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glen chapman
2003-Jun-28, 02:28 PM
Okay a fun challenge. What is the absolute worst piece of BA you have encountered in a film/T.V show - open to all eras.

Anyone mentioning Armagedon will be automatically disqualified. Come on guys work a little, that film is JUST to easy.

The only thing I ask is you take into account scientific thinking of the time. example The Russian film "Planet Of Storms' portrays a 'wet' Venus. At the time it was made, the debate was still on over weather conditions.

And I'd prefer to keep this to space/spacecraft operations.

I'm sure a brain surgeon could do a theis on whats wrong with the Star trek episode "Spocks Brain"

Now I've shot my mouth off - I place my vote. After 'Metropolis', Fritz Lang made a film "Woman On The Moon" The film is famous for it's invention of the countdown to launch a spaceship. In fact the whole launch sequence is brilliant.

Anyway, through the course of the film, a man and woman become stranded on the Moon. They spend three months living in a two man pup tent, complete with miners laterns and oil burning stove. Even in the late 1920's we knew how much atmosophere the Moon had.

Glen Chapman

Mr. X
2003-Jun-28, 03:10 PM
Media or just movie?

If media then CNN saying the space shuttle was going 18 times the speed of light. :lol:

Humphrey
2003-Jun-28, 03:21 PM
Sorry but this has already been done (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=4939&start=0) :-)

David Hall
2003-Jun-29, 04:48 PM
Sorry Humph, but that's different. My thread was on SF that was just plain bad. This one is about bad astronomy in SF. Not the same.

My nomination is the very first SF movie ever, from 1902, A Trip to the Moon (http://rhs.jack.k12.wv.us/sthrills/trip_to/trip_to.htm). A spaceship fired from a cannon hits the Moon seconds later--a gooey Moon with an actual face! Later they walk around on the surface unsuited and meet Moon men who explode when smacked (Hmm, they've got M. Night Shymalan beat there :-)). Finally, they get back to Earth by pushing their capsule off the Moon so that it falls back home.

Bad Astronomy sure started early. No wonder it's such an uphill battle! :D

Humphrey
2003-Jun-29, 05:06 PM
Oh sorry glen. :-(



Hmmm....Worst BA?


Diving throught the planet in Lost in space.

The one climate planets of Star Wars. The ice planet, the desert planet, the green planet, ect. IN real life that will not happen. Especially thew ice and desert planets. How they have oxygen still baffles me.

David Hall
2003-Jun-29, 05:30 PM
The one climate planets of Star Wars. The ice planet, the desert planet, the green planet, ect. IN real life that will not happen. Especially thew ice and desert planets. How they have oxygen still baffles me.

Actually I think ice and desert planets are the most likely of the one-climate planets, as they represent two extremes of climate--though I agree that they wouldn't have oxygen atmospheres. It's the planets with only one kind of biosphere that seem most unrealistic to me, such as the jungle planets. There's just no way the same conditions for life could exist across an entire planet.

Just for the record, Dune is a desert planet, but at least it provided a mechanism for it's breathable atmosphere--it's produced by the sandworms.

Humphrey
2003-Jun-29, 08:33 PM
Hmmm....Yes i can see a ice and desert planet forming. But what i ment was that it would not be habitable. Sorry. :-)

Vega115
2003-Jun-29, 08:37 PM
On an episode of Futurama (cartoon network) they showed the ship zooming through space to land on a planet. (with sound coming form the engines mind you! they seem to think there is air in space!) When they approached the planet, there were TWO other PLANETS seeming a few hundred feet apart! I have a feeling that if they were that close the gravitational pull of each planet would tear them apart! :wink:

TriangleMan
2003-Jun-29, 08:43 PM
One word . . . Superfriends! Any episode. Will have BadAstronomy that will make your brain explode.

Humphrey
2003-Jun-29, 08:47 PM
Two words: Superman 4.

Uhhggg... At least you couldn't breath in space in Armageddon!

cyswxman
2003-Jun-29, 09:02 PM
Oh yes, Superfriends for sure, but are cartoons (or animated shows, more precisely) fair game in this??

TriangleMan
2003-Jun-29, 09:13 PM
Oh yes, Superfriends for sure, but are cartoons (or animated shows, more precisely) fair game in this??

