Filmmaking

Lost in Space, Lost is Science by Adrian Galli

I love science fiction. Big Star Trek nerd, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica was both well done and timely, Alien is a favorite movie of mine, and Halo (not a movie) is a top video game series in my book. I also love science. In another life I would have been a chemist, perhaps, but either way, I’m a scientist at heart. We live in a rational Universe and science helps us understand our Universe. 

The great thing about science fiction is that it is science. But fiction. How does that work? Science fiction, good science fiction, is grounded in the principles of science. For example, In Star Trek: Deep Space Nice, the Bajoran Wormhole plays a very important role in the series. Wormholes have yet to be proven to exist but, according to General Relativity, they exist theoretically and would be known properly as an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. In short, a wormhole is a theoretical “bridge” connecting two point of space, allowing one to travel incredible distances in moment without violating the speed of light and other physic.

Bad science fiction really grinds my gears because it isn’t sci-fi anymore—it become just plain sloppy filmmaking. And Netflix’s reimagined “Lost in Space” is just that.

Spoiler Alert! Do not continue reading if you have not seen the ten episode season one.

I’ll not bog us down in the long story but the premise is, a ship, the Resolute (boring-ass name), bound for Alpha Centauri, carrying a crew of humans tasked with given the human race a second chance on a new planet, suffers a catastrophic event and smaller vessels, Jupiter spacecraft, are launched to save the humans from the Resolute’s near destruction. They get sent across the Universe and crash on a planet not unlike Earth. And now we have problems. 

The Robinson family’s craft crashes in an arctic-like landscape—ice, snow, wind, rain, hail, etc. Suddenly the small vessel rumbles and it turns out that it is sinking. They must have crashed in the only part of a glacier with water. How quaint.

The ship ends up underwater and the family, without many supplies, is sorting out their next move above on the solid ice. Someone have to get to the Jupiter so one of the Judy dives in and swims down into the ship. Not too long before, the discussion comes up that once the sun goes down, the water will freeze and the ship will be stuck forever. 

Sort of my first problem—not really a science problem but too coincidental. This planet is hypothetically billions of years old but just now this one spot is liquid water and going to freeze too? Strange but whatever.

Of course, as Judy, one of the Robinson kids/teens, swims down, get into the ship, and the water starts to suddenly freeze.

Stop.

Let’s talks physics. Water does not freeze from the bottom up. Water is a very abundant and basic compound yet also is very strange. When it freezes, it becomes less dense. About .93 the density of water (at sea level). As such, the ice starts at the top of the “pond” and freezes top-down. This is also thanks to gravity. It would act differently in space. This does take place on a “Goldilocks Planet” which appears to have roughly the gravity of Earth, .98m/s2, and an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere (more on that in a moment) so it will freeze like that of water on Earth. 

Two, in this same scene, the water also freezes in seconds.

Stop.

Water has a heat capacity of 4.2 joules/gram °C. Of all the common substances, that is the highest. Water does not gain or lose heat very quickly—a lot of energy, or transfer of energy, must take place to change the temperature of water. In fact, question(s), why doesn’t the Earth freeze? Because of water. There is so much water on the planet that it helps Earth “regulate” its temperature. Why does a desert get so cold at night? Because there is little water to maintain temperatures. Why is a warm day feel hotter when it is humid? Because there is lots of water in the air.

For the what appears to be hundreds of thousands of liters of water, the ambient temperature would have to be extremely cold. The Robinsons are seen the whole time without their helmets on, no shivering, no frostbite, so the ambient temperature couldn’t be less than say, less than -10° C. Even if it was -20 or -30° C, the water would take a long time to freeze. 

Somethings will change the freezing point of water. To be clear, 0° C (32° F) is water freezing at one atmosphere of pressure, sea level, here on Earth. More or less pressure will change the freezing point but let’s not forget the Robinsons seem to be quite comfortable walking around without their space helmets on. It appears that the atmospheric pressure is rather comfortable for humans—probably much like Earth.

Another variable can be salinity (salt water), but there is no evidence that this water is the salinity of the Dead Sea nor would even that salt content make water freeze faster. Salts makes it freeze at a lower temperate. For those who have *salted* their driveways or sidewalks on an icy winter morning, you know that salt actually assists in melting ice or the prevention of it forming in the first place.

Bad science. Bad story.

Moving on… Judy also doesn’t make it out of the water. It freezes so fast that she gets stuck like a fly in an ice cube.

Stop.

