Bipedal aliens with largely humanoid features are common.

Vast distances crossed seemingly in no time make impossible plots possible.

I'm watching the movie Melancholia, which is billed as science fiction. The movie is built around the premise that a planet has strayed into our solar system and will come close to, and possibly strike earth. The planet does loom fairly large in the sky. So large, in fact, that were a planet-sized object were that close, the tidal forces alone would destroy all life on the surface at a minimum, and possibly all life in its entirety.

When was the last time you saw a sci-fi movie that wasn't full of science crap? What was its name? Tell us about it.

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2001--a Space Odyssey.  Made in 1968.  No winged, zooming spaceships or replayed WWII naval battles.  Aliens barely understandable to us mortals.  Ah, the good old days!

Your point taken.

Science fiction is an imaginary genre where there is generally a "rational" explanation for everything.  That explanation can involve scientific phenomena that is unknown to us and in many cases beyond reality but there are usually no super-natural reasons for what happens.  Fiction based around real science rather than fantasy has to be set in real rather than imaginary settings and gives you something like House or the CSI style programmes.

As with most fiction the story is what matters and any expert can pick holes in what appears on screen.  I usually have the same issues with crime dramas where i have some understanding of the law and investigations.  That doesn't stop me enjoying them.

In many ways the rationality is why some fundies are so set against Sci-Fi and why there seems to be a very atheist leaning in the genre; it allows no role for gods.  In the main it feels that the best Sci-Fi is written by atheists.   H.G. Wells,  Arthur C. Clarke,  Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Phillip Pullman, and Kurt Vonnegut are all examples of non-believers.  Two of the most enduring Sci-Fi TV franchises have a profoundly humanist agendas.

Star Trek as well as pushing a liberal view of society had no regard to any faith, in fact the fifth film, The Final Frontier, played with the concept of following a deity before proving it was bogus.

Doctor Who now has showrunners who are atheists.  Even in the classic seasons we had a cause for the big bang in Terminus and Adric destroying the dinosaurs in Eathshock as well as a constant undermining of false gods.

I think that a lot of scifi shows are contrived, but most TV is contrived.  I like it anyway, because sometimes they use good ideas.   Star Trek used a lot of scientific concepts regularly.  There were contrived bits, especially in the original series.  I think the reason why they do this, is that not enough people care about the attempt to make things realistic.  In Stargate, the 200th episode touched playfully on some of the ridiculous concepts they argued about as writers before putting them in even though they made no sense.

Isn't it ironic that your average police thriller cleaves closer to real science by (relatively) closely obeying the laws of physics in car chases, the behavior of bullets, etc., than your typical sci-fi show. Most sci-fi shows are actually fantasies having little or nothing to do with science.

"Folding space"? "Warp drive?" The space operas are the worst. They often make going from our planet to some distant planet at the edge of the universe seem like hopping in a car and going from NYC to Newark, whereas in fact the distances between the Earth and places we'd like to go are so vast we will probably never even get beyond our own solar system, much less to a planet on another star even in the Milky Way.

Please don't tell me you think cars or fire arms work realistically in thrillers or action movies. They are just as unrealistic as most movies. People just have gotten used to it, so they wonder why real life isn't like the movies.

Cars flying or exploding is standard. People tend to fly backwards when hit by bullets. You constantly hear weapons clicking when the holder takes aim, as if they haven't unsafed or cocked it before. Travel distances by car are very generous ("24" was notorious for that). And tons of other small things...

Something just about everyone gets wrong is anything to do with computers beyond looking up something on the internet

Something just about everyone gets wrong is anything to do with computers beyond looking up something on the internet

I hear when they want to make something look really technical they just run linux and compile solitaire.

Not too far from the truth there. I was watching Tron Legacy the other day. Within the first 15 of the film a virus infects a computer system. The geek programmer shuts it down by running a Linux kill command.. LOL

And you'd think they'd want to stay away from familiar technology. If anything dates a movie it's yesteryear's technology. When I'm watching a movie from the late 1980's or early 1990's and they sit down at a computer and the type on the screen is so big that today it'd qualify as headline type, that really dates the movie. Also, when people are trapped in a house or building and can't get help because someone cut the phone lines, that kind of spoils it for me.

Oh come on. Yes, thrillers bend the laws of nature a little bit, but surely not nearly as far as folding space, warp drive, or using wormholes to go from point A to point B. My point was that a car that flies up in the air when it goes over a rise at high speed, for example, does return to earth. There's a difference between the way cars perform in The French Connection and in the Back To The Future movies that goes way beyond dramatic exaggeration.

Actually, I've heard some talk that a "warp drive" might be theoretically possible. By creating a bubble of warped space, you could have a vessel at rest inside a "warp" that moves. Since the warp is not actually a thing, it is not constrained by the lightspeed limitation, and can move as fast as you might want, while the vessel inside remains "stationary."

I don't know if this could actually be done, but I consider a plausible-sounding theory in sci-fi to be an acceptable story-telling device. The techno-babble in Star Trek doesn't usually qualify, and you'll notice that there's actually zero science in Star Wars. They have lots of flashy tech, but there is never any explanation of how things work, and the plot relies on The Force=magic. Star Wars is fantasy, not sci-fi.

If you like hard-sci-fi, Larry Niven's Ringworld looks into the real-world physics involved in his fantastical imaginings, and Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars series really gets into the nitty-gritty of terraforming a planet. Vernor Vinge is another good one, positing some really way-out theories that we won't have a chance to test for centuries, if ever. Gattaca is an excellent sci-fi movie that has few if any glaring science faux-pas.

Bending the rules of science or trying to come up with some future technology from thin air helps solve the problems that would make sci-fi shows in many cases much too slow to enjoy or limit the stories far too much. If it took thousands of years for SG-1 to travel somewhere by ship it would be rather boring. I don't see much issue with giving sci-fi shows a little latitude to be honest. Heck if we get right down to it its not really fair to say that some of the things done in these shows will always remain impossible. I think these shows help inspire people without having to always be exactly right. Just my opinion but I believe you are making too many assumptions based on the current limits of technology and on our current understanding on how the universe all works to dismiss any idea of getting past huge problems that keep us for example limited in how far and how quickly we can travel space wise. Another example you mentioned about bi-pedal aliens isn't as far fetched as you think. It stands to reason that bi-pedal forms could be one best designs out there so it could be used often just as with other forms on our planet occur in many animals. There would be for sure vast numbers of variations of exotic life forms that we wouldn't have ever even considered but I think we would see some stuff out there that reminds us of some things we see here.

Deep Impact is also fairly realistic.

But I honestly don't understand people that complain about bad science in scifi.  That's the whole point!  In fiction, the story comes first, supporting science second (or less).  The "no science" parts are what allow writers to create situations that we would otherwise never find ourselves in to further explore the human condition.  If they stick to known science, then it ceases to be "science" fiction, and becomes those police thrillers you mentioned.

And regarding mostly bipedal aliens, I believe writers do this simply to help the audience identify with the aliens on a more personal level.  Sure, they could create insectoid aliens, or aquatic aliens, avian aliens, or completely different aliens, but the audience would have no frame of reference with which to identify with them.  Do they laugh? Talk? Smile? Cry?  Who knows.


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