Even though it's a cartoon, it surely could have done its astonomy better. For example, IIRC, the Superfriends were all frozen into a block of ice, then the villian slingshotted them to Saturn so they'd never thaw out. The BA in that scene alone:

- they reach Saturn almost immediately
- they 'land' on solid ground - softly
- there is enough light to see by
- A heat device on Batman's belt thaws the ice (shame, the ice would have been warmer than the air temperature of Saturn)
- there are no increased gravity effects
- everyone can talk, breathe, see each other, and don't die instantly from the cold

See, just the fact that I can remember all of that is evidence that SuperFriends has scarred my fragile little mind! :o

cyswxman
2003-Jun-29, 09:37 PM
O.K. How about this...I recently saw a guest on Jay Leno, some supermodel whose name I can't remember at this moment. Anyway she was orating her hygiene habits and she mentioned that she takes these oil baths (something in the water) because it washes off the radiation that accumulates on her skin during jet flights!!! :x :x :x WHAT!!! I about fell off the couch.

The Supreme Canuck
2003-Jun-29, 11:17 PM
Since cartoons seem to be fair game...

There is a Canadian cartoon called "Captain Star" where the main characters are trapped on a planet. So far so good. The bad part is that the planet has a moon in an orbit so low that it has actually worn down the surface of the planet and now orbits inside of a canyon. Not only that, but it orbits slow enough that you can watch it go by or get out of its way when you see it on the horizon. What bunk! It seems to be travelling at 50 kph!

tracer
2003-Jun-30, 10:49 PM
Diving throught the planet in Lost in space.
Or, for that matter, diving through the core of Naboo in The Phantom Menace.


The one climate planets of Star Wars. The ice planet, the desert planet, the green planet, ect. IN real life that will not happen. Especially the ice and desert planets. How they have oxygen still baffles me.
One-climate planets are pretty bad, but one-weather planets are even worse. There was an infamous issue of the Flash Gordon comics that began with the words, "That morning, it was raining on Mongo."

Humphrey
2003-Jun-30, 10:59 PM
One-climate planets are pretty bad, but one-weather planets are even worse. There was an infamous issue of the Flash Gordon comics that began with the words, "That morning, it was raining on Mongo."

You sure Mongo wasn't a person? :-)

tracer
2003-Jun-30, 11:04 PM
"Aw, Mongo straight!"

(But seriously, folks, all good Flash Gordonites know that Mongo is the planet that serves as the capital of Ming the Merciless's empire.)

Matherly
2003-Jul-01, 01:36 AM
On an episode of Futurama (cartoon network)...

O.K., all episodes of the Simpsons and Futurama (and any other cartoon Matt Groining decides to do) have a "Get out of Jail Free" card in the form of the exchange between Lisa and Bart where (quoteing from memory here... please be kind) Lisa tells Bart that "cartoons arn't realistic. They make mistakes all the time" while Homer walks by the window and looks in on Homer sitting on the couch. :P

DataCable
2003-Jul-01, 06:29 AM
On an episode of Futurama (cartoon network)...

O.K., all episodes of the Simpsons and Futurama (and any other cartoon Matt Groining decides to do) have a "Get out of Jail Free" card...

I still have to call a flag on the Arctic Wildlife Preserve on Pluto... with breathable air... and plenty of sunlight... and apparent Earth-level gravity...

Karthesios
2003-Jul-01, 07:10 AM
Since cartoons seem to be fair game...

There is a Canadian cartoon called "Captain Star" where the main characters are trapped on a planet. So far so good. The bad part is that the planet has a moon in an orbit so low that it has actually worn down the surface of the planet and now orbits inside of a canyon. Not only that, but it orbits slow enough that you can watch it go by or get out of its way when you see it on the horizon. What bunk! It seems to be travelling at 50 kph!

Bunk, sure, but could be pretty amusing when someone gets hit in the head by a moon passing overhead.

captain swoop
2003-Jul-01, 08:26 AM
On an episode of Futurama (cartoon network) they showed the ship zooming through space to land on a planet. (with sound coming form the engines mind you! they seem to think there is air in space!) When they approached the planet, there were TWO other PLANETS seeming a few hundred feet apart! I have a feeling that if they were that close the gravitational pull of each planet would tear them apart! :wink:

No, Futurama dosn't have air in space, it has some creatures that can live in space (Giant Space Bees and flowers for example.)

In one episode Fry tries to impress leela by 'uncorking' his helmet to let his head inflate, although this itself is BA.

tracer
2003-Jul-01, 02:52 PM
Futurama really isn't fair game. It only has accurate astronomy if it's funny.

Vega115
2003-Jul-01, 03:27 PM
Futurama really isn't fair game. It only has accurate astronomy if it's funny.

True...True...shall i dare mention the tv movie "Asteroid" ..i think thats what it was called...on NBC. :o That movie put bad astronomy in movies on the map. :o

Calculon
2003-Jul-01, 03:30 PM
The challenge is for the worst BA of all time with a focus on space / spacecraft operations.