To be fair, I have not contemplated what would happen to someone being frozen alive in a pond—whether it would harm said person but going back to ice density ice expands. Winters are extra hard on city streets because water gets into every crack and, upon freezing, makes these cracks worse due to the expansion of ice. The pressure of this change, I would estimate would have caused *some* impact on her but I’m not certain, so I’ll let it slide.

But this scene is important because the Robinsons must save their sister/daughter from the ice. Chipping away at it isn’t the answer but Wil Robsinson comes up with a brilliant idea. Let’s burn her out! Magnesium (Mg) + H2O + fire (sparks) = an exothermic reaction (lots of heat), yielding MgOH + H2 (magnesium hydroxide and hydrogen gas). Where do you find elemental Mg? (Answer: almost no where) but on this planet they are on, it apparently makes up some of the *mountains.* Mountains of Mg all over the surface.

Stop.

Magnesium is not found in it elemental form naturally, especially in an oxygen environment. Mg is not stable especially in the presence of oxygen. It is an Alkali Earth Metal and is reactive… especially in the presence of H2O and oxygen. Mg will bubble when coming into contact with water (note: we see rain I the same scene) and will simply oxidize in the presence of oxygen yielding MgO (magnesium oxide). Here is the Robinson family on a planet with magnesium mountains, oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere, with ice and rain, and lightning, and somehow there hasn’t been some extreme natural disaster. 

Bad science.

Now a few people have had some counter arguments:

  1. How do you know water acts the same as it does on Earth?

  2. Maybe the atmosphere isn’t oxygen/nitrogen?

  3. The whole planet isn’t Mg…...

Sure, some good critical thinking.

  1. Good news! Science is the study of the Universe as a whole. The way water behaves here on Earth will be the same everywhere in the Universe under the same circumstances. In other words, location is not a variable in science. Environment might be a variable but actual place is not.

  1. Valid question. How do we know that the atmosphere is oxygen/nitrogen? We don’t know but science is also based partly on observation. We do know that the atmosphere is capable of supporting human life because, one, they say so in a scene, and two, these humans are clearly breathing. Humans need oxygen to survive. Another observation is in scenes when the sky isn’t overcast, the sky is blue. Our sky, here on Earth, is blue because the Nitrogen—making up seventy-eight percent of the Earth’s atmosphere while oxygen is only about twenty-one percent. To be clear, nitrogen isn’t actually blue but how light interacts through the atmosphere gives the sky its blue color. While there could be other gasses in the atmosphere to give similar effect, nitrogen gas is stable and not poisonous to humans.

  2. True, the whole planet appears to not be a solid ball of Mg but Mg just simply isn’t not found in its elemental form nor mountain-sized caches. And to reiterate, it is just too unstable to be in forms we see in Lost in Space.

I’m sure there is going to be a lot more I can pick on—this was all from just the first couple of episodes but science fiction doesn’t mean devoid of science. It is the exploration of what science and technology could be and most importantly, a method for telling a story that otherwise may not be accepted in a “traditional” genre. Science fiction is a dream of the future, or sometimes a nightmare, and only some bending of the rules for artistic license.

Accuracy matters.™ 

Hexagon by Adrian Galli

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Rebranding my 'Blog' page, I've never been a fan of the word. It is ugly and clumsy shortening of 'web' and 'log'—weblog—blog.

My passions: Filmmaking, Photography, Science, Travel, Design, and Technology. Back in the day, I ran a site called Adrian's Gear all about the cool gear I had found. And it is high time to bring that back.

I have no one thing I wish to write about but many. These passions form the sides of this journal and the evolution of AdrianGalli.com.

Welcome to Hexagon.

Nuclear Bravado by Adrian Galli

 Mushroom cloud from the bombing of Nagasaki, August 9th 1945, image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Mushroom cloud from the bombing of Nagasaki, August 9th 1945, image courtesy of the Library of Congress


 

This post is dedicated to those who lost their lives in Hiroshima (August 6th, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9th, 1945); the only instances nuclear weapons have been used against humans.

May we all learn from our history and not let their deaths be in vain. 

 

I work in film and TV because I like to tell stories. In fact, before all forms of written communication, the human race used storytelling to convey our history, how to find game for food, and build the moral and ethical future of our species.  

The power of storytelling come from one's ability to related an idea, even foreign, to someone else. It is why we laugh at a comedy, jump at a horror film, and cry when a story touches our deepest emotions.  

