(keep adding a few more 9s)% of the planets.

There is a lot about black holes in the movie that doesn’t sit well.  The villian, Nero, is attempting to turn a planet into a black hole.  If you turned your typical M-class planet into a black hole, its diameter would be a centimeter or so across…they get that one off just a wee bit.  With such small black hole, gravity drops off very quickly as you move away from it so a starship in orbit around the original planet would not be sucked in…in fact, it would pretty much star in exactly the same orbit since the mass didn’t change and its position didn’t change, gravity wouldn’t change!

The science advisor for the movie was Carolyn Porco (with whom I have shared a couple of drinks) the lead of the Cassini Imaging team.  She is listed in the credits right below the Vulan and Romulan language consultant.  Anyway, she was very proud of a quick shot involving her favorite planet.  Even though the geometry wasn’t quite right, it was a cool shot!

Now one more general comment that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine in a lot of moives and television shows: the dpecition of hand to hand combat.  The physical punishment dished out in some of the fights sure wouldn’t let the people get up to fight again 30 seconds later!  If you have ever been in a fight, you would know how much a couple of good punches take out of you.  One show that does a decent job with this is Breaking Bad, a fanstastic show on AMC.  When someone gets punched out in that show, the person is out of it for a while.

So a really fun time overall. I hope they come up with a worthy sequel to this one.

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May 11, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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