I'm also presuming the challenger would like to focus on movies and media that had pretensions to seriousness when they were made, therefore ruling out satire 'The Simpsons', "Futurama', cartoons (Jerry Brucheimer movies), ultra-low-budget affairs where there was no money to work with, Super-Marionation efforts, and most modern mass entertainment where thought could get in the way of the entertainment, etc...

Given those presumptions, I would like to submit for your inspection "Rocketship XM" (1950) which was, of course, featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. I believe it took itself seriously, and I'm doubtful this was the *worst* example of BA, but it did have the following "minor" flaws, as well as many others...

1. The two stage rocket had room for five people, yet no bathrooms or kitchen facilities.
2. The "astronauts" wore business casual clothing.
3. The interior of the cabin had an air speed indicator.
4. After takeoff, the ship circled the Earth at 3000 mph, never going into orbit.
5. Earth has no cloud cover in this film.
6. When the first stage of the two-stage rocket detached, it, somehow, gained speed on the first stage and nearly smashed into it...
7. Course corrections were referred to as "turns" and were executed as though one were rounding a sharp curve on a highway at high speed, accompanied by the sound of a gear turning...
8. Somehow, the fuel mixture was thought to be critical to operations and was continually changed.
9. All course plotting was done during the flight and in the heads of two of the astronauts.
10. Although the original destination was Earth's moon, somehow the astronauts lose consciousness and wind up 50,000 miles away from Mars,
having traveled at least 35,000,000 miles in about 24 hours
11. Landing on Mars is performed as casually as backing into a space at the mall, with the "commander" calling out orders such as "reduce to 1500 tons of thrust and descend slowly..."
12. Immediately after landing on Mars, there is a thunderstorm.
13. On the return approach to Earth, these "scientists" suddenly discover they are out of fuel. Maybe its because they went at least 70,000,000 miles instead of 470,000..
14. They smash into the Earth instead of burning up on reentry.
15. And of course, when in radio communication with Earth during the flight, there is no message delay.

I'm sure there is plenty more, and it isn't a bad film for its era. Best of all, it doesn't have Bruce Willis in it!
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Humphrey
2003-Jul-01, 04:44 PM
Welcome to the board Calculon! :-) Great first post.

calliarcale
2003-Jul-01, 07:55 PM
Let's see....

One of my favorite Dr Who episodes (because it's an intriguing allegory for what happens when you let monopolies run unchecked -- capitalism goes so far it becomes the worst kind of communism) is the Tom Baker serial "The Sunmakers". It's about people living on Pluto. In order to survive on Pluto, several huge fusion reactors have been built to serve as artificial suns. They are fantastically expensive to maintain, and the company that built them is now completely in control of the people, using them as slave labor and justifying it by saying its neccesary to recompense the Company for its expenses in operating the suns. It's gone on for generations, and now the people are too terrified of the Company to resist at all, and spend their lives being worked and taxed to death.

The problems....

1) It's obviously got normal Earth gravity, despite the fact that the Doctor clearly comments on the low gravity early in the first episode. This is a common feature of Dr Who stories set on small worlds; the Doctor will jump or toss a yo-yo to work out how strong the local gravity is, and confidently announce that it's lower than Earth gravity despite the fact that it's obviously 1G. (Of course, it's worth mentioning that there's no way the BBC could have afforded to actually reduce the gravity by special effects. :) )

2) Exterior scenes are wisely shot on an overcast day (easy to find in England!) but it's still pretty obvious there's only one sun, and it's exactly as bright as you'd expect it to be if you were on Earth.

3) The breathable atmosphere has to be retained by something. This is never adequately addressed.

That said, it's still a very good story.

Ilya
2003-Jul-02, 03:27 AM
Actually I think ice and desert planets are the most likely of the one-climate planets, as they represent two extremes of climate--though I agree that they wouldn't have oxygen atmospheres. It's the planets with only one kind of biosphere that seem most unrealistic to me, such as the jungle planets. There's just no way the same conditions for life could exist across an entire planet.


There is evidence that during some periods in its history Earth WAS a jungle planet from equator to poles. Specifically, during warmest parts of Paleozoic, when there was much less land and more ocean than today. Tree-size ferns of that period had no "wood" (dead tissue) - the entire thickness of the trunk was living tissue, which would have died in any serious frost. Yet some fossils of these basically tropical plants were found at locations which back then were at or near poles. In other words, during six-month polar night temperature never (or rarely) got below freezing. Probably unimpeded (by modern standards) ocean currents, and some truly spectacular hurricanes kept the heat circulating around the globe.

Humphrey
2003-Jul-02, 03:31 AM
The arctic did freeze, but were not frozen all year round. There was a actual summer. And you are right it was alot warmer back then. But therte were still desters and differring climates. What David was talking about was the entire planet from pole to pole is one single climate. Like the entire planet is made up of swamps or a jungle with no climactic variation.