My passion for filmmaking is not just for the beauty of great cinematography or impactful characters but together, with the audience, share in a journey. Many stories have been told and while it is said there are only twelve storylines, human ingenuity brings us together time and time again through new ways of these stories.

With the tumult of our current global affairs, Donald Trump beats his chest with "fire and fury" and "locked and loaded" as tension builds with North Korea. This cavalier attitude toward military conflict is not the answer. It is the wrong play.

To be fair, I am not currently in fear of a nuclear conflict with North Korea. Frankly, should anything escalate to military conflict, the United States and its allies could easily wipe North Korea off the face of the Earth. But even the notion of a nuclear weapon being used today (or ever) is one that strikes both fear and sadness in me. Fear because these weapons don't kill a few hundred or thousand but millions. Fear because nuclear weapons impact not only ground zero but the lives or everyone and everything on the planet. And sadness, sadness because our world is so precious but we so carelessly destroy it and ourselves.

I have always had a fascination with the Cold War. It is truly a magnificent story worthy of Shakespearean recognition. However, in my time exploring the Cold War, the understanding of nuclear reality sunk deep in my mind. Even a "limited" nuclear skirmish could devastate the planet. And while the story of the Cold War is long since over, the number of times that we humans came within moments of nuclear annihilation was too frequent and far too close.

Few who I have spoken with know of these incidents. As we hear in History class about the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, nearly at the same moment was the U-2 Spy Plane Incident when a U.S. pilot's confusion during the Northern Lights set in and passed over Soviet Airspace. Maultsby, the pilot, successfully navigated his plane, having run out of fuel, back out of Soviet Airspace minutes before two Soviet fighters would have downed his plane, starting what could have been a significant escalation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Further is the Able Archer Incident when the Soviet Union mistook Nato war-games for actual preparation for war. Or the 1979 NORAD computer malfunction which erroneously indicated that the Russians had launched an attack on the United States.

In 1983, it is by sheer bravery and integrity that one Russian Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov ignored procedure when Russian tactical systems misinterpreted clouds over the United States for a launch of nuclear weapons. It is only by his grace that you and I are hear to have this pleasant exchange. The human race was literally moments away from extinction and turning our precious planet into a radioactive cinder.

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
— Robert Oppenheimer, from the Bhagavad-Gita

How quickly one can see a minor incident escalating into international conflict, or dare I say nuclear war; World War III. It would be the conflict to end all conflicts.

The dinosaurs never had knowledge that their world was to come to an end, that it was the terminating point of their reign on Earth. But we humans are incredible creatures. We have landed men on the moon, vaccinated many diseases out of existence, put robots on Mars, been the first to break the sound barrier, master the atom, and propel the Voyager 1 probe outside of our Solar system. But how insanely sad would it be for our own hand to be the termination of our species. With overpopulation, limited resources concerning water, food and land, and climate change being denied by so many, must we also face nuclear annihilation? 

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
— Albert Einstein

There is a general order in evolutionary theory: a species can survive one catastrophe but when facing two, it likely spells doom. Should we find ourselves facing radiation, climate change, food chain collapse, and perhaps other obstacles, all of which we have the ability and resources to avoid, how might our species that brought art, philosophy, medicine, and science to the Earth fair? How would you feel if our last and final testament of humans was not curing cancer, eliminating poverty, or exploring space but finding ourselves extinct because of our own petty differences; arguing over lands, water, and archaic tribal god-figures? When, one day, an extraterrestrial stumbles upon Earth only to find that we, ourselves, came to extinction because of our own stupidity? And that aliens says, "However incredibly stupid were these humans? They destroyed themselves? Saving themselves was as plain as the nose on their faces."

Cinematic history is filled with philosophy. Films exploring the past, present, future, civil rights, inequities, and human strife. While such pioneers as Gene Roddenberry's [creator of Star Trek] share a bright future of humanity where we have put aside our differences and strive to better ourselves, sometimes we must look at the terror of what we are or could become; search ourselves and look in the mirror asking, "what should we be?" In that light, I encourage you, actually, I plead with you to view at least one of these films below about the horrors of nuclear weapons.

I have only been able to find some as "bootlegs" on Youtube; such important films forgotten with age. They are of limited quality but they share some thoughts you've may not considered.

I know some of my friends and colleagues support Donald Trump no matter what his transgressions may be, but I implore you to watch these films with an open mind and contemplate their stories.

As a favorite female character in a film once said, "Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too."

Films —

The Day After (1983)

Threads (1984)

Testament (1983)

Earth — Shot on iPhone, courtesy of Apple