Science fiction

I love a good science fiction film, but there are things that always puzzle me. Here are a couple.

Why do doors on spacecraft nearly always open automatically? Are crewmen so lazy they cannot open a door?

Yes, I know it’s a lift really, but pictures of people walking through doors are not that interesting

The spacecraft we have had so far in realy have had a problem – weight. Every gram of excess weight needs more fuel. Most of the Saturn V rocket was designed to lift, well, itself. The payload was minute. Surely, excess weight for door opening motors would be avoided at all costs.

And have you noticed, when people want locked doors to open they shoot them with ray guns? And when they want them to lock, they shoot them with ray guns.

And what about transporters? They are amazing things. They are machines that take every molecule of an animate or inanimate object and transfer them instantly to another place where they are reassembled perfectly (except when the plot demands they are not working properly) without mixing them up.

The destination doesn’t even have to be another transporter machine. People just appear anyway (or disappear) from thin air. In fact, you can transport from one place without a transporter to another without a transporter. That’s a miracle.

And they must be so deadly accurate, to within the tiniest fraction of an atom. If a person is being transported onto a surface and is just a little bit too low, their molecules will meld with the molecules of the floor and they will be stuck. Too high above the surface and they will fall the last distance and possibly be hurt.

Amazing number IV

The biggest problem with my amazing number theory is this: it’s all made up. Fake news, if you like, though it’s hardly news.Yes, I just invented the whole lot.

The figures are wrong. Admittedly they are believable, and not terribly far from the truth.

There’s a whole load of pseudoscience that just makes things up, or is selective in the data used. Vast claims are based on thin evidence, or none.

I remember being intrigued when I was young with books about the Bermuda triangle, or was God and astronaut? The fact they are nonsense and have been thoroughly debunked does not stop people still believing in these things. Or that the Earth is flat and space does not exist.

James Randi did a good job debunking faith healers, but people still go and give their hard earned money away. And people seriously follow horoscopes too.

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Amazing number III

Our brains are pretty clever things. They take a whole load of stuff from a variety of sources and try to make sense of it all.

But brains do like simple things. They look for patterns. They love easy numbers.

Here’s an example you can try. You have just 10 seconds to look at these thirteen cards and remember them:

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Leonov

The death was announced of Alexy Leonov. Or Alexei.

Any regular readers will know how much I enjoyed all the space stuff this summer, celebrating Apollo 11. We remember some of the old school astronauts and cosmonauts: John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, John Young, Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova and Alexei Leonov. Few of the original heroes are still alive.

In 1965, Leonov was the first person ever to do a spacewalk. It nearly ended in tears when his suit expanded so much he could not get back into the capsule. The landing was also fraught with difficulties, and there is a great film about it: Spacewalk/Spacewalker.

Had it happened, Leonov would have been the first Russian on the Moon. As it was, he commanded the Soviet half of the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission.

In later life, he became the grand old man of Russian space.