Right david?

Ilya
2003-Jul-02, 03:33 AM
I still have to call a flag on the Arctic Wildlife Preserve on Pluto... with breathable air... and plenty of sunlight... and apparent Earth-level gravity...

And (quoting Leela): "It's 20 below absolute zero with wind chill!"

David Hall
2003-Jul-06, 02:15 PM
What David was talking about was the entire planet from pole to pole is one single climate. Like the entire planet is made up of swamps or a jungle with no climactic variation.

Right david?

Yep.

Though now that it's been mentioned I should have remembered the thing about the warmer polar climates in the past.

Calculon
2003-Jul-06, 05:24 PM
Okay, I didn't do all this analysis for nothing, so here goes.

Twelve to the Moon (1960) was the story of an international team who, schockingly, travel to the moon. I applaud the sentiment of whoever decided to feature a cast of such diversity. However, there were a few *minor* scientific errors...
1. Perhaps because a rocket ship with a flame coming out of the nozzle at all times is considered more visually interesting than one without, the rocket in "Twelve to the Moon" is always under acceleration (in at least six different "external" shots), ignoring the contraints of fuel usage or the advantages of inertia.
2. The rocket makes a rocket noise in space. (Gotta keep the viewers awake!)
3. The largely instrument-free cabin is the size of a VFW.
4. It is emphasized that one of the crew is "the best known map maker in the world". Wouldn't photographs be just as good?
5. One of the instruments the rocket *does* have is.... a compass!
6. No microgravity during the flight, but I think this is a "gimme".
7. Trip hazards include the inevitable "meteor clusters" that (a) are detected visually instead of by other means, (b) are spaced about as far apart from each other as their diameters, and (c) are rotating at about 120 rpms - plus they ain't called meteors, they're asteroids. ("Meteor clusters....mmmmmm!")
8. The asteroids make high-pitched sounds as they narrowly miss the ship.
9. This non-stage rocket ship does a 180-degree maneuver, apparently at the point where lunar gravity exceeds earth's, so it can retrofire and land on its tail.
10. Calculations for landing on the moon are done in a mathematician's head (I don't recommend this).
11. Because the budget does not allow for construction of realistic helmets, and even if it did, it would make dialog recording much more difficult, a plot device is constructed wherein "electromagnetic face shields" keep oxygen in the moon suits. (Didn't you ever hear of suspension of disbelief?)
12. Craters on the moon emit vapors of some kind in a manner inconsistent with a hard vacuum.
13. Once on the moon, the captain instructs two crewmen to look for "air and life". And they do.
14. The moon astronauts are nearly struck by meteors with comet-like tails while they are outside the ship, and the meteors travel in curved paths.
15. Two astronauts find a cave where there is breathable air.
I would go on, but suddenly I grow weary... This movie, was, of course, parodied on "Mystery Science Theater 3000"...

man on the moon
2003-Jul-07, 05:21 AM
i think it was said that this string was for spaceships...but if i may please digress. as much as i enjoyed the tv show macgyver, he made some terrible tv movies. (seems all tv movies are that way). namely, "the treasure of atlantis" or something like that. it's sort of like "tombraider" except worse.

anyway, what happened was, after they found all these artifacts, macgyver and his archeology proffessor find the cave with the treasure in it. only problem, they can't get it out. then they discover that the alignment of the planets gravities is the "energy" required to make the treasure rise to the surface of this boiling hot spring. (appartently that atlanteans liked steam power--this device was not unlike a hydraulic lifter, the planets gravity powered it somehow). they can see all the planets out a hole in the cave wall, just as though they were looking through a telescope. i mean, you could see a LOT of detail on them. also, they looked rather large and hazy, like a full moon behind a thin cloud. the planets also moved very quickly, even faster than i've ever seen the moon move. (think how fast the moon rises). once you see all the planets lined up outside like so many movie goers, nothing happens. the characters (bad guys included) all look at each other and wonder what's happening. just then a HUGE (and i mean BIG) meteor flashes across the sky and macgyver says "if i'm not mistaken, that little extra gravity ought to do the trick!" and sure enough...the chests rise.

like i said...i loved the show, and even most of the movie. in fact, up until this last scene, it wasn't too unreasonable (as far as i can tell). ok--so at one point they tied torpedos to an engineless truck to escape a military base. still...i was deeply saddened by this, and it is a very good thing this came out after the series was over, or i may never have watched again! (i do watch reruns by the way).

anyway, i think i'm about done, especially since this isn't about spaceships...it is about astronomy though :wink: so i thought i better put it down as a candidate for worst BA ever. (or is that most BA... :D )